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The Death of Shame

February 16, AD2015

Kelli Ann - angel

After selling over 100-million copies of the book, the overhyped-movie version of E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey was released on St. Valentine’s Day.  Variety reports that for its first weekend, the movie grossed $81.67M with a projected four-day total of $90.658M, placing it as the best Presidents Day weekend opening record of all time; only second behind the movie Passion of the Christ, which opened with $83.8M. (Isn’t that comparison rather satirical?)

Like the cultural transformation to successfully legalize birth control and abortion, who do we credit for the glorification of violence and abuse of women in a bestselling book and movie? Why women, of course!

According to an article by Emma Green, published last week in The Atlantic, data polls reveal that the audience for these books and movie are predominantly women —mostly in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Russell Perreault, the Vice President of Communications for Random House Publishing revealed that data from Nielsen polling . . .

“suggests that about a third of the people who bought the books in the U.S. were actually 18 to 29 years old. Readers also span the ideological spectrum: According to 2013 data from an online survey of 1,075 adults by the Barna Group, a faith-focused polling firm, 9 percent of practicing Christian women in America have read at least the first book, which is roughly the same as the percentage of all women who have read Fifty Shades across the country.”

How do women reconcile their support of 50 Shades while vilifying Muslim men for their treatment of women? Ah, but that’s unwelcome violence and abuse. 50 Shades is all about consensual abuse and violence. (I didn’t know there was a difference. I can’t wait to read about the first murder case that cites 50 Shades as a defense.)

Blame It On Your Mid-life Crisis

In several interviews, James confessed that writing 50 Shades was her response to what she calls “her midlife crisis”. The success of the books have surprised even her, because as she puts it, “I’m not a great writer.”  Although James is quick to point out that she doesn’t share the same sexual appetite as the characters, she does admit that the scenes are “really attractive on paper.”

So, there you g0, just salacious titillating dribble designed to arouse women, and men, who lack respect for themselves. The plot line is essentially about a man who lacks respect for a woman he basically uses for his own gratification, and the woman who lacks respect for herself by allowing a man to abuse her, all under the disguise of love.

Meanwhile, James isn’t the first to use the pen to cope with a crisis. D. H. Lawrence, who should never be compared to James in the same sentence, once had a bit of a mid-life crisis of his own when he penned Lady Chatterly’s Lover. Written in the last years of his life, while suffering and slowly dying from tuberculosis, Lawrence’s book is rather his own personal memoir of marital hell. Due to his illness, Lawrence was impotent. His wife, Frieda, who possessed an insatiable sexual appetite, and thus obviously frustrated by her husband’s condition, never spared her husband’s feelings. She often announcing openly about his physical impairment to anyone who would listen, especially in his presence. In fact, Frieda flaunted her affair with a hunky Italian, as Lawrence was well aware. Thus, Lady Chatterly was essentially an epitaph of Lawrence’s last years. He was Clifford Chatterly, Constance Chatterly’s husband, that had been paralyzed due to a war injury. And Frieda was Constance, who believed that love was only a primal physical gratification, void of emotional substance.

So, are we to conclude that the popularity of 50 Shades reflects a multitude of men and women coping with a mid-life crisis, or that we have become bored with romance novels that possess some semblance to honor and integrity?

Who Knew We Needed “Mommy Porn”?

With the “literary” success of James’ book, and subsequent film, a significant number of society clearly recognizes its authenticity: glorified pornography that attempts to romanticize violence and abuse. The trilogy has been dubbed “mommy porn”, identifying the books as targeting some ill-perceived market of sex-starved suburban housewives and mothers who long for sex with a man who abuses them, disrespects them, and all while exchanging some of the most stupefied elementary dialogue since the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer.

Once again, just like in the 1960s and 1970s, the target audience is women. And once again, we have an agenda cleverly disguised as enlightenment and liberation. Women don’t know what they want or need, so culture, or Fifth Avenue, will certainly define it for them. And literature and film are all too willing to do that for them over the decades.

