Fifty Shades of Grey

We think about sex so that we may act rightly in intimate relationships. But in order to act rightly we have to first determine what is right and what is wrong. This can be tricky, because so much of the information we are fed today is, in fact, lies – but often lies mixed with just enough truth to fool us into accepting the whole package.

This Valentine’s Day a movie will be released that aims to convince viewers that there is never a clear line between right and wrong, good and evil. There are grey areas. A college girl named Ana enters into a relationship with Chris, a highly attractive and successful, but also very troubled, man. Because she is attracted to him, she consents to a sexual relationship. On his terms: she agrees to being humiliated and abused. Fifty Shades of Grey says this relationship is okay, because Ana has “consented” and because it’s not really Chris’ fault. He’s been traumatized, abandoned, and abused. What he does to Ana is just his way of dealing with his issues. But deep down he’s a good guy, and he also does nice things for her. Eventually Ana helps him. So we can’t really say the relationship is “wrong”; there are lots of grey areas.

This movie gives a dangerous message about romance for young people. It portrays emotional and physical abuse as sexually arousing. “Excluding hard core pornography,” says psychologist Dr. Miriam Grossman, “I believe Hollywood has never produced a film so hazardous to young men and women.”

At the very least the message is confusing, as we see from one young man’s letter to Dr. Grossman about the reactions of many girls to the book on which the movie is based:

Our girlfriends are almost obsessed with it, so we want to know, what’s the big deal? Its draw is the sexual fantasy. But what’s the fantasy? Being completely controlled and intimidated by a man who ties her up and degrades her? What? That’s what a woman dreams of? That’s what sold 100 million copies? My whole life I was taught to be sensitive, caring, and respectful. I mean, women always insist that’s what they want in a man. I’m totally shocked and confused.

Porn – and this is porn – is more than confusing. Pornography gives a warped view of women, of relationships, and of the world. And these ideas are burned into the brains of young people.

You need to discuss Fifty Shades with your sons and daughters. To help you, Dr. Grossman has written a series of blogs at “Warn your child,” she says, “about being manipulated, and discuss disturbed relationships – how to recognize and avoid them.” Tell them that abuse by a boyfriend or girlfriend is never okay, under any circumstances. Help them judge these ideas by the standards of friendship and romance found in Scripture: “Whatever is true . . . noble . . . right . . . pure . . . lovely . . . admirable . . . think about such things” (Phil 4:8) and “you never use the other for your own satisfaction but honor the other above yourself” (Rom 12:10).

And discuss with them what they will tell their friends as to why they won’t be watching this movie.

February 3, 2015 - 8:54 am

Anonymous - I think we need to pick and choose the legalistic battles we get tied up about.

February 7, 2015 - 11:36 am

Barbara Kohl - Yes, we certainly have to choose our battles carefully. But deciding between right and wrong, and between healthy and harmful, are battles we must fight and teach our young people to do so as well.

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