The 50 Shades of Grey movie releases this week and I feel thoroughly icky about it.
When the book came out a while back, part of me wondered whether I should read it. I have read a trashy novel or two in my time, but the lustre of smooth-chested literary lust lost its appeal a while back. I wondered whether I should read it because so many of the women I knew were reading and talking about it. I wondered whether I would be able to participate in any conversation, even if it was to hold out a redemptive view of sex, if I hadn’t read it and was thus disqualified from commenting from the get-go.
But for some reason, I feel I need to comment on the movie—even though I have no intention of seeing it. I know enough about myself to know that I am deeply affected by the things I see—no matter how philosophical or detached I try to make myself. I know that watching commercials with beautiful things often leaves me feeling discontent with what I have. I know that that watching horror movies makes me afraid and sad. I know that watching stories where terrible things happen to women and children make me blind with anger and heavy with hopelessness.
And I know that watching movies with lots and lots of unhealthy sex will elicit feelings (illicit feelings!) of desire and fear.
Desire and fear don’t belong together.
I know, too, that once you’ve seen something you can’t unsee it. And for me, the echoes of the image on the walls of my mind bring with them echoes of the feelings that accompanied them. I don’t want sex and fear to go together in my heart or in my head.
I believe that God made sex to be beautiful, celebratory and intimate. As an expression of marital love, it is meant to be all the things that 1 Corinthians 13 says: not self-seeking, not arrogant, not easily angered.
Sex is meant to be an expression of love, and perfect love casts out fear. A sexual relationship laced with fear is not one where love will find expression.
I am all for amazing sex, and I believe God is too. Perhaps one helpful analogy is to think of sex like Lake Tahoe. We live within driving distance of one of the deepest lakes in the world: It is a gorgeous body of water surrounded by the most glorious mountains.
Lake Tahoe is stunning for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that it is a stunning, crystal-clear, shimmering blue lake. It is also a popular tourist destination spot, and is vulnerable to all sorts of pollution. Californian and Nevadan drivers alike sport “Keep Tahoe Blue” stickers on their cars: an appeal to the world at large to consider what they dump in the lake … because the water is deep, and once the gunk gets in there, the entire lake is affected.
It is, by definition, adulterated.
Sex has all the potential beauty of Lake Tahoe: something of vast beauty, but deeply vulnerable to human pollution. The way I see it, seeing 50 Shades of Grey would dump a toxic load into the lake. You can’t unsee the filth once it’s in there.
Skip the Grey, and Keep Tahoe Blue.