Lady Chatterly’s Lover was published 80 years prior to 50 Shades. D. H. Lawrence’s book was first published in Italy in 1928, and was subsequently banned in the United Kingdom, and the United States, until 1960. The reason it was banned was not just because of the graphic language, which is consider tame by today’s standards. It was banned because of its adulterous content. (Heah, we have “Sister Wives” now. We have mastered adultery and advanced our immorality to a whole new level.)

However, it is important to note that Doris Lessing (British author and Nobel Prize in Literature recipient) was quick to identify that by the time Lawrence’s novel was published in 1960, the sexual revolution had long begun. Many of the “great sex scenes [in Lady Chatterly’s Lover] had lost their power.” Women had already been exposed to more, and knew more, and were acting upon more, making Lawrence’s once banned book rather obsolete.

If Lady Chatterly is any indicator, where will our society be in the next 80 years after 50 Shades?

Shameless, Shameless, Shameless

Of course, there was a time when any self-respecting man or woman with even a smidgen of integrity and morality would have never been caught dead reading or viewing such trash. But today, we have proudly developed into a rather accommodating society. Anything that you want from marijuana to masochism can be packaged and sold openly (depending upon the state) without fear of arrest, embarrassment or shame.

Ah, yes, shame, that painful feeling of humiliation prompted by the consciousness of wrong or distasteful behavior. Whatever happened to shame? Wasn’t that once the calibrator in the now defunct moral compass?

In the last 50-plus years, we have managed to all but eliminate shame from our vocabulary, much less our moral compass. We no longer have a defining line between good and bad, honorable and dishonorable, black and white. It is all essentially shades of grey matter. (No pun intended.) In our quest for self-indulgence and self-gratification, moral relativity has enlightened us to accept that all aspects of life, both good and evil, can be considered morally acceptable, granted our choices don’t infringe on the liberties and benefits of others. We have masterfully legislated our acceptance of once-regarded immorality to such an extent that we no longer can identify what is inherently good and what is intrinsically evil. Consider this . . .

  • Torturing a prisoner in order to gain intel against our enemy so as to protect our nation and people; evil.
  • Murdering a defenseless baby in his/her mother’s womb for social convenience; good.
  • Killing a spouse who is terminally ill, and who doesn’t want to live anymore: good.
  • Killing a spouse who is healthy, but whose spouse doesn’t want them to live anymore: evil.

Who Is Really To Blame?

At the core of all this enlightenment, lies the deep-seeded ignorance for the preservation, protection and respect for human life – even one’s own life. The honor of protecting life was given to women, but we didn’t want it. We cast it aside for something called “equality”. We have failed miserably throughout history to recognize that what we genuinely desired was respect and dignity for our authentic feminine genius. Feminine genius is the term used by Blessed Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter dated September 30, 1988 entitled Mulieris Dignitatem, where he explains how women are the masterpiece of God’s creation.

After Eve failed miserably at creation, God sent us Mary, the Blessed Mother of Christ, to inspire and guide us. Yet, if 50 Shades is an accurate indicator, women today don’t want some matronly pious role model. They prefer being the unrepentant twerking harlot, wearing Prada, that welcomes abuse and violence as a definitive sign of independence, empowerment and love.

Throughout history women have been easily duped into accepting the latest trend, designed and fashioned to appeal to their sense of “must have.” At the core of each female martyr for women’s “equality” was the contradictory life and conduct that few women ever bothered to notice. Gloria Steinem, for example, the outspoken feminist of the 1960s and 1970s who convinced women that marriage was not necessary for a woman to be happy and enjoy life, married at the age of 66. Then there was Betty Friedan, the feminist whose book The Feminine Mystique attacked the “cult of domesticity”, guilting women into believing their roles as mother, wife and homemaker was an inferior social role. And yet, contrary to her very public position on equality, Friedan had no problem employing female black-only staff in her New York apartment, instructing them to wear uniform whites and maintain their distance. Meanwhile, generations of women hung on every word spoken by these women as gospel and attempted to emulate everything they pontificated to the masses.

Wait A Minute! What About Men?

Granted, if man had recognized long ago that women are not merely objects of sexual gratification, possession, manipulation, dominance, we would be in a different world today. It took years and countless generations for man to recognize (and some are still learning) that women posses a unique genius inherent only to them. Women compliment men, not contradict them.

