50 Shades of Disney Lies
I just had a conversation with a friend about why I’m boycotting the 50 Shades movie.
In an article about 50 Shades (which I recommend) Kurt Bubna makes the excellent (and downright funny) observation, “I don’t need to taste poop to know that it’s bad . . .”
Right or wrong, I read the first book because everyone was freaking out—half my friends loved it, the other half despised it. I skimmed the second book, then read the last chapter of the third book because I overheard, “It’s okay; their story turns out fine,” and was interested to know the definition of “fine.”
Here’s my problem.
A young friend, 16 years old, mentioned that she and her mom are reading 50 Shades together. She thinks the series is phenomenal. I’m pretty sure this mother would not hand her daughter a porn DVD. However, she reads and discusses what I’d categorize as “NOT FOR MINORS” with her child. I’m all for sex education beginning at home, but—allowing our children to fill their minds with graphic depictions of sex acts? That’s just crazy talk.
These books are selling the same lie Disney movies have been cramming down impressionable little throats for years—which might be the reason so many have embraced the series. We’ve been well-prepped.
Storyline: Semi-socially-inept-super-clumsy-and-incredibly-naive young woman meets rich-handsome-older-arrogant-and-experienced man. She feels inadequate and unattractive. He sees her as a challenge and pursues, bolstering her self-esteem. He introduces her to new sexual experiences which she learns to like, and eventually he marries her.
Girl meets out-of-her-league Boy and changes herself completely to fit what he wants. They then live happily ever after.
It’s The Little Mermaid all over again. Oh, right, with sex and riding crops.
Anyone who has any sexual experience can tell you that it’s not like meeting for lunch. You don’t just walk away with no repercussions. It touches every facet of your life; emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, even medical. I know, I know, there are people out there who claim they can have a sexual encounter without any effect. They’re either sociopaths or liars.
My main concern is for the young women who are receiving the following messages:
1. Casual sex with a guy you just met is okay.
“Everybody’s doing it with pretty much everyone else” is just not true. Check out the statistics. More than half of high school students are virgins. If you believe the media (and 50 Shades), casual sex is the norm. However, Psychology Today highlights a study presented by Martin Monto and Anna Carey from the University of Portland showing surprising results, and according to a report from a 20-year study cited on the CDC website, high school sexual activity has either declined or remained static.
True, the numbers climb as survey participant ages rise, but even so, it’s important to research what the numbers really mean. An American Psychological Association report notes,“The term hookup focuses on the uncommitted nature of a sexual encounter rather than focus on what behaviors ‘count.’ The ambiguity of this term may allow individuals to adaptively manipulate others’ perceptions of their sexual behavior. Operational definitions of hookups differ among researchers.” (Underlining mine.)
In other words, “hookup” could simply mean kissing (and in some studies, kissing is included in the definition). Saying, “Alex and I hooked up last night,” might lead friends to infer you got busy, when you only just managed a slide into first base.
Casual sex is anything but. Another study found that “those who participated more in casual sex tended to have higher levels of anxiety, social anxiety, and depression.” Contrary to what 50 Shades suggests, having sex with someone you just met is a seriously bad idea.
2. Abusive sex is not a problem.
I have a serious issue with the way 50 Shades portrays abuse as “just another interesting lifestyle.” Sure, she’s a consenting adult, and in BookLand, this is all very safe and he is careful not to cross lines. Most of the time. (For the record, before proponents of BDSM call for my crucifixion: not all of the story’s interaction is abusive; however, there IS abuse involved throughout.Since originally publishing this, I’ve also been informed that the book does not accurately portray BDSM.)
Here’s the reality. An American is sexually assaulted every 107 seconds (I don’t have worldwide stats, but feel free to add them in the comments). 80% of those victims are under age 30. An unbelievable 44% are under the age of 18. In other words, almost 129,000 CHILDREN are assaulted each year. 68% of all assaults go unreported because of shame, threats, etc. Now, we’re telling our young women (and young men) that abuse is just a new kind of fun.
“Not only is it okay to try letting him abuse you, Honey, there’s no need to report it, because, well, your ‘inner goddess’ will like it. Eventually.” (One moment, while I have my tongue surgically removed from my cheek.)
3. If you change yourself, he will love you.
The book makes sort of a big deal that he pursues her because she is intriguing and challenging and different from all the other women he’s known. But then…he slowly molds her to be like those women, and she follows his lead. Soon, she’s allowing him to boss her around and inflict pain. But only in the Red Room, so…that’s okay then. (Wait, please. Sorry, more cheek-tongue surgery. It’s outpatient; this won’t take long.)
50 Shades isn’t the only offender in this arena; Disney begins the education early. Here it is: Naive girl needs rescuing (from her situation, from her abusers, from societal constraints, from herself). Therefore, strong, handsome—and usually rich—young man rescues her.
At our house, we are very selective about Disney movies, because the Disney Effect is a real thing. (We also don’t let them read 50 Shades…)
I am seriously concerned that my young friends (heck, even my adult friends) will read this book and think, “If only I do all the things he wants me to do, I will be able to keep his interest and we’ll live happily ever after.” 50 Shades is simply Disney Lies for Adults.
4. This lifestyle leads to Happily Ever After.
At the end of the trilogy, they’re happily married, romping with a child. Think back through your life. Did you marry everyone you dated? Of course not. Were those break-ups free of mess and pain? Likely not.
Take a moment to Google “dumped after sex.” Go ahead; I’ll wait. (Open a new browser, so you don’t lose this riveting post.) Here’s what I got: About 8,140,000 results (0.38 seconds). Yeah. Eight MILLION related articles.Now sure, some of those might be only semi-related, but let’s be real…nobody clicks past the fifth page of results anyway. (Just for the fun of it, I checked page 10…still related.)
The truth: in the book, this guy has left a trail of broken women, one of whom shows up. She’s mentally and emotionally destroyed, ready to kill herself. Sure, he marries the protagonist, but what about all the others? They certainly don’t get Happily Ever After With the Hunky Rich Guy.
In real life, Happily Ever After doesn’t just materialize. Relationships are hard work. Marriages end in disillusionment because, “I thought he was Prince Charming. Turns out, he’s just a toad.” No other human can meet all your needs. If you expect a man or woman to make you whole, you’re lame out of the starting gate. No way you’ll make it to the finish line.
We are all broken; Happily Ever After only occurs if we put in the time to make the relationship work, realizing that we and others are prone to mistakes. It CAN happen, but it won’t happen spontaneously. Unless you have a Fairy Godmother (sorry to burst your bubble…she’s imaginary), happy endings take work, forgiveness and commitment.
So there you have it. My 50 Shades rant. I thought about writing this post a few weeks ago but felt it was redundant; everyone has an opinion, and most of them are already published. After this morning’s conversation, I had to get it out. If you think I’m wrong, feel free to expound.
Just be sure to disagree nicely.
Don’t make me get my riding crop.
Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/ellebnere/
Posted on March 19, 2015, in advice, Writing is fun and tagged 50 Shades, abuse, American Psychological Association, BSDM, Casual Sex, CDC, Disney, goddess, Hookup, Kurt Bubna, Martin Monto, Psychology Today, Sexual behavior. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.