I get it. Fifty Shades of Grey is a quasi-pornographic movie.
I’ve read the links saturating my feed, and I agree that the movie glamorizes and normalizes demeaning/dangerous activity, perpetuates stereotypes and demolishes too many moral and behavioral standards to list here. I support those who stand against it.
Without diluting any of the above, I’d like to point out a discrepancy that few seem to be acknowledging.
Here’s what gives me pause about this fresh outrage, as righteous as it is. The use of graphic images is not new. Movies that go way over the line are not a recent fad. TV shows with wildly explicit scenes are not an emerging trend. Pornography in XXX theaters, readily available online and dumbed down to an R rating for popular consumption, like Fifty Shades… We’ve seen it all before.
But where are the feverish articles attacking those? Where are the tisks and head-shakes and demands and threats? Where is the collective outcry from The Church?
Can it be that the reason for the uproar is that this time WOMEN are lining up to get advanced tickets?
WOMEN are fueling the anticipation.
WOMEN are planning group outings on opening night. (Pedis and BDSM, anyone?)
WOMEN are driving the hoopla over this phenomenon.
The Fifty Shades of Outrage displayed on social media and elsewhere goes so far beyond what we’ve shown for other pseudo-pornographic fare that it begs an obvious question: Why?
The most obvious answer scares me. “Because WOMEN are going quick-pulsed and wobble-kneed over this one.”
We understand that our masculine counterparts are sexual moths who can’t help but be burned by the flame of indecent materials. We almost excuse it, right? Poor things. Helpless primates. (Sarcasm.) But women being attracted to graphic content…? Inconceivable. Unacceptable.
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.”
Our gender-determined outrage is harming our women…and it’s not a new trend.
But it’s not too late to change the discourse.
Let’s stop telling our girls that it’s worse for them to have sex than for boys to have sex.
Let’s stop telling our girls that it’s worse for them to be sexually provocative than for men to be sexually inappropriate.
Let’s stop telling our girls that pornography that caters to them is worse than pornography that caters to men.
Let’s stop telling them that they’re more disgusting for consuming graphic sexual materials than men who do the same are.
Let’s stop telling our girls that they must be asexual while boys can’t help but be hypersexual.
It only perpetuates the shaming. It emphasizes the lie that when women behave in a sexual way, even as a movie audience, it’s so much more revolting than when men do.
And that’s something we must begin to change.
If we’re going to discuss the harm of a woman-targeting movie like Fifty Shades of Grey, let’s also be honest enough to talk about the sexual content of materials aimed at a broader spectrum of our population. Dramas like Game of Thrones, Masters of Sex and Californication. Sitcoms like Two and a Half Men and Girls. Music videos like Anaconda and Booty. Live performances like Miley’s and Rihanna’s at the MTV Awards. Erotic images in video games. “Romantic rape” in romance novels. Full female nudity in countless movies in which male nudity is “more tastefully presented” or altogether absent… Where are the picket lines and social media campaigns against these excesses?
Let’s be just as upset about all of these, shall we? There are important discussions needing to happen about pornography and social justice. Pornography and healthy relationships. Pornography and self-image. Pornography and social decay.
We need to explore and expose the lures and the consequences.
But let’s do it in a gender-unbiased and gender-inclusive way, without shaming women and excusing men. It’s a lot harder than merely saying, “Ladies, don’t go see Fifty Shades of Grey—it’s gross and demeaning and you’ll probably go to hell.”
It can actually be uniting, redemptive and transformative too.
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