Wednesday, May 30, 2012

To All the Pearl-Clutchers, About Fifty Shades of Grey

Not only is  Fifty Shades of Grey in the press right now, but the Christian lady bloggers seem to feel they must discuss (and condemn) it as well. I read this article and this one, and a friend on facebook asked for comments about it. 

How can there really be a meaningful and respectful discussion when the prevailing mindset among the Christian blogger gals is that it can be judged solidly (and harshly) without having any firsthand experience with the material? This whole "I haven't read it and I don't need to read it" mentality reminds me of the great Harry Potter and Pokemon hysterias of decades-gone-by.  Oh yes!  You are taking hearsay and overly-literal interpretations of marketing hype, stirring it up with some Bible verses, and deciding you've got it all figured out and can say without a doubt that it is 100% bad for everybody. It's one thing to decide that you aren't interested in reading something, It's another to out-of-hand declare something or someone as sinful and wrong when you don't actually know what you're talking about. I don't get the impression that naysayers are at all open to alternate perspectives. But I'm gonna give you mine anyhow.

I think that it is good to know your own tendencies and temperament when it comes to the media that you take in. There are certainly people who find themselves caught up in fantasy worlds easily, and become discontent with real life in comparison. There are others who can appreciate a story line and the character development in a story and not get hung up on the detailed parts of the journey, getting an overall message instead. There are those who might trade in relating to a real husband, for fantasizing about an imaginary one. There are those who might learn some tips that could enhance their marriage and be very appreciated by their spouse and do nothing but good for the relationship. We can't *always* anticipate how things will affect us, but generally speaking probably most adults have a good idea of what kind of reaction they have to fiction in general, and should make choices accordingly.

There was a time in my life when I would have easily decided not to watch certain movies, TV shows, or read certain books, just because of a particular content.  However, over time I have found that I enjoy broadening my perspective about other people, their experiences and perspectives, etc. and I am able to take in a movie/book/TV series and see the overall storyline and character development, rather than being bogged down in the details of how they got there.  An example would be the HBO series Six Feet Under, which remains one of my all-time favorites.  The series has just about every bad type of thing in it that you can imagine.  If you watched just one or two episodes with a particular absolutist mindset, you could easily say to yourself that you did not wish to watch any more of it because you do not want to see illicit sex/illegal drug use/homosexuality/premarital sex/extramarital sex/stealing/unwholesome language/promiscuity/nudity/etc. etc. etc.  However, my experience of watching every episode of every season was that there was a powerful storyline and development for the complex, multi-dimensional characters in the series, and the many ups and downs and choices both good and bad that they made contributed to their overall journey.  When I think about Six Feet Under, I think about the characters and their relationships with each other, and the story of this family that is told so beautifully and powerfully and humorously and cleverly and compellingly.  Have I been influenced to do things that I would not normally have done because of watching Six Feet Under?  Nope.  I can see all of those things and learn to understand and have compassion for the various characters, and still be myself--never having used illegal drugs, never having been drunk, never having had illicit sex, etc.  I am me, and I know my own self and my own mind and I am strong enough to not be swayed in my personal decisions by stories.

Same with reading Fifty Shades of Grey.  I heard about it.  I read some reviews.  I was not drawn into the obvious marketing hype of calling it "mommy porn."  I did not scurry away in fear because it was categorized as erotica.  More than a few times I have innocently borrowed a book from the library or gotten a free kindle book that I didn't know much about, and ended up with something a little racy.  I didn't think there was going to be anything too outrageous in it.  And frankly, after reading a few "I'm not going to read it but I'm sure-as-shootin' gonna preach against it" blog posts, I decided I'd like to be actually aware of what we're all talking about. So I borrowed it from the library and read it.

Know what?  

There is an actual story line.  (Though the writing is not terrific quality.  If you managed to enjoy the Twilight books even though it isn't great literature, you'll be ok with Shades.)  So, according to sources that said that the erotica genre is meant to have zero storyline, and only as a vehicle for sexual content, I will tell you that this book is not that. 

There is character development, relational development, back story, humor, heartwarming stuff, mystery, danger, adventure, and more in this book series.  It is much more than a kinky sex book.  Honest, I mean it.

The sex is not gratuitous.  There is a developing relationship, and in the course of the three books (Yes I ended up reading all three) I think you will appreciate how it develops.

The sex scenes didn't strike me as especially exciting or erotic.  Frankly, I've found a lot of other books to be sexier.  This may be because of my personal reaction to my next point:

Probably the only reason this book is even making such headlines right now is because some of the sex stuff is atypical.  For those of us unfamiliar with the ins and outs of dominance and submission sexual practices, there will be a lot of new stuff.  You may or may not find it interesting, appealing, or want to Try This At Home.  To me, I found it vaguely interesting to become aware of, read about many things that I would not be at all interested in doing, read about many things that sound pretty unrealistic, and picked up maybe one or two ideas of things I might just test out in real life.  (and my husband says the cost of books 2 and 3 via kindle was worth every penny since he is the benefactor of whatever creativity I obtained.  Ha!)

About the BDSM:  It has some B and some D, but no S and M.  Probably not in any ways you would be predisposed to think of it being done, either.

