In part one, Matthew asked: “When your teenage daughter asks you if it would be all right with you if she read Fifty Shades of Grey, what do you say?” Here is how he responded …
A couple of weeks ago, my bright, diligent, teenage daughter asked me if she could read Fifty Shades of Grey. This isn’t the first time I’d had a difficult question from my daughter. In many ways, it seems my young lady was born ten years older. When she was nine, she asked me if she could read Judy Blume’s young adult novel, Forever. I said, “Yes, but I want to read it, too, and I want the two of us to have a ‘Father-Daughter Book Club’ talk about it.” In spite of her maturity, there were just some things she did not yet understand and I wanted her to learn those things from a parent rather than another fourth grader. She agreed, and we both read it. Then, we talked.
Still, no one will confuse Forever with Fifty Shades of Grey. While the former is a fictionalized account of a teenage girl who falls into what she believes is love with a boy and loses her virginity, Shades is a contemporary cultural phenomenon in which a young woman, Anastasia, subordinates herself to a man, Christian, whose sexual tastes involve consensual physical abuse of women.
Among others, these are the facts I pondered while considering my daughter’s request:
Anastasia has unprotected sex with Christian. – During Anastasia’s first sexual encounter with him, he does not wear a condom. After Anastasia starts to use birth control, on which Christian insisted, Anastasia and Christian continue to have unprotected sex.
For Christian, subordination is a prerequisite if Anastasia wants to have a relationship. – For a woman, the message is, “You have to give a guy anything he wants before he’ll be your boyfriend.”
Anastasia believes Christian is damaged and she wants to “fix” him. – In spite of Anastasia’s belief that Christian is damaged goods, he’s rich and handsome. This implies that if a man has money and is cute, regardless of his problems, which in the real world might include substance abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, or just an inability to brush his teeth or take out the garbage, well, then anything goes.
Sadistic sex is glorified. – The prolix references to Anastasia’s “inner goddess,” blissfully celebrating her satisfaction as Christian’s subordinate, send a message that this behavior is perfectly acceptable, and perhaps, even typical.
The book’s “original target audience . . . middle-aged women, 1 ” have implicitly accepted Shades’ premise – In Manhattan, hundreds of women stood in line at“. . . ‘pleasure carts’ like the ones for selling hot dogs. The crowds were so big the city shut them down temporarily . . .2 ”
Look, I sincerely have no problem with, or frankly, any business knowing what two consenting adults do behind closed doors. In fact, the glorification of Christian Grey’s sexual preferences isn’t the most profound of my concerns.
I don’t believe that having to “put out” to have wealthy, attractive boyfriend, that one person can make another person into something else, or that it’s all right to have unprotected sex as long as it’s oral sex are among the unchallenged messages I want my daughter to receive.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an action is worth ten thousand. Many readers’ behaviors have suggested that Christian’s and Anastasia’s conduct is not just reasonable, but also quite typical. I don’t think these messages are appropriate for a teenage girl if both sides of the issues, that unprotected sex is not acceptable, that a woman should not have to subordinate herself in any form in order to have a relationship, and that “no man is a ‘fixer-upper’ 3 ,” aren’t also addressed.
So, my teenage daughter asked me, “Dad, would you mind if I read Fifty Shades of Grey?”
First, she asked me if she could read, which is an activity that I’ve always encouraged. Second, she asked me if it would be all right if she read what she knew to be provocative, adult fiction. Because I know my daughter, I know her question was also, “Dad, will you help me through this?” Finally, like her mother was, my daughter is stubborn. When she sets her mind to accomplishing something, she finds a way to do it with or without my help.
When my daughter, now a young lady, was just a little girl and she needed to cross a busy street, I held her hand and crossed with her. That young lady is still my little girl, and I’m still holding her hand.
I drove her to the library.
1 “Without ebooks, would there be a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’” Andrew Franklin. The Economist Group. www.theeconimstgroup .com. July 2, 2012.
2 “’Shades of Grey’ Merchandise Invasion Continues.” Leanne Italie. Huffington Post. www.huffingtonpost.com. August 15, 2012.
3 “Are You Trying to Fix Him?” www.keen.com
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Guest Author Bio
Among other things, Matthew S. Field is a father and an entrepreneur. He is also the author of two illustrated books, Father Like A Tree and The Three Pigs, Business School, and Wolfe Hash Stew, and mainstream fiction The Dream Seeker. Matthew S. Field lives with his two daughters and son in Warwick, New York. His latest book is The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking and Baseball.
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