Spread Light, Not Shades of Grey
"Suddenly he grabs me, tipping me across his lap. With one smooth movement, he angles his body so my torso is resting on the bed beside him. He throws his right leg over both mine and plants his left forearm on the small of my back, holding me down so I cannot move . . . "
Imagine a 500-page book containing erotic lines like this reaching the minds of approximately 100 million people all over the world.
In the Philippines alone, the book was sold to a wide range of readers and its movie adaptation grossed around $2.2 million according to records.
We don't have figures to tell us how many among the readers and viewers are still in highschool (or even grade schoolers), but we can give a good guess seeing that copies of this book are freely displayed at major book stores nationwide and spread widely on the web. Unlike cigarettes that have warning signs for minors, the book was released, packaged and catered for all Filipino readers to see and "appreciate." True enough, no further marketing strategy was necessary. The book became an instant number 1 bestseller at a major bookstore and 4 years after, you can still find the title in their top 10 bestsellers. The movie, on the other hand, was considered the biggest opening for a film with an R-18 rating, and the biggest February debut for a foreign release. How did all these happen?
Mitchell Kaplan, the owner of Books and Books—a Florida chain that was one of the first booksellers to sell Fifty Shades in the U.S.—thinks the series’ appeal was in its intimate experience. “It was not something that you had to go into an X-rated bookshop [to get],” he said. “It had all the elements of successful commercial fiction—it was also just very explicit.”
The same is true in the Philippines. It's not very often that in a family-oriented country like us, one can freely talk—or read about sex. If before, sex is something you can only access through restricted websites, adult magazines or X-rated films, now it is presented as a work of art, a form of literature, which wrongly gives the impression to many that such form is acceptable and therefore, safe.
It's a work of fiction, after all. It's only a story, a prose. No big deal.
In fact, a famous publishing house in the Philippines bought the idea and released a Filipino translation of the book. 20,000 copies were sold after mutliple printings. Not surpirising, as more Filipinos can relate better to a story narrated in their own language. What was the motivation behind bringing such erotic novel within the reach of more Filipinos? One word: Profit. “For me to consider translating a book, it must have sold well and made money. Otherwise, why do it?” says the man behind the publishing house when asked about the success of their translations. With that statement, we can almost imagine him saying something like, "The content is no big deal. The book is hot so it has to spread."
But the again, when we say that reading a book that features erotic, violent sex is no big deal, are we really sure about what we're saying? Do we really understand what we get ourselves into?
A synopsis of the book is readily available when you search it on the internet. Girl meets guy. The girl is a virgin , the guy happens to participate in BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism), which means he's the type who finds pleasure in violent sex. The guy offers the girl an arrangement through a contract that allows them to engage in a sexual relationship where he's the one "in control." He can do anything he wants, including infliction of pain to the girl everytime they make love. Even without signing the contract, the girl loses her virginity and surrenders to the violent, sexual relationship dominated by the guy. But in the end, the girl realizes they are not compatible and leaves him.
The book presents multiple ideas about sex and relationship:
1. Sex is an act that you can enjoy outside a romantic relationship
2. Sex is an act that you can impose
3. Sex can be inflicted with violence
4. Sex can satisfy a guy-or a girls' deepest (and darkest) desires
5. A sexual relationship can substitue for a romantic relationship
Some might argue that nobody's supposed to take fiction seriously. It's a product of our imagination that needs to be left hanging in a reader's, well, imagination. Fiction is not supposed to be recreated in the real world.
But the truth is, sex—presented in fiction or not—is a real thing. We cannot leave it hanging in our imagination without getting aroused or excited. Humans have the natural tendency for it. We were created with hormones that naturally sets us 'in the mood' to make love. And sex is not a bad thing.
Check this out:
"Because there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not dperive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer." (1 Corinthians 7:2,4-5)
The word sex does not appear in this verse, but it was presented in God's Word as a form of offering (of one's body to the other): husband to his wife, and wife to her husband.
An offering, therefore, a gift. Voluntarily given, not forced or imposed.
An offering between a wife and a husband—not just a girl and a guy. There is a union, a marriage, before the bodies are offered to each other.
An offering that involved both parties, not just one. Each should give a part of himself or herself to the other. Equality, not dominance.
An offering that seeks no harm, but respects mutual consent leading both the husband and wife into a prayerful life.
We're not here to start a protest against the book or the movie. The copies were already sold and millions have already lined up the cinemas to watch. We are not rich enough to offer malls, bookstores, publishers, and producers the same amount of money they will earn from it. It's useless. We can't undo what's already done.
But that doesn't mean we stop there.
That is why we are writing this.
We encourage everyone to read the Bible.
Get to know Christ, the Author. Know His story and find the real meaning of love. Immerse yourself in His love and nurture a one-of-a-kind relationship with Him. Are you curious about sex? Let Him feed your curiosity with the Truth.
As believers of the one and only amazing love that is from Christ, we pray that the contrast between the shades of grey and His Light will bring out the obvious lie and lead you to Him.
Don't let the grey shades blind you. Don't let the shades deceive you.
If you have questions about love, relationships, or sex, you may connect with us at True Love Waits Philippines and we'll connect you to the One who knows all the answers.
God cares. God loves. Spread the light, girls and boys!
Post by Carmela Ann Santos, TLW volunteer. Mel is a lover of written words, kids, and education. She values her faith, family, and her personal time. She dreams of writing a book, doing an interview with Mike Shinoda, and building her bookstore someday. Her favorite topics are faith, love, and others. She finds happiness seeing her loved ones happy. She wants to retire as a mobile teacher and spend the remaining days of her life in Batanes. Read more about her Writing Life at http://carmelameyla.