50 Shades Darker: An Exposé

(Photo courtesy of thewrap.com)

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY

50 Shades Darker: An Exposé on the Series Taking Sex by Storm and Everything Wrong With It

By Samantha Gassaway

Binding, dominance and sadomasochism. BDSM is a system in which two partners engage in a game of physical and mental control during sexual intercourse. To an outside perspective, BDSM can appear incredibly abusive and should be dismantled and handled in a psychotherapy session rather than encouraged in the bedroom.

However, this is very rarely the case, and practitioners of BDSM can attest to the safety and (ironically) bonding experience the system often offers to their intimate life—in and outside the sheets. The experience can be comforting, natural, stimulating and loving to both partners depending on their respective histories as well as the ways in which they convey love. However, we at Marked Ministry do believe BDSM is not a practice Christian couples should partake in, though that is strictly the opinion of this magazine and not prescriptive of all couples.

The Fifty Shades of Grey series does not depict this.

Author E. L. James paints a picture so wrong, any reader who has experienced any level of sexual and relational intimacy (BDSM or not) cringes at the pages. The experience protagonist Anastasia Steele is subject to is an inaccurate and unhealthy one—to say the very least.

Fifty Shades Darker is going to be released Feb. 10, 2017. The two protagonists once again engage in an unhealthy and chaotic love story, in which Christian Grey attempts to woo Anastasia Steele by stalking and taking advantage of her newfound sexual identity.

I am a sexual abuse survivor. While my abuser never stalked me, he certainly elicited many of the same behaviors Grey partakes in on a normal basis and is excused for as “romantic.” Countless psychological examiners and sex counselors have identified Grey as a controlling, traumatized, egotistical emotional abuser with stalker tendencies. The fact that I can relate Grey to my abuser whatsoever is a massive marker of abuse to me, and many survivors as well.

And yet: the series is portrayed as a grand and playful romance in which Grey courts Steele into loving him and they live happily ever after. He can be saved from his violent and controlling tendencies. This point bristles members of BDSM culture more than anything, because it conveys the practice to be a problem due to trauma and a fate to be overcome. Once again, we at Marked do believe the practice to be unsafe and unabiding with Christian principles, though this point is clear.

I will not attempt to persuade readers of this article out of their justified belief that Steele royally messes up as well. She is no less at fault, and I refuse to baby her and justify her actions as mere naiveté, though I admit her trust is taken advantage of many times. That being said, she makes active decisions to get involved with a man who throws red flags into the air left and right like a football referee.

Since the series’ release, there has been a remarkably dangerous spike in sex toy usage and abuse due to inexperience. While Marked Ministry does not advocate for it, improper and irresponsible BDSM practice has factually left people with injuries that can easily be avoided if couples did not follow the example of a book series in order to simply re-energize their sex lives.

Following is a small list of some things I have found to be abusive and suspicious behavior depicted in just 50 Shades of Grey and that should be avoided at all costs by men and women seeking legitimate intimacy with their partners, and in the confines of marriage.

1. Christian Grey meets Anastasia Steele in an interview, and proceeds to stalk her and find out where she works in order to see her again.

The reason this is not okay is because the way to go about feeling attraction to someone is asking them on a date and getting to know them—not creepily asking around to see where they work and then neglect to ask them out there as well.

2. Grey sees Steele again, and immediately conveys jealousy at the thought of Steele being romantically involved with another man.

Jealousy over a girl you just met potentially being with someone else is unhealthy. To be fair, he finally asks her out for coffee here after finding out she’s single.

3. Grey again goes behind her back and finds out where she lives and sends her a very expensive gift.

Ask her if she would like to begin a relationship. Expensive gifts can easily be used as leverage via guilt trips—and they are later in the book—and they still just met each other.

4. Grey angrily picks her up at a bar when he finds out she is drunk, but it is later revealed that he was already there—stalking her.

This one is on Steele just as much as it is on Grey. Go out with friends you trust and who will take care of you, and also be careful with how you behave and don’t be reckless with your resources. (Getting drunk is plainly and inarguably prohibited in scripture, and is simply not good for you—body and soul. Just don’t do it.) Grey is not justified in stalking and taking her away from her friends—actively isolating and bringing her to a place she has not been before and against her consent.

5. Grey takes her to his apartment, takes her clothes off and lays her in his bed while she is drunk and passed out, then proceeds to scold her for getting drunk the night before. Shortly after, he tells her he has wanted to have sex with her for a while.

Do. Not. Take a girl away from her friends and to your house because you are worried about her. Do. Not. Take her clothes off without her consent because you think she’ll be more comfortable to sleep. They are not in a relationship and he directly and intentionally isolates her. Don’t even get me started on the “Hello, good morning, I want to have sex with you.”

6. They have sex the first time because she is a virgin and he has to make sure she knows what normal sex is like before they partake in any BDSM practices.

Sex is a gift—not a means to an end. The problem with this is obvious. No further comment.

7. Grey and Steele practice BDSM without her signing the contract, though she gives verbal consent. He then gives her more gifts and has her meet his family.

The verbal consent is a good step; though we advocate sex should happen within the confines of marriage, consent is always always always mandatory in any physical relationship, especially in marriage. However, the sex descriptively makes her very confused on his intentions, and again, the gifts and family (since he doesn’t mention or communicate a romantic relationship as a possibility between them) act as leverage for her to do what he wants. Communication is key in relationships, and with the type of relationship this book attempts to model, it is beyond mandatory.

As a survivor and a person of faith, I have a unique perspective on looking at the series with clarity on what is and is not healthy behavior. In the gospel of John, Jesus is famously approached by a group of men who cast a woman at his feet and demand she be stoned for committing adultery. He instead looks on her with grace, forgiveness, and gentleness. He softly tells the men surrounding her, with angry faces and stones at the ready, to throw them if they are free of all sin.

One by one, they drop their stones and leave His presence. The woman falls at the feet of Jesus and begs His forgiveness with gratefulness at His act of mercy. He tells her she is forgiven and she is free to go on living, sinning no more.

The same is true for Steele and Grey. As much as their relationship is toxic, this series and its readers can be reconciled back into a healthy relationship with Jesus and with their partners through communication, grace, understanding, and wisdom.

Seeing the relationship in Fifty Shades as anything but a portrayal of toxic, irresponsible, lust-powered, and blatant relational abuse is simply wrong.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, trust is a wonderful and mandatory thing in any relationship. However, being irresponsible and forgetting the need for God’s love to be the center of your intimacy and not your own pursuit of pleasure will open a door for disobedience and pain in all other areas of your relationship. If you and your partner in marriage have trust issues, get help elsewhere than a BDSM toy shop.