Fifty Shades of False Love

A woman reads E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" erotica book. | (Photo: Creative Commons)

It is ironic that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey is set to hit theaters this Valentine's Day—redefining a day that is specifically deemed as a celebration of love. Instead of lighthearted romance, Fifty Shades of Grey focuses on deviant sexual practices like bondage and control; it is a blatant attempt to normalize violent sexual behaviors. The film, based on a book by the same name, is a dangerous first step towards mainstreaming this sort of violence against women.

Based on early reviews of the movie, it is said that lead male character Christian Grey "wants total control over Anastasia [the lead female character] … the right to dictate her eating patterns and her contraception choices, plus the right to inflict pain on her as a means of arousing himself." As if that wasn't scary enough, the movie is packed with the use of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism), which is a practice that involves an individual who is gratified by either receiving or inflicting pain within consensual sex. Even "sexual therapists" who support BDSM are criticizing the book's portrayal of BDSM and say that the practice should neither involve exploitation nor emotional and physical abuse.

Supporters of Fifty Shades would argue that since Anastasia consents to the violence, we should not compare it to such serious issues like domestic violence and sex trafficking. But consent doesn't make abuse correct. Take, for example, those who consent to habitual practices or addictions. Just because a person agrees to a practice, it doesn't necessary deem it a healthy behavior. In fact, according to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation,

"Acts practiced in Fifty Shades of Grey, in "kink" pornography, and in BDSM … relationships often violate U.S. and United Nations laws on torture. Consent is not an excuse according to these laws."

On author E.L. James' website, the book's description reads: "Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever." Since when did words like 'obsess, possess and stay with you forever' become words that should draw us in? Typically, these words are words that are associated with issues that have led to the demise of America—things like addiction, evil and painfully traumatizing life events. The story is a distortion of the ideal of sex within a lifelong commitment of marriage—a perversion of something that's good and beautiful.

Just a few years ago, this type of pornographic content in Fifty Shades would have embarrassed readers if they were caught reading it in a public place. Today, it has become socially acceptable to both read books and watch films like Fifty Shades. How ironic, given that we as a nation are more concerned about ending violence against women than ever before. At the last Grammy Awards, even the President himself said, "It's on us, all of us, to create a culture where violence isn't tolerated." Moviegoers are talking out of both sides of their mouth by wanting to end the violence but then glorifying this bondage that Hollywood is promoting.

Whereas the last few Valentine's Day "chick flicks" have been romantic and sweet, Fifty Shades has definitely crossed a line. Feminists tout "respect" for females—yet no feminists are speaking out against movies like Fifty Shades of Grey, which both degrades and objectifies women on multiple levels. In terms of true love and respect, to say that the movie's form of female sexuality empowers women is an oxymoron. Contrary to what sexual therapists or even the culture may call "normal", controlling men who receive pleasure from violent behavior are not the ones who should attract us as women. Instead, we should be encouraging and acknowledging the men in our lives, who do value, protect and treat women with respect.

Just because a book or movie is popular, doesn't make it right. This Valentine's Day, I encourage you not to buy in to the cheap and damaging idea of this fantasy "love" that the makers of Fifty Shades of Grey are promoting. Instead, use the time and money that you would have spent on something much more redeeming—like spending time on the real relationships in your life.

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