Whips & Chains Excite Me :: A Reflection on 50 Shades of Grey from a Catholic Seminarian

fifty-shades-fan-made-movie-poster

“Before I know it, he’s got both of my hands in his viselike grip above my head, and he’s pinning me to the wall using his lips … His other hand grabs my hair and yanks down… ”

What did the above quote make you think of? How about this next quote? What does it make you think of? What is the first thought that pops in your head?

“Suddenly he grabs me, tipping me across his lap… He throws his right leg over both mine and plants his left forearm on the small of my back, holding me down so I cannot move… and he hits me – hard.”

The above quote is from the now “best-seller” Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 Erotic novel by British novelist E.L. James. The book now lies on the best seller list with classics such as the Lord of the Rings series, a Tale of Two Cities, and The Bible. I want to return now to my former question: What did you think of when you read the two above quotes? How about these quotes? What do you think of when you read them?(Warning: The following 2 quotes can be seen as vulgar and obscene. I have **** out most of the offensive material. Feel free to scroll past and continue reading this post.)

“You are not just a pretty face. You’ve had six o****** so far and all of them belong to me.”

“It’s taking all my self-control not to **** you on the hood of this car, just to show you that you’re mine”

So what did you think when you read the previous four quotes? Let me suggest some words that popped into my own head: abuse, rape, harassment, forced sex, non-consensual, woman about to be kidnapped and/or raped  in the elevator, fear, woman-beater, controlling… I could go on and on. What did you think of when you read them? Seriously, if you had no idea that they were from 50 Shades of Grey, what did or what would you think?

According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The coming attraction for the erotic drama based on the hit E.L. James novel notched more than 36 million YouTube views in its first week.” This comes as no surprise to scholars of pop culture. The movie trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey, along with the trilogy of books it’s based on, is nothing short of a media phenomenon. The trilogy, which is among the fastest-selling books of all time, has been celebrated by the media as “porn for women” and a playful fantasy that encourages women to become more daring in their sexuality.

DomesticViolenceMissing from this hype, of course, is a detailed discussion of how the books eroticize violence against women and render invisible the predatory tactics the “hero” uses to groom, seduce, and abuse a much younger woman. (Yes, Christian Grey grooms Anastasia like a pedophile or sexual abuser grooms their victims.)

If a man were to do the things that Christian Grey does in the book today, he would most likely would end up in jail and Anastasia would end up in a battered woman shelter, or even a morgue. Why is it that this book which objectifies women, makes them something a man can use for his sexual pleasure and treat as property making the best seller list?

We live in a broken world.

We read in the book of Genesis on how Man was created in the Imago Dei, the image

Carpioni - Creation of Eve from Adam

Carpioni – Creation of Eve from Adam

of God. To be created in our very maker’s image means that we have something very special about us. We are different than a dog or a cow or a tree. The problem with the quotes I shared from 50 Shades and the book as a whole is how it forgets whose image we are created in. As the Catechism of the Catholic  Church puts it:

The dignity of the human person is rooted in his creation in the image and likeness of God it is fulfilled in his vocation to divine beatitude. It is essential to a human being freely to direct himself to this fulfillment

Christian Grey in 50 Shades forgets that Anastasia is created in the image of God. He forgets her dignity and treats her as his sexual toy, able to be used as he please for his own personal gratification. He does this so much that he convinces her to sign a contract saying she will do what he wants her to sexually. WOAH?!? Wait, WHAT? When was the last time that you ever met someone who signed a contract to allow another to do anything they want sexually to you? Even in marriage, when a man and woman become one, they do so of free will  and through free gift of self.

FaithStreet.com puts it well in their article when they state:

We live in a society in which there seems to be no limits regarding what you can experience sexually. We erase the shame of hooking up, joke openly about porn, and celebrate sexual experimentation like BDSM. Yet, at the same time, more than a quarter of the American population fits the diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder like clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or substance addiction. Is there a correlation here?

In case you’re wondering what BDSM stands for: (I had no idea, now I wish I didn’t know)(Definitely something Satan thought up)

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Why would it be that in our culture we would celebrate something like BDSM or that we would ever joke about the sexual exploitation of women through porn, sex trafficking and the like? As much as we might want to experience a “sexual high” sexuality is WAY more than just having sex. (Let alone saving it for marriage) It’s quite clear that the “sexual freedom and expression” we “think” we have hasn’t solved our relational problems and has, perhaps, even intensified them. Underneath all of the sex, we are lonely.

Lonely but made for SO much more!

God did not create us to be lonely. Again we read in Genesis (Gospel from this Thursday) that God created all these different animals and brought them before the first man to see if they could be his companion. Dr. Sherman, my moral theology professor likes to say that he imagines God saying something like: “Hey, Adam buddy here’s a dog, how about her? No? Okay. Aw man! I found you the perfect one, it’s a Liger! Too ferocious? Okay. And then we read of how God made woman, fashioning her from the side of man thus she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. God put her by Man’s side, not apart, but by his side and told them to exercise dominion over all of creation; to be fertile and multiply! God does not ask us to do something we cannot do. He made us to be sociable. We were made for so much more!

When we read of the first sin in the Garden we see how Adam and Eve were selfish. Instead of relying on God to take care of them as he always had and walking with him forever in the garden we see a world where sin enters and with it, the punishment of death. To have sex is not a bad thing. What is bad is when we do it contrary to how God intended it and when we use it as in 50 Shades, solely for pleasure, and not procreation. To have sex just for pleasure is selfish. We were made for so much more.

