I will avoid the temptation to render a judgment about films and books I haven’t examined and limit myself to this observation about the “50 Shades of Gray” phenomenon: the longing for sexual fulfillment, in this world, certainly does take many bizarre forms. Can we all agree on at least that much?
As I write that last line I ponder a wedding I gladly did not attend a few years ago. The “father” of the bride had transformed himself, surgically, into a woman. “He” was walking his daughter down the aisle. At the reception, afterwards, I suppose– celebration courtship rituals being what they are — “he” was now free to catch the bouquet and offer “herself” up to eligible young bachelors.
What strange morphing of that commodity called “desire” brings about this strange turn of events? Why would a woman allow herself to be handcuffed to a bed post and sexually consumed? What’s with that strange Islamic, bag-over-the-wife’s-head sexual brutality? For that matter, why would a man fantasize about having his way with a nun and why do some strange women, clearly, appear to be turned on by being scared to death?
On the more benign front, why are some of us Mary Anne men and why do some of us pine for Ginger? Back when I was a young, shiftless guy of 21, I had friends who were anxious to pair up with sixteen year high school girls. I never quite understood that. I found myself mesmerized by women who were a few years older.
My point here is that sexual desire seems to be a fluid, highly idiosyncratic thing. I know a woman who confessed that she was attracted to clean cut, well dressed, golf course types. I’ve known others who seem to get hot and bothered when you use terms like “farm hand.” I’ve known guys who can’t stand even the hint of any flab on their women, and others, like me, who are actually repelled by women who look too thin and reedy.
And that’s just the surface of things, the appearance issues. Some men can’t stand being approached by a woman, others fantasize about it. Some people like to flirt and others find it annoying. For some, lovemaking is as much about the conversation as it is about the act itself, and for others, words are a turn-off.
What bothers me about the “Fifty Shades of Gray” carnival is the attention we are paying to a freak show, while we ignore the role of wholesome, happy, erotically fulfilling love, and the range of desire God-loving, good people are allowed to explore. I say “good people” intentionally here, because we’re sick of bearded cross dressers who think their right to a women’s restroom warrants some sort of Selma memorial. It’s a bit like the scene in Ground Hog Day, where the suburban family counselor is forced to admit he can’t help Bill Murray, because he, “doesn’t know too much about really crazy people.” How long will the normative and the healthy be forced to bow to the depraved identity crowd, shaming one of God’s greatest gifts, and making the entire conversation so unseemly no one wants to have it at all?
You might even argue that the public discussion of gross perversions, over the sort of sex that likely went on between Solomon and his bride, works in favor of the depraved. A Christian woman, out there in the pews, may wonder why her husband isn’t touching her anymore, and she may long for his body next to hers, but if she asks that question, it’s sullied by the more bizarre conversations going on these days. A Christian man may want to just sit on the bed and watch his wife undress, but his wife is crippled by some shame she absorbed along the way. She feels pornographic, and cheap, in the middle of a God-sanctified moment.
Enter Hollywood, pastors, and behold their willingness to discuss cheap rope tricks and hot lesbian sex.
The enemy is not afraid to hold the creation up for ridicule and distortion. The church needs to get in the game with a frank, celebratory discussion of the real thing.