“If anyone says that sex, in itself, is bad, Christianity contradicts him at once. But, of course, when people say, ‘Sex is nothing to be ashamed of,’ they may mean ‘the state into which the sexual instinct has now got is nothing to be ashamed of’. If they mean that, I think they are wrong. I think it is everything to be ashamed of. There is nothing to be ashamed of in enjoying your food: there would be everything to be ashamed of if half the world made food the main interest of their lives and spent their time looking at pictures of food and dribbling and smacking their lips.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So, I can’t stand it any longer. I just have to pull out my little soapbox in the blogosphere, step up on it, clear my throat, and vomit forth my thoughts on the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenom. In case you have been living under a rock, 50 Shades is a trilogy of erotica geared toward women. It started out online as fan fiction, was hastily “rewritten” into ebook and paperback form and has been hanging out on top of the NY Times Best Sellers List. Maybe the Mayans were right and 2012 is the end?

The plot is this:

Anastasia Steele is on the cusp of graduating from Washington State University. Before she can do that, though, she’s got to get through finals, a task which would be made easier if she didn’t have to drive up to Seattle to interview some billionaire named Christian Grey for the student newspaper. But she does have to, even though she isn’t technically on the student paper. Her BFF Kate is sick, and being sick she is incapable of driving the three hours or conducting the interview. So Anastasia does it instead. It’s a last minute thing and honestly, she’s just not prepared for it (or for anything in life, really, but we’ll get to that). She doesn’t know anything about Christian Grey. She doesn’t know how old he is or what he does. All she knows is that he’s rich and he donates to the university.

Whatever she expected, it wasn’t the reality of Christian Grey. He’s young, for one, and he’s intense, really intense. Anastasia knows that she’s no match for him looks-wise, so it baffles her when he starts pursuing her: showing up at her work, sending her a first-edition of Tess of the D’Urbervilles, rescuing her from a drunken evening out. She can hardly believe her luck when this perfect man whisks her away to his penthouse in Seattle. Only Christian Grey has a dark secret. No, he isn’t a vampire or a spy or Batman. He’s kinky. He’s into BDSM. He likes to whip and chain it. GASP!

That’s pretty much the plot. Ignorant young woman with virginity still intact and a case of low self-esteem meets a controlling, manipulative, hot, young billionaire who identifies as a dominant in order to justify the fact that he’s a paternalistic control freak. Yay! Oh, yay! It’s just such an original and imaginative take on heterosexual relationships, don’t you think? It really offers some new insight into sexuality and power.
From dearauthor.com blog

Let me start by saying a few things that are important background fodder and provide the foundation of my opinion and bias:
1. I oppose book-banning. Period. In all forms. Therefore, what follows should not be miscontrued as any endorsement of book banning. I think writers should be able to write and publishers should be able to publish any kind of crap. Then we, as the consuming public, should exercise discernment in what we read.
2. I am writing from a evanglical, Christian worldview. My thoughts and feelings cannot be separated from my faith because my faith is an integral part of every molecule of me–how I think, how I feel, how I process information, what I value, what I believe, etc.
3. Call me a prude. Call me old-fashioned. Better yet, call me someone who really believes the bible and endeavors to live it out. I do believe that sex should occur only within the confines of a committed marriage relationship. Yes, even in 2012. And I know from personal experience that indeed, true love does and can wait.
4. I have not read (and will not read) any of the 50 Shades books, not even a paragraph. Normally I get all up in arms when people spew vitriole about a book they haven’t ever read or a movie they haven’t seen. I think it’s arrogant and ignorant (e.g., such as when the Christian community flipped out about the Harry Potter books being about “witchcraft”…without reading them). However, I have read enough ABOUT 50 Shades of Grey to know that these books diametrically oppose my personal ethic, so I’m not reading them. Keep that bit of self-reported hypocrisy in mind.

I had read online about 50 Shades climb up the NY Times Best Sellers List. I had also read that part of the reason for it’s success was the popularity of e-books and e-readers. Women could now read erotica without anyone knowing, so it became a “guiltless pleasure.” Well, from what I have read about 50 Shades, let’s call it what it is…porn. Porn for women. It’s being dubbed across the internet as “mommy porn.” Does putting the word “mommy” in front of it make it more socially acceptable? What would we think of a stay at home dad who can’t wait to put his toddler down for a nap so he can get his fix of internet porn? We would vilify that man. However, it seems perfectly fine for women to do this…because they are reading. However, porn is porn whether it has photos or video or not. Merriam-Webster defines pornography as “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in writing or photos) intended to cause sexual excitement.”

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In this article, the author states,

The authors note that in today’s mass media world, the line between “pornographic” and mainstream has become increasingly thin. The extraordinary popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is both an example and a product of that trend. Sexually explicit themes abound on the television—both network and cable—and encourage young women to “self-objectify”—that is, “learn to think and treat their bodies as objects of others’ desires.” The sexualization of young girls has been going on for the last two decades or so, as is evident to nearly everyone and so endemic that we’re no longer as alarmed by it as we should be. I think this explains why the Millennial women I speak to aren’t bothered by the theme of dominance in Fifty Shades; they’re used to that so they focus instead on the heroine’s agency. She does negotiate her contract with him, doesn’t she? She stands up to him! She makes him jealous!

