- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2015

On the one day of the year celebrating romantic love and commitment, family values groups and religious leaders are stepping up their criticism of Hollywood’s decision to promote “kinky” sex and sexual exploitation through the relentless promotion of the upcoming movie “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The ubiquitous marketing of the movie — the story of a wealthy man’s seduction of an innocent young woman into a bondage-domination and sadomasochism (BDSM) affair — is an attempt to push that lifestyle into the mainstream, said Melissa Henson, director of grass-roots education and advocacy for the Parents Television Council.

“Fifty Shades,” and the obvious attempt to tie the film to Valentine’s Day, are encouraging people “to view sexual relations in the context of loving, committed, long-term relationships as boring or unfulfilling,” Ms. Henson said Wednesday.

U.S. Catholic bishops have circulated a letter condemning the movie as a “destructive” message of abuse that mocks such ideals as fidelity and marital commitment.

In pushing back against the movie, which opens Friday, “remind the faithful of the beauty of the Church’s teaching on the gift of sexual intimacy in marriage, the great dignity of marriage and the reprehensibility of all domestic violence and sexual exploitation,” wrote Buffalo Bishop Richard J. Malone, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

Sheila Weber, executive director of National Marriage Week USA, which runs from Feb. 7 to Feb. 14, said the values and bondage themes in “Fifty Shades of Grey” will “lead to dissatisfaction and infidelity” in real relationships.

Pornography is “very diminishing to the sexual experience,” she said, because “the sexual relationship finds safety and comfort inside the marriage vows. The whole beauty of it is connectivity of love and expression of love.”

The film, based on the best-selling trilogy by British author E.L. James, looks to be a blockbuster: Based on massive early ticket sales at Fandango, the film is expected to open with $60 million and get “a huge bounce on Valentine’s Day,” according to Deadline Hollywood, a website for “industry insiders.”

Moreover, RelishMix, which measures movie social media, said the film’s latest movie trailer “pulled more than 600,000 views on Monday, with a total accumulation of 193 million views on YouTube alone,” Deadline Hollywood said.

“Fifty Shades of Grey” — which is rated “R” for “strong sexual content including dialogue, some unusual behavior and graphic nudity” — has been promoted with advertisements during the Super Bowl and the Golden Globes award show, in theater previews and on NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal, parent company of the production company for the film.

NBC’s “Today” show has “heavily promoted” the movie, with “exclusive” previews and segments like “What to do when the kids find your ‘adult’ [sex] toys,’” said Ms. Benson.

‘Pornification’

All this attention — plus news that two “Fifty Shades” movie sequels are in the works — has alarmed organizations that oppose domestic violence and the “pornification” of America, especially in the treatment of lead female character Anastasia Steele.

“I meet these women [like Steele] all the time,” Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and chair of American Studies at Wheelock College in Boston, told The Washington Times. “They marry a ‘Christian Grey,’ and they think they’re going to love him out of it. And then they end up either dead or in a women’s shelter or on the run for years.”

Why the massive popularity of “Fifty Shades,” which has reportedly sold around 100 million books?

“I think the media promotes a pornographic culture, because the media has a lot to gain from that — there’s a lot of economic ties between mainstream media and pornography,” said Ms. Dines, the author of “Pornland: How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality.” Also, many young people, including those who work in media, “have been brought up in a porn culture. It’s normalized for them, this type of violence,” she said.

Recently, Stop Porn Culture, an organization co-founded by Ms. Dines, has joined with the National Center on Sexual Exploitation and London Abused Women’s Center in Canada in the #50DollarsNot50Shades campaign, which asks people to donate $50 to domestic violence shelters instead of going to the movie.

The robust adult entertainment industry defends pornography on First Amendment free speech grounds and people’s rights to sexual privacy and ownership of sexually explicit materials in the home.

The industry is also hugely popular: “There is no socioeconomic level that is not involved in participating as a customer in these businesses,” said Texas law firm Greco Neyland, an expert on laws on sexually oriented businesses.

Moreover, pornography supporters, such as feminist Wendy McElroy, say adult materials can satisfy healthy sexual curiosities and add fantasy and “spice” to couples’ love lives.

Ms. James, author of “Fifty Shades,” said she doesn’t have sex toys or practice BDSM in her bedroom, but the trilogy was personally meaningful. The first-time author became a worldwide publishing phenomenon with a series that began as a Web-based “fan fiction” series based on characters from Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” books.

“This is my midlife crisis writ large. All my fantasies [are] in there, and that’s it,” she told the “Today” show in 2012.


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