Spirit Matters by Shirley Barr – 50 Shades of Gray Grist for 50 Questions – August 31, 2012

CFN – Once again the subject of the book 50 Shades of Gray was brought up by a new friend recently. I listened to her as she explained that she had struggled through all three books in order to be able to have the first hand knowledge of the subject and be able to discuss it with her circle of friends.

Said female friends all seemed to be raving about how wonderful this series is. My friend said her impression was that the writing was bad, and the subject matter was focussed on the female character submitting to various sexual scenarios in order to please the dominant male figure. From the buzz among my co-workers 50 Shades of Gray seems to have lifted their gaze and opened up a new horizon of sexual behaviour that they had not seen before, which they find fascinating.


My question is, is this where we, as women, want to go?


Where exactly have we arrived in terms of our development as human beings that we are charging, en masse, with our dollars, to buy books that promote subjugation as an option? What is the attraction? Somebody, please answer me. Maybe it’s because the dominating character is wealthy it makes it acceptable for him to demean the female and do S & M. Is it the erotic aspect? Is it, as some women like Madonna tell us, that women have an innate desire to be raped and controlled? That whipped up a storm of controversy awhile back. I have not heard a plausible explanation yet.

It concerns me that there seems to be a backlash on the subject of the equality of the sexes. I am not decrying kinky sex between consenting adults, what I am saying is that it is the aspect of subjugation that I find disturbing. Subjugation of women is a theme that is gaining momentum in the United States as the agenda for control over abortion is  being used as an election platform. When a candidate in a democratic country states that women cannot get pregnant from a “bad” rape it has to make you stop and wonder if we are going backwards. You’re either going forward or you’re going backward, there is no standing still.

Of concern as well is a new marriage vow proposed by the Anglican Church in Sydney, New Zealand where the bride promised that she will submit to her husband. Please take a look at this link for the full story.

The new bride is a teacher at a private girls religious school, and as such, she has a circle of influence. She gives an explanation of what she believes is meant by the word submit which may be plausible to some. I question that any human being should submit to the will of any other human being. In terms of submission in the religious context I feel it is appropriate to submit to the will of God. In terms of the development of the soul, this is how we can develop spiritually, and it is determined how that submission appears to us by our own experience of it. We pray, we meditate, we submit to the will of God as we see it fitting our lives. But to have a church reinstate this after having removed it back in 1928 may be a sign of regression. Is this the kind of message you would want for your daughter- to submit to her husband? What about your son?

Both girls and boys are deeply affected by the messages our culture offers them. We are, whether we like it or not, developing a world culture. In the West we promote the concept of equality, we give it lip service, but in practise equality is elusive. It seems to me that rather than giving our young people healthy role models for healthy relationships our culture sexualizes them long before they need to go there, or are ready for the responsibilities.


Both men and women can help make this the topic of every day conversation because we all have responsibility towards each other to treat each other as equals and not allow ourselves to be abased. Bottom line, subjugation leads to abasement, not spiritual behaviour, not an advancement. So, which way do we want to go?

Shirley Barr lives and works in Cornwall, Ontario and is a member of the Bahá’í International Community.


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  1. Sydney is in Australia, not New Zealand…

  2. Of course you’re right Sylvie, I have had New Zealand on the brain lately.

  3. Wonderful article Shirley!!!!

    As for the book, I haven’t read it nor do I intend to. I heard enough of it to last me a lifetime. I am no prude, but I often wonder what this world is coming to. It seems true love is almost non-existent anymore and sex alone has become the in thing. After the novelty wears off, what is there left? Try another partner? No matter how many partners one may have after awhile it won’t fill the void that so desperately needs to be filled as a human being.

    You are absolutely correct, male and female were created equal and no one should submit to the other. Submission is a sign of weakness and lack of character. One gains more respect in being strong and independent.

    Let’s take for instance that Ms. Fluke the university student from the US. She spoke at the Dem. convention and on many other shows, praising the great one (Obama) for supplying birth controls for those who choose to have sex. No strings attached and no commitment. Is that not teaching children that they can be promiscuous? How does one learn how to be responsible for their actions?

    From what I heard, the book in question iis trashy and certainly does not add value to a relationship. After the sex……what is there left? A relationship needs more then sex to survive.

  4. @ Stella- Appreciate that you felt moved to praise my column though I feel hypocritical since I did not actually sit down and read the books. My gut just kind of twisted at the thought so I took the information second hand. A very well educated and good friend of mine, who is a lover of great literature read the 50 Shades of Gray series and told me she really enjoyed them, though she would never partake of that kind of sexual behavior. My emphasis was on the subject of subjugation and we, Stella, seem to agree on that being unacceptable.

    In terms of being opposed to birth control, well, that is another story. With our cultural norms leaning towards sexual freedom I feel it is good public policy to have effective birth control available to everyone who wants and needs it. Prevention is the most simple solution. There are many other ways to exercise control over ones sexual desires but this ought to come from within, not be imposed on us from some outside force. It used to be that one’s religion gave us a structure by which we lived our lives and gave us a model. That is the case of those who practice but for those who don’t there are very few rules.

    I am told that nowadays adults can partake in casual sex as if they were eating dinner, with no other obligation towards each other. This seems very sad to me because it is void of those elements that make life a profound and meaningful experience. 80% of what we experience happens in our own brain, this comes from scientific study, so if we just have casual, meaningless relationships what does that say about our moral compass, our well-being, our relationship with ourselves, our ability to connect and to help our community to grow? I agree with you Stella that a relationship needs more than sex to survive, and offer that for a relationship to thrive there has to be deep, loving, nurturing connections that can help us withstand the many trials and storms of life. Thanks for listening.

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