What are romance movies really teaching us?
In its first weekend, 50 Shades of Grey raked in over $81 million in ticket sales. Labeled as a “dark, romantic adult fairy tale,” the movie has prompted an onslaught of articles responding to the graphic sexual content in the book.
For the past few weeks, I have seen article after article saying the same thing:
“Don’t watch 50 Shades of Grey because it’s bad,” “Stay away because it promotes abusive relationship,” “Definitely don’t watch it because it’s extremely offensive.”
So then why are so many people watching it? What’s behind the desire to watch a movie like 50 Shades of Grey?
A movie like 50 Shades of Grey promises passion, desire, and romance—things that are good in and of themselves and we are wired to crave. However, when we seek fulfillment in pseudo-romantic material, are we creating a pseudo-connection? Seeking fulfillment by recreating something that’s not real can create something else: tension between us and our spouse. After 35 years of being sexually active and engaged within my marriage, I can tell you three things:
No lyrical and slow-tempo music crescendos occur when making love
Movies tend to portray sex as the culmination activity of every heated or intense moment in a relationship. From the observing point in a theatre seat, we feel the tension building, the music slowing, and the heat in our bodies rising. Yet in real life, there’s no music playing when the tension and stress of kids, bills, and dishes appear. Romance movies tell us to expect something sexy that crescendos, but real life does not have the carefully cued music and scripted dialogue. Can we differentiate this when viewing a film or does viewing something like this create a disparity between what we see and what we have?
Developing a passionate love life is work
There are many different stages in developing a passionate love life that have longevity. It’s both work and pleasure—literally! Intentionality, vulnerability, and risk are all essential parts of this kind of relationship.
What if God created the intense, rip-your-clothes-off, I-want-to-have-you-now moments? What if God created the slow, methodical, I-want-to-explore-every-inch-of-you moments? What if God created the chosen risk of allowing another to hold you body, mind, and soul?
Each of these moments offers us a choice: 1) to reach toward the other to consume them, or 2) be in communion with them. I believe one of the deepest gifts of sexual engagement is knowing that this one with whom you are vulnerably sharing your body with is willing to risk being together in the “suffering” that is a part of life. A pleasurable connection with my spouse reminds and anchors me to the one who will journey with me in all intimate areas of life.
Great sex in a relationship does not preempt struggles in relationship
When we engage and seek fulfillment in romance movies, we risk measuring our own sexual engagement against something/someone who is not real. We define “great sex” by something that doesn’t have the real-life struggles of learning how to engage with another human being in real time and with real differences. There are no two humans who are the same, and therefore no two sexual connections are the same. If we let movies define what “great sex” is, we are losing the opportunity to create something from discovering another human being.
Is 50 Shades of Grey bad?
When people ask me if I think it’s good or bad to see this movie, I pause. I cannot make a blanket judgment statement about this movie. Instead, I will continue to seek to engage with discovering more of what love really is and what helps men and women discover true passion that helps them create a love life with real longevity.