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Journey to Wholeness

Wisdom Within

Fifty Shades of Healthy Loving

by Jude LaClaire, Ph.D. 


The book Fifty Shades of Grey has sold over 100 million copies. Trailers for the movie adaption of the first book has been viewed 250 million times. At this time the movie is on track to earn $500 million and has been the number one film three weeks in a row. What is the story that is attracting so much attention? 


Anastasia, a middle-class senior in college meets 27-year-old multi-millionaire CEO. They fall in love. Their romance is full of drama and passion and they end up living the conventional American fantasy of love, marriage and a kid. Their sexual relationship is anything but ordinary. Christian is obsessed with BDSM (bondage, discipline/dominance, submission/sadism and masochism). Though they profess love, Ana doesn’t want to be submissive, and Christian is turned on by violent sex.


This film is troubling to many groups of people, including experienced BSDM practitioners who emphasize there are healthy, ethical ways to consensually combine sex and pain. It requires self-knowledge, communication skills and emotional maturity to make the sex safe and mutually gratifying. 


Sexual abuse survivor Robert Hoatson shared in the National Catholic Reporter, “I am hoping psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other mental health professionals will view this movie and weigh in on its psycho-social and psycho-sexual implications. The ‘toys’ that Christian possessed….never brought him peace, security or satisfaction. They exacerbated his profound loneliness, a loneliness that can be traced back to his childhood when an adult’s sexual abuse isolated him from the rest of humanity and made him feel shame and guilt.”


A study at Michigan State University published in the Journal of Women’s Health, found that young adult women (650 subjects ages 18-24) who read Fifty Shades of Grey were more likely than nonreaders to exhibit troubling behaviors. In that group, 25 percent more likely to have a partner who yelled or swore at them, 34 percent more likely to have a partner who demonstrated stalking tendencies and 75 percent were more likely to have used diet aids or fasted for more than 24 hours. Those who read all three books were 65 percent more likely to binge drink than nonreaders. Dr. Bonomie tells us that the behaviors assessed in the study are risk factors for being in a violent relationship.


This is also a troubling fantasy in American culture where one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. According to the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network, 44 percent of rape victims are under the age of 18, and 80 percent are under 30. These vulnerable populations are big fans of Fifty Shades of Grey.


The solution is for parents, educators and others to engage kids in constructive conversations about sexuality, body image and gender-role expectations as early as elementary school. Prevention programs can focus on relationship skills training and gender role examination. 


Healthy love includes respect, safety, security and compassion along with passion and excitement. Submission with no rules of safety or acknowledged equality is unhealthy and can be abusive. The biggest issues for sexual abuse survivors are broken trust, boundary violation, being powerless and being objectified sexually. These lead to the sense of guilt, shame and worthlessness. 


Deep, true and healthy love offers safety, security, respect, compassion and passion based on communication and equality, not what Anastasia experiences in Fifty Shades of Grey. Perhaps this is a cautionary tale that sends us back to the basics of real love and great sex in an atmosphere including the qualities of healthy love.  



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Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC,

LCSW is a counselor, educator

and author. For counseling

appointments, seminars,

training, speaking

engagements or information

on Neurobehavioral Programs

or Imago Couple therapy call

913-322-5622. For more

information about Jude

LaClaire or the Kansas City

Holistic Centre go to

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