My girls have been talking about 50 Shades of Grey since they’ve seen the ads for it and have asked to watch the movie. My first reaction was “Are you fucking kidding me” but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it really is an invaluable teaching tool for young girls as they approach entrance into adulthood.
I read the book, sadly. Only the first book because I was so angry and disgusted by the book that the thought of going on was torturous. Now don’t mistake me for a prude, as I am anything but that. I was not disgusted by the sex but by the portrayal of a very insecure, naive young woman putting herself in the hands of a deeply disturbed, controlling, over-bearing, and semi-abusive person. I’m all for erotica when it depicts healthy, mutually agreed upon, respectful sex between two people. What I’m not all in for is when the tables are so obviously tipped to one side that one person is so far beneath the other in every way. Also the book sucked, plain and simple and I physically could not read one more time about Ana’s ridiculous inner goddess doing some kind of latin dance or gymnastics move. The book was written in teenagery language, however completely inappropriate for a teenage audience. For me, I’ll stick to Justine by the Marquis De Sade if I want some good old fashioned S&M as I prefer not to puke when I’m trying to be turned on thank you very much.
Anyway, how am I going to use this horrific piece of fan fiction turned blockbuster into a teaching tool? Simple. I will use it to make sure I teach my girls how to be a self-assured, self-loving, strong, independent woman. Basically the antithesis of the protagonist. Here are some of my lesson plans:
- You are beautiful with all of your imperfections and blemishes and quirks and kinks and you do not need ANYONE to tell you this or make you feel this. Your worth is not measured by how many people turn around and look at you as you walk by or how many likes you get on a selfie. Ana completely glosses over the fact that she has a 4.0 GPA in college and keeps asking Christian why it is he wants her, because he must want someone more beautiful. Oh for fucks sake. Stop it. We should never ask “Why are you with me”? This takes me back to the whole fairy tale garbage girls are sold along with the notion that there is a prince charming out there to make you feel like a princess. Bullshit. There is no prince charming and princesses are boring. You are you and that is more than enough.
- There’s a detection device we all have inside of us, it’s called the red flag system. If tiny or large red flags start popping up everywhere like they do for Ana, you must trust them because they are what the seem, a warning. We heed warnings, we do not go towards them. For example, when Ana thinks in her head that things are wrong, like let’s say being whipped or flogged or made to live in his house for 3 months as his property, these are RED FLAGS. They are not yellow, or orange, they are red. Period. See what I did there?
- If a man forces you to go on birth control because he doesn’t like condoms then you tell him he’s not old enough, mature enough, or responsible enough to have sex. You could also tell him that’s fine if he’d like to get tested for STDs on a daily basis. Then you can call him an asshole.
- Nobody owns you. You are not anyone’s property. It is not sexy or romantic to be anyone’s property. People who claim you as property are sick, they are not “hot” or “sexy”. It should make you cringe when someone says something to you such as “You are mine, all mine”. This is one step away from putting the lotion in the basket so get out of there before you’re put down a well with a fluffy dog as your only company.
- If a man knows everything about you including your social security number and your bank account number without you divulging this information to him for whatever reason you may have, it is not sexy or romantic, it is fucking creepy. It is beyond creepy, it is super stalkerish. You need to run and run fast and never look back. Ever.
- A person wanting you to live in their house for 3 months and asking you to give them access to you whenever they want or in whatever way they wish in their “playroom” is a kidnapper. Again, Ana doesn’t want to engage in this with Christian because she’s into being a submissive partner, she wants it because she wants him. He makes it so that she only gets what she wants on his terms. Basically, kidnapping.
- When a man continuously buys you things and it makes you feel uncomfortable, trust that discomfort that something is not right. Love is not bought, love is earned. Showing love shouldn’t entail how much a man or woman can buy for you, it is how much they can give to you of themselves.
- There is a difference between love and lust and the two do not have to have anything to do with one another. You can have sex and be in love and you can have sex and not be in love. People will disagree vehemently with me on this one but I am unyielding. I think it does a significant disservice to young women to tell them they should only have sex when they are truly in love with someone. Fuck that. If they fall in love when they’re 12, this does not mean they should have sex. Instead I tell my kids that sex is something that comes with a lot of responsibility and they need to be old enough and mature enough to handle that. Again, Ana makes it seem like she is giving all of herself to Christian. Nope, no. When you have sex you share one another, there is no giving of yourself or taking of another, there is being together.
- See all of what you possess of yourself everyday. See your talents and your passions and your needs and your wants. Know them inside and out. You are strong, you are smart, you are powerful, you are important, you are beautiful and you need to see it and feel it. Know that we all have flaws and it is part of what makes us unique and special and beautiful. Embrace them, don’t shun them. Ana has not done this and therefore relies on another person making her feel this way. It may seem romantic at first but when or if things don’t work out with that other person, you are who you are left with to tell you these things. I want my girls more than anything to grow into women who love themselves more than anyone else. This is not selfish, this is the most important lesson in the world to learn and one poor Ana has not mastered.
People will say, hey, they are just books, they are harmless, they are meant as fiction, yadda yadda. I call bullshit. They are influential more than we know. What I’m saying here is that we can use them as a valuable teaching tool for our girls as they grow; to help them grow into independence and self reliance and self confidence so that they don’t sacrifice themselves to become anyone’s property or possession.