The Takeover of the Female Fantasy: Fifty Shades of Grey
What does this mean for us when moms across the country start reading erotic fiction?
It sounds like what it is: soft-core, “safe” porn for suburban mothers and bored New York housewives alike. The culprit of this prototype is the creation of E. L. James’ Twilight-based fan-fiction trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a New York Times #1 bestselling story about a young, sadomasochistic billionaire, Christian Grey, who hires a recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, to work for him. The catch? She has to give him complete control of her life, including (and especially) sexually. This becomes more complicated when the reader finds out that Grey has intensely painful sexual preferences, which find their roots in abuse he suffered as a child.
These books explore sexual dominance, BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, sadism, masochism), and kink in a way that leaves feminists all over the world scratching their heads, wondering how the women’s rights movement of our foremothers has led to women across the United States running out to buy books that use the term, “Red Room of Pain.”
The market for Fifty Shades of Grey skyrocketed with the sales of Kindles and Nooks. Women are able to download and read these types of books in privacy.
What troubles me most deeply about this recent development is that the women who are reading this book are often doing so in line at the grocery store, at the gym, or in the elementary school carpool pickup line. The primary demographic is mothers who are over 30 years of age—women who only put down their bondage erotica “literature” because they need to do things like tuck their children into bed, or make them an afterschool snack. They’re living the lives they are “required” to live while fantasizing about something completely different—something they’d never want for their daughters or friends, but something they themselves find enthralling.
Last week a friend informed me that she’d read the entire trilogy—twice. She’s a sweet, loving mother of three.
“And just so you know,” she informed me, “Christian feels bad about what he does to Anastasia, but he can’t help it. He even gives her healing creams for her cuts and welts. He’s so tortured. But they’re in love.”
My stomach churned.
While I love my friend, I find myself fearful for her and the millions of American women who feel the need to fantasize about a different story from their own in order to live out their own stories happily. They’re mentally substituting a story of pain and abuse, told in an attractive way, for the marriage relationship that God created for them. I can’t see this leading anywhere good.
A recent Newsweek article discussing this recent cultural phenomenon explains, “[There is] something more basically liberating about being overcome or overpowered. The thrill here is irrational, untouched by who one is in life, immune to the critical or sensible voice, the fine education, or good job. . . . [There is a] continuing investment in this fantasy, the residual desire to be controlled or dominated in the romantic sphere.”
I see a lot of truth in this statement.
Humans are constantly looking for something to worship—to idolize. Without a life based in Christ, perversions like sadomasochism can become outlets for this worship. It causes women to contemplate what it would be like to worship men—to give them complete control, to trust them, to let them do anything, because of the intense love they feel.
But the crack in this illusion is this: The idolization of a man is only possible if that man is worthy of worship. Although that man doesn’t exist in real life, the development of the female fantasy continues to grow.
As women, we battled against pornography, calling it degrading, protesting it as setting impossible standards for real women. We’ve witnessed marriages torn apart because of a husband’s online addiction. But suddenly the tables have turned, and instead of being concerned, women are slapping each other on the backs, applauding one another for their sexual independence. Instead of dealing with the flaws in their actual marriages, women are delving into fantasy as an escape. And isn’t that what it’s all about these days, anyways?
The demographic for these books means something. It’s no fluke that these books are being read most widely among married, child-rearing women. Women are struggling with a supreme feeling of emptiness these days. They are successful, financially savvy, family-oriented and well educated—but they’re trying more desperately than ever to fill the void that only Christ can fill. This turn toward an outright disregard for traditional morality is jarring at first. But as odd as it may seem, I’m actually relieved that women are no longer trying to hide behind the image of their “innate moral goodness.” Once the charade ends, we as Christians are reminded that women need Jesus just as much as their male counterparts.
The grace of Christ is greater than any social phenomenon, and more comforting than any overwhelming void. Maybe this best-seller is just the kick in the pants we need to remember that we cannot be selfish with the gospel. We have to share it, because without Christ, our friends are, first and foremost, completely lost.
What do you think?
Ashley Moore is the editorial coordinator for Kyria.com and Discipleship Resources for Christianity Today. You can view her blog, where she writes and rants about God and life, here.