Valley Voices

Forest Benedict: What one person can do to stand against “Fifty Shades of Grey”

As a therapist specializing in treating sexual addictions, I’m deeply concerned about the release of the book-made-movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” this Valentine’s Day weekend.

Not only does the “Fifty Shades” series portray pornographic and dehumanizing themes, it also glorifies highly abusive relational dysfunction. It is my hope to inspire citizens to stand against this movie in practical, meaningful ways.

Like other forms of pornography, this movie communicates messages of degradation, objectification and abuse. History’s famed atrocities, from the slave trade to sex-trafficking, have been fueled by the objectification and dehumanization of people. These messages hurt all of us, especially the most innocent among us: our children.

A study published in the Journal of Women’s Health examined themes in the book with the help of abuse and sexual-practice experts. The results revealed extensive instances of emotional abuse, sexual violence and reactions by the victim, Anastasia, that are typical of abused women. It was concluded that “pervasive intimate-partner violence” was a significant pattern.

This tale of romanticized violence is far from a love story. It’s pornography, repackaged and glorified.

Action is essential. We must do something.

“A Guide to What One Person Can Do About Pornography” introduces citizens to challenging and changing their “community standards” regarding pornography. What prevents change? Silence. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,” said Edmund Burke. We must speak up.

What can be done?

If you oppose the pornographic content and abusive attitudes of “Fifty Shades,” consider the following:


Let your money talk:

The more funds we withhold from theaters showing this movie, the clearer the message. If enough concerned citizens refuse to attend any movie in any theater showing it, we will send a strong message of protest. This can make a noticeable difference in profits.


Put it in writing:

Theater managers who receive letters detailing why we are refraining from giving them business can more clearly assess if showing “Fifty Shades” is worth it, both financially and ethically. A sample letter is available at Send this letter to all local theaters showing the film.


Invest in good:

Instead of paying to watch domestic violence on the silver screen, give your ticket money to support domestic violence shelters. Marjaree Mason Center and Evangel Home in Fresno are two examples.


Spread the word:

If you resonate with this article, share it within your sphere of influence.


Join the movement:

Support change by joining the anti-pornography movement, partnering with organizations like The National Center on Sexual Exploitation and Fight the New Drug.


Persist and believe:

We can count on the porn industry and Hollywood to push the limits of what we will tolerate in our communities, including making more movies in the “Fifty Shades” series. Perseverance with our message is helpful and there are many success stories of people fighting pornography. This is a winnable war.

We have a profound opportunity. As Brennan Manning penned, “It is a courageous determination to make unpopular decisions that are expressive of the truth of who we are.” This is about adding action to our awareness. For anyone who believes in standing against the proliferation of pornography and sexual exploitation, this is a call to congruency.

I beg you, please do not react to this film in a manner that contributes to the problem. We must speak out with dignity and respect. If you’re a victim of abuse or in recovery, you’re not disqualified from joining this cause. Often the wounded make the mightiest warriors. Your story fuels your fervency.

When we stand for what we believe in, change will happen. If not in the form of social transformation, it will undeniably happen in each of us as we let ourselves be seen. In the words of Brene Brown, “The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time.”

Let’s stand together courageously against “Shades of Grey” and other forms of pornography that engulf and entrap our world. Let’s model to our children how to act boldly in the face of injustice. Let’s do our part to challenge deteriorating community standards, creating a safer civilization for all of us. May we live with integrity, spreading messages of healthy sexuality, authentic connection, and the worth of all people. The following generations will thank us.