Culture 4 minutes to read

I was presented with the offer of writing an article from “a female perspective in response to how the 50 Shades of Grey movement—books and movies—are detrimental and destructive to relationships and marriages today.” I took the offer and, oh boy, has it been interesting!

  • I  have not viewed the previous two movies or read any of the books
  • I am a recovering sex/love addict
  • I am sex addiction counselor

Before you continue reading, here are a few things you should know:

After I accepted the opportunity to write about this trilogy, it dawned on me: Crap! Will I get enough information to feel confident about writing an article on something I personally haven’t seen or read? For a moment, I considered watching the movies, but then realized this would be a trigger for me in my own sexual journey. So, I decided to stick to the factual reviews, comments, and feedback from people I know, as well as, yes, our friend Google.

What I Discovered

When watching movies or reading a book, it is helpful to have the narrative or backstory of a person’s life—the strategic development of the character—so that when we get to the significant incidents or content, we better understand what is happening and even feel more connected with the characters. However, what stands out about 50 Shades of Grey is the lack of narrative, the lack of a backstory. The audience is immediately taken to the “present.” As time goes by, the audience gets a glimpse (or presumption) of Christian’s past and almost nothing about Anastasia’s past.

A twisted relationship develops from the moment they meet; one of power vs. submission, fantasy vs. reality, sex vs. intimacy, and passion vs. intensity.

Viewers and readers alike have both expressed that the main characters were consenting adults. But what is the backstory of a consenting adult that would buy a relationship and then abuse and exploit that person? Love doesn’t do this. Brokenness does.

Or, what kind of consenting adult would give over their virginity to be in a relationship where they are abused, exploited, and made into an object? Again, there must be brokenness.

Culturally, we often use the word “intimacy” in place of the word “sex.” The 50 Shades of Grey books and movies are not about healthy intimacy. They are about misguided attempts at intimacy. Sex, on the other hand, plays a part in the broken attempt to connect with another human being. At the core of each character’s behavior is the same goal: they don’t want to exploit or be exploited, they want to be loved. He doesn’t want to abuse, he wants to be valued. She doesn’t want to be abused, she wants to be cherished. Only a painful narrative could bring them to engage in such destructive behaviors. It seems unfortunate to celebrate that brokenness and culturally dangerous to tell other people that they should celebrate it as well.

Is It Pornography?

The pornography industry is getting more and more violent toward women. In this context, it is becoming commonplace to abuse, exploit, slap, hit, and choke women. In turn, this is shaping the sexuality of our culture, making us believe that this should be our norm and our expectation. Many children and adolescents learn about sex from watching this type of pornography. For them, it becomes the formula and the standard of how every sexual encounter is going to begin and end.

The film, 50 Shades of Grey, takes these same elements and puts them into a format that is somehow permissible. It would be like making a movie that romanticizes the joy of using heroin.

My Narrative

Today, who you are and where you are is a byproduct of your whole life’s narrative. The basis for the decisions you make are the result of your brain functions and many automated processes that developed over your lifetime. These automated neural pathways control most of your day to day life. This includes who you find attractive, and what makes you feel loved, connected, and fulfilled. There are many misguided ways we attempt to feel loved or connected, but we don’t celebrate and encourage these behaviors. Instead, we work to understand and learn from these behaviors so that we can find healing.

One thing is true, 50 Shades of Grey does a good job showing what is generally appealing to a great number of women. It reinforces the idealistic world of meeting the hot, rich, powerful,  and pursuing man (the guy out of our league). Nonetheless, it is discriminatory toward women; portraying the female character as weak, naive, submissive, and compliant. Whereas the male character is powerful and the one controlling the relationship. This interaction reinforces an already broken view of sex, trust, and intimacy within our current culture.

Some Closing Thoughts

Sex does not equal intimacy. Healthy sexuality should be built on a foundation of emotional intimacy. This involves trust, respect, value, and the willingness to look into your own past.

Your current behaviors—what you want to do and are willing to do—are the result of what you have experienced in your past. The choices you make are not because you are perverted or disgusting. They are the result of the brokenness that all of us face in some way or another. Don’t run from it or try to numb it out. Learn from it.

Internet pornography and the 50 Shades of Grey culture both contribute to a public health crisis that portrays violence as a common element in sexual activity. This was never God’s design for sex.

Don’t normalize it, romanticize it, or celebrate it.