I've seen dozens of articles about 50 Shades floating around the internet the past week or so, and I've read a handful of them. One or two are worth reading, this piece and this piece in particular.
thing that has me scratching my head over the whole situation, the fact
that a trilogy of pornographic novels have been adapted to a reportedly
dismally-cast and middlingly-entertaining big screen production, is how
we got here in the first place.
Not whether it's wrong or weird or nasty
to plan to take your spouse on a hot date to the movies on Valentine's
day to see Anastasia get spanked by Christian (though it is assuredly
all of those things), but how it is that we have arrived at this
destination, en masse, as a culture.
Let's look at the numbers;
these books have sold 100 million copies since their release in 2011.
That's some kind of record, and whatever else we can take from those
numbers, we can presume that there's definitely an audience for the
stuff. And in the pornographic culture we live in, it has become
perfectly acceptable to identify oneself as a paying member of that
audience and synch up the Kindle for a little smut to ease the long
layover or kill the time in carline.
Because you see, the overwhelming majority of that audience is female.
I'm sure plenty of guys have read 50 Shades
too, but it wasn't written for them. Romance literature (if abuse and
domination can be so categorized) is the centerfold pull-out of the
female demographic. It's printed porn, spelled out in characters and
punctuation marks instead of screen shots and video clips.
there's a growing market for smut of the feminine persuasion, because
yes, it has become more socially acceptable to raise one's hand and
identify oneself as a woman who consumes porn, but also because, I
think, there are a lot of sexually-unhappy ladies out there.
why is that? Aren't we all liberated and unshackled from the fear of
pregnancy and the stigma of unmarried sex? Isn't everyone entitled to
access anything they could ever have dreamt of, in terms of the erotic,
now that all bets are off and all taboos have been discarded?
yet what we're longing for, apparently, is something so "exciting" that
in polite circles and legal terms, it is actually defined as abuse and
Which leads me back to the title of this piece.
I have a pet theory about sex in the current cultural climate, and it goes like this: when
a couple removes all of the mystery, all of the suspense, and all of
the "riskiness" from sex, perhaps it becomes intolerably boring.
your interest in your partner fades, over time, because sex becomes
merely another option in a long list of activities which can be pursued
after the dishes are done.
Obviously my husband and I are in a
unique and temporary season of marriage, during which time it is
actually possible, when everything is functioning properly, for us to
On paper, that means that every time we decide to
have sex, unless we're already currently pregnant, we first have to
discern whether or not we're disposed to receive another child into the
mix. Because that is always a possibility. When the answer to
that question is "not right now," we still have to enter into the act
prepared that the outcome might be another diaper-wearer, even when all
our calculations and observations tell us otherwise.
even when we're in an NFP "safe zone," scientifically-identified as a
period of infertility, there's still always a chance that we're wrong. I
might have missed an observation or miscalculated a date. Or, since I'm
not God, it could happen anyway, despite our best efforts otherwise.
Because I'm not the one in control of my fertility, ultimately.
I didn't design me, and, short of a hysterectomy, I cannot 100% guarantee that I can suppress my fertility.
aside, that's why "surprise" babies in contracepting couples always
strike me as such an odd concept. I mean, sure, you were using condoms
or taking the Pill, but did you really think that if you did the thing that makes babies, there was zero chance you might end up making one?)
Honestly, this does add a certain level of excitement/fear/wonder at the unknown to the mix.
I'm not saying it's comparable to the, uh, thrill,
I guess? of being tied up and hit, but frankly, I don't have the time
to entertain thoughts of spicing things up with whips and chains. Nor
I wonder if couples who can have all the sex
they want - as much sex as they can physically stomach, kind of like the
Golden Corral of the bedroom - thanks to contraception, aren't getting a
Is that why Christian Grey is a welcome figure in
the imagination of a woman who is already being used, on some level, by
Is that why a man feels comfortable taking his
girlfriend to a movie where a young woman is physically and
psychologically abused by an older guy, because it's a little thrilling
to control her like that?
Maybe there's no real correlation, but I
do think it's worth considering that porn and contraception influence
each other, even if only because they are both simultaneously so
But sex doesn't need to be increasingly dangerous and
forbidden in order to be satisfying. There isn't some kind of pleasure
threshold that only riskier and kinkier behavior can satiate; indeed,
the further we drift from the Christian ideal of sex as a total gift of
self, the more dissatisfied (and sexually dysfunctional) we become as a
Because at the end of the day and in the dark of the night, what we do with our bodies and to
the bodies of the ones we love matters. It matters very much. And a
relationship that purports to be loving but that trades in the currency
of use abuse is anything but romantic.