February 12, 2015


Me holding forth on the Drew Mariani Show: www.RelevantRadio.com (I start at 36:10)

#1--I will not read the book or see the film because it's porn. (This is the third film I am reviewing without seeing--normally a big no-no--because of the mainstreaming of porn. The other two are "Magic Mike" and "Don Jon" because I feel these films are important because of their particular take on these topics and their influence as films.) However, I have probably done more in-depth reading about and discussions with people who HAVE read the book or seen "50 Shades" than the average reader/viewer or even fan.

#2--I will not do spoilers in my review because I respect the sacred human trust of the confidentiality of "the story"--even when it comes to tripe.

I wish I could simply greet this movie with scornful laughter, but the film is just too sad and harmful for that. Many are making the point that most women like Ana wind up in women's shelters. Check out the super-creepy "The Fall" (a British TV series) which stars Jamie Dornan (who plays Christian Grey) as a SERIAL KILLER who is also into bondage and has a "type" of woman (brunette). "The Fall," at least, is more realistic about the profile of these obsessed, predatory abusers.

Now. Let's dig in.

Although "50 Shades of Grey" and its great popularity is a real tragedy, I'm GLAD that it is also being used as an opportunity to talk about sexual abuse, domestic abuse and THEOLOGY OF THE BODY (which heals and informs and leads to true fulfillment of desires)! God can bring good out of anything!

TRUE LOVE and TRUE SEX are actually very simple. But very challenging. But very worth it. There is no other way. So many novels and films today are about an endless search for love. But here it is.

BUT if we look at what's really going on in the story, I think a lot of us are missing the point of the whole story. I missed it for quite a while, too, but I've changed my whole tack now because it's really quite simple.

"50 Shades" is not about love or relationships or even sex. It's not even about control. It's about power, and Christian and Ana getting what they want from each other, out of each other. They are USING each other.

"50 Shades" is about two people USING the most intimate of gifts and relationships and contact and connection to get what they want. There is no "we."

And actually, there's not even an "I." Once we treat others like things, we treat ourselves like things. We treat our bodies like things. We can even treat our babies and our children like things.

"We must move from a thing-based society to a person-based society."--Martin Luther King, Jr.

And as we know, the opposite of love is USE. By using someone (sexually or otherwise) as a means to an end, we are taking away their humanity and reducing them to a thing. As soon as we begin to USE someone, we are also USING ourselves and reducing ourselves to a thing. We rob ourselves of our own humanity and dignity at the same time.

John Paul II calls this: "the culture of death."
Benedict XVI calls this: "the dictatorship or moral relativism."
Francis calls this: "the throwaway culture."
(credit goes to @MattSwain for juxtaposing these descriptions)

But we should never use another person because we love persons and use things, not use persons and love things.

The human person is not a means to an end, but IS an end in himself/herself. The human person is the only creature created for himself/herself.

The only appropriate response to a human person is LOVE.

Why has "50 Shades" struck a chord today? Why this record-breaking popularity?

1. Is it because our world is sex-starved? No.
2. Is it because there has never been BDSM erotic literature like this before? No.
3. Is it "the tipping point": enough "influencers" got behind this e-book (its original form) and spread it word-of-mouth? Perhaps.
4. Is there something, anything new and unique about this story? Not being an expert on erotica, I tenuously say: perhaps.
5. Many women aren't experiencing true love and true sex in their marriages (because, for starters, our world--women and men--doesn't know what true love/true sex is)? Bingo. (Women who don't feel a lack in their marriages don't seem to "need" to read/see "50 Shades.")
6. Different people are reading it for different reasons: a) those who read erotica regularly b) those who never read erotica but gave themselves permission since "50 Shades" is now mainstream c) curiosity, to be "in the know" d) feminists (of whatever ilk) doing a read of it--and either hailing it or demonizing it e) the proverbial bored housewives ("mommy porn"--what a sad phrase!) seeking to "spice up" their marriages f) many other reasons

What might be "new" about "50 Shades"?

What might be new is this phenomenally warped idea that as long as women CONSENT to participate in their own degradation, it's EMPOWERING. Sorry, honey. It doesn't work that way. Degradation is degradation, and we must always afford ourselves and others our human dignity even if we/they don't want it. But this idea is not totally new. Lena Dunham of "Girls" (HBO) and other feminists of the hour think, live and create their media this way also. AND just about every young woman who engages in drunken, anonymous sex every weekend on college campuses (to a lesser degree). The layers and entanglements of LIES here is staggering.

The lie about men: men want to abuse women, and it's good for men.

The lie about women: women want to be abused, and it's good for them.

And don't even get me started on "rape culture"--which I firmly believe we ARE living in. http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2013/04/teen-rape-culture-is-blowing-up-now.html#.VN07KPnF-So

"My girlfriends and I are all in sexually degrading relationships with men. But we consider ourselves feminists." --Lena Dunham (who, I believe sees the inconsistency, but can't quite comprehend it, doesn't quite know what to do about it--because she doesn't know Theology of the Body!)

A deep, thoughtful article in "Entertainment Weekly" does a certain kind of feminist read on "50 Shades": http://www.ew.com/microsites/longform/fiftyshades/. But it ends in the same inconclusive, disillusioned, insular haze of today's non-Theology-of-the-Body culture. Leslie Bennetts, the author, bemoans that because women continue to be abused and sexually harassed (even in daily life, walking down the street, on the job), we are hopelessly conditioned and will never know what our true sexual desires are (and "transgressive" is good). What's wrong with this picture? Like an article on the present state of feminism that I read in "America" magazine not too long ago, it was just women. By themselves. Talking to themselves. About themselves. Writing men off as never being able to be a part of the solution. Not working things out together in the complementarity of the sexes.

WHY would women think abuse and pain is sexy or liberating?

Ah. The trillion dollar question. The first thing I'd like to say is: "WHERE ARE THE FEMINISTS OF THE 70'S?" They would have seen through this smokescreen so fast! The problem with feminism today is that it has morphed into: "Anybody should be able to do anything, even if its self-destructive, and we can't say anything to anybody about anything, we can only fight for your right to destroy yourself and others." So they can't say that Ana's hurting herself and they can't say that Christian is abusing women.

Take the 2014 Grammys. President Obama did a PSA against domestic abuse, and a survivor, Brooke Axtell, gave a moving, impassioned speech. And then...cut to an ad for "50 Shades of Grey"! Oh, the irony!

Now, the deeper question is why do women fall for this book/concept in the first place?

Christopher West says: one answer might be that it's like "cutting." Where people are in such deep emotional pain that they need to express that externally, in their bodies. They get relief by transferring the interior pain to the exterior (which also gets their attention ofF the spiritual pain that they're in).

Some of my close friends, one who engaged in cutting and another who actually lived the S/m lifestyle for many years say that they think it could be: if someone is abused (especially as children), they try to gain control of the abuse later by re-living the trauma with some degree of "control." My friends said that for some, it's a relief of the guilt and shame if they feel they are somehow punished.

Some psychologists have suggested that since women and men are supposed to be exactly the same today, and that much of the feminist movement has virtually turned women into men even when it comes to the sexual act, and women are trying to differentiate themselves in the sexual act by way-overcompensating in a kind of sick, twisted "surrender."

Some Christians have said that since women ignore the Bible where it says: "Wives be submissive to your husbands," women are feeling this need to submit somehow. But I disagree with this because if you look at the WHOLE passage of Ephesians 5 (what comes before and after this passage), it is all about MUTUAL submission (and actually, the man's role is to DIE! To lay down HIS life for his bride, not lay HER life down for himself!).

Pope John Paul II is ADAMANT about this MUTUALITY in his Theology of the Body and ADAMANT about men being attentive to women's sexual desires in marriage, not just their own. Yeah. No wonder he called himself "the feminist pope"! NOW. Is this how Christian is treating Ana? Laying down his life for her? No! Just the opposite. Oh, and guess what? He's not her husband! We've gotten so used to all kinds of sexual sin and sex outside marriage that we're not even looking at the fornication going on here--which, of course, is eclipsed by the sexual abuse.

Instructions for Christian Households -- Ephesians 5
(ALL CAPS emphasis mine. Duties of wives, for once, removed. :)  )

"21 Submit to ONE ANOTHER out of reverence for Christ.25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and GAVE HIMSELF UP FOR HER 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must LOVE HIS WIFE AS HE LOVES HIMSELF."

We have all the stats on how sexual abuse works (even if it's a "consenting" adult). The victims are conditioned, they have low self-esteem, they are very, very confused about what love is, what dignity is, many of them were abused as children and then they either become abusers or abused or both as adults. Why are we pretending that we don't have this information?

What about the argument that if it's consensual it's OK?

First of all: are you married? No? BUZZER SOUND. Then, no. Sex outside marriage is never OK. Why not? Because the language of the body, the language of sex is: FUNDAMENTAL, FREE, FULL, FAITHFUL AND FRUITFUL. Sex says: "You alone forever." Sex is a total gift of self, body and soul. Every time we have sex with someone, our bodies are saying: I just married you, I just married you.... And now we know that the body releases powerful bonding chemicals during sex that are meant to bind us to our spouse forever: physically, emotionally, psychologically, emotionally, etc. OR as Cameron Diaz said in "Vanilla Sky": "When you sleep with someone, your body makes a promise whether you do or not."

Now, what if we are married? Does that mean we can do whatever we want sexually or otherwise with and to each other as long as it's consensual? No. True love and human dignity still applies, and in marriage there can easily be coercion (usually of the woman)--OR the woman might agree to something she doesn't really want just to "please her husband" without him even knowing that she doesn't really want to do something. Or maybe he does know and doesn't care. Or he refuses to communicate about it. And if PLEASURE becomes the highest good and goal in the marital embrace, then lust and addictions can take over where there's supposed to be a loving, mutually-deferring relationship. PLEASURE is awesome and good and holy and God-invented, but it's only one of the aspects of the marital embrace which have to be kept together in a big, messy jumble. Start extracting and focusing on JUST maximum pleasure? The holistic unity/integrity of sex falls apart.

