50 Shades of No Way

50 Shades of No Way

By April Brown

…I have loved you with an everlasting love; with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.  

– Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)

Dear Sisters and Friends: 

Please know that I have prayerfully considered what has been put into this posting. The purpose of this article is not meant to condemn readers of the books or squash creative and expressive writing. My article does not seek to promote censorship, feminist ideologies, or even my own “agenda.” No! I have come to specific conclusions based on facts. Facts gathered from psychologists, national foundations, stories from survivors of abuse–and most importantly–the Bible. This posting focuses primarily on educating females about the dangers of believing the untruthful lies promoted by Fifty Shades, understanding what a true healthy relationship should look like, and to encourage the restoration of sexual dignity, self-respect, and a true understanding of love–specifically Jesus’ love.  May you be encourage and blessed.

– April 

There has recently been quite a media storm surrounding the newest blockbuster hit Fifty Shades of Grey. With such an attention-grabbing theme, it is apparent that our culture has come to embrace the literary characters of this novel and their story.

It is evident that the book-to-movie adaptation has reached an all time peak, topping a gross total of 405 million dollars within the first four days of its international release. Besides theaters, thousands of people have flooded bookstores, online retailers, and outlets to grab a copy of the romance tale between the fictitious characters Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. But what about this book has drawn such a crowd? I mean, all romance stories deal with the same basic principles of attraction, a budding spark, obstacles to overcome, growth and love–all things which this book has.  But why has our culture, especially women, been drawn to this series?

Although you may not like the answers to this question, I ask you to think deeply about what I am going to say: This series is attracting because it fulfills a picture of what society has painted as forbidden, but meaningful love while adding a sense of edgy, risky sex that captivates us. Plain and simple–this series gives us something that we desire or are lacking in own lives. Whether it is a sense of fulfillment from a relationship, the desire to express ourselves, to feel worthwhile, or even to have the ability to change someone we love, this series provides it all.

What most women do not understand is the dangers in using this storyline as a platform to base their intimate (emotional, physical, and psychological) interactions. Furthermore, most of these women cannot foresee is the harm and injury that will come if we allow the values from this book to penetrate our lives, our youth, our expectations in the bedroom, our thoughts, and our perspective of love. When this happens, we start the process of a downhill decent.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, the research and information I used to shape my concerns was drawn from other articles and websites. I highly recommend that after reading my post you use these resource to guide your own research about what the experts say about 50 Shades of Grey and the principles it promotes: Pastor Shawn: http://www.pastorshawn.com/50/, National Foundation for Exploitation:http://endsexualexploitation.org/fiftyshadesgrey/#talking_points). Essentially my greatest concerns over this series hinges mainly on three main aspects, two of which are focused on our social and cultural values, while the third–and most important–aims to discuss the deepest aspect of our relationships.

Theses points are that Fifty Shades of Grey:

  1. Falsely depicts degradation as empowerment
  2. Glamorizes and encourages physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse, while exploiting females and sex
  3. Undermines God’s ultimate framework of sex and love

At the opening of the first book, we find a young, college-age female who is gentle, shy, intelligent, but naive about the world; she has yet to discover herself. Anastasia, by society’s standards, is budding and about to enter into the prime of her life. Seemingly she represents what many females identify with: a woman full of possibilities, but who is too “grey” and unimportant to be seen as worthwhile by her surroundings. It isn’t until she meets Christian and experiences her first sexual encounter and loses her virginity that Ana begins to find herself. Doors to a dream job open, her material desires are fulfilled, and Ana’s sex life is becoming a driving force–she has officially become an empowered woman.

But is this really the case? As Ana’s story progresses, the books offers up the idea that by embarking on an atypical relationship with Christian, she has some how broken out of societal expectations and found a passionate and deep love. Her new found sexual experience has supposedly awakened her. The book would have you believe that even though at moments she desires a “vanilla” relationship, her new found freedom through Christian has helped to embolden from her prior mundane life. But in reality, if Ana’s situation were real, this would be far from the truth.

Ana’s relationship is not defined by freedom, nor by female power. It is marked by abuse and degradation. Throughout the story she is forced to submit her independence and personal will in an effort to please Christian while she is beaten, humiliated, and manipulated. Her attempts to be herself and her desires for a real relationship are mocked, and hinted as plain (vanilla).  Her desire to have a family is even frowned upon as she finds herself pregnant in the last book and seemingly happy–that is until Christian rejects the idea of the child because it might cut into his time with Anastasia.

What type of empowerment involves this kind of treatment? How can we say that this book speaks to a new of kind of passion? Can we say that Anastasia is a heroine or that she is a worthy female role model? No!

When we critically inspect the true personal and relational qualities of Anastasia we find a desperate, confused, love-starved, shamed victim. Her actions are not empowering, freeing or independent. Her relationship with Christian does not bring a new level of self-reliance or even sexual aptitude. What she gains from her relationship is baggage, scars and a devalued sense of self-worth. In reality, her experience would be called sexual and physical abuse; and outside of theaters we would encourage anyone to escape from such a tormented relationship. It is so disappointing to see how a false sense of freedom is what has been promoted by these books, instead of lamenting the fact that a human being is duped into finding her self-worth in sex and an abusive relationship.