Books like this have a certain appeal because they are unrealistic.  Virgins always initially wince once during their first time and then want to get it on six more times within the next 24 hours.  Nobody ever has to get up to pee before, during, or after sex.  There is no wet spot on the bed sheets.  The guy always knows just how to do everything, so the girl is always gasping and writhing around in ecstasy.  He never does anything too hard/too soft/in the wrong spot/or misses the mark in any way.  At least one of the characters is always impossibly, amazingly wealthy.  And nobody has back fat or jiggles in ways that are unsightly or cause them to be inhibited in the least.  I guess there are some women who might read these books and then spend days/weeks/months pouting about how terribly imperfect their real life and real man is.  (And that is one category of woman that should not read books like this.)  For me, I just laughed at some of the stuff and thought about the comedy of errors that a real-life testing of these concepts would be sure to be.  It's entertainment in a different sort of way.  :)

It is a story.  A story with no greater power than any other story.  Normal people will not read this story and suddenly prefer the fictitious Christian Grey to their own spouse.  

Just because a story includes sexual content does not automatically mean that it is pornographic.

I would like to address some of the things I read in the two naysayer/pearl-clutcher articles I read:

About being horrified that your friend's 77 year old mother is on the library waiting list to read it:

So often I see that younger women don't take the time to ask older women why they are ok with doing something that may seem (to the younger women) shocking or wrong or whatever. Why do we not have the instinct (humility?) to ask questions and be open to learning something that may surprise us? Sure, we might not always agree with the perspective we get, but is it possible that we could learn something that we hadn't expected to learn? Instead we have a younger woman disapproving of something older women are doing, and being very sure that she knows all without the actual experience to back it up. For women so interested in citing Bible verses to tell us not to read a book, it seems they might have availed themselves of the insights of older women instead of talking about them.

About the person you heard about that "couldn't get the images out of her mind."

I would need to know more of the specifics.  If this is someone who can't cope with real life after reading about pretend life, she needs to avoid fiction like the plague.  If this is someone who found the sexual practices in the book memorable, maybe she needs to expand her horizons at home in the boudoir.  Frankly, while probably not common choices, I didn't see too many things (if anything) in the book that I would think of as morally wrong for a married couple to do.  If you're both up for it, heck--give it a whirl.  You might be singing the praises of Shades of Grey by tomorrow morning!  (short version:  Just because someone can't get images out of their mind doesn't automatically mean something bad has happened.)

"When it comes to great sex with your spouse, the very first place you need to focus is the Lord and His Word--sources that overflow with provisions for all that is needed for fulfilling sexual intimacy within our marriage bed."

Bull crap.  Sorry.  I know this is a church-lady-approved thing to say, but I say bull crap.  Nobody gets horny while focusing on the Lord and His Word.  (You show me a wife that's putting this advice to use, and I'll show you a husband who wishes she'd read Fifty Shades of Grey or some other romance book and get some fresh ideas for the bedroom!)  And frankly, the Song of Solomon is so poetic and symbolic that a lot of people would have trouble trying to figure out what the heck is really being said.  A book that actually tells about stuff to do and how to do it is a bit more user-friendly, don't you think?  And I'm not talking clinical stuff like Ed Wheat.  (Prayerfully insert part A into part B.....)  I think we all know that in reality, some more information than what's in the Bible is helpful for couples who want to have a really great sex life.  

"...there is only one who should stimulate sexual desire in me:  my husband.  Since that's God's plan for my sexual desire, anything other than my husband creating arousal in me would be missing the mark of God's intention. "

OK.  So I guess then it would *not* be ok for people to read Song of Solomon and pick up on anything that might get their juices flowing.  Alrighty then.  Interesting, since it's included in the Bible and all.  I don't know about your husband, but mine is pretty dang happy to be the recipient of any and all arousal that happens, regardless of what inspired it.  I think I'll let him be the deciding factor on this, and not some stranger on the internet.  If your husband thinks he's getting you aroused enough on his own studly merits and doesn't want you accidentally drumming up any enthusiasm for jumping his bones elsewhere, then, you know--whatever works for ya.  

Trying to start a facebook movement where people post "I'm not reading Fifty Shades of Grey."

I'm sure the author, publisher, and thank you for the free publicity.  (Why are people so ridiculous to give hype where they supposedly don't want any?  If you were *really* wanting to keep this quiet, you wouldn't be bringing everyone's attention to it.)

"It's a waste of precious time!"

Yep.  Just like reading blogs (and commenting!) on the internet and spending your time on facebook.  How 'bout you mind your own business and I'll mind mine, kay?

I don't have to read it to know that it is bad/sinful/wrong/going to damage relationships!

If you don't read it, you don't know what you are talking about and you sound ridiculous to those that have read it and know how misconstrued your "facts" are.  Gossip is gossip, ladies, even when you are just trying to convince yourself and others not to read something.  You can be a champion to the ignorant, and a fool to those who actually know what the subject matter is.  Congratulations.

In conclusion, I do want to say that I understand that not everybody, and certainly not every Christian, will be comfortable reading a romance book, whether it be Fifty Shades of Grey or anything else.  I do not think everybody should read it.  Know yourself and make a reasonable decision.  What I do think is that there is a range of possible outcomes and risks/benefits, and that it can be left to the discretion of the individual as to whether or not they can read it.  For me, I enjoyed all three books, reading the series did not rock my world, and whatever sparks of sexual energy and inspiration might have come from it-- my marriage has benefitted, there was no down side, and that's good enough for us.

Monday, May 21, 2012


I need somebody to come over here and make some dinner and bake some cookies. Who's it gonna be?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Oh No I Won't.

People say, "you'll miss these years!". I say: if I never see another dried booger stuck to the wall it'll be mighty fine with me!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Them's the Facts

Boys confused about why their bedding smells weird. That's B.O., son.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Testing. Testing. (is this thing on?)

(Could you hear me? Because nobody here seems to be able to.)