FaithStreet.com also said that:

Material like Fifty Shades of Grey fuels the allusion that fantasy and a sexual release will bring satisfaction. It leads to an insatiable desire for more. Men and women who engage in pornography and erotica will ultimately be less satisfied in their intimate relationships.

This is statistics, folks. If you look at porn there is a higher probability that you will try to imitate things you have seen with a partner later in life, which can lead to you not being satisfied, because no one can do it like the person you saw can. Again, selfish. Relying on ourselves for sexual gratification and watching a screen has been scientifically proven to change the chemical make-ups of our brains and change what we are attracted to.

Pope Benedict addressed the issue of pornography and erotic literature saying, “A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity . . . The moment has come to energetically halt the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the internet in particular.”

Couples (married) who really “get it” know how to fully share their sexuality — how to communicate the most intimate of experiences with and without words. Being emotionally naked makes you extremely vulnerable. Both you and your spouse have to feel completely safe to let go, to share thoughts, desires, and physical sensations. The journey toward authentic intimacy is one of creating the safest environment possible so that you can bear all with each other and become as Genesis puts so well: “one.” To be “one” with your spouse is to be vulnerable, to share everything and in doing so to help each other strive for holiness and for Heaven.

Fifty-Shades-of-GreySo to wrap up here are some points that 50 Shades of Grey tries to instill in it’s readers/watchers (If you disagree trust me. As a philosophy major you can get pretty good with reading subliminal messages):

1. Girls want guys like Christian who order them around and get rough.

No! A psychologically healthy woman avoids pain.  She wants to feel safe, respected and cared for by a man she can trust.  She dreams about wedding gowns, not handcuffs.

2.  Guys want a girl like Anastasia who is meek and insecure.

Wrong.  A psychologically healthy man wants a woman who can stand up for herself.   If he is out of line, he wants her to set him straight.

3.  Anastasia exercises free choice when she consents to being hurt, so no one can judge her decision.

Flawed logic.  Sure, Anastasia had free choice — and she chose poorly.  A self-destructive decision is a bad decision. (think about the holocaust)

4.  Anastasia makes choices about Christian in a thoughtful and detached manner.

Doubtful.  Christian constantly supplies Anastasia with alcohol, impairing her judgment.   Also, Anastasia becomes sexually active with Christian — her first experience ever — soon after meeting him.  Neuroscience suggests their intimacy could jump start her feelings of attachment and trust, before she’s certain he deserved them.   Sex is a powerful experience — particularly the first time.  Finally, Christian manipulates Anastasia into signing an agreement prohibiting her from telling anyone that he is a long time abuser.

Alcohol, sex, manipulation — hardly the ingredients of a thoughtful, detached decision.



5.    Christian’s emotional problems are cured by Anastasia’s love.

Only in a movie.  In the real world, Christian wouldn’t change to any significant degree.  If Anastasia was fulfilled by helping emotionally disturbed people, she should have become a psychiatrist or social worker.



6.  It’s good to experiment with sexuality.

Maybe for adults in a healthy, long term, committed, monogamous relationship, AKA “marriage”.  Otherwise, you’re at high risk for STDs, pregnancy, and sexual assault.  It’s wise to be very careful who you allow to get close to you, physically and emotionally, because just one encounter can throw you off track and change your life forever.

The bottom line: the ideas of Fifty Shades of Grey are dangerous, and can lead to confusion and poor decisions about love. There are vast differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships, but the movie blurs those differences, so you begin to wonder: “What’s healthy in a relationship?  What’s sick?  There are so many shades of grey — I’m not sure.”

– From Catholiceducation.org

All in all. PLEASE don’t go watch or read 50 Shades of Grey. If you have, go to confession! Burn the book! Throw it out with the trash! As a Mother (The group of buyers the book tries to suck in) would you let your son keep a Playboy in his room? Would you let your daughter allow a man to hit her… let alone, HARD? Why is it okay then if we as adults read it? What makes it not affect us like it would affect our children? The answer is nothing. We are what we put in. So don’t put bad things in! 50 Shades of Grey is not full of blurred or grey lines. It is in fact very, very defined and not full of any shades of grey at all. Resist the temptation!

St. Augustine said: ‘Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.’

Now the main reason why I chose to call this blogpost “Whips and Chains Excite Me, probably has to do with I wanted something catchy. And whips, chains and seminarians is definitely “eye-grabbing.” But seriously, this book has been a long time coming. With our culture, theater, and music spreading horrendous things like Rhianna’s S&M (where I got the whips and chains line). A book that softens the look on abuse, porn, and violence, goes right in line with the degrading of the value of the human person and the dignity which each is endowed with.

Let us ask our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, the perfect example of a chaste, caring, and loving family, to pray for us and for our world as we renew our attention to defending human dignity and praying for it’s greater respect from conception to natural death. As we continue to walk this way of beauty toward Heaven, let us pray for a greater respect of real beauty, which has been placed by God in the human person. Feel free to comment your thoughts and share this post!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph - Pray for us!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph – Pray for us!

Notate Bene – Researching some of the things about this book worried me. I tried to stay as clear away from images/and excerpts from the book because I don’t want to invite that type of evil into my life. If reading any of the excerpts or seeing the covers of the book led you to be scandalized I apologize, it was not my intent. As of late we have been discussing this book with some interest at school and at the seminary. All of us pray that we can reverse the damage already done by the movie and book and that souls will be saved. I offered my rosary tonight in reparation for the sins against the human person committed by this movie. I encourage you to do the same.

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