In general, I’m a live and let live kind of girl. Every family travels their own path with unique needs and circumstances. If you want to buy an iPad for your three-year-old and an iPhone for your seven-year-old, I trust you know what’s best for your own family. Private school, public school, home school, pull your kids out for a year to surf– whatever. I don’t care if you eat organic or recycle, what kind of video games your kids play or books they read. You raise your kids; I’ll raise mine.
But allowing your children to watch or read “Fifty Shades of Grey,” can cause significant damage to your child and their future relationships. Pornography isn’t good for anyone. But if you think it’s no big deal for your teenager to consume extreme pornographic material, you’re wrong.
You’ve likely read studies explaining why teenagers lack adult decision making skills. Their brains literally haven’t developed those capacities. Teenagers are much more likely to form addictions and confusion about appropriate behavior. Further studies indicate consuming pornography as a teenager changes the brain. When teens are exposed to pornography filled with domination, violence and abuse, they struggle to form their own healthy relationships.
Some of you are saying, “What? No parent condones ‘Fifty Shades’ for kids.” But teenagers everywhere are reading it. For the past three years, my sons’ high school English teachers have regularly reminded their class “Fifty Shades” does not count as literature, may not be used for book reports and erotica is not allowed in the classroom. Hallelujah for wise teachers.
You’re an adult. In theory, you’ve got your sexual behavior all sorted out (really? does anyone? I think pornography can hurt any relationship). But do you really want your teenager learning about sexual domination and submission, whips and chains? Sure, this sort of thing has been around for a long time, but in the past it’s been related to porn magazines, seedy shops and x-rated theaters. “Fifty Shades” pushes sexual abuse to the forefront of our culture and in doing so insinuates acceptance and normalcy of deviant behavior.
The day after Christmas, we bought tickets for the movie “Unbroken.” After reading the book multiple times, my husband, myself and three of my teenage sons looked forward to the adaptation on screen. As we settled in for the previews (always something I enjoy), I was frustrated to see an ad for “Fifty Shades of Grey.” An ad for a film just barely eluding an NC-17 rating seemed inappropriate as a preview to life-affirming, value-driven “Unbroken.” But as I watched the preview, my annoyance turned to fury: gorgeous faces, flashy cars, airplanes, fine clothing and wine– they are marketing “Fifty Shades” as a high-end romance, not a story of domination and abuse.
Because let’s make this clear–just in case you’re one of those parents who thought they were handing their child a cute romance– this is pornography. A book so abusive, so disgusting, that most of my friends who read it said it made them physically ill. Sure, your kid might read this or other offensive books without your permission or after they leave the house, but they should at least know you don’t approve of the messages and themes.
Do we want our daughters to believe submission to any perversion should not only be tolerated but celebrated?
Even more dangerous, do we want our sons to believe women are objects to be used, abused and manipulated to their every whim?
I speak not as a Christian or a feminist, but as a decent human being when I teach my five sons to reverence and respect all women. We don’t make jokes or lewd remarks about girls’ bodies; we don’t belittle or objectify women.
In this age, where almost every day, someone begs my support for anti-sex trade organizations, I can’t understand how “Fifty Shades” rocketed to the top of best seller lists. It brings back those antiquated and wrong ideas that women love to be dominated, that the girl who was raped ‘asked for it.’ Don’t you think the sex trade loves books and movies endorsing abuse and female subservience? Don’t you think those attitudes hurt every one of us?
I won’t be outside movies theaters protesting on Valentine’s weekend; I’ll be too busy cutting out paper hearts and baking cookies to deliver on my neighbors’ doorsteps. If you tell me you went to the movie I won’t say a thing; but please don’t take your teenager.
Michelle blogs at scenesfromthewild.net/
Editor’s Note: At Power of Moms, we believe that a stand must be taken on matters of decency and morality, and we believe that pornography in any form is absolutely not appropriate. While our main goal is to provide a place where deliberate mothers can find common ground. we feel that the energy of this opinion piece will invite families everywhere to participate in this very important conversation. Thank you for your support.