I cannot tell you how many Catholic wives I have met (while presenting Theology of the Body) who are doing all kinds of things they don't want to do in the bedroom because "he" wants it, and they feel obliged or want to please him or keep him or they think they aren't allowed to say no and they've tried talking to him about it but he doesn't want to talk about it. How SAD is this? I hope "50 Shades" won't ingrain this false "duty" into these women, but actually be an occasion for them to get healing in their marriage as they hear many women coming forward about their various experiences and degrees of abuse.

This gentleman says "anything goes in marriage" according to the Catholic Church, as long as its open to life, culminates in a certain way, and is consensual: (commenter "paulpriest") http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2015/02/12/is-a-pink-bus-really-more-offensive-than-50-shades-of-grey/#.VNzK8VLsYxk.twitter

True love always wants and does what's good for the other.

Want the big principles and nitty-gritty details about what's "OK" sexually in a marriage? "Good News About Sex and Marriage" by Christopher West.

Do some women actually enjoy BDSM (in marriage)?

Probably. And so, Ana might be that kind of woman. We might not be able to say that Christian "corrupted" her because she may have really, truly wanted him to do whatever he did to her. But of course, again, they weren't married.... Soooo...how is it that Anastasia is NOT a courtesan?

What can people DO about this phenomenon?

1. Don't read the books or see the film because you're curious or think you have to be part of the conversation. This is not just because you don't want to give your financial support, but because of this: Tell me how you're going to read/watch without sinning? Willing your own sexual arousal through words, images, etc., unrelated to the marital act with your spouse, is sinful. Yes, Sister said "sin." :)

2. Learn, live and love Theology of the Body. Theology of the Body is the ultimate life hack. It's about what you CAN have, not what you can't. Be a living, JOYFUL witness to true love and true sex whether you're single, married or priest/religious. Introductions to Theology of the Body: www.tinyurl.com/TOBresources

3. Talk to your friends about it, calmly. Use soundbites. Send them to websites.

4. Teach your kids and teens Theology of the Body in age-appropriate ways. Our ignorance, embarrassment and silence is killing them. God, the Church and their parents have nothing to say about the most important area of our lives? Where we give and receive love and life? While they're swimming in a sex-saturated, sex-addicted culture? Really? Give them a context! Kids who learn Theology of the Body FIRST know when something is off in the way the human body is portrayed, treated. You're giving them God's beautiful, glorious, positive vision of beauty, sex, love and relationships--goals and something noble to strive for. www.FamilyHonor.org   www.LittleDouglings.com

5. Watch "Old Fashioned"--also opening Valentine's Day, 2015! (My review here)

A good film (starts off all Hallmark: just get through it). It goes through all the fallacies and slogans of the day that mess people up with regard to love, sex, relationships.
"Old Fashioned" tagline is: "Chivalry makes a comeback," but it's more about two wounded souls who need to trust that true love is possible. He's a young curmudgeon (but you have to see why)! She's a rolling stone, afraid of getting burned again....


DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: http://50shadesisabuse.weebly.com/
A NUN REVIEWS "MAGIC MIKE" AND "50 SHADES" TRILOGY: http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2012/07/movies-magic-mike.html#.VN093PnF-So
A NUN REVIEWS "DON JON": http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2013/10/movies-don-jon.html#.VN0-c_nF-So
SOME REAL ROMANTIC FILMS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY: http://lifeteen.com/show-me-real-love-romantic-movies-worth-watching/
WHAT WOMEN REALLY WANT (AUDIO): http://hellburns.blogspot.ca/2013/01/what-do-women-want.html#.VN0-qfnF-So



  1. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Thank you! I work at a Starbucks in a movie theater complex and I dread the hoards of middle aged women that will come in before or after viewing this movie. I have heard the most "Buzz" about this film from this age group and not teens or women in theor 20s. I think my generation (58) is full of burnt out feminists desperate for something new.

    1. I know, right? What's up with this middle-age, elderly slacker stuff? Just letting everything go because you're old and the world says you're irrelevant now and you feel like you missed out on something, yadda, yadda?! How about becoming seasoned and virtuous and a wisdom figure and MAKING yourself relevant? :) Thanks for comment.

  2. Anonymous10:24 AM

    Although it is true that "Hell Burns", and I know you are playing off your name, but it may be more inviting to those dealing with abuse if your blog was titled something more positive. Maybe along the lines of "Life Burns - God Heals"

    Important topic & very informative! Keep up the good work!

  3. I will not be going to see "Fifty Shades of Grey". But I may read "Waiting for Mr. Goodbar" so that I can make intelligent comment if the movie comes up in conversation: http://thepathlesstaken7.blogspot.com/2015/02/dont-denounce-people-who-go-to-see.html

  4. I too have been dumbfounded by how the books and movie became so popular and when asking a friend about the plot discovered that the reason so many women are interested in it is because of the idea that a regular woman could create a drastic change in a man who is so far gone from reality. It provides a false idea that women in abusive relationships should stay with their man because he can one day change and once he does everything will be glamorous. Does a life of luxury filled with riches and glamour outweigh physical abuse? The sad thing is that many broken people would agree that it does if there is the hope that the abuser will change.

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