This weekend marks one of Hallmark’s most successful holidays (next to Christmas): Valentine’s Day. So why not spend it watching a good romantic comedy or a classic love story? I mean, it’s a holiday whose sole purpose is to celebrate love, right? Better yet, you can go to your local theater and watch a little movie (based on the largely successful book) about S & M between clean cut, young, white people called “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, methinks you’ve been living under a rock. Since its publication in 2012, the book has sold more than 10 million copies and the film version has finally arrived. Desperate housewives and husbands as well as those with curiosities killing them like cats have flocked to the book and will most likely flock to the movie in much the same way. There is a deep irony in this movie being released on Valentine’s Day weekend, a holiday as I mentioned which is purportedly focused on love.
The movie, despite bad reviews from many critics, will most likely have a big opening weekend. Just the hype alone is drawing more attention to the movie than it would if it were to have to rely on its sheer brilliance, which based on the reviews so far, is non-existent. In fact, I hesitated to even mention it within this post for fear of perpetuating such drivel.
“Fifty Shades of Grey” in both book and movie form represents a bigger problem seen across our culture. Somewhere along the way, we’ve cast aside good old fashioned love stories and love songs and replaced them with seductive stories of one night stands, of sexual escapades in the back of limousines, of drunken experiences that still remain hazy in the heads of those who have experienced them. We’ve replaced the notion of love with a cheap imitation.
Consider the recent Grammy event where many of the songs nominated for awards were focused on sex. “Take Me To Church” isn’t really about wanting to get up on Sunday morning and go listen to a sermon. Many may have read about Kanye West’s further antics of standing up when Beck was awarded album of the year. Kanye thought that Beyonce’s album was more deserving because of its artistry. Containing songs like “Blow”, “Drunk In Love” and “Partition,” Queen Bey’s album contains enough material to make the prudish among us blush. Is it really necessary for us to sing about our sexual experiences? What Jay-Z and Beyonce do in the privacy of their bedroom is not really something that I’m particularly interested in. Should the rest of the world be?
The list could go on and on. These are just some examples of a bigger picture of the fact that there has been a radical shift in our society. I’m not exactly sure when it happened. It might have been something subtle. It would be easy to simply point to the free love of the ‘60s as the cause. Regardless of where it had its genesis, there seems to be a problem within our culture and our world. Our terminology has been skewed and jaded. We’ve lost sight of real definitions and embraced vague terms which become too interchangeable to have any real meaning. Somewhere along the way, we got confused and someone thought that it was a good idea to unite love and sex together in such a way that the two became synonymous.
As I see it, there are some severe problems with this. The first of which is that we make love shallow when it is so inherently tied to an act. If love is defined by the sex act, it’s really no wonder that marriages are failing and commitments are waning. If love prevails because of the sex act, when the sex act becomes boring or unfulfilling, because our notion of love is so tied to it, we will abandon that “love” for something which better resembles our faulty definition. We will move from relationship to relationship thinking that those relationships are defined by their sexuality rather than something deeper.
We are holistic creatures, we are not simply physical and sexual creatures. If our relationships are not holistic, then they will fail us, or we will fail them. We will simply seek out things that will fulfill the physical and sexual rather than seeking out the longer lasting emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our relationships.
But what happens when their sexual experiences slow down? What happens when the urge isn’t there anymore? Sure, it may be many years down the road, but if our relationships are built upon the foundation of sexual experiences, what happens when that foundation is removed? Will what has been built on top of that foundation be strong enough to withstand the collapse of the foundation?
For me, there is nothing like walking in a public place and seeing an elderly couple walking hand in hand. My eyes will inevitably fall upon them and become glued. I’m watching. I’m listening. I’m observing what I see to try to get an idea as to how they got to that point. While Viagra can go so far, I think we would be foolish to think that the same passionate sex that one might have experienced in their earlier years would be as easily achievable in the twilight of life. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist, but I can guarantee you that if you were to talk with a couple like this to find out the secret of their longevity, they would most likely not point to the fact that they had defined their relationship simply by how much they “loved” each other through their sexual relationship. In fact, I would guess that if that had been their focus, they would most likely have abandoned that relationship a long time ago.
The other disturbing thing about this is that it doesn’t really work both ways. We might say that love can only be fulfilled through sex, but the opposite is not true. It’s possible, and even likely in this day and age, that sex can be completely loveless. We can have sex without love but we can’t have love without sex? Is that right? Can this be true?
The more that I see this distortion, the more I wonder what I’m missing.
I want to be one of those elderly couples that young people look at and wonder about our secret. I want to have a relationship that incorporates sex but is not defined by it. If my marriage relationship and my love for my wife is simply defined by the sexual aspect of it, then I don’t think we’ll make it to those twilight years! My foundation will crumble when the very thing on which I’ve built my relationship is taken away.
I’m sure there will be some who will accuse me of being a prude, but such an accusation is missing the point of what I am trying to get at here. What you do in the confines of your bedroom are your business, don’t make them everyone else’s business too.
Somehow or another, we have to redeem the notion of love as something much greater than an act, something much bigger than a few moments of pleasure. The oversexualization of our culture isn’t going to do anything to move towards that redemption.