Laurel C. says
I think the world has gone crazy. How has pornography seeped so far into our society? And why are people okay with this? I read another blog post about this film/book this morning by another author, who was also outraged by it and the amount of teens reading the book. The comments to her post disturbed me. So many people attacked her as “judgmental” and took the opposite view with “it’s not so bad.” Yes, the world has truly gone crazy! All I can think about is my two beautiful, elementary school-aged children and the waters they’ll have to navigate in this increasingly evil place. I’m trying my hardest to keep my home an oasis from all that. And I agree with the commenter above me, “Thank you Michelle. I appreciate your kindness, your goodness and your outspokenness when it truly matters.” This is what will make a difference.
I’m trying to figure out a word that could ever convey just how deeply I agree with this and I honestly don’t know a strong enough one.
I have never read the book, and never will, but just knowing the general idea of what it contains makes me physically ill. And the fact that it has been made into a movie doesn’t make me ill, it makes me angry. Furious actually!
I’m with you, when it comes to parenting, I truly believe parents are doing their best and it is not my place to judge. But a parent who allows their child to go to this movie is not doing their best, they are literally making the decision to be harmful, hurtful and terrible to their child.
Okay, now back to calming my heart and reading board books to my two youngest.
Thank you Michelle. I appreciate your kindness, your goodness and your outspokenness when it truly matters.
I am glad to hear someone speak out. It is a sad truth that sex sells. I also am a published author or romantic/suspense novels who has tried to combat written pornography by writing clean material that will still sell. Unfortunately there just does not seem to be a market for clean romance, without being entirely preachy, at least not one I’ve been able to tap into. At times I feel like giving up, so thank you for reminding me there are still women out there with good moral valued.
Lindsey Bell says
YES! This post is right on target. I so appreciate the fact that the author said it’s not b/c she’s a feminist or a Christian but b/c she’s a decent human being who understands how porn can destroy relationships. I am a follower of Jesus and will not see the movie. BUT even those who don’t follow Jesus shouldn’t watch it either because of the damage it can do to relationships.
Thank you Michelle and April for taking a stand on this and for not mincing words. When I saw this title, I was afraid it would be an article encouraging us not to rush to judgment of parents who make different choices. Which is sometimes an appropriate approach, but there are some moral absolutes, and this is one of them! Thank you for calling a spade a spade.
April Perry says
Thank you so much for your support, Claire.
As a result of a LOT of discussion among the author and our editorial team, we have decided to change the title to more fully reflect the purpose and intent of the article…hopefully in a way that will facilitate better discussions and reduce the contention/anxiety that the initial title may have caused.
We really appreciate you being a part of our community!
That makes sense. Thanks April!
Victoria Skelton says
I left a comment on the Facebook posting about how yes it is so wrong and how I believed that from the days when “Pretty Woman” was first released. Now that I have read your complete article I want to add this point…PTSD! As a victim of sexual assault I fell very stressed out watching even the previews and commercials for this movie! I was watching tv and saw the preview of the hard wear store seen and started to freak out thinking he was going to kill her. Granted u assume not, I have not read the books. I was forwarded about the issue of PTSD and American Sniper, this is was not prepared for and I don’t think that is right. I really wish this movie had received the X rating, but anything for a buck I guess.
I 100% agree! I was at the DMV last week and heard two teenage girls discussing the movie and books. They talked about how sexy Christian gray is and how they hope they find a man just like him. It made me sick to my stomach. I turned to say something to them and their Mon was sitting right there listening. My jaw dropped. I am taking a stand as well. Would I want my daughter in a relationship like this? NEVER would I want my 4 sons to treat a woman like this? NOT ON YOUR LIFE! It disgusts me that this is mainstream.
There’s a quote that I’ve seen going around that says “Where is my Christian Grey? Hopefully in prison.” I actually enjoy the actor and you can tell in interviews that he totally regrets it and wishes he hadn’t done the movie. Money is more important than compromising your values. The actions in these books depict abuse, the mainstream elevates it as an intro to the bdsm community when it is completely revolting to those in the bdsm community.
I have also seen interviews with the actor and he says he doesn’t even like Christian Grey and would never be friends with him. The actress who plays Ana doesnt want her parents to see the movie because she’s embarrassed about it. So if you feel that way something is wrong!
Cheryl, that makes me sick! Aahh! Why is everyone so blind to the problem here? If I ever heard my daughters saying that they hoped they could find an abusive sexy man I think I’d have a heart attack right then and there. Why do women feel like it’s sexy to be abused and objectified? I am so sad that this twisted story is so successful.