William Ross Wallace, an American poet (and fellow Scotsman) penned a beautiful poem in 1865 entitled “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle is the Hand That Rules the World”. In this poem, Wallace praises motherhood as the preeminent force that possess the inherent ability to change the world. That’s right, a man. This eloquent poem and its empowering message was written 50 years before Margaret Sanger began her quest for legalized birth control; over 100 years before abortion would be legalized; and over 150 years before women would so willingly embrace the violence/abuse against a woman in 50 Shades of Grey as acceptable entertainment. (Do you see where this is going? The future doesn’t look good, does it?)

On December 8, 1965, in the closing statement at the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in his Address to Women, Pope Paul VI said:

“And now it is to you that we address ourselves, women of all states—girls, wives, mothers and widows, to you also, consecrated virgins and women living alone—you constitute half of the immense human family. As you know, the Church is proud to have glorified and liberated woman, and in the course of the centuries, in diversity of characters, to have brought into relief her basic equality with man. But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is under-going so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do so much to aid mankind in not falling.” [Emphasis mine.]

Sadly, since that address, women appear to be doing more to aid mankind in falling. Collectively, we fail miserably in recognizing our feminine genius. Just like Eve, we can’t seem to achieve greatness, as ordained by God, because we are too worried about not getting our own “piece of the apple”.

And Here Lies the Hypocrisy

If literature and film are indicators of cultural shifts, 50 Shades’ popularity only reflects the hypocrisy of women. For generations, women have fought for respect, combatting violence and abuse in an effort to elevate themselves to a place that was always designated for them since the beginning of time. And yet, they choose to embrace a book and film that contradicts everything they have strived for in the past 100 years alone.

  • Women decry violence against women on college campuses, and yet they celebrate a book and film that glorifies sexual violence and abuse of a woman.
  • Women lobby for equality and respect in the workplace, yet they celebrate a book  and film that glorifies a man taking advantage of an inexperience college student for his own self-gratifications and sexual abuse.
  • Women are quick to pontificate that they deserve respect, and yet they celebrate a book and film that glorifies a domineering man, and his ability to arrogantly manipulate a woman without any sense of guilt or remorse.

And then women question why no one takes them seriously when they acuse a man of rape or abuse.

Now that women have clearly rejected their own efforts to promote respect and dignity for their gender, and bought a ticket on the “Sin Wagon”, let’s hope that we are proud of our legacy. Surely the next generation will pay homage to us for total eradicating shame from our culture thanks to E.L. James and the millions of “mommies” who support her vision.

© 2015 Diane McKelva. All rights reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Recognized as the former Editor in Chief, Diane McKelva is now the Editor Emeritus of Catholic Stand. You can learn more about Diane and her work here.

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  • darbytwo

    I’m quite stunned by the authors premise. By defining “role play with power in an intimate relationship” as abuse any exploration that follows is guided by that assumption. Please take a step back, reconsider the premise, and consider how domination and submission are already present in all relationships, and the insight that can come to consenting adult couples who act out those forces and gain insight into their inner selves and relationship.

  • Netties Petrone

    Wow. Wow. Wow. So well said. I only wish there were a way to beat these truths into the heads of women we come into contact with daily, like neighbors of mine who were giggling the other night about these books and movie. My voice lost its voice. I turned away and engaged in other conversation with the men there. Women have no shame. They’ve gulped Satan’s koolaid. Thank you from the bottom of my still-pure heart.

  • Floyd Fish

    Thanks for this piece, Diane. You mentioned Steinem and Friedan. You forgot Jane Fonda, the poster child for women forming their bodies through exercise for vanity’s sake. The same Fonda who later admitted to having had breast implants. So much for feminine liberation!

  • jesspinosa

    Some years ago, HBO promoted a new show called Brothel. As the name implies, it is about the life of hookers. A group of women and some men picketed the HBO office because they claimed the show demeans and objectifies women. I agreed with what they were saying and so I went to have my voice heard as well. But watching the women parading with big signs caught my attention. Since it was summer, I noticed that they were wearing clothes that a prostitute on duty would wear – cleavage galore and short skirts! I called that to the attention of one of the organizers and she angrily responded, “But it’s hot!” and stomped awayI rest my case.

