“OMG, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie is coming out!” a high-school girl I mentor cheers with excitement. I nod but don't say anything. “I have to tell my friend. She will be thrilled. It is her favorite book!”
I feel goose bumps on my skin, because I happen to know her friend as well. She is not an ordinary girl. Māshā'Allāh, she just finished memorizing Qur'an earlier this year out of her own dedication, while maintaining full time high school.
“You do know that it's not only a soft-porn book, but it also has some really disturbing material.” I remind her.
“No Miss, apart from all that stuff, it has an amazing love story!” her voice melts as she recalls the “love” between Ana and Christian Grey.
Last summer, I skimmed through the series to be aware of what our young women are reading. Needless to say, the more I read the book the more horrified I was.
It was the first time in years –after the Twilight series–that I asked my teen daughter not to read a book, and I explained to her my reasons, “If you read this book now, you will have a messed up concept of sex, and some content may even be emotionally disturbing and psychologically damaging.”
She promised, and since then she's been offered the book several times at her “Islamic” school. Not only has the trilogy made it to this Muslim country where I currently live— pornographic material is banned here– it also has found its way to the hands of practicing Muslim girls.
I understand that it is not easy to stop the young adults from reading a book, let alone a trilogy so popular that it has sold more than 70 million copies in 2012, even surpassing the Harry Potter series as the fastest selling paperback of all time . The book is popular in the West and in the East, among the non-Muslims and Muslims. So now that most of our teens have read it, who is going to do the damage control?
Let me start of by explaining why I'm alarmed by this specific trilogy though there are many errotic books available out there.
Because this trilogy has become more famous than any other book, sending the author straight to the top of the highest-earning authors' list.
My real concern however, lies in the plot—this is a disturbing book about a millionaire sadist who enslaves young girls under a “mutual agreement” and inflicts physical pain on them for his sexual pleasure and in return he offers them generous amount of money and cossets them with lavish cars, extravagant clothes and jewelry. Abused as a teenager, he partners with his abuser in a business and doesn't necessarily see anything wrong with what his abuser did to him. Moreover, since his own mother was a prostitute who committed suicide, he chooses girls who look like his mother so he can inflict pain on them, to satisfy his anger towards his her!
A young, ambitious, educated, innocent girl, who is not only a virgin but very naïve about sex, falls in love with him, even though he stalks her, traces her calls, convinces her to sign the
slavery submissive-contract so he can use her for his sexual enjoyment.
Then…. they get married and after the marriage he gives up his addiction and they live happily ever after.
As it is we already have intimacy issues among Muslim couples. We don't have parents who openly communicate with their children and educate them about sex and sexuality. We don't have enough speakers talking to our teens about sex, especially female speakers. We don't have enough Muslim counselors/therapists resolving intimacy issues between couples. On top of that, if our girls are going to read books like Fifty Shades of Grey, they are going to left with a seriously damaged concept of intimacy.
Just recently, I received a request from high school girls to hold a “Talk Session” so they can discuss their fears about marriage and intimacy. Some of the girls specifically brought up what they read in Fifty Shades of Grey and how they have developed fears and insecurity after reading the book (yet they are in love with Christian Grey!)
I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters:
Christian Grey in Real Life:
1. It is not okay to be sexually abused by someone and then accept the abuse as a lifestyle, just because the abused starts enjoying the abuse.
2. It is not okay for a man to lure a girl into marrying him with his money or good looks while expecting her to overlook his habit of objectifying women as mere sexual objects.
3. Decent men normally don't stalk girls.
4. Grey is domineering, a control freak, a stalker, and a manipulator. In real life, these character flaws cause real marital problems. Unlike Ana, most women can't endure being stalked, watched and forced into submission while compensated with wealth and erotic intimacy. In real life, most men simply do not have the luxury of gifting the company where she works to the wife while forcing her into submitting.