Michelle, I totally agree that teenagers should NOT see this movie because I agree with all your points about how the movie portrays women in a horrible way. It doesn’t show women as equal partners in a relationship, but tells children that it’s OK for a man and woman to engage in a relationship where the man is a controlling jerk and the woman is a simpering fool. THAT is why it shouldn’t be shown to children who are still forming their role models for what healthy relationships.
Also, teenagers shouldn’t see this movie because it is porn and does have graphic sex. That’s kind of obvious too.
The reason I unsubscribed is because the BDS&M is TOTALLY beside that point, and I am horrified that this post refers to it as a perverse, deviant behavior that is unacceptable in society. Why do you have to judge the BDS&M community? Michelle, who gives you the right to judge people whose lifestyle has nothing to do with you or your family and complain that their behavior shouldn’t be deemed acceptable by society? This book has very little to do with actual BDS&M, and I’m pretty sure that it’s every bit as insulting to the consenting adults for whom that is a lifestyle choice as it is to the Christians who are reading this post because this book is just THAT FAR OFF. I’m pretty sure the BDS&M community would also wish that this wasn’t everyone’s perception of their existence, too.
I subscribed to this site because I am a mom. I have unsubscribed from it because judgement of other people’s lifestyles isn’t part of what I signed up to read. I hate the book for many reasons, but I hate this kind of judginess and condemnation of lifestyle far worse.
Hi Jillian– you touched on a point that neither I nor any of my test readers noticed. I don’t know anything about the BDSM community (I don’t even know what it stands for). I have heard that the BDSM community isn’t very happy with the book and movie. All of my negative comments were directed to the book– which I think you and I agree on completely.
Well, my teenage daughter read it… and just told me, that she found the book to be boring and stopped half-way-through.
See, I trust my teenager to know how to make up her mind herself. And to talk to me, if there is something that is bothering her and that she needs to talk about. I trust her judgment.
The book I’d like to see parents think about twice if their kids want to read it, however, is the Twilight Saga which portrays the idea of sexual violence as being oh-so-romantic… It actually worries me that young impressionable kids almost all around the world absolutely fell in love with this story. My daughter read this book, too — but again, she was very critical about it. Unlike some of her friends who totally fell in love with the notion of sexual violence — and had nobody to talk to about it.
It’s this thing: you can keep it away from your kids or even ban it from your house or set a lighter to it… but really, teenagers are capable of making up their own mind. And they should.
So, feel free to call me the worst parent ever — it’s not as if I hadn’t heard that before, :-).
Corinna- the title of this post is much more inflammatory than anything I’ve ever written. In fact, all my writing friends commented on it. Pretty much everything else I’ve ever published has been about tolerance and acceptance.
From your comments, I think you must not be aware of the content of Fifty Shades. It’s been described many many times (and not by me) as a XXX version of Twilight. “Twilight Saga which portrays the idea of sexual violence as being oh-so-romantic…” take the idea of romantic violence in Twilight, times it by 1000 and you’ve got Fifty Shades. And that’s what worries me.
Yes, Michelle, the title does indicate that this issue infuriates you, :-).
Still, I have my problems with it — this is not about being right or wrong but about how you approach these issues.
See, about 50 shades… yes, I am aware of the content, after all I want to know what my teenage daughter reads. But have you read it or only read about it?
Well, whatever you think about it, at least it does not disguise what it is — you know what you are getting when you buy it, and people buy it for this reason. And the author is quite frank about it, too.
What I find absolutely horrifying with Twilight, however, is that it pretends to be a romantic fantasy love and adventure story and (more importantly) to celebrate the highest levels of moral — and then turns into outright sexual violence.
I find this especially disturbing as it comes from the member of a religious faith with very high (and very respectable) values…
I also find an environment harmful that tries to shut these issues out like you suggest by not allowing your kid to read the book and condoning those parents who do.
It really is not the book that is the problem, but the environment in which a kid is not allowed or able to discuss these issues freely.
Although I understand your concern and respect your opinion, the key, I believe, is to be open about it, not to shut it out.
And to trust your kid to be able to make up her own mind about it, and yourself to provide this environment in which she will be able to do so.
Setting limits on what kids read doesn’t necessarily mean shutting the issue out. I would have no problems discussing the issues with my child and explaining my reasons for preferring that she not read it (if I had a daughter). The development of sexuality in teenagers is so easily influenced. Studies have shown that their brain chemistry can change after reading or watching pornography (as can adults, but moreso with teenagers who are in earlier stages). I wouldn’t want to risk my child reading this material and becoming aroused by it, and having it shape their sexual development. That being said, I know that parents can’t watch their kids 24/7, and I’m sure no one would blame a parent if their child read this without their consent. I think the concern is with parents who encourage it, and there are some.
