Today is the long-anticipated release of 50 Shades of Grey in American theaters. As I work on this post, people are sitting in theaters being entertained by an abusive relationship in which a woman is battered, degraded, coerced and tortured under the guise of “romance.”
TBKW firmly stands against the dehumanization of God’s children, in any form. Here are some excellent articles on the topic of this cinematic blight on society:
ACTIVISTS SAY SKIP 50 SHADES AND GIVE TICKET MONEY TO A WOMEN’S SHELTER – Take Part, Liz Dwyer
The campaign was started by women from Stop Porn Culture, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and the London Abused Women Centre in Canada. It’s inspired by 50 Shades Is Abuse, an effort begun nearly three years ago by Natalie Collins, a British advocate for domestic violence victims. She and other activists worry that the flick will send women the message that being stalked, controlled, and manipulated by a significant other is sexy and romantic.
50 SHADES OF BROKEN – CBE, Jenny Rae Armstrong
There are cultural, psychological, and even physiological reasons why some women gravitate toward threatening “heroes” or violent sexual fantasies. Women’s bodies respond to perceived sexual threat by becoming physically aroused. It’s a defense mechanism to minimize injury if they are assaulted.4 Knowing this may help us understand how fiction that celebrates sexual violence could be an easy way for inexperienced teens or exhausted moms to experience a bit of a tingle. Yet, this age-old storytelling medium has played a crucial role in promoting an unhealthy view of sexuality and relationships, one that has been passed down from a dysfunctional, and often violent, patriarchal past. In a blog post titled “The Brain on Lust,” Sharon Hodde Miller, a PhD candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, explains that “whenever you learn something new, your brain changes, both physically and chemically. As that new information is stored, your brain creates new neural pathways and strengthens old ones…The more you use certain neural pathways, the stronger they become, whereas others weaken with lack of use.”5
In other words, our minds are, in the most literal sense, moldable. The more time we spend thinking about something (hours submersed in romance novels featuring domineering or abusive heroes), and the more our associations are reinforced (domineering men are sexy, and relationships with them will lead to happy endings), the stronger those neural pathways become. Just like pornography, romance novels can rewire our brains, overwriting reality with unhealthy fantasies that we increasingly associate with pleasure.
The researchers assert this analysis show that Fifty Shades of Grey depicts emotional abuse “in nearly every interaction” between the central couple…
The study concludes:
Despite the pervasive abuse patterns we uncovered in our analysis, popular reviews have suggested the book is liberating for women’s sexuality, providing women with an “opportunity” to openly experience erotica in an otherwise hyper-repressed culture.54 Our analysis did not set out to unravel the validity of the popular claim that the book is liberating for women’s sexuality. However, what our analysis sheds light on is the following: While Anastasia is depicted as experiencing “pleasure” during some of the couple’s sexual interactions, our analysis shows she is simultaneously confused and terrified that she will be hurt in such interactions, and she yearns for a “normal” relationship; in addition, Anastasia’s consent in the sexual activities is coerced through the use of alcohol and intimidation/pressure.
TRUTH ABOUT 50 SHADES OF GREY: MOVIE GLAMORIZES SEXUAL VIOLENCE, DOMESTIC ABUSE – End Sexual Exploitation, Dawn Hawins
The reality is that if you take away the glamour, “Fifty Shades” is just a sensationalized lie, telling women that they can, and should, fix violent and controlling men by being obedient and devoted, and that, somehow, this is romantic.
In case you weren’t convinced yet…
ABUSE IS NOT ROMANCE: ADS FROM 50 SHADES WITH ACTUAL INSANE QUOTES FROM THE BOOKS – GOOD, Adam Albright-Hanna
Ahead the highly anticipated film’s release, there’s a growing outrage aimed at 50 Shades of Grey. Last week, GOODwrote about a campaign called 50 Dollars Not 50 Shades, in which domestic abuse activists are urging people to donate $50 to women’s shelters in lieu of purchasing a movie ticket. They feel that the book’s lead romantic interest Christian Grey is often “extremely controlling, possessive, and forceful.”
Tumblr user The 6th Sirens of Pandora agrees, and to further illustrate her point she’s taken to reimagining the film’s movie poster to feature some of the most attrocious quotes from the book. Check out the images to read for yourself how insanely violent the book really is.
99 REASONS TO LEAVE YOUR ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP – Free Indeed,
- He hurts you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.
THE CHRISTIAN PORN CONVERSATION – God Loves Women
The Christian conversation on “porn” has (in the main) these aspects:
- Purity: viewing defiles the person looking.
- Addiction: people get addicted to viewing and so it becomes treated as a medical disorder.
- The redemption narrative: (mostly) men sharing their stories of moving from sin (watching “porn”) to redemption (no longer watching “porn”)
- Neuroscience/Intimacy: After Dr William Struthers (neuroscientific theologian) wrote a book covering the ways viewing pornographic content affects the brain and communicated the solution as greater intimacy, this is regularly talked about and he is the go to person Christians usually quote or invite to talk about “porn”.
