50 Shades

I’m weighing in.

Please understand that I am not speaking as a pastor, nor as a Christian. Of course, I am both of those things, and that certainly informs my perspective. But I do not want to be read here as a preacher delivering a message, aiming for persuasion; or as just another Christian who falls in line with cultural assumptions (“Of course, you’re against “50 Shades”! All Christians think sex is dirty!”)
(I don’t, for the record.)

This is me writing as a woman; and as a mother, aunt, sister, future grandmother and neighbor.

I have not read 50 Shades of Grey. I’ve been well-aware of the books for a few years, and though I don’t shy away from pop-culture, I chose to avoid them. I don’t mean to imply that I walk a squeaky clean path when it comes to entertainment. At one point in my life, I did; compelled by a fundamentalist, self-righteous understanding of faith, I only listened to Christian music, refused to let the kids read Harry Potter or watch Pokemon or participate in Halloween.

That changed.

I’ve been there and done that, but I’m not jacked up about 50 Shades of Grey because of some moral high ground of anti-pop-culture fundamentalism, using a Christian pastoral platform to shout about the evils of pornography and erotica and BDSM. That’s not where I’m coming from.
I’m responding to the marketing and the media hype surrounding the books and the movie. And my response is based, primarily, on what you see here:
My daughters

My sons

I understand that the story in the book and movie is for an adult audience, marketed to adults. I realize that many people find no moral issue with the content of the book or the movie. I know that many adult women have read these books and plan to see the movie, justifying it as harmless fantasy and the power of redemptive love. I’m not here to argue, judge or condemn that viewpoint; that’s not the issue at hand in this post.

But I find myself really, really pissed. (Excuse my language if you are offended. But I’m pissed.)

I get that many adults regard this as harmless. I understand that for some, watching an erotic fantasy that includes rougher elements of sex is no big deal.

But I do have a question, and I don’t think anybody should get a pass.

Who is responsible for how this is affecting our children?

Because they can’t escape it. They will see the trailers and the commercials; undoubtedly, they already have. You can’t ignore it.

The Today show has had an entire week of “excitement” about this movie. 

Sure, you can turn it off. You can try to keep it away from your little kids – and you will probably have some success. Parental influence is easy to wield when bedtime is 8PM and you can control screen time.

But I would imagine that pretty much every kid who has hit puberty is running into the marketing machine for 50 Shades at every turn. It’s become news. It’s hard to escape. 

And the overwhelming message is that this is okay; that bondage and toys and domination are a normal, natural part of sexual exploration. It’s even a natural curiosity.

And, hey – if you’re a mature adult, that’s your business. I’m not going there.

But a 14-year old boy in the throes of hormonal disturbances has enough to process without adding the element of figuring out at what point you might tie your partner up. A 15-year old girl making sense of her sexual feelings now gets to include whether or not it’s normal to be whipped.

I am not alright with my kids – or yours – having to process this information as a normal part of adolescence.

And here’s what I think; We’ve so bought into the incredibly intoxicating notion that we have the right to do whatever we want and see whatever we want that we are slowly abdicating our responsibility to the greater good of culture. We push back against any one who would suggest that 50 Shades is not a good thing – whether they are speaking against the confusing connection between bondage and domestic abuse, against ignoring consent, against the glorification of rape culture, against pornography – if someone is against this movie, whatever the reason, it seems to provoke a fist-shaking DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO tantrum. What about the fact that this sort of intimacy belongs behind closed doors, unavailable for broadband, all-access entertainment? Who got to decided that pornography is now just another entertainment choice, one of the ten films you’ll choose from when you take your family to the movies tomorrow night?

Is nothing off-limits anymore?

What I see is the erosion of boundaries regarding private, intimate acts and the co-opting of sexuality in just about every form, all for media buzz and money. Any one who objects is labeled a judgmental bigot; the show must go on.

And so it goes; I watch an innocuous network television show with my 15-year-old son and find myself dodging VERY provocative ads for a movie that introduces a form of sexual behavior into my living room that is completely inappropriate for him.

Do you want to argue with that? Are we at the point where we’re ready to encourage teenagers to have the opportunity to fully “explore their sexuality” in the same way that Christian Grey guides the college student in this story?

Is this the world we want to hand to our kids?

Frankly, I don’t care what you do in the bedroom. But I care a lot about the fact that adults – specifically, adult women –  are more concerned with their right to “enjoy” 50 Shades of Grey than the impact of an overt stamp of approval on the type of relationship depicted in the story. We all have a responsibility to the generation coming behind us.

I think we can do better.

8 thoughts on “50 Shades

  1. Beth, I'm shaking a bit because that is EXACTLY how I feel. Kids are bombarded with these messages. As parents we need to send a much different message since culture never will. Thank you for your response.


  2. Wow Beth… THANK YOU for opening my eyes to this point you have made. Good, easy to understand message. I've not quite known how to feel towards the 50 Shades Series before but your points are so valid. It's so hard sometimes to see clearly what's really happening in society because we allow media to brainwash us all.


  3. I haven't read it mostly because I think the writing will be sub-par and I'm uninterested in the topic. When I read pop lit, I aim for funny. If they hadn't put the commercials on TV, that would have solved half the problem. Everyone who will attend already knows what it's about. Just put a tantalizing photo of the couple gazing at each other. I'm pretty careful about pop culture that, without meaningful dialogue, normalizes hitting.


  4. I chose not to read the books or see the movie. I am not interested in the content and just don't see the appeal. As a mother, I agree with you completely. We need to think of more than ourselves. I don't like my 16 year old going to the theater to see a movie and seeing all these ads for the movie. I am sure she sees them everywhere. I have 4 older girls and we don't all agree on the book or the movie. Thanks for your thoughts. They are always on point


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