I admit to being puzzled by the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book of the best-selling soft porn fantasy trilogy. Having perused only the synopsis I have no interest in reading the book, and I am convinced that modern feminism has been dealt a serious setback. For those who may not be familiar with the book’s plot, it involves a college coed who meets an attractive, wealthy businessman twisted by an abusive childhood. A romantic relationship ensues, but soon takes a disturbing turn as the young woman agrees to a written contract that stipulates the man will dominate her sexually–as well as in all other areas of her life.
With all the progress our society has made in extending the broadest freedoms and equality to women, how could any thinking person take this plotline seriously? And yet, the book has been purchased primarily by young to middle-aged mothers and thus has been dubbed “mommy porn.” What draws predominantly female readership to a graphic story about a female who consents to debasement through bondage, domination and sado/masochistic sex (BDSM)?
Students of literature will remember this dark cautionary tale about hedonism and its ugly, destructive consequences. In brief, Dorian Gray is a remarkably handsome upper class young man who is influenced by the utterly worldly, amoral and egocentric Lord Henry Wotton to pursue a life of pleasure. Dorian’s artist friend Basil has painted a captivating portrait of Gray. Jealous that his painted image will never grow old, the naïve and narcissistic Dorian wishes aloud that the portrait would take on the ravages of age instead of him. Mysterious forces grant that wish.
As Dorian descends into decades of sordid pleasures his youthful good looks remain unchanged. However the face in the painting not only grows older, but also becomes progressively more hideous in reflection of its owner’s increasingly depraved soul until the story ends with Dorian reaping the horrifying consequences of his choices.
While reading this classic novel recently on my new Kindle, I came across a stunning, timely quote from Lord Henry in chapter 8:
“I am afraid that women appreciate cruelty, downright cruelty, more than anything else. They have wonderfully primitive instincts. We have emancipated them, but they remain slaves looking for their masters, all the same. They love being dominated.”
Could this explain today’s “50 Shades” craze? Is Lord Henry Wotton right that women willingly relinquish freedom to submit themselves to a cruel master? The book’s profits suggest that modern readers at least approve of this behavior. Wotton’s cavalier commentary actually echoes the truth about our sin nature stated in John 3:19: “. . . Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”
With its meteoric rise to the top of the best seller list, 50 Shades has successfully mainstreamed a deviant “relationship” based on BDSM proclivities that are the antithesis of God’s design for fulfilling male/female relationships. We need to instill in our young daughters the Bible’s message that women are to be loved, cherished, respected and protected. Cultivating healthy perspectives at home and speaking candidly about unhealthy relationships in trendy books will empower our young women to eschew the trashy ideas espoused in 50 Shades and its ilk . . . and maybe someday they’ll help a college roommate escape sin’s bondage.