50 SHADES OF “You saw WHAT?”


The uproar surrounding Fifty Shades of Grey reminds me of the uproar that surrounded all things Harry Potter, when well-meaning religious people were certain that reading the Rowling YA novels was going to turn Christian children into warlocks and Satan worshippers.

I’ve read a few articles decrying Fifty Shades. Most are concerned that young women who see this movie will be more willing to engage in violent sex play than they would otherwise be, and that men will want to torture their wives. Moreover, there is a feeling that the existence of this movie will move the culture into a greater acceptance of sexual exploitation.

And that it’s pornographic.

SPOILER ALERT. Okay, you’ve been warned.

First of all, Christian Grey is all about consent in the movie (I haven’t read the book). On each occasion and in each situation, he requests Ana’s consent, which she willingly gives, except when she doesn’t. When she doesn’t, he doesn’t. Period. Prior to engaging in the violent sex play, Ana and Christian sit down and discuss what experiences (and implements) she would find acceptable and which she would not. He does nothing without her consent. He doesn’t torture her. She appears to be enjoying each new experience, none of which appears painful. She enjoys being tied up and asks for the tying-up to be repeated.

Whether you think she should enjoy it is certainly your business, as it is her business whether she in fact enjoys it and wants to do it again. Obviously, a person who has been sexually victimized should not see this movie as it will bring back horrifying memories. Please keep yourself safe from bad memories. Do nothing without your own consent, including seeing this movie.

At the end, she gets spanked. Six times with a belt. She says that’s too much and she leaves, apparently for good.

That’s it. Six spanks with a belt. That’s the entirety of the “torture” Christian inflicts on Ana. And she willingly submits to it and can walk away at any time.

Unlike in My Fair Lady, where in the end Eliza submits and gets Henry’s slippers, here Ana womans up and leaves. He doesn’t take her against her will and he doesn’t go after her when she leaves. He behaves like any well-mannered gentleman should behave when asking for something he wants. Actually, he behaves better, because he gives her “safe words.” If she is nearing the limit of her comfort zone, she is to say “yellow,” and if she wants the experience to stop, she is to say “red.” That’s his cue to stop immediately. She never uses the words. She doesn’t have to.

One article I read insisted that no one should engage in violent sex because it’s demeaning to women and makes men want to be monsters. I don’t know. My experience in such things is, shall we say, extremely limited, but I don’t think it’s necessarily my business what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom, and if men are as willing to seek consent as Christian Grey is, no woman would be forced to do anything she didn’t want to do, and the man would not become a monster. (Maybe that’s what the patriarchy is upset about–this movie allows a woman the choice to have sex or not have sex, as she desires. Not only that, but she is allowed to limit each aspect of the sexual experience, not just whether or not sex occurs.)

Speaking of Ana’s needs and desires, the film is graphic in displaying Ana’s enjoyment of the sex play. This is probably where the tagline “Mommy Porn” (more on that later) comes in. I don’t get hot and bothered seeing naked young women (perhaps other Mommies do), so although Ana’s naked gyrations are certainly graphic, they were more boring for me than anything else. (Again why is this marketed to women? I would think men would enjoy this more.)

The writing and the plot are not deep: Ana meets Christian. Christian wants Ana. Ana gives it a go. Christian has a lot of money. Christian wants to hang her from the ceiling. She says no. Ana falls in love with Christian. Christian doesn’t like that. Christian spanks Ana. Ana leaves. The credits roll.

It’s really a forgettable movie. I wouldn’t recommend it because nothing really happens except the sex and you can see graphic sex scenes in lots of well-written movies.

Is it pornographic? Well, there’s a naked young woman and she expresses the ordinary movements and vocalizations of one who is having a positive sexual encounter. However, there is a discreet lack of (how shall I say this?) orgasmic sounds here. Nobody is moaning loudly or shouting (or what have you). Plus, there is nice music and not a lot of panting and sweating, so it’s more artistic than other scenes of this sort are. For example, the sex scene in American Beauty with Annette Bening and that man with the ugly eyebrows is far more offensive than anything here, as is the conversation (and following house scene) with Colin in Love Actually , because of the trashiness. In sum, I’m not sure Justice Stewart would have recognized pornography here, and he was the expert.

Was I offended? Depends what you mean by that. Christians use the word “offended” to mean (a) it hurt my feelings, (b) you’re worldly and that makes me uncomfortable, (c) it caused me to sin, or (d) I’m entirely grossed out by what you did there. None of these applied here for me, though I can see that “offense” could and would be taken by many people. (This may speak to my being 54 more than anything else. In earlier years, I would have been horrified, no doubt. I just care less now, I suppose, about what adult people do in the privacy of their own homes, especially if, as in this movie, they speak in detail ahead of time about what will happen so that both people are comfortable with the experience.)

What about the movie moving our culture to a place of acceptance of the objectification and sexual exploitation of women. You’re kidding, right? What country do you live in? I can’t turn on the television without seeing women objectified and made into sex objects.

I felt sorry for Christian, because he obviously has deep emotional needs. On the other hand, Ana is a strong woman who is in control of herself and her choices at all times.

Speaking of “Mommy Porn.” I’ve seen this book/movie ridiculed for being Porn for Middle Aged Women. We know what Daddy Porn is. It’s porn. Why is this movie ridiculed for appealing to women? Is it a joke that women might have sexual needs that aren’t being met and that they might read a book or see a movie that fills that void? Are women somehow laughable because they are sexual beings and the movie laughable because it might be titillating to some women? Ridiculing “Mommy Porn” ridicules the idea that women like sex. Why is that funny?

Obviously don’t see this movie. You don’t want to, and you shouldn’t see something that offends you that much. As for me, I only saw it because so many people told me I shouldn’t, and I don’t like it when people tell me what I may and may not read, watch, write, or experience. I have a conscience of my own, thank you very much.

In sum: much ado about not very much and not very well written or acted at all. Forgettable, but not the worst thing I’ve watched at the movies this week. Kingsman was far more offensive, because of the million F-words (in all its permutations), the horrifying domestic violence, the endless dead bodies killed violently and barbarically, and a mother hacking through a door to try to kill her toddler. Now that’s offensive.