Hat tip to Grace for coining the cheeky phrase, for it is what echoed through my tired little brain on all 4 legs of last week’s flights from Hades.
For not only was our ‘wee hot man’ (so dubbed by our charming Scottish co-worker) an utterly and unrepentant insomniac for 99% of our air travels, but every.single.woman. seated within a 50 mile radius on every one of our flights was reading some iteration of the infamous erotica (thriller? tome? epic?) … and I started to feel like the one student who picked up the wrong course outline back in September and was on a different reading list.
Confession: I have no idea the premise of the “50 Shades” series, other than a very vague impression of something involving repressive sexual tension and a male protagonist who doesn’t like to be touched. (So I guess it’s Twilight for the over 40 set?) So, don’t be surprised if I veer from this post to consult the google for more info on what the heezy these books are about and why they’re so hot right now.
But I’ll take a stab at it.
In a culture like our sex-saturated and Puritanically-rooted modern day America, it doesn’t take a far stretch of the imagination to see why perfectly reasonable and moderately well-adjusted adults might be enticed to purchase, read, and verbally vomit enthralled enthusiasm for some poorly-written British soft porn in literary form.
Thank you, Facebook.
But more to the point, thank you, twisted and repressed ‘liberation sexuality,’ which somehow simultaneously renders millions of men impotent, millions of women anorgasmic, and millions of readers eager to lap up juicy details of some frigid old dude spanking his handcuffed younger flame. And we swoon over this?
Truth is, our sexual identity as a culture is so profoundly broken that it makes perfectly good sense that ’50 Shades’ would A. Sell spectacularly well and B. Induce ironic conversations on sex and intimacy between strangers that they are otherwise incapable of having with their actual sexual partners in real life.
When pornography invades a relationship or, at a broader level, a cultural ethos, and becomes perfectly acceptable as the new normal, real live intimacy dies. We spend so much time and energy as a culture talking about sex and how to improve it, how to deepen ones physical enjoyment, connect more deeply on an emotional level with one’s partner(s, achieve multiple orgasms and get a body like Katy Perry’s in order to win the affections of the most perfect man, that we don’t actually have much time to enjoy authentic intimacy. Quite frankly, most of us have no idea what the hell that actually is.
When perfect strangers can titter over pages of sex scenes between fictional characters while passing the time between airport layovers, but they are incapable of having satisfying sex with their spouses or – worse – are unable to hang on to spouses, then Houston, we have a problem.
The scariest run-in I’ve had with Christian Grey to date was in a little snack and magazine store in the Charlotte airport (where I was secretly hoping to run into Emily Maynard, but I digress) where a mother(?), step mom(?), guardian-esque figure of authority(?) was waiting in line with a booty-short-clad teenage girl who apparently studied dictation under the auspicious tutelage of Lauren Conrad ala “The Hills.”
I turned my eavesdropping ears in their direction at the first mention of ‘50.’ After all, I’d sat beside no fewer than 14 women all reading the book during my travels that week (and spent an unfortunate 3.25 hours beside one woman who was on the final installment of the trilogy and was actually absent-mindedly running her fingers along her cleavage area while sighing occasionally as she flipped the pages. So.Very.Awkward.
So I tuned in to the mother and child reunion only to hear a super depressing back and forth where Mom (or whomever) was schooling daughter on the finer qualities of the tales.
Mom: Oh you have to read these…your dad has them on his Kindle, (um, he does? WTF?) you should ask him to borrow it when he’s done.
Girl: Omgawd everyone is like obsessed with Christian. Teeheehee…all my girlfriends want to find a guy like him!
Mom: Well it isn’t hard to see why…seriously you have got to read the books!
Girl: It’s like all over Facebook how hot they are…everyone is obsessed with them…all my girlfriends are like in love.
Mom: OMG you HAVE to read them. Let’s get your dad to give you the Kindle for the next leg of the flight.
Girl: (pointing to shelf) Holy sh*t there’s the new (Tucker Max) book ‘A$$holes Finish First’ … mom you have to read that it’s sooooo funny.
And end Western Civilization, if the above exchange is any indication of how we’re doing in the culture and morals department.
I managed not to vomit or confront the conversing duo, but only thanks to extreme exhaustion and the heat emanating from the tiny man strapped Ergo-style to my chest. But their words stayed with me. And they are troubling. And I think, an indicator of the real fallout from our pornified, sexually ‘progressive’ and permissive culture.
What we’re witnessing here, people, is the death of intimacy. Ironically and irrefutably manifested in a cultural obsession with pornography. But what we’re missing here is the point: no amount of titillation or exposure or oversharing can ever – ever - replace the deeply satisfying interpersonal communion we were created for. And the more we seek to expose and consume in the name of sexual satisfaction, the further we move from the truth of it, and from any measure of real happiness in that arena.
I’ve been meditating on this quote from Pope Benedict (you know, that repressive old man in Rome) recently and I think it fits perfectly the topic at hand:
“The world promises you comfort. But you were not made for comfort…you were made for greatness.”