A Lie and Its Fifty Shades of Grey

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Just So You Know

In full disclosure, I have not read the book nor watched the movie Fifty Shades of Grey. So, I am attempting to write with a careful tone and an honest take on what I think the dangers are surrounding a book and movie such as this. Because I have not read the book or seen the movie I will only address this issue from the general perspective of the book/movie’s plot and the issues that are central to this kind of story. Most of my knowledge of 50 Shades admittedly comes from research on the Internet. Much of my knowledge was gained by reading articles by authors I respect and with whom I agree with their opinions in other areas. I also learned some of what I know about the movie and the book from authors that I disagree with. My understanding of the plot is concisely summarized here though not the whole.

I am writing and offering my opinion as a follower of Jesus Christ. Unashamedly some of this article will speak to what the Bible teaches concerning the issues found in 50 Shades. If you are reading as someone who is not a believer in Jesus Christ I hope you will still find value in the advice and warnings within this article.

I also write as a law school student who finds many of the details of 50 Shades not only wrought with relationship damaging (or relationship killing) issues and themes, but also very disturbing issues as they relate to the law.

Lastly, I am writing as one who has done a fair amount of marriage counseling. While I think works such as 50 shades is filled with dangers that go well beyond the marriage bed, the damage done by works such are devastating to a marriage.

So What’s The Big Deal?

Almost as fast as the criticism of 50 Shades began to surface on the web, so did the army of people who felt compelled to rush to the defense of it. Arguments in defense of 50 Shades range from, “what’s the big deal, guys watch this kind of stuff all the time…” to “…watching this movie or reading this book might spice up your sex life.” It is impossible for me to address the vast confusion and perversion of sexuality in society at-large today in this one article. In fact that is not my goal. However, it should be stated that much of the confusion surrounding the sexuality found in books and movies such as 50 Shades stems from the perversion that is becoming more and more accepted as the norm by many people.[1]

The “big deal” is the damage something like 50 Shades can bring about within the marriage relationship. The proffered argument that “guys watch this kind of stuff all the time…” is an argument that hardly deserves addressing, as the majority of people do not believe this is a real justification for anything else in life. No one (no sane person at least) is making the argument that a male being raped by a female is not a big deal because, “guys do it all the time…” There is not a great movement to convince us that kidnapping a child and selling them into sex-slavery is somehow O.K. because so many people around the world are doing just that. So, to argue that ones behavior is somehow justified because others “do it all the time” is an argument that even its proponents do not believe.

Back to marriage. There are many damaging outcomes to married folks watching a movie or even reading a book such as 50 Shades. First, there is the issue of allowing others into the marriage bed. Couples can allow others into their private and intimate sex lives through movies, books, the Internet, or another avenues. When this happens that couple has begun a dangerous downward spiral.[2] When your spouse must “live up to” the performance, drive, physique, etc., etc., of someone else, the battle for your marriage has already begun and first blood has already been drawn. This is why pornography is such a dangerous industry. The man or woman’s mind is prone to believe that the things they see on the screen must be “how it is really supposed to be.” Some will argue that this is an unfair analysis because we do not hold other movies to have the same consequences. Pornography is not the same as other movies. However, if we are honest the watching of a movie of any kind often has a profound effect on us. We watch a horror movie and may hear “noises” in the basement that causes us concern. We watch a romantic comedy and find ourselves a little more thankful for our spouse and the relationship we share with them. We watch a movie where a child dies and we find ourselves spending a little extra time with our own children. The screen, and the “lives” of those on it, do in fact have a profound impact on us. Enter pornography. When one watches pornography we open our psyche up the idea that what we see on the screen is the normal, it is reality. Where does that most often leave the watcher? Feeling abnormal. Therefore, the spouse who finds themselves falling short of the heroic and amazing performance of the sexual god or goddess on the screen begins to have feelings of inadequacy and it only gets worse with each passing intimate moment shared with their spouse. But there is another side as well. One spouse will often begin to feel dissatisfied with their sex life, mainly because it does not look as exciting, fulfilling, or adventurous as the “sex life” portrayed on the screen. The dissatisfied spouse is then prone to eventually look to other methods of filling this void. (Read the statistics!) Relationship disaster is imminent.

