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3 Things Your Kids Need to Know about Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Avoidance

I have a confession. I have never wanted to read the pornographic, record-breaking, best-selling book Fifty Shades of Grey.

Never. Even. Been. Curious. So I’m pretty sure that puts me in some kind of weird minority. (And yet, on most days I still manage to be happy. How strange.)

But today I am weary of the hype, the promotions and the products (thank you, Target!). As many of you know, the movie Fifty Shades of Grey is being unleashed this weekend—just in time for Valentines’ Day. Oh the irony!

Here’s the plot

Billionaire Christian Grey seduces naïve and virginal Anastasia Steele; stalking her and manipulating her until she accepts his sexual fantasies, which include bondage and inflicting pain (BDSM).

Sounds like true love to me!

The movie glamorizes what I can only call a sexually abusive relationship. But how this fantasy plays out in the real world is very different, as author and expert Dr. Gail Dines points out:

The most likely real-world ending of Fifty Shades of Grey is fifty shades of black and blue. The awful truth in the real world is that women who partner with a Christian Grey often end up hightailing it to a battered women's shelter with traumatized kids in tow. The less fortunate end up in graveyards.”

I've done work for a domestic violence non-profit, and I can tell you this is true.

One outraged mom asked:

“Do we want our daughters to believe submission to any perversion should not only be tolerated but celebrated? Even more dangerous, do we want our sons to believe women are objects to be used, abused and manipulated for their every whim?”

Definitely not.

What 3 things do your kids need to know about this movie?

Recently I spoke to Karen, a mom who has talked with her three children ages 11, 14 and 16 about Fifty Shades of Grey. What did she share with her kids? Three simple but powerful messages:

1. Do what I do. “I’m not going to see this movie because I don’t vote for entertainment that goes against my values.” (This is called modeling. Talk with your kids about your values and why you believe in them. Your example is more powerful than you think.)

2. Get savvy about media messages. “The main character acts just like a sexual predator. He looks for a young woman who is an easy target, and then he manipulates and grooms her to use and abuse for his own selfish purposes.” (This helps kids cut through the hype and see what the main character is really all about. It’s so important for kids to become media savvy—peeling away the glitz and pyrotechnics to analyze the values and messages portrayed by protagonists. By the way, Karen's oldest son had heard that the book was about a woman who liked to be tied up during sex and the book showed guys how to do that. Wow! That's completely opposite of the truth.)

3. Remember what creates true love. “The glamour of a super wealthy lifestyle is used in this movie to make what is twisted and demeaning appear acceptable and even desirable. It portrays sexual violence and calls it love. It’s not love; it’s the opposite of love.” (This helps kids understand sexual integrity. Define clearly how sex can be healthy and beautiful and your kids stand a chance of rejecting the poison peddled by popular culture. Check out this post on sexual integrity.)

What would this proactive mom of four tell her six-year old about the movie?

Karen says that she and her husband have spent a lot of time talking to their kids about showing respect for their own bodies as well as for the bodies of others.

“I would tell him that the movie teaches people to be disrespectful to each other and that showing disrespect can never make people feel happy or loved.”

Can porn-proofing help kids find true romance as adults?


I think so! One evening I was signing books at a local bookstore. Another author was there signing copies of her (clean) romance novel. I grabbed a copy and set it at my table, explaining that for kids to grow up and experience true romance, they’ll need the messages of Good Pictures Bad Pictures. Turns out, porn-proofing and romance go hand in hand! (Read what one romance author thinks of Fifty Shades of Grey here.)

Ultimately we need to teach our kids that long-term romantic love is centered in the heart and the mind more than in the body. Because in the end, that’s where true love lives or dies.

What have you told your kids about Fifty Shades of Grey? What have they heard about the movie?

More resources

Because the issues mainstreamed by Fifty Shades of Grey are not going away anytime soon, here are a list of articles that will help parents prepare their kids to reject the 50+ lies about romance in Fifty Shades of Grey (and throughout popular culture).

Good Pictures Bad Pictures

Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids

"I really like the no-shame approach the author takes. It's so much more than just 'don't watch or look at porn.' It gave my children a real understanding about the brain and its natural response to pornography, how it can affect you if you look at it, and how to be prepared when you do come across it (since, let's face it... it's gonna happen at some point)." -Amazon Review by D.O.

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