4,200 kids enslaved in my area: divide that by 50, and I am 84 shades of unimpressed

I have something to say about this new movie everyone is talking about.

So much about it is so sad, and I’m not talking about the weird sexual nonsense (nor am I going to, so if that’s why you’re reading, just move on now).

You may think that, having taken weird sexual nonsense off the table, there’s nothing left to discuss. Understandable, since that pretty much appears to be the story. But as a public librarian, I read the book when it came out in 2011; I’ve had a lot longer to think about it than those lucky few of you who only heard about the movie recently.

And I think if we focus on the obvious, we’re missing the greatest issue. So here goes:

If all the people in movie theaters would inform themselves about the patterns of sex trafficking in our cities, towns and neighborhoods, they would see this film in a whole new light.

Does that sound crazy? Let me break it down for you.

This “relationship” begins when a girl goes for a job interview. It continues in secret, and involves a significant amount of controlling behavior on the part of a wealthy, powerful man in the life of a young woman with few other options.

How do you think a life of bondage in the sex trade begins?

“Wait,” you say, “but it’s not like that!” It is true that the story includes an illusion of “control” on the part of the young woman. But it is only an illusion, because she is ultimately bound by her emotional commitment to this man. She believes she can control him, she enjoys all sorts of lifestyle “perks” provided by his wealth, and she thinks she matters to him.

I know this is supposed to be fiction, and there’s a place for the “suspension of disbelief”, but come on, seriously…does anyone really believe that?

He’s a wealthy businessman with huge personal issues, and he suddenly “cares” about a young woman who is a total stranger to him. Why? Because he “needs” her. And what does he need her for? Sex.

What do you think the sex trade looks like?

The promises of personal control, lifestyle perks, and emotional connection used by the male protagonist in this story are precisely the lies used to entice children and young adults into slavery. When offered to the rest of us as “entertainment”, those lies are necessary to soothe our consciences. But our consciences should be more awake, as should our brains.

How do you think thousands of perfectly ordinary young women – and young men – are brought into bondage, if not by the vulnerability of their emotions?

We are horrified by the widespread popularity of this story, and we should be. But we should take a step back and learn a lesson from what we see happening. There is a reason this story is so popular. Others with similar, but less shocking, content have been popular with public library patrons for years.

So what lesson should we learn?

Be aware that we are all human, we are sinful, and without the grace of God, we are all vulnerable to the insecurities and fantasies that human traffickers prey upon. If there is a young woman, a young man, or a child in your life that you care about, don’t think that the ugliness of human trafficking is remote from you. Don’t be naive.

Protect your loved ones, and protect yourself – not with locked doors and internet security (although those are both good ideas). Protect your heart and mind, and teach them to do the same.

More reading:

http://macishingleton.com/2015/02/13/stop-saying-no-to-fifty-shades-of-grey/

http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/fifty-shades-grey-and-abuse

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00TB2COXO/acton04-20 : The High Price of Human Trafficking, by Elise Graveline Hilton

http://fox17online.com/2014/06/23/human-trafficking-a-hidden-crisis-in-west-michigan/ :

“If you suspect someone you know is involved in this type of criminal activity or could be a victim, you can leave anonymous tip at 1-877-END-SLAVERY or go to the Women at Risk International website, http://warinternational.org/.”

the power of foresight

We have so many cliches for this – “the early bird gets the worm”, “be ahead of the game”, “forewarned is forearmed”, etc.  I’m watching an old Robin Hood TV production – the first Robin Hood story utilize the sword and sorcery concept, actually; and in the stories this shaman-type wood god creature keeps warning Robin of what’s going to happen.  It’s corny and not particularly convincing, but oddly enough the one convincing thing about the whole thing is this dynamic: because they know what’s coming, they’re free to fight without the paralyzing fear of the unknown and that extra edge leads them to victory.  Now, mind you, they can only see part of the future, or there would be no suspense.

The interesting thing to me is that this truth, dimly seen in the superstions of myth, has a crystalline clarity in the faith of a Christian.  We don’t see the future, of course – but we know that God sees it perfectly.  Knowing this, and knowing His care for us, we too are freed from terror of the unknown.  We can fight for His kingdom secure in the knowledge that He knows how He will bring good from every perceived evil we face.

Further, we know that it is God himself who molds the future.  Unlike the shamans, sorcerers, and sheriffs of Robin’s tale, God is not only all-seeing, but all-powerful. He is our strong tower, our refuge, and our strength.  How blessed we are!

Incidentally, the music for this particular production is entertaining by virtue of being atrociously bad 🙂  Check it out on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpiJECA2MCE  But I continue to enjoy the creativity of the truly ground-breaking writing; it incorporates all of the traditional elements of the story while introducing many themes that are so good we continue to see them in remakes today.

alternate reality

…would it surprise anyone to learn that my favorite companion is my computer?  I have no time for friends or the fun activities to which they invite me.  I can’t be bothered by casual playdates with my sisters and their children, and I certainly am far too busy to ever serve as a baby-sitter.  My church has long since ceased to request my aid with Sunday School, fundraisers, or hospitality efforts…

Would it surprise anyone?  Yes.  It would surprise me.  The grim statistics listed above have not yet become reality in my life.  I do many fun things with my friends, I have playdates with my family, and I am highly involved at church.  However, in taking stock of my life I realize that my lifestyle in general has undergone a seismic shift, and the fault line leads directly to my laptop and the amount of time I spend with it on my knees.

When, exactly, did this take place?  Somewhere between the bouncing vibrancy of my late teens and the potato-like existence of my early thirties, I have gained an incredibly strong attachment to a notebook-sized piece of plastic with little keys and a bright screen.  Oh, I have friends, I tell myself – look, hundreds of friends on facebook alone!  I see them, and details of their daily life, on my laptop screen every day – but I haven’t seen the actual faces of some of those friends in years.  Those status updates give the illusion of connection, even intimacy – but I find myself wondering if my cyber-friends filter, manage, and weight their status updates as carefully as I do mine.  “Had a wonderful chat with my darling @Jamie X! She’s still looking as FabULouS as ever, and HOW does she manage the “X” foundation in addition to looking after her little darlings?  Bisous, Superwoman!”  This strikes just the right note – light, charming, in touch with people that matter – no need to mention that the chat was online, that her online photo could be airbrushed for all I know, and that even though she lives a mere twenty minutes away I’ve never felt the warmth of her children’s soft hands in mine.  “Just sat through the most exquisite concert – if Beethoven were still alive, I’d kiss him – grumpy, deaf and all!”  No need to clarify that I’m sitting on my own couch, the concert was recorded on DVD, and mercy knows I’ve never spontaneously kissed anyone, never mind a dead composer.   Now, lest all my blog-readers think I’m a pathological liar, I should clarify that these are fictional examples.  However, I’ve come uncomfortably close to “re-packaging” my life via status updates, and I suspect I’m not alone.

So, I am making a commitment, and this blog is one of the first steps.  Web 2.0 and its attendant social networks are a reality of modern life, and I will not retreat from those realities.  However, I will choose to limit my social networking involvement to applications that affect myself and those around me in useful and positive ways.   In recent years, I have allowed myself to come perilously close to enslavement to social networking sites.  This blog serves notice that I will approach them as the tools they are and make them my servants rather than my masters. 

And when I’m done doing that, I’m going to go take a walk.  More about the exercise program later…