I have counseled with numerous couples on the verge of divorce. Almost without fail their relationship is on the fritz because of failed expectations. “She doesn’t do this…he doesn’t do that…she never, he never…” These words are almost always a part of the explanations given by one of the spouses for why they are sitting in front of me. Many will end the “he or she never” phrase (usually after weeks of counseling when their comfort level in sharing increases) with, “…wants to have sex…” or “…wants to try (you fill in the sexual position, experience, etc.). You see the problem? A false, porn-induced, book-induced, fantasy-induced idea of what “should” be happening in the marriage bed has caused an almost irreparable rift in the couple and their relationship. I have never had one person ask “what’s the big deal!” when they realize they are possibly about to lose their marriage, not one.

As Usual, The Church Is Against Something

I am not blind nor am I eager to defend the Church and our many failures. It is no secret that the Church has often been guilty of “being against stuff”. Admittedly, much of the Church’s disdain for some “stuff” has no Biblical support. However, this is not one of those areas, this is not one of the “stuffs” for which the Bible lacks direction. The purity of a believer is found and achieved only through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. However, believers are given direction on how to live in light of Christ’ atoning work. The Bible provides direction and guides our lives in a way that should reflect the love and Lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives. Sex and sexuality in general are areas we receive such guidance. I won’t re-invent the wheel as some have already expressed and presented the various Biblical arguments against being involved and/or exposing one’s self to the perversions glorified in works such as 50 Shades.[3] However, one thing is clear, even from a broad reading of the Bible…the Bible prohibits this “free spirit, anything goes” attitude toward sex and sexuality that is so prevalent in todays culture. Some will immediately argue, “Of course it does, the Bible is an oppressive book from an oppressive religion…” Parents should recognize right away that this is the same response many of us have heard from our children at one time or another. “You never let me have any fun…you always say no…” And as a parent you know that they do not understand that you are simply trying to protect them from something the prohibited activity will bring. You love them. You want the best for them. Yet have you noticed that when God displays the same characteristic (that of a loving parent) society goes nuts and begins to bemoan the awful oppressiveness of such a god? So, the question remains, is God against 50 Shades? God and his message revealed in the Bible are against anything that will cause harm to those he loves. So yes, God is against 50 Shades. He is against it just as I am against allowing my eleven year old to go to the mall or the water park, or anywhere else without a parent or someone to watch after her. Overprotective? Maybe. Oppressive? Hardly. I would contend that not allowing my daughter to go out unsupervised in a world that can be relentless and evil is not at all overprotective. I would argue, as most parents do, that it is a form of love. Just type in the words “sex-trafficking of children” and “kidnapping” into Google and you might not be so quick to label me as an overprotective antediluvian. Ok I guess that was chasing a rabbit, but as Dr. Robert Smith says, “I may have been chasing a rabbit but think there was some meat on it!” Back to the topic at hand. We are often guilty of acting as if God cannot love us while at the same time putting up boundaries, boundaries that are put in place for our good. Yet, if you are a parent, a teacher, a police officer, etc., etc., you know you do this all the time.   Enough said.

What About the Law

There are literally thousands of laws in the U.S. that have to do with sex in one form or another. Many of these laws pertain to sexual activity with children, but not all. The obvious question of law in 50 Shades revolves around a contract, a sex contract to be specific. While I don’t want to delve too much into the details of the “contract” found in the book (and the movie), I think it worthy to point out some of the points and their corroborating some of my earlier points. The 50 Shades contract provides the following expectations of the so-called “Submissive” (this is not the complete listing found in the contract):

 15.13 The Submissive accepts the Dominant as her master, with the understanding that she is now the property of the Dominant, to be dealt with as the Dominant pleases during the Term generally but specifically during the Allotted Times and any additional agreed allotted times.

The obvious word that should jump off the page is “property”. We fought for many years in this country for the freedom of African-Americans. This was the freedom from a person being held as someone else’s property. Why would this now be accepted as something that is harmless and just part of “spicing up” ones sex life? The contradiction in some people’s line of thinking concerning this is palpable. People are not property, but when considered in this light some believe this a harmless game. Below are a few more of the “terms” of the contract which should speak for themselves and so I will not provide further commentary except to say that we would never accept this kind of treatment in any other area of our lives.

 15.18 The Submissive shall accept without question any and all disciplinary actions deemed necessary by the Dominant and remember her status and role in regard to the Dominant at all times.

