I’ve never been in a violent or abusive relationship – not physically, emotionally, psychologically, or sexually – and for that I am truly and eternally grateful. But I have been without self-esteem or confidence, I have been desperate, I have been violent towards myself, and, most tragically, I have been an addict.
It has been said many times now (here and here; warning: the second link details the books and the woman’s own past in connection and can be explicit at moments) that 50 Shades of Grey is simply pornographic garbage that sells mostly on its erotic portrayals and lavish fantasy world; a story that portrays two incredibly messed up individuals in a dominant/submissive relationship (all aspects of their relationship are this way) as healthy, good, and even romantic. I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey and I’m certainly not going to see the movie, but I can still tell you it’s not healthy, good, or romantic. Why? Because I was addicted to erotica and masturbation.
I can’t read 50 Shades of Grey.
I regularly masturbated for twenty years of my life and was addicted for about ten years. When I was very young, masturbation was just a sensation that overcame me and I’d give in. When I was a little older, I found I could start controlling my urges by thinking certain thoughts or reading certain stories – thoughts and stories that would arouse me and lead me to masturbate. I became so addicted to masturbation that I used to make sure I was the last one asleep at sleepovers so that I could masturbate and finally sleep. Erotic fiction became part and parcel to this addiction; it was an easy place for me to turn as I was already a voracious reader. I read erotic stories, sexual how-tos, forums, anything I could get my hands on, with the sole intent of getting off. Sure, some of the stories had decent plot lines, but I didn’t really care. My sole criteria was: are the characters engaging in sexual activity?
Sometimes the erotica made me anxious and nervous. Is this right? Would I be expected to do this in a relationship? Is this what a relationship really looks like? All the sources readily available to me said yes, so I never gave it a second thought. You see, most of the guys and girls around me were being fed the same diet of porn and erotica and they were finding the same yeses I did. But alone at night, I’d lament not having an “other” to love and be loved by. The erotica and masturbation weren’t filling me up, they were wounding me further.
The year I learned that masturbation is a mortal sin, I quit it cold turkey for Lent, but at the end of Lent I fell right back into my addiction. I didn’t feel empowered or accomplished, I only felt exhausted. I was lacking some key tools to successfully overcoming addiction, mainly support and emotional discipline. For support, I stopped lamenting myself, owned up, opened up, and turned to Christ and His Church. Emotional discipline, however, I didn’t start learning until I had my heartbroken…twice. After those breakups I became more deliberate with my emotions, not just falling for anyone that gave me the time of day, and also became more deliberate with who I would and wouldn’t spend my time with. I started building up my self-worth and confidence through good friends (female and male), mentors, and the Church and sacraments. In time, I was able to break free from the bonds of addiction (you can read more about that experience here and here).
I didn’t use to be very different from Anastasia Steele – innocent, naïve, and desperate, I was pulled into a fantasy world of violence and degradation. I’m lucky to have gotten out. I’m lucky that when I hit rock bottom, all I could say was, “Lord, please Jesus, help me!” Because of my relationship with Christ, I became empowered, accomplished, and renewed; Ana’s relationship with Christian, through all three books, only further tears the other down. No 50 Shades of Grey is not just harmless entertainment, it is an open door to a world of addiction, perversion, and violence and no one exits unscathed. 50 Shades of Grey, and its ilk, is a gray fog that encapsulates and blinds the heart to beauty, worth, and love. I don’t want to be blind anymore, I want to see. This Valentine’s Day, don’t let the fog blind you; it is filled with nothing but darkness and sorrow. Instead, learn to love yourself a little bit more and walk into the light.
“The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.” – Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov