Friday, February 13, 2015

Fifty Shades of White to Black

Imagine with me, if you will, that you live in a quiet and peaceful neighborhood.  And then one day,  a new family moveds into the house across the street from ours.  At first, everything seemed normal and life went on as it usually does. 

Sometime later you are sitting on your couch reading and you hear an awful sound.  You think it was some wild animal that had gotten trapped or injured, because you have never heard a human make sounds like that before.  You are terrified as you sit and listen and try to figure out if the animal was in my own backyard.  Eventually you begin to pick out words, and realize that it was a person, screaming in the most awful way, at another person.

Imagine that time passes but you can still hear his voice in your head - the obscenities that make your stomach churn as he screams how much he hates her, and how he is going to kill her.  You can still hear in your head her own voice as she screams back at him, hers a wordless and guttural shriek, a human voice that has shattered and broken.

Over the course of the next few months you watch as the cops come to their house once, sometimes twice a week.  You watch him get arrested three times, once the cops come for him while your children are outside playing in the backyard. You try to hurry them inside the house as quickly as you can because like the eye of Sauron you are afraid that he would turn and see you.  And yet, he kept coming back.  He always came back.  You can only imagine it is because she loved him.  She forgave him. She knew that he would never actually hurt her, even as I watched him approach her with a two by four, even as I watched him put his hands around her neck.

Imagine when there is a night that is worse than the others you have seen.  You want to let this whole mess be their own business and none of yours, but a voice in your head says that if he was going to kill her in their garage then it is your civic duty to watch it happen so that she could get justice.  But five minutes before the cops come he suddenly puts down the two by four, his shoulders sunken, deflated, and goes into the house.  She follows and they turn off all the lights in every room.  The cops bang on their door for an hour that night and you keep your vigil at the window, shaking in your living room. 

And then you begin to wonder.  It occurs to you that perhaps this was all foreplay to them.  Perhaps even having the cops come and question them so often just added to the... excitement.  Maybe the periods of time when he was gone after being arrested just added fuel to the flames of their passion.

It's true that living this way: that's their choice.  If that's how they want to live their lives, there is nothing anyone can really do to stop it.  She lets him back in the door every time and that is her choice.  Who can deny her that?

What about her children though?  Suppose she has a middle school daughter, and two elementary school kids, and a baby just a year old.  What choice would they have to be around this man who threatens their mother so loudly, so violently, that the whole neighborhood can hear to call the cops on him once, twice a week?

In a world where Christian Grey is acceptable, I suppose this man and what he is doing to this family, by their own consent, must also be acceptable.  But in reality, it makes me sick to my stomach that I have to watch it, and it will not stop me from calling the police the next time I see him attack her.  Because what if I don't, and that's the time his rage takes him one step farther than he meant to and this time actually kills her, in an effort to make their lives "spicier"?  How do I live with myself then?

We are on the precipice of a new wave of cultural brainwashing.  At one time, fat was beautiful, then they told us skinny is beautiful. At one time pale was beautiful, and women had to carry parasols.  Then they told us tan was beautiful and we drove in flocks to the tanning salons.  At one time smoking cigarettes was cool and all the kids did it, and then they told us that smoking would kill us and we better stop.  And with each cultural shift we saw changes in the paradigms of our society: we saw increased eating disorders and skin cancers and on the other spectrum we saw a drop in lung cancer.  I may not be a licensed therapist but it doesn't take a genius to see that if the kind of emotional manipulation involved in the idea that it is acceptable for a woman (by her consent) to be hurt for the sick pleasure of the man she loves is going to become mainstream and acceptable, then there will also be an increase in sexual abuse.

And maybe some girls will let themselves be emotionally manipulated into thinking that they are fine with it, maybe even that they enjoy it.  Maybe I can stretch my imagination far enough for a scenario where that is possible - but does that make it right? Does that even make it ok?  No. Not in my book, anyway.  I will always be the woman watching out the window, worried that my neighbor would kill his girlfriend.  Does it make it ok if it is behind bedroom doors?  Is the rage that fuels this kind of passion acceptable if no one else is watching it? Oh, except for when we put it up on a big beautiful movie screen.

I have four beautiful daughters and they look at the world with big eyes that see the blue sky, and flying birds, and they smell flowers and they bake chocolate chip cookies.  They are the definition of everything that is good and pure and worthwhile in this world.  When they fall in love someday, when their eyes shift to seeing the men in the world around them, I hope that I have taught them enough that they understand that a man should never, ever hurt a woman.  And that a man who not only is willing to hurt a woman, but who does so for his own pleasure is a man to file a restraining order against, not a man to get in a relationship with.  I hope they understand that love is gentle, love is kind, love is hope and generosity, love is selfless.  The feeling of one person toward another that finds actual pleasure out of pain is an emotion so broken, so damaged, that it has decayed into filth.

Now I am not saying that Christian Grey doesn't deserve to find love, or happiness.  I don't think that people can be so broken that they are beyond repair.  I think Christian Grey needs to take some time off from having girlfriends, so that he can fix what is broken inside of him, probably with the help of a really good therapist.  I think that when he is whole again he can begin to look for love, and then he can find something healthy and beautiful.

It is very dangerous for girls to think that they can fix what is broken in a man, especially when the broken parts of him rail out at him to damage her.  Simply because she gave her emotionally manipulated "consent" doesn't mean that he isn't damaging her.  Any act that injures or causes pain is in definition, damaging.

I beg and plead that we will be careful of the jumps we make, as a society.  Is this a cliff we are willing to throw ourselves off of?  Is this a cliff you are willing to throw your children off of?

Don't take my word for it though, links here:
Meg Meeker, MD: A Psychiatrist's Letter to Young People About Fifty Shades of Grey

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