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Fifty Shades of Depressing

Oct 12, 2012 — Categories: , ,

First, a confession: I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey nor do I intend to. When I choose a novel to read, I pay attention to reviews or suggestions of my friends. The thought of spending time reading second rate prose about dominant-submissive heterosexual sex just doesn't seem very appealing. Life is too short.

First, a confession: I have not read Fifty Shades of Grey nor do I intend to. When I choose a novel to read, I pay attention to reviews or suggestions of my friends. The thought of spending time reading second rate prose about dominant-submissive heterosexual sex just doesn’t seem very appealing. Life is too short.

But I am intrigued by the apparent popularity of this book and the discussions it has engendered. Sounds like a raunchy romance novel of the Twilight genre, expertly marketed and hyped to an adult female audience. Feminist? Anti-feminist? Liberating? Depressing?

Some reviewers speculate that women who “have it all” don’t want it all but really want to be sexually submissive. Whatever “having it all” means, it’s no picnic. Mostly it means having most of the responsibility for work, home and family while still earning only 70% what men earn.

Here we are in an election cycle where some politicians don’t know or care what rape is while others intend to do away with access to contraception if elected. Congress adjourned without passing the Violence Against Women Act. The War on Women continues unabated. Yet the topic of conversation is whether women really want to be sexually submissive.

It also makes me wonder what a battered woman thinks reading about how sexy it is to have someone controlling you, sexually and otherwise. Most of them report that in real life, it is just debilitating, humiliating, denigrating, terrifying and exhausting.

So as we are in the midst of October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and Fifty Shades of Grey continues at the top of the best seller lists, we are left to ponder this irony. But also to wonder: will we ever see the day when equality and respect are erotic experiences and when writing about them sells novels?

P.S. I will be presenting a free public lecture, “Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing: the Institutional Crisis of Clergy Sexual Abuse,” at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, Tennessee on Sunday, October 28th at 5pm. If you are in the area please join me!

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50 Shades...

Posted by Emily at Oct 12, 2012 12:55 PM
I am really grateful that you've done a bit of review of the FIFTEY SHADES OF GRAY... I keep seeing it on the list of best sellers and sort of drag myself over to it, thinking that though it doesn't appeal at all to me, maybe I should read it. Thank you for pointing out what the subject matter is. Now I can just dump it from my list of "ought to" reads. It reminds me that my own gun feeling can really be relied on.

50 Shades of Depressing

Posted by Suzanne Swartz at Oct 12, 2012 12:56 PM
I read your blog regularly and I 100% support you and Faith Trust Institute. I have an M.Div. from San Francisco Theological Seminary and am a part-time chaplain. I feel compelled to respond to this post about 50 Shades because I have read the trilogy and I personally think it has much value for assisting women in violent relationships and could actually help spread the news about how domestic violence is unacceptable.
In the books, the lead female character (Ana) actually leaves Mr. Grey after he strikes her with a whip. She walks out on him even though she loves him and he her, because she realizes she cannot tolerate this behavior in a relationship. I find it empowering, actually. I was a rape victim as a young teenager and I will never, ever, let anyone take advantage of me sexually again. Ana realizes early on that she can't be in a relationship if this is what a relationship looks like to Christian Grey.
He then realizes he loves her and, with the help of a good therapist, decides to change and become a loving husband.
Yes, the 50 Shades trilogy is full of sex scenes and is not the most well written piece of literature, but it is not wholly bad. I'm not saying you should run out and read it, but people are only talking about it in negative ways. There is another way to look at it, and that's how I choose to view it.

Blessings to you and your team, Marie.

50 Shades of Grey

Posted by Debbie Michels at Oct 12, 2012 07:40 PM
Dear Suzanne,
Thanks so much for posting! What you wrote was really encouraging...

Response to Suzanne Swartz

Posted by Shirley Fessel at Oct 18, 2012 01:22 PM
As a survivor of ministerial domestic violence, I understand your hope that this is the message that will emerge from the scene in the book. However the actual recovery rate of men who abuse is very low. One of the mental traps that we stayed in was the hope they would change because they "loved" us. After all, don't they tell us they love us? I don't find bondage erotic and don't understand it. So I have to agree with Marie on this one.

Response to Suzanne

Posted by Martha Myers at Feb 19, 2013 03:41 PM
I agree with Shirley Fessel: I am also a survivor of domestic violence and stayed for 20 years hoping praying for a leopard to change his spots. If I had read a book like that, it would have reinforced my religious cult's teaching to "Live a godly life before your husband and he will eventually change his behavior." Sorry, I can't find any treasure in that trashy book.

50 Shades of Grey

Posted by Peggy Townley at Oct 18, 2012 01:22 PM
Law and Order imagined a scenario I suspect based on this book, and the book having been written by an older ghost writer who hires a young surrogate to pose as the author. The surrogate is then stalked,raped and attacked by a talk show host where she had been the guest. It is book as alibi in an unfortunate possible consequence of this sort of writing. I am glad it can be used in a therapeutic setting.

Shades of Gray remarks

Posted by Amanda Burr at Nov 27, 2012 03:45 PM
I'm with you. As I read your remarks haunting memories of the Mickey Rourke Kim Basinger movie 9 and 1/2 weeks came to my mind. Makes me shiver, not in a good way.

50 shades of oppression!

Posted by Martha Myers at Feb 19, 2013 03:42 PM
Thank you for writing this insightful review! As a former member of an abusive religious cult and marriage, I was appalled when I read about the subject matter of "Fifty Shades of Grey". Why would any woman want to be controlled by a man in any fashion?