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/.”