They call it “Mommy Porn.” So, what does this mean? Mommies are nice. They are cuddly, nurturing, loving and sweet. They care for others and instill values of sharing and fairness; they teach their little ones right from wrong and give them a foundation on which the rest of their moral development will grow. They are the primary teachers (with their husbands) of what it means to love and to be loved. So, if something is for “Mommy,” how bad could it be?
But, then there’s the other word. Porn. This is not nice. This is not cuddly, nurturing, loving or sweet. It is degrading, isolating, immoral and gross. Even late night TV show hosts and very liberal sitcoms refer to it as “shameful.” Not because the Catholic Church says it’s shameful—they don’t care about that—but because that’s how it really makes people feel.
And then there’s “Fifty Shades of Grey.” A “romance” novel pitched at mommies and young women as a source of entertainment in which to indulge their sexual imagination. I suppose the purpose of this book is, in part, an effort to make porn more normal and acceptable. It’s no longer just greasy guys who live in their mom’s basement looking at dirty pictures, or lonely people staying up too late looking at websites that they have to hide their viewership of—it’s respectable women and mommies reading novels about bondage and sadomasochism on buses and the beach and in waiting rooms. It’s become so “normal” that there’s even a Lego version of the trailer online called, “Fifty Shades of Bricks.” Legos!? What’s more innocent and awesome than Legos!? They are the things of children (and parents who refuse to grow up)!
Anyway, Fifty Shades is the story of a man named Christian Grey who was sexually abused by his Mother’s friend when he was a young teenager. He claims in the book that it messed him up really badly. In fact, the name of the book comes from a line where Christian says that he is (to paraphrase) “fifty shades of messed up.” The main character acknowledges that what he is doing is essentially disordered. As a result of this brokenness, he sexually abuses as many women as he can get his hands on—ultimately landing on a young woman who is by her own admission, boring and inexperienced. He’s pathological and creepy about the way he engages and then keeps her—he even resorts to stalking. He breaks down her will and takes advantage of her lack of self-assertiveness. He makes her powerless.
Where does one start in saying how wrong it all is? Why does it even need to be said? Because really, really nice girls—women that I love and respect—are really into it and sharing their infatuation very publicly. I want to tell them, “Read Jane Austen if you want romance! Read Charlotte Bronte!” Love builds up and strengthens people, not tears down and degrades them. Love makes people more free and more authentically human and alive, not forces them into conforming to a twisted version of a fantasy. It makes you stronger and more confident, not broken and co-dependant.
Fifty Shades isn’t romance. It’s a warped celebration of the cycle of sexual abuse. Whenever sex is in the mix there are complicated feelings to follow, but this relationship seems more like Stockholm Syndrome than love. That sort of abuse causes deep, psychological scars—and we’re holding it up as a value? Yes! And so much so, that the movie version is being released on Valentine’s Day—because what says, “I love and respect you” like a movie about a man completely dominating a woman and crushing her spirit until she falls in love with him?
If you want to spice up your love/sex life, go right ahead. It should be fun and exciting and make you feel great about yourself, your spouse and your relationship. There are so many ways to go about that if you use your imagination. But, let those ways be such that they focus your attention to one another—that really make you see and experience one another in true intimacy. Really fulfilling sex starts from a deep, committed love and brings couples more deeply into that love.
If you’d like to know more about the book without having to read it, check out Matt Fradd’s "50 Fast Facts about Fifty Shades of Grey" at this link.