 15.20 The Submissive shall submit to any sexual activity demanded by the Dominant and shall do without hesitation or argument.

 15.22 The Submissive shall not look directly into the eyes of the Dominant except when specifically instructed to do so. The Submissive shall keep her eyes cast down and maintain a quiet and respectful bearing in the presence of the Dominant.

 15.23 The Submissive shall always conduct herself in a respectful manner to the Dominant and shall address him only as Sir, Mr. Grey, or such other title as the Dominant may direct.

I was shocked to learn that some married couples (and dating couples) have entered into these kinds of contracts with each other. Some of the contracts may not be of the domineering kind found in the 50 Shades contract, but couples are entering into sex contracts none-the-less. Let me be straight forward with you as a married person. You have a contract. It’s called a marriage covenant. Most states no longer view a marriage as a contractual issue as we did in earlier times. Your marriage commitment is sufficient by itself; you don’t need additional contracts or addendums to your marriage. Deanne Katz writes, on FindLaw.com, concerning the legality of such a contract. Katz states that,

 For a contract to exist there needs to be an offer, an acceptance, and both parties have to give some “consideration” as part of the agreement. Consideration is a legal term for the idea that for people to honor a contract, both parties must promise something of value when making the contract.

 Grey makes an offer by asking Steele to sign the contract, and there is consideration. If they agree, Grey will provide care and training to Steele, and Steele will make herself available to Grey every weekend.  Oh right, and she’ll offer Grey any pleasure he desires without hesitation and he, in exchange, will refrain from anything that endangers her health or leaves a permanent mark.

Typical stuff? Not really. But none of that matters since Steele doesn’t actually sign, meaning there’s no acceptance. No contract….Contracts that violate public policy will not be upheld in court, and that includes contracts for sex. As a society we don’t endorse using sex as a tradable good (i.e., laws against prostitution) so contracts can’t use sex as consideration.

Much of the contract does involve sex. It includes a list of sexual activities that Steele will or won’t participate in and continually refers to her as “The Submissive” while Grey is “The Dominant.” Those terms are pretty commonly linked to sexual relationships, which means they can’t be part of the contract.[4]

Don’t Believe the Hollywood Hype

The hype that comes out of Hollywood is just that, hype. Hype is defined as, “to create interest in by flamboyant or dramatic methods; promote or publicize showily.” If you allow your life to be guided by, or even worse determined by, the Hollywood hype, you are in for one unhappy life. If you believe the big screen is the place to find truth and reality you are going to be persistently let down. If you allow your sexuality, your marriage bed, and your relationships to be defined by some screenwriter (or novelist) you are going to be one confused human being at best, and at worst driven to madness. If you want to be guided by a book, use the Bible. The God of the Bible is unfailing and the entire price he demands of you has already been paid. Don’t walk into the trap society has laid. The Hollywood driven culture we find ourselves in today is guided by a self-seeking hunger for control, for money. Your wellbeing, and the health of your marriage, nor the care of your children has ever been considered in a Hollywood movie (or porn) production meeting.

If you have already fallen victim to the 50 Shades trap, do away with it. Just like many of the other things being sold on late night T.V., the 50 Shades “product” will not perform as promised and more importantly, it is as likely to burn your house down as any of the other cheap imitation products available on the market.  If you haven’t already wasted your money at the theater or at the bookstore, don’t. Don’t be the victim of this new infomercial.

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[1] For further info and education from an educated Christian perspective on sexual confusion in our culture see the various resources offered by The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

[2] I believe there is great freedom within the marriage relationship and the married couple’s sex lives. The one caveat being that it is freedom for the couple and the couple alone. For a good understanding of the freedom I believe does exist I encourage the reader to purchase and read the late Dr. William Cutrer’s book, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage. It is a great example of how a couple can educate themselves for the benefit of their sex lives without allowing “someone else in the marriage bed”.

[3] For a quick and concise article on the Biblical perspective surrounding this issue I encourage you to read Kevin DeYoung’s article: No Grey Area.

[4] Deanne Katz, ’50 Shades of Grey’ Contract for Sex Wouldn’t Hold Up in Real Life, FindLaw (July 30, 2012), http://blogs.findlaw.com/celebrity_justice/2012/07/50-shades-of-grey-contract-for-sex-wouldnt-hold-up-in-real-life.html.

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