Several years ago, Dana and I got away for a little R & R, as is our custom. We typically design our vacations to be as low impact as possible with little drama and more often than not little adventure. Our normal lives have enough adventure and drama, so we don’t need to schedule more of it in our lives. A typical vacation has a few common elements for us a beach, the sun and surf and usually a couple of great books. On this particular trip, I chose a fairly new book called Hunger Games to be my read. While on the beach talking to other couples, I discovered another book that was being read by almost every woman at the resort, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Literarily, it was more than a cult following, it was an explosive, commercial success. We are seeing that book translated to the screen. No doubt, lots of church goers have read the book and lots of these same folks are buying tickets to download the philosophy of this book into their lives as they absorb the images on the big screen.
How should we as Christ followers process and interact with material like Fifty Shades? Craig Gross is the pastor of XXX Church in Las Vegas. His ministry is internationally recognized as one of the foremost authorities on pornography and adult entertainment. He regularly speaks into the church about subjects we would rather ignore. He recently wrote about this movie and it helped me process and think about this subject and how it affects many of the people entering into our church doors every Sunday.
With permission, I have reprinted Craig’s blog for you to check out.
I don’t read fiction. Ever. I haven’t since high school, and even in high school, I opted for the Cliff’s Notes. When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I heard about it (and have even commented on it over the years) but never opened the book. I never even skimmed it. I have friends who have and have filled me in.
I thought it was a fantasy book about a guy with some crazy desires for some violent sex. I was blown away to learn it sold 100 million copies, and when the movie grossed $260 million worldwide this weekend, I became even more fascinated.
So I went to see the movie. I went with my wife, to the noon showing at the mall by our house. It was packed. I can’t believe how many people were seeing this movie on a Wednesday afternoon.
So what’d I think?
I didn’t hate the movie.
I did hate Christian Grey.
I didn’t walk out or picket, but I watched the whole movie because I wanted to better understand why this has resonated with so many. Why is Christian Grey someone that women are cheering on and fantasizing about? Why does my own mother at 66 years old connect with this story and feel like she “missed out” on something in her sex life.
As I write this, the movie finished two hours ago, and I’m still upset over what I just saw. Not some young woman being tied up, but Christian Grey himself. Let me explain.
Christian Grey was born to a prostitute/crack addict and put up for adoption.
Christian Grey was sexually abused by an older lady from the ages of 15 to 21.
Christian Grey was introduced to BDSM and forced to be a “submissive” for a number of years.
Christian Grey is very successful, rich, and powerful in his job.
Christian Grey has everything he needs and more, but deep down inside you can tell is not happy or fulfilled.
Christian Grey is used to getting what he wants and no one tells him no.
Christian Grey has had over 15 sexual partners that we know of.
Christian Grey does not “make love,” he “f*cks… hard.”
Christian Grey does not like to be touched.
Christian Grey gives things to get sex.
Christian Grey is abusive, controlling, dominant, and invasive.
Aside from his looks, money, and power, Christian Grey is the worst boyfriend imaginable.
Anastasia Steele is a virgin.
Anastasia Steele is infatuated with Christian Grey.
Anastasia Steele enjoys being pursued.
Anastasia Steele obviously is uncomfortable with the sexual experiences Christian Grey is wanting.
Anastasia Steele is constantly pushed to give in to the sexual requests of Christian Grey
Anastasia Steele is given more things in order to submit to Christian Grey’s sexual requests.
Anastasia Steele desires a relationship but gives sex hoping to get the relationship.
So, for those who have not read the book or watched the movie, you’re up to speed so far. Christian has a “contract” he tries to get Ana to sign, a contract that explains what she will and won’t do sexually and what she is and is not allowed to do outside the bedroom. In exchange for the signing the contract, she can move into the house and get all the benefits of being with Mr. Grey.
I get from the movie that Anastasia is not interested in sex so much as she is Christian Grey, and I think that is pretty normal for most women I meet that are pursuing men. (The famous saying, after all, is that men give love to get sex and women give sex to get love.) But in this movie, Christian is not willing to negotiate. He is not willing to show love or be attached. In fact, Anastasia is not even allowed to sleep in the same room or bed with him. She really is just his sex slave. She won’t sign the contract and at one point he gets so desperate he offers, “If you sign this, I will give you one night out a week as a couple. We will got out to dinner and go see a movie like boyfriends and girlfriends do.”
Enough about the movie. Here are some takeaways and things I am left not understanding.
- Marriage only works when both sides give and both sides take, and sex is the same way. Men and women have needs and desires, and marriage and the marriage bed is a place to have those fulfilled. If you are with someone and they don’t take into consideration your needs and only demand things from you, then get the heck out of that relationship if you’re dating. If you’re married, then head to a counselor.
- Most people who abuse others were abused as children. The best available research suggest that 75% or more of those who commit acts of sexual or physical abuse against others were themselves abused as children. Christian Grey was abused as a child, a horrendous act that he never got over or dealt with or talked with anyone about. This has led him to some serious walls that have gone up in his life. and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to abuse someone else. He has done this to over 15 women and will continue. I heard this story was about sex, but this story at its core is about a broken man and his inability to love and be loved. How do people reading this book or watching this movie not see this? This is not a love story. This is not even an erotic story. This is a story of broken people continuing a cycle of dysfunction in their lives rather than dealing with their issues.
- The Bible says I have the right to do anything, but not everything is beneficial. I am not against being playful or doing things to spice up things in your bedroom, but the question I always have is why? Why do you think you need that? If both people agree to try different things in the bedroom, I am all for that. Christian Grey, on the other hand, is dealing with his pain by inflicting pain onto someone else who is visibility uncomfortable with it. He has trouble at work one day, so he sends Anastasia to the “play room” to take out his frustrations on her. If your partner is asking you to do something or try something new in the bedroom, my advice to you would be to ask why. The reason behind the ask is the deeper issue than the act itself. In a lot of cases it might just be a fun thing – or it might be a case like Christian Grey where he wants to avoid dealing with his own pain.
- “Why don’t you try things my way?” Christian never wants to try things Anastasia’s way. I think that would be a better movie, but he insists she does what he wants. If you are in a relationship and your partner makes demands and pressures you to do things you don’t want to do, then say NO.
Many people won’t understand this, but because I’ve seen the inner workings of the adult industry, this movie didn’t turn me on – it made me mad. The sex shown in the movie is violent and not love-making, and I don’t understand how 100 million people can read this book and think there is anything sexy about Mr. Christian Grey. If he was broke, ugly, and had a hard drive of porn instead of a “playroom” in his house, every women reading this would be freaked out enough to stay away from him forever. The books and movie have painted a sick disturbed man as a sex symbol that many, many women have gone crazy over.
So I leave even more confused.
Why? Why does my 66-year-old mom feel she missed out? Why is this unhealthy domination held up as an ideal? Why do so many men and women still not realize the greatest sex you can possibly have is by learning how to serve one another, discovering how to give to your partner and receive from them as well?
If you haven’t seen the movie or read the books, don’t. Instead of wasting that time examining this unhealthy dynamic, spend those hours talking with your spouse about sex. Talk about what you desire, what you think is missing. What your history with sex was. How you missed or messed up or abused sex prior to marriage. Talk about your expectations for sex and whether they’re being met or not. Don’t know how to start those conversations? We have a course called bestsexlifenow.com; watch the first video for free, and I assure you it will lead to so many productive conversations. Maybe even fifty of them.