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/
This morning, I bit my tongue. Hard.
Well, at least figuratively.
The last few months have been okay, but there’s been an overarching feel of something I just couldn’t quite identify. Thanks to another blogger, I’ve finally got it.
Thank you, Sandy. (There’s the link to her blog.)
APATHY. (And taking a page from one of my favorite bloggers, I give you my Song of the Day.)
It’s been difficult to get our daughter to accomplish anything, especially the last few weeks. Unless I stand over her, chores take forever. Three days to clean her room (which wasn’t that bad to begin with). Four hours to put away laundry (granted, she needed to hang up quite a few items, but it should have taken half an hour). Requests to perform simple tasks bring grumbling and eye rolls. She does the bare minimum in her school work and her handwriting has tanked.
It’s difficult to teach cause-and-effect to a child who lived in foster care. Taking away electronics, toys, TV time, etc., for infractions has very little effect. When you grow up with nothing, you get used to it. Early bedtime is mildly annoying. I can almost read her mind. “It’s not like you’re locking me in an empty room. You people leave the door open, lights on and answer me if I say good night six times. Whatever.”
Part of the problem is that she gets more attention if she doesn’t do her chores. Well, chore.
We used to alternate weeks; one week, she fed and watered the dogs, then our son took it for a week. We noticed a pattern. On his weeks, the dogs were fed and watered. He was consistent. On her weeks, she was also consistent–in NOT filling the water buckets or food dishes. We had to remind her, and unless we stood next to her, the dogs’ water access was not guaranteed. Last spring, in an attempt to motivate her, I told her that watering the dogs would be her chore until she did it on her own, with no prompting, for one week. She’s still watering the dogs…some days. If we don’t prod her, she doesn’t do it. (My husband or I have been giving the dogs water without her knowledge–no need to turn us in to PETA.)
Finally, we got frustrated enough to mention it to the kids’ counselor. She was shocked that a) we’d allow this to be an ongoing problem and b) filling the water bucket is our girl’s only consistent chore. She explained that the issue was either with us or with the dogs, then asked our girl whether she would give the dogs water if they could speak and ask for it. “Definitely!”
“If you would give the dogs water if they ask, but won’t do it when your parents ask, then you don’t want to listen to your parents. Why?”
The counselor didn’t back down. I love this woman.
Our girl finally said she didn’t have a reason not to listen. Combined with the other behaviors we’ve been seeing, this added up to one thing: control. The counselor announced, “You’re trying to control everyone. Here’s the thing. Do you pay any bills?” Our girl shook her head. “Do you buy the food?” Another shake. “Do you clean the whole house, do the laundry, buy gas for the cars or cut the lawn?” Multiple shakes. “Right. If you don’t do any of the big responsibilities, you don’t get to control any of the big stuff. When you grow up and pay the bills, THEN you get to decide whether you do a chore. For now, you do what you’re told. When you drive your own car, THEN you decide if you want to show up on time. For now, you’re not allowed to make everyone late. Your parents tell you what to do, and you do it. Got it?”
I wanted to kiss her, but that might have been weird.
The counselor also told our girl that it is ridiculous, first, that she has only one daily chore, and second, that it’s not getting done. She’s aware of the RAD, so made it clear: “This isn’t coming from them. This is coming from ME. You are going to get more chores, and you’re going to do them. You’re going to do your best in school. You’re going to work hard to follow directions. You don’t get to do fun things unless you do your part. Understood?” Affirmative nod.
Things have been better in the last two days since the chat. Yesterday, both kids were late getting ready for school (which equals earlier bedtime), but I told them they could earn some of the later bedtime back by behaving at school. Both kids piled into the truck that afternoon with cries of, “I was good at school today!” and I realized we might be going about this backwards. What the counselor said to us finally became clear– we give them everything, then take it away when they don’t behave. We need to start out with nothing, then reward the good behavior. This is especially true for the girl, who thrives on attention (any kind).
We’re not going to assume Friday is Movie&Pizza Night. Friday night is Nothing Night, until they earn a movie and pizza by doing their part. Bedtime is now an hour earlier than usual, but they can earn a later bedtime as they move through their day.
Ready to leave by 8:15? Stay up ten minutes later. Ready to leave by 8? Twenty minutes later. Didn’t use your strategies to check work before turning in your math and got a D? No minutes. Teacher confirms that although you have a D, you used some of your strategies? Ten minutes. You would have had a D, but used your strategies and found mistakes, bringing it to a C? Twenty. Had a fair day at school, with no major issues? Ten minutes. Your day was stellar? You get twenty for that. Got a note home from the teacher about how amazing you were at school? Bedtime is thirty minutes later!
Our son will be finding ways to stay up until midnight.
The girl is definitely not happy about the changes we’ve already put in place.
This morning, I told her that her new daily chore is to empty the dishwasher. (Some of you, like me, will roll your eyes a bit…we didn’t even HAVE dishwashers, right?) She turned from me to face the wall, arms folded, and grouched, “I never thought my life would be this…” she trailed off, and I chuckled, walking around to see her face. “What, hard?” She nodded slightly and turned her back on me again. It took all my self-control not to laugh out loud.
(Insert bitten tongue here.)
I have seen poverty first-hand. Know the types of things some of my friends have had to endure to survive. Experienced, for short times, the devastation of developing countries. Calling her life “hard”…I have no words for the explosion of incredulity that happened in my head.
Yes, these children had a very tough beginning. Understood hopelessness, experienced an American level of poverty, lived through neglect. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not minimizing that.
But the last four years, they have lived a charmed life. We go on amazing vacations, including a trip to Disney World, a place most kids can only dream of visiting. They attend a wonderful school with teachers who actually care–and put up with their nutty behavior because they understand the underlying issues. Each has a (huge) bedroom, a closet full of really nice clothes, tons of toys, and pets. We provide everything they need and most of what they want. During the school year, we’ve allowed school to be “their job.” They do occasional chores, but for the most part, they leave messes for others to clean up (which I’ve done; yes, I know, I’m part of the problem).
As usual, blogging leads me back to the root of the problem: me. My own apathy. I’ve been letting it happen, because it’s just easier than fighting. But the winds, they are a-changin’…and they’re not bringing Mary Poppins.
And honey, when you’re 13, we’re heading to Cité Soleil, Haiti or Korogocho, Kenya, so you can see “hard” with your own eyes.
Apathy no more, baby.