I wish my parents had been more aware of what I was reading when I was a teenager and stopped me from reading some of it. I think it really colored my views about love and sex for a long time and not in a positive or realistic way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being aware and telling your child why it’s not appropriate and doesn’t align with your values. Just leaving them to figure it out themselves is unreasonable for someone who is still developing.
This book is actually based on the twilight saga. The author wrote it with the character names of edward and bella and when it got popular online she altered the names and published. The same bad ideas that were introduced in twilight are amplified in this book.
Sorry, sent it off too early:
It’s this thing: you can keep it away from your kids or even ban it from your house or set a lighter to it… but really, teenagers are capable of making up their own mind, if they have the environment and support to do so. And they should.
The kids who read books like this in secret or don’t want to share their thoughts with their parents, are the ones that worry me.
I just read an article that compared twilight to 50 shades and utilized a plagiarism tool and they matched with something like 90% accuracy minutes the vampires and adding the sexual content. I will find it and post the link. Teens should haves one autonomy in making choices I agree with you there. But they also should be protected from something like this that can alter their perception of what a healthy relationship is.
It’s because it’s actually based on Twilight, it was a fanfic (A story written by a fan of a particular (movie, book, tv show, video game, etc.), about the characters and world in that series, usually without the original creator’s permission.) When it became popular online the author simply changed the names and took out the mentions of vampirism.
Here’s the article, there are several more like it on the web:
Wow. While I agree with you on the content of the movie and not allowing your kids to read or watch it, the tone and title of this article sounds like a tabloid headline. I suppose your intent was to draw attention? It it only going to make people immediately defensive and does not invite discussion in the least. I would think you would want to state your opinion and research in a professional way that may invite discussion of those who think differently or are on the fence. This won’t change anyone’s mind it will only make them more staunch in their belief. Come on Power of Moms I thought you were better than this. This isn’t professional or classy
If articles on Power of Moms frequently had titles like this, I would be concerned. But frequent Power of Moms readers will notice the contrast from the typical titles/approach and hopefully see it as a way of taking a very strong stand and drawing a line in the sand.
April Perry says
Claire, thank you for seeing this for exactly what it is. 🙂
Adding my thanks Claire, for your many insightful comments on this article. You’ve helped in so many ways. I wish I could thank you in person!
April Perry says
Ali, I just wanted to personally thank you for your insightful comment. Receiving this initial feedback from our readers actually spurred an in-depth discussion between the author of this piece and our editorial team, and so we have revised the title and post to more fully align the message with the deliberate mothers of the world. I so appreciate your candid feedback, as I think you hit the nail on the head. Our role is not to divide the “right from the wrong.” Our goal is to allow the expression of opinions that we believe will positively shape our society, and then hopefully influence the “fence sitters” to make their choices based on the best information and ideas available to them.
Your participation in this discussion has been invaluable.
Yes, Ali. Let me add my thanks. You made me step back and think a bit. I so appreciate your insight and the comments from everyone else (even those who really didn’t like it) for helping me improve the message. A HUGE thanks to the staff at the Power of Moms. They are truly wise.
I was honestly really shocked when I saw the original title and my comment came from that place of shock and honesty. I’m glad it provided some good feedback and discussion. I feel that this title much more appropriately represents Power of Moms.
And just a note– if you’ve already shared this on Facebook and want to update the title, just click on the arrow in the upper right hand corner and choose ‘refresh share attachment’ from the drop down menu. Thanks!
I don’t think its so bad I got I’ll from reading it or say that it wasn’t fun to read, but I will say this is nowhere near for teenagers regardless if it’s a girl or boy…. This movie should not be rated r it just be m for mature audiences all the way! And sadly I have heard that a lot of my step daughters friends are going with either a father or mother that I do feel is disgusting! I let her and my 12 yr old son that fifty shades is not for them and if I find out they watched it, it will not be lenient about it…
Stacy @ A Delightful Home says
Thank you for this post! I have been baffled by the pervasiveness of this book/movie and am grateful to you for speaking about the harm it can do.
Haley Oakes says
Great article! It’s so important to take a stand against such in-your-face pornography.