5. One legitimate fact in the book worth pointing out is that Grey has a problem with Ana's male friends. Yes, that I can assure you dear daughters, especially those of you who have studied with boys and have Facebook friends of the opposite gender from school or work, that your husband may raise this objection. Or if you are used to “hanging out” for school projects at a public place, he may ask you to stop doing so. You either talk this through before marriage or you should be prepared to “submit” on this point after marriage and keep in mind that in exchange for your obedience, a luxurious ski trip to Aspen in a private jet with your girl friends is not guaranteed.
Addiction and BDSM:
6. It is not okay to marry an addict especially if a girl finds out about his addiction before the marriage. This is a serious matter and unlike the book, addicts don't lose their addiction just by marrying someone they love.
7. It can take years for an addict to overcome his addiction. Addicts almost always have relapses and those relapses can take a tremendous toll on the marriage.
8. I've come across countless men who have issues of child molestation, mother-father family issues, and desperately need therapy, but they will refuse to acknowledge any problems with their behavior let alone seek therapy. Our hero Mr. Grey, seeks counseling even before Ana asks him to seek help for his psychological issues. Dear daughters, the unfortunate fact of life is that it may take months of convincing, even arguments, and at times even family/friends' intervention, before the husband finally agrees to seek therapy.
9. It is not okay for a man to inflict physical pain on his wife for his sexual pleasure.
10.Sadism/Bondage/Submission and Dominance (BDSM) are acts of sex that may develop among couples in a halal way but it takes time. Initially a relationship needs understanding and normal intimacy. Once both partners, especially the wife, become comfortable and confident then they may experiment with different types of intimate practices.
11. After both husband and wife become comfortable with each other especially during intimacy, they may play around with different techniques and a variety of intimacy including BDSM. However, if it reaches to the point of inflicting pain where a wife starts crying with discomfort, or her eyes overflow with tears trying to endure pain, that's crossing the line. There is a difference in “delirious pain” and tearing up with pain.
12. Spanking the wife for rolling her eyes is wrong (even though it maybe an acceptable practice among the Christian Domestic Discipline). Hitting the wife with a belt to inflict physical pain for a husband's sexual pleasure is physical abuse. A decent man will draw his own limits for his sexual pleasure and a wife doesn't need to burst out in tears and start crying for him to realize that what he was doing was beastly.
Virginity and Intimacy:
13. No virgin has multiple orgasms on her first night. Do not enter your marriage with this misconception.
14. It may take days to weeks before a virgin experiences vaginal orgasm. (In rare cases, it may take up to months and may need therapy)
15. Communication and comfort is essential in making intimacy successful and pleasurable, especially for those girls who've guarded their chastity and are experiencing intimacy for the first time.
16. In normal circumstances, acts of BDSM should not be practiced on a girl who's been recently deflowered.
17. Men are not born expert-lovers. In real life, couples have to discuss their fantasies and communicate what they like and explain their desires, and not just once. Sometimes these fantasies have to be explained many times before the spouse finally understands. It may take months, sometimes years before sexual fantasies become realities. The book definitely raises the bar of expectations in many ways.
18. Yes, sex is a lot more than just penetration (as most Muslim women complain about their intimacy being dry and boring) but most Muslim men are not as experienced and “sex gurus” as Grey, especially those who have kept themselves pure before marriage.
19. Grey can read Ana's body language and knows exactly what will turn her on and what will bring her pleasure AND he is always ready to give her that. Dear daughters, in real life things are very different.
20. In the beginning of a marriage, most Muslim men don't know how to make a women experience an orgasm during every intercourse. They need to learn and the wives need to help them learn. It is a give-and-take relationship.
Romance between Ana & Grey:
21. There is never a “dull moment” in their romance. In real life, issues start rising after a few weeks of marriage–real issue—issues that need to be talked through and resolved. These issues cannot be resolved through “erotic intimacy” and “expensive gifts”.
22. Unlike Grey, men have mood swings too and they may not be romantic all the time.
23. Men want their wives to be romantic too and take initiatives and plan romantic events, dinners, outings etc. Unlike Grey, real men are not always full of romantic surprises.
24. Real men in real life have work to do at work. They simply cannot romantically email back and forth all day from work.
This is just a brief clarification I can offer you, of not just one but three books about an abused billionaire turned into a sadistic-domineering-control freak-emotional abuser's “amazing love story”!