A male also read the book and offered this review:

Firstly, and I can’t believe anyone would argue otherwise, “50 Shades of Grey” is pornography, plain and simple. There could be no other use for it. The narrative is comprised of 9 or 10 lengthy yet well-paced sex scenes tied together with some mindless, almost purposefully banal filler about Anastasia Steele’s college life. I think I remember Christian Grey playing a piano in one scene. That happened right? I don’t know, I was extremely anxious and uncomfortable the whole time. But this is exactly why this book matters. It manages, miraculously, to be at once pornographic and deeply unappealing to men – it is a kind of pornography that attracts only women, and thus far it is selling off the charts.

And, at first glance, “50 Shades” is not too different from most mainstream, ol’ fashioned, unadulterated, grade “A” pornography. Just like in male-produced porn, the men in this book like their women submissive. Anastasia is shy, naïve, the only 22-year old virgin left in America… and all of these factors are what attract her to the seemingly predatory Christian. Of course, this all sounds terribly sexist, even, as some have claimed, vaguely rape-y.

But what “50 Shades” accomplishes is something more: it strives to disassociate the act of a woman’s sexual submission from any seeming gender inequality. Anastasia, bland as she may be, has her own voice, (she repeatedly invokes her “inner goddess” – whatever that means) and though she never seems like a real person, she is clearly the invention of a real woman – and that may be enough…

Typically, we fretters fret about pornography in terms of how the women therein are presented – these women are being debased, defiled! we say: and it is indicative of a sickeningly masculine zeitgeist that society seems to want them so. Men are, in this narrative, concocting a poisoned, damaging image of women for the sake of their own onanistic enthusiasms.

But conversely, “50 Shades” describes acts of female sexual submission written by a woman, for women, from a woman character’s perspective, presumably for the purpose of the same aforementioned enthusiasms. Just as the majority of men who watch pornography do not actually think of their significant others as lascivious, orange-skinned, clearly-faking-it sexual acrobats, I seriously doubt that most women would prefer their men like Christian Grey: domineering, stalking, devoid of any humor or personality whatsoever.

What is really alarming about this to me is that I have seen references to reading the 50 Shades series popping up on various acquaintances’ Facebook feeds. It’s one thing for a woman to engage in reading about a psychopath who gets his jollies into dominating and objectifying a woman through bondage and S&M, but to post that in a visible social media outlet? Again, would a man post about the fact that he was about to be surfing internet porn sites for the next couple of hours or publicly recommend his favorite online? I think not. When and how did written pornography become socially acceptable?

I want to be angry and outraged. I am incredulous. But, most of all, I am just sad. I am sad that women are being “turned on” by storyline in which a woman is used solely as an object for a man’s pleasure. I am sad that acts of violence being inflicted upon a woman somehow places a book in the category of “romance.” I am sad that in a time of active debate in political circles about women’s rights, that many of the sisterhood are willing to give those up in their reading of choice. Since the big demographic of these so-called romance novels is married middle-aged women, I am sad that their real life marriages are apparently so devoid of romance, real love, and yes, even good sex, that they have to seek these things out in a very unrealistic fantasy world. I am sad that women who read these books will forever have these words, and the associated images that the brain creates, in their heads. I am just sad.

I believe with all of my heart and mind that God created humans for romance, both men and women. However, research has shown time and time again that men are more aroused with the visual and women with words and emotional connection. We need to find these things in our spouses, not in some unrealistic fantasy world. Wanna read some gripping erotica? Check out a modern translation of the Song of Solomon (Yes from the Bible. God created sex and he meant for it to be for our enjoyment, not just for procreation.) Wanna add some spice to your love life? Read some good marriage books and talk with your spouse…even about sex. Especially about sex. Date each other, spend time together, woo each other. I remember one time at a former workplace, one of my co-workers was complaining about sex with her husband (FYI: Don’t ever, ever do that.) Another one quipped, “Well, if sex isn’t any fun, then you must not be doing it right.” Indeed. Sex and money problems are the two most common reasons for divorce. Therefore, putting in the hard work (and at times, it is indeed work) to have a creative and fulfilling sex life and not falling into a boring, take-each-other-for-granted routine is important. As the author and creator of sex, God meant for the act of making love to be the ultimate picture of community, two people quite literally, metaphorically, and spiritually becoming one. It is an act of mutual love and respect with each partner being a giver and a receiver. Sex is meant to have an underlying spiritual and emotional foundation, not to merely be a stimulator of physical sensations. Sex is holy. And…

After all, God writes the best romances:
Proverbs 5
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
19 A loving doe, a graceful deer —
may her breasts satisfy you always,
may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

So, please, dear women…
Don’t read this drivel. Don’t let your brain be altered by literary lies. Don’t think of it as “fun escapism.” Pornography deceives, distorts, and ruins. It creates unrealistic expectations. It invites a third unseen person into your bedroom through the corrupted fantasies in your mind. It takes and takes and gives nothing in return. You deserve more than that…and so does your husband.