Not a grey area

The book. You know what I’m talking about. The book everyone seems to be talking about these days. “Fifty Shades of Grey” is holding on to a top spot on the New York Times best seller list in both the e-book and paperback  categories and has only recently moved to number two in the hard cover category. To date, the trilogy has sold upwards of 31 million copies, which is not bad considering it started life as an online Twilight fan fiction story. Twilight, a trilogy poorly written by Stephenie Meyer, is billed as vampire romance that spawned page after page of similarly poorly written erotica online. The Grey novels, as posted online, caught the eye of an Australian publisher and they bought the series which is now becoming a movie, has a soundtrack and has resulted in a new genre of fiction called mommy porn.

As what is known as a faith and culture writer, I often find myself checking out books or TV shows that I ordinarily would not touch with an 18-foot barge pole. I once picked up the Twilight book at a popular book chain and stood there in the aisle reading. A chapter and a half in I had a strong desire to bang my head against a wall and set fire to the book display. Yes, it was that bad. I didn’t buy it because I refuse to spend money on bad grammar. I get that for free here in my house all the time.

When the Fifty Shades book came out I was hearing about it everywhere. I found the whole thing a little disturbing because women — intelligent, well read, faithful women were claiming that this nasty bit of erotica was changing their lives. How have we come to view ourselves and our sexuality when a book that promises titillation with unmarried sex, bondage, sado-masochism and slave like control is life changing? Women are claiming that it is helping them desire their husbands again. My question would be why did you stop and why do you think this book that perverts the beauty and purpose of the gift of our sexuality as given to us by God is helping? Have we so conditioned ourselves and men to only respond to sexual stimuli that is tawdry and dark rather than the beautiful life giving source of marital power it was created to be?

Far be it from me to tell people that erotica is wrong and that as faithful Catholics we should not read it. Fortunately I don’t have to because the pope did in a speech to the German Ambassador to the Holy See: “Every person, whether man or woman, is destined to exist for others. A relationship that fails to respect the fact that men and women have the same dignity constitutes a grave crime against humanity. It is time to vigorously put a stop to prostitution, as well as to the widespread dissemination of material with an erotic or a pornographic content, also on the internet.” (Pope Benedict XVI, November 2011)

There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of dignity portrayed in these books. We, as women, are entirely created in the image and likeness of God in both our bodies and everlasting souls and as such have an obligation to cherish our bodies, which includes our sexuality. It is a gift to be treasured and, yes, enjoyed within a faithful and sacramental marriage. It is meant to be unitive, procreative and fun; to introduce a semi-pornographic novel thereby placing images in our heads that do not sanctify sex but rather cheapen it, is to diminish that which should be elevated and held holy.

Listen, I know it’s hard. I’m the mother of a large family with a lot on my plate and a husband who works long hours. To pay attention to the intimate part of life takes effort and attention, which is why I pray every day for the grace and knowledge to please my husband in all ways as well as saying a prayer of thanksgiving for him. This, coupled with the grace of the sacrament, the blessings poured out from our children and the ability to not take each other too seriously has resulted in my stomach still erupting into butterflies when he enters the room. After 20 years I count that as pretty good and no book could ever do more than that for my