Fifty Shades of…..?


by Mike McKeown

The latest installment of the blockbuster Fifty Shades series hit theaters over Valentine’s weekend. When the books and movies came out previously, I didn’t pay a lot of attention. But now, having seen the explosion of debate on the internet this time around, the therapist in me feels the need to weigh in on the conversation.
This movie is being billed as a love story (hence the Valentine’s release) but the reality is that it has nothing to do with love or intimacy. It seems that a lot of people (married couples, singles, and dating couples alike) are flocking to see this movie, but I’m not sure why a movie about a sexual deviant who engages in weird and controlling behavior is so appealing. Whoa. That was a big statement there. I know. But before we go any further, let me clarify something. This isn’t about what happens in the bedroom between two consenting adults. A lot of people think that’s what the controversy with this film is because what’s happening in that particular bedroom is so lascivious, but that’s not the problem I see.

Fantasy vs. Reality
At the core of any discussion about this series is the fantasy piece. It’s the idea of doing things you’ve never done. This allows you to throw your inhibitions out the window and explore the mystery and adventure of an intriguing new person.  We all think about that sometimes. The problem with that fantasy is that it’s just that. It’s a fantasy. It’s not real. I once had a drug addict tell me during session that they do drugs because they can’t handle their reality. What they didn’t realize was that opposite was true. It was actually the fantasy they couldn’t handle. Wait, what?  Well, by taking the drugs, they were trying to insert their fantasy into their reality. That never works. Anytime you try to replace real life experiences with fantasy, it generates more and bigger problems. At some point you must re-enter reality.

Just a few weeks ago, Hollywood jumped on the “Me Too” bandwagon against deviant sexual behavior. If you watched the Golden Globe Awards, the usually bright and beautiful event was somber and heavy.  Instead of discussion fashion or even the actual film projects that each person was there for, everyone wanted to talk about the #MeToo movement. That’s great by the way. We need a better system for handing rape and sexual abuse. Rape has hit close to home for me both with friends and through counseling clients. Sexual abuse is, unfortunately, rampant in all areas of life. When I was in college, a close friend of mine had to deal with sexual harassment of a very heavy nature at her first job. At the time, she felt she’d be penalized if she even tried to talk to her manager about the co-worker who was forcing himself on her. The way it’s dealt with in our society is messy, ugly, and we need to crack down on this more.  So I’m in full support of the #MeToo movement. However, Hollywood betrayed themselves by preaching this #MeToo message in one of their gala filled evenings and then going on to release Fifty Shades Freed just a few weeks later. And on Valentines Day no less!

We don’t tolerate sexual misconduct in our Congress, the NFL, or really any workplace of late. But wait Hollywood!  In our movies it’s ok?  I don’t think so. Here’s a fascinating little exercise. The website Fighthenewdrug.org featured a fantastic quiz asking if you could tell the difference between #MeToo and #FiftyShades.  Here, check it out: https://fightthenewdrug.org/metoo-fifty-shades-quiz/

It’s a stunning commentary on society when we are crying out for the tarring and feathering of public figures (even those just accused with no evidence), and yet sending a movie about a man stalking a woman (and pressuring her into an abusive sexual relationship) into the top ten at the box office.

Next time we’ll talk about couples who are using this book and movie series to rejuvenate their marriage and/or sex life. I’ll look at some of the dangers, concerns, and offer advice for practical things you can do to not only revitalize your sex life, but deepen your level of intimacy across the board.

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