’50 Shades’ panelists discuss grey areas

By Madison Miller

At the box office, the worldwide phenomenon “Fifty Shades of Grey” made $85 million, while the book stayed on the top of the New York Times Bestseller list for 78 weeks. But how has this global hit impacted relationships?

In a series of dialogues entitled “This Matters,” panelists Dr. Jonathan Tran, associate professor of religion; Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, associate professor of journalism, public relations and new media; and Patti Crawford, Title IX coordinator sat down Wednesday to give their perspectives of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the issue of hypersexualized relationships from a media and faith perspective.

The discussion was moderated by Emma Wood, a psychologist and coordinator of outreach in the Baylor Counseling Center.

“The ongoing series of dialogues connects Baylor experts and researchers to socially compelling discussions across the globe,” Wood said.

This discussion focused mainly on the sexuality explorations “Fifty Shades of Grey” takes its readers through.

“This movie has brought to the forefront some concepts that have really desensitized the stigma associated with the exploration of human sexualit,” Wood said.

The faculty chimed in with their perspectives of how this book and the media portrayal of abusive relationships is impacting the way the public views hypersexualized relationships.

“The occurrence of hypersexualization is increasing in media for both men and women, but especially for women,” Moody-Ramirez said. “‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is just one example of how hypersexualization is very popular today.”

Most of Moody-Ramirez’s research focuses on feminine theory and images of women in the mass media. Her research also looks at body image satisfaction, which is one of the main reasons she is concerned about the popularity of this book.

“If you read these types of messages on a daily basis, they can have a huge impact on your life,” Moody-Ramirez said. “That’s why we have to be concerned.”

In addition to her research on body images, her studies show that women have made progress in the workforce and in most areas of life.

“When these types of movies and books come out, you kind of take a step backwards,” Moody-Ramirez said. “Women are just reduced to sex objects and such movies and books make abnormal behaviors appear normal.”

The Title IX coordinator for the university, Crawford deals with sexual abuse cases.

“Title IX is not just about athletic equity but it’s also about sexual violence and sexual harassment and sex discrimination,” Crawford said. “The work that I am trying to do is about really preventing sexual violence happening across the country.”

Crawford said sexual violence includes stalking, dating violence, domestic violence and sexual assault. When discussing how women are viewed as sexual objects and not as equal parts of a relationship, Crawford brought up the Oscars. Dakota Johnson, the actress that played Anastasia Steele in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” received a standing ovation for simply presenting an award, while Fox News’ Stacey Dash was “appalled” at Patricia Arquette’s gender pay equality acceptance speech.

“It’s really hard for me to work with a student who is experiencing things and then to see something glorified at the end of a movie where this couple falls in love,” Crawford said. “What’s the difference between that and the reality?”

She quoted a scientist who said, “while millions of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey of fiction, there are many other women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him.”

In Crawford’s job, she said it gets confusing when there is such popularity surrounding something that is supposed to be viewed as negative. Repetitive

“To me, that hit the point of there’s reality and then there’s Hollywood,” Crawford said. “The work that we are trying to do to empower women and men who also deal with sexual violence, we also need to understand that there’s a difference between what the media is telling us to also what is real empowerment and positive relationships.”

Tran had a different view on the books.

“The idea is that it’s not too much about sex,” Tran said. “My problem is that it’s not enough about sex. It gives you a rather deformed or depraved account of what sex is.”

Tran said there is something understandable about women being drawn to the series because there is something that meets an unmet need.

“Forget the porn for a minute, forget the abuse, in ‘Fifty Shades’ we have a story that has touched the hearts of millions of women,” Tran quoted from a Christian blog. “And underneath it’s filthy exterior at its core is a story about unconditional love and redemption.”

Tran said he believes there are parts of that that are undeniably true, but he does not like that it suggests that women are all dupes and easily gullible.

Students that attended the discussion were invited to submit questions to be answered by the panelists. After the discussion ended, an intergroup dialogue was held with trained facilitators.