It’s a pitiful statement on the moral condition of our country and world. A book trilogy that promotes, among other things, sadomasochism, pornography and the degradation and sexual objectification of women continues to top the best-seller list. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the desensitization in our culture is so strong that we can’t recognize pure unadulterated porn when we see it or the fact that so many Christians, including some of my Catholic radio listeners, are among those going ga-ga over E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
If you’re not familiar with the trilogy, I will try to sum it up as cleanly as I can for a Catholic newspaper. The story centers around a twisted relationship between a sexually inexperienced college graduate named Anastasia and a billionaire named Christian Grey. Anastasia falls head over heels for Grey and agrees to be his “submissive,” meaning she allows him to take control of her life and engages in a domineering sexual relationship focused on S&M and bondage. The book describes graphic sexual encounters. Secular psychologist and TV host Dr. Drew Pinksy described it as a story about a “pathological, abusive relationship that in no way resembles a healthy love life.”
“Why women would pick this up as any sort of substitute for intimacy or any sort of a model for a reasonable relationship, I find just sort of disturbing,” Pinsky said in an interview with WTOP Radio in Washington, D.C.
Peter Kleponis, a Catholic therapist and author of “The Pornography Epidemic: A Catholic Approach” (Women of Grace, $10.99), says women are wired differently than men.
“Men are more drawn to pornographic pictures and videos and women are relationship stimulated, which is why they are drawn to romance novels, soap operas and chat rooms. ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is really pornography disguised as a relationship. ... It is actually degrading to women and does not present a healthy picture of relationships or sexuality.”
Kleponis said a woman reading the book is no different than a man viewing Internet porn.
“I doubt any healthy woman would ever want the kind of relationship or sexuality portrayed in ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’” he said. “Would you want your daughters reading this book?”
What I find so appalling is the hoops some Catholic women are jumping through to justify reading the books. One listener told me the books have a great message because the main female character ends up redeeming Grey and helping him get over his abusive childhood. There is not room enough in 10 columns, let alone one, to talk about the problems of women trying to “fix” men while putting themselves in abusive situations. Just as disturbing is the lack of understanding on Church teaching regarding pornography. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 2354) is pretty clear:
“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public) since each becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”
We don’t exactly have to be a moral theologian to figure this one out. No pun intended, but there is no “Grey” area here.
Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.