Melody Harrison Bergman says
Hi, ladies! I am so glad to see real moms talking about this! Thank you to ALL of you who have had the courage to participate in the discussion. And thanks especially to Michelle and to POM for posting this as food for thought.
I’ve been putting out the word on my blog, too. 🙂
I have been watching lots of articles come out around parenting and 50 Shades this week, and it’s been fun seeing the messages change in the media. People are not only speaking out but are starting to focus on next steps. Yeah … 50 Shades is disturbing. But now what are we going to do about it? It is pretty cool.
Here are some of my favorites:
3 Things Your Kids Need to Know About Fifty Shades of Grey by Kristen Jenson, author of “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures” (POM just did a spotlight on her book not too long ago)
The Fifty Shades Effect: Disempowerment of Young Girls and What We Can Do About It
from a national organization called Educate and Empower Kids
Also, FYI, 50 Shades is on the 2015 Dirty Dozen List for the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and you can help them take action, spread the word, get great graphics for social media, etc., here: http://www.FiftyShadesIsAbuse.com/
Absolutely no way!
I have devoted much of my life to trying to raise my dd to be the best, happiest, healthiest person she can possibly be. The idea that I would abdicate that role just because she is now a teen is hogwash. I continually change my approach, based on what is developmentally appropriate for her, but it is ridiculous to assume that although it is okay for me to still provide guidance to her impulsive and still growing teen-brain in the areas of nutrition, sleep, social and academic activities, that I should have her go it alone in the area of sexuality.
Fifty Shades of Gray is pornographic garbage, in both written and visual form. I encourage her to avoid garbage in all forms. I applaud POM for speaking out against it. Comparing it to the wildly popular Twilight series is nothing more than a diversion from the actual issue. (BTW, that series is garbage too and we passed on it also.) The argument over whether teens should be autonomous in their entertainment choices is another diversion.
The bottom line is that bondage/domination/sadism/masochism encourage a lifestyle of abuse, do not support the development of healthy self images and self confidence, and is nothing that I would want for my dd’s life.
Just as I try to steer her away from dangerous diet drugs to get her already slim body to have the “thigh gap” society deems attractive, from underage drinking that causes so many catastrophic lapses in judgment, from unhealthy and ineffective all-night cramming sessions to study for her exams, from risky online behaviors like divulging personal details, I will guide her to reject inappropriate and unhealthy sexual messages.
In our society, teen are not raised to be able to consistently make wise choices for themselves. Scientific research points out that the teen brain is limited in its ability to comprehend consequences and may be more susceptible to addiction. As a loving parent who wants the very best for my teen, I will continue to urge her to stay away from garbage that might harm her. Fifty Shades falls squarely in that category.
Well said Lori!
Fifty Shades of Grey is a book that glorifies domestic violence and calls an abusive relationship a romance- that is not BDSM. There is a vast difference between the two. Proper BDSM is about consent and fulfilling fantasies safely. Stalking, rape and other abuses of power are not ok- that is why 50shades is so repugnant.
If your teen reads it, talk to her about those issues, don’t condemn her for reading something with sexy bits, she might not even notice the inequality of power between Christian and Ana unless you point it out to her.
Here is a list of fifty reasons why I won’t be reading it or seeing the movie.
Melody Harrison Bergman says
Just in case anyone is wondering whether the film really is affecting teens or not … check out this news article:
“Huge Mob of Teens Rushes Theater After Being Denied Entrance to R-rated ‘Fifty Shades'”
Agree, agree, agree. Simply from a “brain” view you are right on. Teenage brains are not fully formed; viewing sexual images makes a huge impression and can be particularly can be so addictive, especially when cloaked around a lie like “this is romantic.” Love is hard enough to figure out without throwing this trash in. I’ve had a number of friends dismayed to see Fifty Shades previews at pg-13 movies with their young children and my brother said last weekend he could hardly get into a movie next door bc of the giggling, screaming teenage girls waiting in line for this. It makes me so sad. Thanks for writing this article. So important to speak up when it has the potential to hurt us so deeply.
Hurrah. Thank you. This book and others like it is one of the reasons why I decided to try out a year away from my paid employment. I may have smoked cigarettes at some time in my life but I would never work for a tobacco company. I felt terrible being involved in the the dissemination of this book and others like it, as if it were just another lightweight romance and perfectly fine.