Though all of the above can be part of the issue, I would suggest of greater significance are the following layers underpinning the spectrum of pornographies:
- A gendered analysis: this is about men consuming women. Man as subject, woman as object.
- Industry: people make vast sums of money from selling pornographic material. Viewers are groomed into harder and harder core porn, in order to bring financial benefit to (mainly) white men.
- Power: as we’ve seen in the latest power plays of The Sun around Page 3, pornographic material is more about power than it is about any sort of meaningful sexual experience.
- The broken lives: the (mostly) women who are groomed, used, abused and discarded by the industry.
LUNDY BANCROFT ON DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE
This is such an insightful and important series of videos. I’m linking to Part 1 of 7.
LET’S CALL 50 SHADES OF GREY WHAT IT IS: PERVERTED – Charisma Magazine, J. Lee Grady
2. It glorifies violence against women. Last year a researcher from the University of Michigan did a study on the effects of Fifty Shades of Grey on women readers. It showed that women who read the books (it is actually a trilogy) were 25 percent more likely to have an abusive partner; 34 percent were more likely to have a partner who stalked them; and 65 percent were more likely to engage in binge drinking.
Just as there is a link between violent video games and violent behavior in teen boys, this study showed that women who read graphic porn novels tend to gravitate toward the types of abusive relationships depicted in books like Fifty Shades. The study also showed that these women were more likely to have eating disorders. (Interestingly, the dominant male character in Fifty Shades carefully controls his girlfriend’s eating habits.)
WHAT EVANGELICALS FAIL TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT CONSENT – Sarabeth Caplin
I would hate to see this much-needed dialogue turn into a debate about BDSM between consenting couples, which the church has no business policing, and not about the real issue at hand: what abuse looks like in real life. Given the number of people in the BDSM community who say this series misrepresents what it’s all about, it’s a dialogue worth having.
50 SHADES OF CONFUSING: SEARCHING FOR A #TRULYHUMAN PERSPECTIVE – Missio Alliance, Karina Kreminski
A reign of God perspective on sexual desire sees that we are embodied beings given a gift by God which is to be used with discernment, wonder and joy. As we engage with this gift well, we become the true humans that God had always designed us to be.+
Will we react to the issues around sexuality in our world with simple moral outrage or will we rather seek to engage with, relate to and speak into a world that is broken and needs restoration?
50 SHADES: WHY THE OUTRAGE HURTS WOMEN – Michele Phoenix
Here’s the problem: by our disproportionate outcry, we in the Christian culture are subconsciously conveying that WOMEN seeking out indecent content are so much more disgusting than MEN doing the same.
The message we send with our selective displeasure, even implicitly, is that sexual materials aimed solely at WOMEN are a greater shame than those designed for mixed or male audiences. We’re saying that audiences of female BDSM fans deserve more scorn and judgment than male audiences entering porn stores, watching (often sexually-exploited) women online or just “being boys.”
TO STOP VIOLENCE, START AT HOME – The New York Times, Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet
THE pattern is striking. Men who are eventually arrested for violent acts often began with attacks against their girlfriends and wives. In many cases, the charges of domestic violence were not taken seriously or were dismissed.
WHY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS DON’T LEAVE – TED TALKS, Leslie Morgan Steiner
Cannot recommend this video enough. A survivor of domestic violence shares her story.
A post from October with DV statistics and resources.
This seems so wrong to share after all the others. This is just for fun – I was laughing hysterically all the way through!
As I am finishing up, I just saw my friend post this fantastic note on Facebook (food for thought as you encounter this book and movie in your community):
I just submitted this letter online to Hannaford via this link and encourage others who share my concerns to do the same. Thank you!:
I love our ___ Hannaford. The staff could not be more helpful, friendly, or efficient. Our family of 8 shops there 2 – 3 times a week, and we almost always fill 2 large carts. While checking out recently with my kids, however, I was extremely shocked and disappointed to see that “Fifty Shades of Grey” was being sold at the check-out. Not only is it a XXX book, but it depicts the most unhealthy kind of relationship. This book glorifies dating violence and abuse. As a store that promotes healthy choices, I fail to understand why it would sell such dangerous garbage. I have many friends who feel similarly and I have encouraged them to contact you about this important matter as well. Thank you for your consideration and prompt action. Sincerely, ______
Like my wonderful friend and the authors and speakers in these links, let’s be brave and courageous Beautiful Kingdom Warriors as we speak up for the dignity and worth of every human being.
EDIT: this one is amazing:
EVEN THE CO-STARS OF THE MOVIE “50 SHADES OF GREY” THINK IT IS AWFUL (AND MAYBE EVEN A BIT LIKE HITLER).