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  • Elleblue

    People I work with were raving about the book and were anxious to see the movie. Most of these are women who identify as feminists. Frankly from what I have heard this movie is anti-woman. I find many people just follow the crowd without counting the personal cost.

  • Ellen Gable Hrkach

    Beautifully written, Diane. Excellent post!

    • Thank you, Ellen. Please feel free to share with your girlfriends. More women need to recognize their “feminine genius” and embrace it…before it’s too late. I still believe that God is in control, if we will only trust Him, and the ability He has given to us. Peace be with you, Diane

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  • melanie jean juneau

    Brilliant analysis of our culture and this book. Apparently, if you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out and save his life. However, if you place a frog in cool water and slowly raise the heat, he will happily cook to death. Looks like we are cooking death spiritually as our culture slowly changes.

    • Thank you, Melanie. That frog analogy is exactly what appeals to me about literature. Of course, that’s my schtick! When you see how literature reflects the culture, you really appreciate the slow boil. I found Doris Lessing’s comment about Lawrence’s book release in the 1960s relative to the culture shift quite alarming. Lady Chatterly’s Lover was banned until 1960, because in the 1930, it was too provocative. By the 1960s, the subject matter was passe. I’m afraid that 50 Shades is only a precursor to “Fade to Black”. ;(

    • melanie jean juneau

      Yes. In the face of such a massive, social surge towards darkness, I can only trust that even oppressive darkness cannot snuff the light cast from many tiny flames of truth. We must speak out even if we are afraid of intimidation. A lie is still a lie even if it becomes fashionable ( loose translation of Chesterton )

    • You said, “I can only trust that even oppressive darkness cannot snuff the light cast from many tiny flames of truth.” Very eloquent. I’m sending you a meme with that. <3

    • melanie jean juneau

      🙂

  • Karen Richards

    Well said. I also think that if the main character were not handsome and wealthy, but an unattractive man living in a trailer park, the whole thing would be seen as creepy and unpleasant and the book would be found in the gothic horror section of book stores.

    • melanie jean juneau

      yes!

    • Okay, Karen, I really like your perspective. So accurate. Thank you.

    • fredx2

      That’s what is so creepy about this whole thing. The message about women that it sends is that they are willing to be beaten and degraded – if they can be with a billionaire.

  • Thank you all for your kind words. I was really bothered that the polling showed a percentage of Christian women. Today, our political correctness has infiltrated our churches. We have homogenized morality to such an extent that we don’t dare raise those “ole Bible teachings” for fear it might offend someone and we remove monetary donations. Yep, believe it. I have had pastors say those very words. “Don’t want to make those contributors too uncomfortable” – well, hello….they are going to be really uncomfortable in hell!

  • There is a difference between shame and guilt. Guilt alludes to the feeling we have after doing something wrong. Shame refers more to the condition of being in guilt; there is not one specific thing that causes it. You simply feel shameful about yourself. It seems like you are speaking of the death of guilt. Many people live with deep shame. In fact, that is one of the reasons that this movie and book series are so popular. We are so ashamed of the beautiful love that God offered us that we turn to something else that will hopefully fulfill our fantasies.

    • LeticiaVelasquez

      I don’t think that the women who read this book are truly aware of God’s unconditional love, if they knew God’s love as personally and deeply as we do, they would never wholeheartedly reject it to eat in the dumpster of abuse disguised as love.
      I think its a case of their being ignorant of the depth of God’s love for lack of religious upbringing or a lack of love from those they depended upon for examples of God’s love.
      Remember what the most famous fornicator in the Church, St Augustine, wrote in his Confessions,
      “Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!

      Lo, you were within,

      but I outside, seeking there for you,

      and upon the shapely things you have made

      I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.

      You were with me, but I was not with you.

      They held me back far from you,

      those things which would have no being,

      were they not in you.”

    • So beautiful! I agree.

  • Ray Sullivan

    Good one Diane – You hit the proverbial nail on the head. Just like Eve fell and so did mankind, women today who like this kind of stuff bring down mankind (not that men don’t do their share as well!) I always thought that the women who pose nude for porn do as much to bring down modern man as Eve brought down Adam…

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