Much has been written of late about the rapidly increasing consumption of pornography by men and the devastating effect it has upon the lives of addicts. Though society may view the use of pornography as fairly innocuous—what I do on my own time is my own business as long as I’m not hurting anyone— the truth is that pornography is ripping apart families and destroying the lives of children. To make matters worse, pornographic images are everywhere we turn—on TV, billboards, the internet, magazine stands. We can’t get away from it. In fact, pornography— as Patrick Trueman argues in his excellent article entitled The Pornographic Pandemic — “has become America’s pastime.”
Until recently, I was under the assumption that the temptation of pornography was by and large a man’s problem. But with the recent success of — nay, obsession with — the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (which has now spent 26 weeks on The New York Times Bestseller List) I must conclude that pornography, though of a different type, is becoming as much of a problem for women as it is for men.
For those of you who don’t know, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy tells the erotic story of a young, innocent woman (Ana) who enters into a BDSM-type sexual relationship with a 27-year old Seattle billionaire (Christian Grey). This twisted “love story” includes a contract that the “Submissive” (Ana) must sign agreeing to “serve the Dominant (Grey) in any way the Dominant sees fit and shall endeavor to please the Dominant at all times to the best of her ability” which of course requires use of Grey’s large cache of, among other things, paddles, whips, canes, clamps and handcuffs all in his infamous “Red Room of Pain”. ” But this is merely just the beginning. The Dominant also insists upon controlling everything from what the Submissive wears and eats to how long she must sleep and exercise on a daily basis. And the Submissive must never look at the Dominant in the eyes unless instructed to do so or address him in any way other than Sir or Mr. Grey. Failure to comply with these demands will result in corporal punishment. I, for one, am with William Bennett who wonders in his recent article Hookup Culture Debases Women, “If this is progress for women, what would regression look like?”
The overwhelming success of this “mommy porn”, as it has been appropriately labeled, has left everyone asking, “What is it about these books that women find so appealing?” And from what I can tell the most popular answer is that because of these books women are at long last feeling sexually liberated and confident in expressing their sexual desires. But let us not forget that the Sexual Revolution already ushered in not only the acceptance of but also the normalization of sex outside of traditional marriage as well as the normalization of homosexuality and a wide range of sexual indulgences all the while ensuring that various forms of contraception and abortion were readily available to counteract any unnecessary inconveniences along the way to our “liberation”. It is hard to imagine that in a social climate such as ours women as a whole feel sexually repressed. Indeed, I am convinced that it is not so much that we are sexually starved but that we have made a habit of gorging our sexual appetites, convincing ourselves it is the healthy and natural thing to do, and now find that in our selfish, perverted and overstimulated state we are no longer aroused by the beautifully intimate and selfless giving of spouses to one another.
But there is more than just the pornographic elements of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy that I find offensive (and no, I’m not referring here to the author’s utterly boorish writing). These books romanticize what is by all accounts an abusive and dangerous relationship. Friends of mine assure me that by the end of book 2 the emotionally scarred and troubled Grey is reformed through Ana’s love. But this does nothing to redeem these books when you consider how many women are lured into abusive and destructive relationships by the unrealistic hope that a troubled man can be saved by the love of a good woman. Proponents of the trilogy argue that this is a story of a consensual relationship, but this does not change fact that this type of relationship, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “does grave injury to the dignity of its participants” (2354). What does it say about our society that we glorify and fantasize about such offensive behavior?
Make no mistake; the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy creates a dangerous fantasy world that propagates destructive lies. If somehow, in spite of all of this, you still find yourself wanting to read Fifty Shades of Grey don’t ask to borrow my copy of the book. I’ve already thrown it in the trash.
Rebekah Durham Hart is a relatively recent convert to Catholicism. After graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary (a Presbyterian Seminary in Decatur, GA) in 2002 and working within various ministries of the United Methodist Church, she entered into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2006. She has shared her conversion story with Gus Lloyd on Sirius XM’s Catholic Channel.
Rebekah is currently a stay-at-home mom and, when she is not stepping on her son’s Legos or having tea parties with her two little girls, she blogs at http://instinctivephilosophies.com/.
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