The most popular movie in America is about bondage, sexual domination and violent sex. Fifty Shades of Grey, the best-selling novel about a sexually abusive relationship between an extremely wealthy businessman and a young female college student, has sold more than 100 million copies worldwide since it was first released. This past weekend, it pulled in an astounding 81.7 million dollars at the box office. Clearly, it has struck a chord with the American people. But should women actually be watching Fifty Shades of Grey? It has been said that if you put garbage in, you get garbage out. The novel has been described as “pornography for women”, but the movie is supposedly toned down. But even with the editing, the film still contains 20 minutes of sex scenes. And of course we aren’t just talking about normal sex scenes. Fifty Shades of Grey goes to great lengths to explore the twisted world of sexual abuse, bondage and humiliation. It makes violent sex seem “mainstream”, and it is deeply affecting our culture. So what does it say about our society that it is so wildly popular?
Just a couple of years ago, the novel that the film is based upon was considered to be “extreme” in this country. But these days seemingly everyone is talking about it. The following is an excerpt from a recent article in the New York Post…
Usually when we talk about cultural shifts we are referring to changes that happen over 30 or 40 or 50 years, but this is a change that has happened virtually overnight, while we were all supposedly paying attention.
So, let’s just take a step back and consider what we’ve lost in shedding just one more taboo. The movie is rated R, so many teenagers (even those under 17) will probably get in. As child psychiatrist Miriam Grossman wrote on her blog recently, “Fifty Shades of Grey” teaches your daughter that pain and humiliation are erotic, and your son that girls want a guy who controls, intimidates and threatens.
“In short, the film portrays emotional and physical abuse as sexually arousing to both parties.”
Something that is particularly disturbing to me is that the lead character that is doing the abusing in Fifty Shades of Grey is named “Christian”. It is almost as if the author was purposely trying to mock those that embrace traditional values.
If you have never encountered Fifty Shades of Grey before, the following is a brief summary of the plot…
Early on in the first book, Ana discovers that Christian has a “dark secret”: He’s obsessed with BDSM—a condensed abbreviation for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. This is the central tension of the books: Ana loves Christian, but she doesn’t want to be his submissive; Christian loves Ana, but he’s turned on by violent sex.
What people see, they tend to emulate. And this film comes out at a time when sexual violence against women in this country is at epidemic levels. Just consider the following numbers from the Atlantic…
This is a troubling fantasy in American culture, where one in five women will be raped within their lifetime, according to the CDC; where nearly 40 percent of those rapes will happen to women aged 18 to 24; and where troubling evidence of casual attitudes toward rape—such as in 2010 when a number of Ivy League-educated men thought it was okay to chant “no means yes, yes means anal” on their campus—is not uncommon. As images of Ana being beaten by Christian become the new normal for what’s considered erotic, they raise questions about what it means to “consent” to sex.
Like I said above, when you put garbage in, you get garbage out.
Perhaps you do not believe that a movie could have a significant impact on our behavior.
Perhaps you believe that most people can clearly separate fiction and reality.
Well, at least one study suggests otherwise. According to Time Magazine, one study discovered that Fifty Shades of Grey was “introducing more women to porn”…
E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is introducing more women to porn — at least according to a narrow study conducted at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Researcher Diana Parry interviewed 28 women in their 20s to 50s about their pornography habits. She discovered that women in the group increased their consumption of sexually explicit content after reading the book.
“So many of the women [we interviewed] were hopping in for the first time to pornography or sexually explicit material that was written by women for women,” Parry told Salon in an interview.
And science tells us that those that view porn are more likely to commit sexual violence.
The following comes from CNS News…
We already know that porn is linked to sexual abuse, and there is a tendency for men to act out what they see on the screens. It is for this reason that many women have voiced alarm over increasingly violent porn.
“The biggest sex educator of young men today is pornography,” says Wheelock College professor and American Studies chair Dr. Gail Dines. Dines, a self-described feminist, noted that porn is “increasingly violent and dehumanizing, and it changes the way men view women.”
Like drugs and alcohol, pornography eventually requires a bigger hit – and in porn films, that is increasingly becoming a literal occurrence. According to the director of a pornography documentary, “of the top 250 bestselling porn movies, a high percentage depict violence against women.”
When people are entertained by something, they tend to want more of it.
And once you have seen something, there is no way to “unsee” it.
One of the primary ways that we learn things is by watching. And when women (and men) watch Fifty Shades of Grey, they are learning all about sexual abuse, bondage, humiliation and violent sex.
So should people be watching this movie?
Please share what you think by posting a comment below…