The theatrical release of the wildly popular book Fifty Shades of Grey is set for February 13, presenting an important issue and a valuable lesson for Christians living in a perverse world. There are many reasons to avoid watching movies with sexual content and to educate yourself and your family about the destructive influence of a highly sexualized culture. If we took Fifty Shades of Grey as just that, then perhaps we could say there is nothing new here as our culture has long been inundating us with messages promoting casual sex, hyper sexuality for youth, and the normalization of pornography. However, this movie and its message is particularly insidious because of its redefining influence on sexuality and intimacy.
The main plot within Fifty Shades of Grey is that Christian Grey, a powerful and successful businessman, is incapable of having a normal dating relationship, but instead is drawn to sexual encounters with women who allow him to inflict pain and humiliation during sex. For him, the definition of love and intimacy is synonymous with aggression and domination. In this movie, he meets Ana, a young and innocent woman who becomes a willing partner to this form of a sexual relationship. This strange combination of a romantic love story with a twist of BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism and masochism) sexual fetishes is an extremely dangerous message especially because in the end of the story, this couple become married and has a family, thus suggesting that bizarre and unhealthy sexual expressions can be a pathway to a healthy marriage and family.
Without perhaps belaboring a point that may seem common sense, it is important to stress that this series should be marked and avoided. Fifty Shades of Grey uses a deceptive tool to engage the fallen sinful being. God’s perfect design for males and females to become one through sexual intimacy is distorted in a tragic and important way. Without giving a full description of the internal neurochemistry at play when sexual relations occur, I will simply state that God embedded and designed us to experience an emotional state of trust, peace, and security with another being, namely our spouse, during sex. Perhaps you are saying, “What does trust, peace, and security have to do with bondage, domination, and torture scenes of sexual fetishes depicted in this movie?” In research of the underlying mechanisms involved with this sexual fetish, the same neurochemistry pathway is at work. It is the desire to feel safe that could draw one to desire being controlled and abused. The feeling that one experiences when they are dominated in a sexually abusive encounter elicits some of the same feelings of trust. Or as Psychology Today (1999) says the BDSM fetish “involves a highly unbalanced power relationship. The essential component is the knowledge that one person has complete control over the other, deciding everything for the partner.”
One does not need to have a thorough understanding of the rationale for this fetish in order to project the devastating consequences of promoting such a movie and its inherent flaws. Young people who may be confused about sexuality or married couples who may be struggling with intimacy concerns could see this movie and its romanticizing of sexual assault and be more willing to engage in unhealthy, distorted fantasies of aggressive lust.
-Joshua Mears, Psy.D.