  1. The book glamorizes and encourages exploits physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse.

You do not need to read the series to know that sex and intrigue have been splashed throughout out the storyline. The trailers for the movie alone provide us with this emotion. On the screen you see a flash of a beautiful young woman who looks quiet and simple. She appears isolated, meek and inexperienced. Then flashes an incredibly good looking man. He is rich, powerful and alluring. His presence emits an enigmatic nature that is attractive. The relationship begins. Their passions collide.  The sex is steamy.  Despite the obstacles and Christian’s unique way of expressing his love, they both seem so happy. It is a Fabio or Jake Gyllenhall as the Prince of Persia love tale!

But this tale has been dramatized by the author, Hollywood and retailers for their benefit.  But the truth and consequences of such a relationship as Anastasia and Christian’s have been hidden for your benefit. A study in the Journal of Women’s Health showed that, “one-third of women who read Fifty Shades were more likely during their lifetime to have a partner who shouted, yelled, or swore at them and who delivered unwanted calls/text messages. They were also more likely to report fasting, and using diet aids at some point during their lifetime. At least 65% of these women reported binge drinking in the last month and reported using diet aids and having five or more intercourse partners during their lifetime [all of these results were compared to women who had not read the books]” (Altenburger, Bonomi, and Nemeth, pg.720).

This study concluded by saying that, “problematic depictions of violence against women in popular culture such as in film, novels, music, or pornography create a broader social narrative that normalizes these risks and behaviors in women’s lives. Our study showed strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives including violence victimization and consumption of Fifty Shades, a fiction series that portrays violence against women. Likewise, if women read Fifty Shades before experiencing the health behaviors assessed in our study, it is possible that the book influenced the onset of these behaviors by creating an underlying context for the behaviors.” (Altenburger, Bonomi, and Nemeth, pg.720)

The facts do not stop with just abuse. Multiple studies have been conducted which show the exploitive nature of  Bondage Discipline Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) and its physical, emotional, psychological wearing. (Click here for resources: http://endsexualexploitation.org/fiftyshadesgrey/). Actions such as these go deeper than minor and temporary hurt to experience pleasure. These scenarios tend to suck in already needy and attention-craved individuals and exploit their pain for the pleasure of others.  Men most often become abusive aggressors who use this need for attention to manipulate sex out of their victims. Anastasia’s story is a paragon of this type of situation.

The premise of these books and movie offers us a society–and more importantly as women–nothing of value. In fact, this story line does not even offer us a sense of entertainment from a “guilty pleasure” prospective. Sadly, instead it gives us a two-fold picture of what our society has come to expect from relationships, and in-turn, what type of treatment we should expect from that relationship. It leaves me wondering what are we telling our daughters and the upcoming generation by watching and promoting movies such as these? How can we desire a higher and healthy standard of sexual and overall living if we are glamorizing a series which does the opposite?

  1. Undermines God’s ultimate framework of sex and love.

From a social and cultural perspective this series poses a threat to how we view our relationships and others. However, from a Christian perspective, these books are even more dangerous to our community because of what they offer. You see not only do they suggest things that are abusive, exploitive and dangerous but they also undermine the ultimate framework for sex and love set up by God.

In the book of Genesis, chapter two, God shows us his master plan and context for sex. We read that God brought Adam and Eve together. He blessed their marriage and that gave them the right of sex. One specific verse clearly tells us that, “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.” (Genesis 2:25, NIV). It is in the context of this situation, a true marriage, which God has brought together and blessed, that God’s plan of sex and love is complete.

We find that in this type of godly relationship there is no shame and degradation, and there is no deceit or abuse. Instead there is beauty and security. Their passion and love for each other was blessed because God formed and fashioned these individuals and brought them together.

In knowing this, we as Christians should NOT be consuming something that honors the complete antithesis of what God has created and blessed. Moreover, we also should not be reading books and watching a movie that provoke and promotes sexually explicit acts, thoughts, images and all forms of sexual immorality.  Scripture again tells us:

“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes, these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God. You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God,” Ephesians 5: 3-5a (NLT)

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things,” Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

Furthermore, we are to avoid principles and things which glorify a sexually immoral lifestyle:

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality,” 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (NIV)

These verses alone clearly prove that Fifty Shades of Grey is not an acceptable choice of media or literature to put into our thought life. As a Christian and lover of Jesus, I would say that we have no business reading these books or watching this movie. There is not an ounce of worthy or justifiable fiber of this series that a Christian can apply, use, or enjoy in their personal life.

But amongst the darkness of this discussion, I have good news! Jesus has provided us something more beautiful and passionate then Fifty Shades. He has given us His love story. He has given a tale of true love which He wishes to impart to each and every one of us, His precious children. Christ does not reject, hurt or injure us. No, he was injured for us!  He took on our sins because He loves us and calls us to a life of purity and beauty. We do not need to be defined by our relationships, by how beautiful or sexy our world tells we need to be. Our identity is found Christ. So I encourage you to throw away that which does not edify, glorify, or even give you a healthy perspective. Instead, turn to the man who says, I have loved you with an everlasting love; with unfailing love I have drawn you to myself, Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT).