5 Outdoor Summer Activities To Inspire Bravery and Connection with Your Kids

by Grandma Metta (Jimetta Mayne) 

I’m constantly moved by the consistent nature of childlikeness. Just as my children fell in love with the beauty of God’s creation, splashing in icy lakes, and racing down the meadowed trails at the foot of the Sierra Nevadas where we raised them, I now get to witness the same wonder on the faces of my grandchildren. They fearlessly jump into the same waters and race down the same overgrown trails as their parents once did. Regardless of the times we find ourselves in or what feels like a relentless pull towards busyness and a life of staring at screens, kids never lose their wonder of nature or the possibility for adventure. Simplicity and creativity still mesmerizes them.

I love to pull all my little ones away from their screens and technology and open their eyes to the beauty around them in the great outdoors. I have yet to find a better way to connect as a family with your young ones, then in silly summertime games and exploring together. These precious summer memories we’ve built have helped shaped my children into the brave, inquisitive, mindful, loving people they have become.

Here’s five creative activities I encourage you to try with your kids and grandkids this summer for a bit of fun, silliness, and hopefully, life-long memories:

  1. Search out as many parks as you can in your city. Depending on your available time, do one a day, or one per week. You might want to get silly and see how many swings you can swing on in one day, bouncing from park to park. Your kids or grandkids won’t forget that challenge!

  2. Make a big mess together! Go to a store that has a bulk section and get a big bag of cornstarch. Mix it with water in a big bowl, lay out a tarp and enjoy the crazy texture. Silliness will ensue, and remember, it’s always more memorable if you join in the fun.

  3. Bubbles never fail to fascinate. If you have extra kids split them in two groups.  Put one group in the middle, set a timer for 1 minute and have the other group blow bubbles all around them as the group in the center pop the bubbles. Try not let any touch the ground! Laughter and mayhem will ensue.

  4. Go camping in your own backyard. Who needs a campground if you have a bit of backyard or deck space, a tent, and some cozy sleeping bags? Storytime is so much more magical in a tent.

  5. Write a story with your kids. Here’s where you have to put on your creative brains!  Go on a walk (or sit inside if it’s raining), ask each child in the group for one word, and then craft a story around that word with them as heroes of the story. We’ve written so many creative stories with words like “chocolate,” “mouse,” and “popcorn.” It’s amazing to see what kind of imaginative, funny stories your children can dream up, like a talking mouse that shows them a world of chocolate rivers and popcorn trees.

Life can be mundane or it can take on an exciting new flavor when we intentionally add a dash of creativity into our days, and enjoy it together as a family.

– Love, Grandma Metta


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Order a Pre-Released Hard Copy of courageously brave!

 
 

Click the button above to pre-order a copy of Grandma Metta’s new summertime adventure children’s book, Courageously Brave, set in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas.

Click below to read a sample of courageously brave!


About jimetta mayne

Jimetta Professional Photo.jpg

Raised in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Jimetta Mayne  has always held a deep love for the outdoors and adventure. Her father was a pilot and her mother was always packing the camper or the airplane to take off and explore. In 1976, she married another adventurer, Rod, and they had four children.  Jimetta enjoyed crafting stories and taking the kids on adventures in their imaginations, a large inspiration to her interactive style of writing in What If?.

 After the children left home, Jimetta channeled her energy into encouraging and coaching other mothers and parents. Today, Jimetta and Rod continue to reside in the beautiful Sierra Nevadas and are the proud grandparents of four grandchildren.

 Jimetta laughs when people ask who she is.  “I’m me,” she says.  “I often show up as a wife, a teacher, a coach, a mom, a daughter, a grandma, a storyteller, a medic, an author, a speaker….but all in all, I just love being me.” Jimetta began writing What If?, the first of seven books in the Adventures with Grandma Metta series as a legacy for her own family and to empower children everywhere.

Why I'm Proud to Be a Prude

Read Carrie Lloyd's Fox News Op-ed below:

 

Today, only 3 percent of North Americans save sex for their wedding night. This comes as no surprise for the sexual revolution has been in full throttle for decades—we are shocked only when someone tells us that he or she is an active part of that 3 percent.

I lost my virginity at 23, after living through my teen years and being called a “prude.” Like most people in the Naughties, I did so at the whim of the usual, maverick society. But after three sexual relationships and one virginity down, I (brace yourself) have become one of the 3 percent. This time without the threats of hell or damnation, but with the by-line of self-value, and ceremonial occasion. 

At 31, I closed my bedroom door when it came to men, rethinking how to have fulfilling relationships without sex. 

Why would I exchange momentarily thrilling escapades for the bane of long-suffering abstinence?  Society might chide, suggesting that such idealism could end in sexually-incompatible-tears, nevermind a waste of pelvic floor muscles. But I disagree.

Here are five motivations to keep in mind—reasons why I, and many of my comrades-in-arms, are trying to keep it clean, and savor that moment for when someone is truly willing to commit for life, not just twelve hours: 

1) Make the living room become the new hotbed to discover things you used to ignore. 

Find the lost art in conversation, philosophy even. Swap arousal for vinyl and foreplay for unfamiliar stories. Rewire the brain to go back to the real things of life.

Yes, sex is awesome, but it shouldn't dictate your evening. If your relationship only functions through sex—you already have a problem. Sex is made for a heart of exclusivity, one focused on serving, not taking from the other.

2. Understand that the ability to say no to pre-marital sex is actually a form of honor, not rejection.

Those who want to get their sexual needs met will interpret you saying no to sex as a form of pushing away.

If the man says he needs to have sex with his girlfriend in order to fall in love: Thank him for his honesty, and call the chap a cab. He's not on your page—you’re looking for substance and compromise for longevity. 

Add a touch of light-hearted fun to this subject too (no hell and damnation statements please). You'll soon find the men who really are interested in you, rather than driven to feed their own desires. 

3. Know you will make better decisions about the character, virtue and soul of a person outside of sexual connection. 

This is the part where liberty returns. You're no longer tied to someone physically, confused by whether you should stay with them or not. The head stays clear, and you fall in love for all the right reasons. 

Abstinence is about using the beauty of sex in the right context, not causing harm with unspoken disclaimers. 

4. Forgive yourself and others, for when you took advantage of someone in your past, or when someone took you for granted.

Carrying this stuff over to new relationships is as helpful as cyanide. Self-sabotage can result in overt sexual activity with men you don't even like.

Forgive yourself by walking through the pain of what you've faced, then make a decision to start afresh once more.

5. Self-Discipline isn’t self-denial. 

Generation Y believes liberty should be reckless, spontaneous, fuss-free. The problem is, most things without a boundary or two are harmful. Miroslav Volf once said that for us to create a world without boundaries would be creating a world of no-thing: Black and white just become gray, shapes and definitions become one blob of nothing / no-thing. When it comes to sex, certain restrictions need apply.

Three percent might sound like a dying trend, but it represents 10 million people. That’s down from 11 percent in 1950, when we might have estimated the whole world waited for marriage.

Don’t be swayed by the smoke and mirror trends of post-modern culture. They change, but behaviors have had a knock on effect, causing the government to spend millions in preventive measures—chlamydia and teenage pregnancy are costly on the body, as well as the health care system.

As we embrace a future of provocative propaganda and a world filled with instant gratification, did we throw the baby out with the bath water when we ran a free-for-all campaign in the burning loins brigade? 

When hook up apps become passé next year, might purity become the new progressive?

Perhaps it just might.


Prude: Misconceptions of a Neo Virgin

 

SEX. LOVE. VIRGINITY?

In the dating game these days, the V-word has become as strange and complicated as the L-word, and purity as outdated as pay phones. How exactly is a Christian girl supposed to handle herself these days? How can she create healthy boundaries without scaring off every available guy? Is purity even possible without being puritanical? In this candid, humorous account of the true-life trials of Christian dating, Carrie Lloyd shares the wisdom she ’s gleaned in her quest for love in a modern world. She guides with grace and honesty through the often hush-hush topics of sex, porn, shame, female competition, misconceptions about purity, and those dreaded “waiting till marriage” conversations.

Meet Carrie Lloyd.  


About Carrie Lloyd

Carrie is one woman unafraid to ask the hard relationship questions to a generation questioning the relevancy of purity and spirituality in the modern world. As a professional writer, life coach, and pastor, Carrie navigates every topic imaginable in the dating world, from often hush-hush topics of sex, porn, shame, female competition, misconceptions about purity, and those dreaded “waiting till marriage” conversations. 

She has written about such topics from fashion to relationships for Glamour, Magnify, Grazia, Company, The Huffington Post, and City and spoken about sex, love, and communication in schools throughout the UK and churches worldwide, as well as on television and radio. Originally from London, Carrie currently resides in Redding, California, where she has completed ministry training and works at Bethel Church.

Carrie published her second book, Prude: Misconceptions of a Neo-Virgin, with Red Arrow Media in February 2016. Click below to learn more about Carrie, read her latest media features, and explore more of her witty, wise musings on relationships.

Prude: Misconceptions of a Neo-Virgin by Carrie Lloyd

A review by Malcolm Croft

Witty, charming and honest. That’s my headline appraisal for Carrie Lloyd’s new book, Prude.

I have been fortunate enough to know Carrie Lloyd for many years, and worked with her initially on her first book, The Virgin Monologues. During this time, the two of us spoke at length about Carrie’s unique position of being an honest, open, fashionable and dare-I-say-it “on trend” person of faith in the twenty-first century – and how

her views are sorely needed to be expressed in a public medium to blow away the ancient cobwebs of arcane and near-redundant traditional values of what it actually means to have faith, and believe in a God of any religion, in these increasingly God-less times.

While The Virgin Monologues takes another, broader, direction entirely, Carrie definitely hits a deeply personal peak with Prude. And is all the better for it. 

With a frank and expressive approach, Prude is both brave and brazen, and Carrie’s vision of virginity is precisely the type of voice you’d want to listen to on the argument of for/against, and a voice that should gain the author many new fans and followers on her path to stardom. She could perhaps be a leading voice in the “new traditional” way of expressing realistic expectations of faith (as her day-job as a Pastor and as an author) in a world that is losing faith in the Divine with each increasingly commercialized Christmas. Yes, Carrie is a traditional, old-fashioned girl on a spiritual mission to find love and conquer her inner fears, but that never comes at the expense of knowing thyself first. Throughout the book, Carrie knowingly poses the pertinent question that becomes the dominant leitmotif: God comes first. But at what cost? And it’s a question many people of faith, young and old, still seek the answer to. But, as Carrie admits, the answer will always be elusive. And so it should.

As a writer, a message-spreader and (you suspect) a fabulous dinner-party guest, Carrie knows how to flirt and flabbergast an audience, all willing to fall under her spell because her dating experience drips off the page: she has been there, bought the T-shirt and lived to tell the ridiculous tale. In that respect, Prude isn’t some preachy relationship advice guide written by some out-of-touch and real-life prude, it’s a book about the importance of purity and sexual knowledge written by a person who has experienced the highs and lows of the relationship world from both sides of the bridge. And that’s a huge distinction. The reader can, and does, feel immediately at ease with the author, knowing he can trust her implicitly. There are no false claims of expertise or authority. Just a girl, standing in front of a guy asking him to love her…and her principles. 

As a storyteller, Carrie also knows how to spin a fantastic sentence – both witty and touching at the same time with language that is evocative (especially when talking about her much-adored, and much-missed, father), often-humorous and self-deprecating. She knows how to catch you out. She knows how to deliver an emotional punch just to make sure you’re all still paying attention. Carrie isn’t afraid to lay things bare or ask questions that perhaps many books that tackle sexuality and religion like to sweep under the carpet. The beginning anecdote of the handsome and wealthy “Eagle,” for example, completely sets up Carrie’s tender intentions and immediately lets the reader know what to expect from that point on. Its placement in the book couldn’t be better. There’s no embellishment or smudging of truth – with Prude, what you see is what you get – the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Carrie is so achingly proud of her faith and her often uncontrollable emotions – and the direction she has chosen to take with purity and “rebooting her virginity” – that its hard not to fall in love with her, even if she wears her heart on her sleeve a touch too much (the chapter Make Love, Not Porn, may be a turn off for some readers – but fascinating nonetheless). Carrie’s security about how she feels (no matter how flawed they may appear) means she is never a wildflower in her own recollections, the lost wind in a wolf’s hurricane. She is the final pig in the fairytale, so to speak, the one has built her house out of bricks and mortar, but doesn't get all in-your-face smug about it. 

 

While I disagree with some of Carrie’s perhaps too vague and meaningless throwaway sentences (“Society killed the art of talking long ago” – is this true?), she is bang-on the money when it comes to discussing what faith means to those who have it but are not entirely sure what to do with it and how to apply it to their own lives. In the book, Carrie traces her steps back through her own experiences to try and figure herself out: what sex and purity means to her in the realm and context of her own faith, and whether or not the two will ever meet in the middle. It’s clear, the book is both a journey for Carrie and the reader, discovering things together. I’ve spoken personally with Carrie about many of her experiences and know – truly – her heartbreak, anguish, frustration, confusion, dedication, persistence and questioning of her faith – I’ve seen her at her wits’ end, and at the beginning of many new chapters, so I can truthfully account for the realness behind the stories Carrie details throughout. 

But this book shouldn’t be – and isn’t – just about Carrie. The author understands that she isn’t alone. That her experiences are not unique. And that the situations she has been through are similar to many other twenty- and thirty-somethings, all of whom will find the book a breath of fresh air, and completely unlike any other book about purity on a bookshop’s Self-Help and Relationships shelf. As an atheist male, it was hard to truly connect with all of Carrie’s emotional ups-and-downs – I’m not the target audience, for sure – but I do believe that the book does genuinely hold up a mirror to the zeitgeist, and to the lives of thousands of people experiencing similar feelings, and reflects back a true version of how many of us feel disillusioned and scared about finding ourselves, and finding love, without compromising our values and principles in this digital age. 

But, and this is my most excited point about Prude, this book is fun. It zips along like a spitfire of stream-of-consciousness, and never runs out of steam. It has the readability of a high-brow celebrity magazine (low-praise, perhaps, but perfect for this subject matter), but the weight of an academic relationship guide. Carrie’s enthusiasm, personality, her message, and her first-hand knowledge of living successfully in the now, despite her anxieties and flaws, is incredibly good-natured fun.

She has managed to turn a po-faced and often-preachy subject into something positive and enlightening. You may snobbishly disagree with her, you may blush at the sheer vulnerability of it all – you may even need to put the book down and go for a cold shower – but that’s Carrie

in a nutshell. Bold, brilliant and bonkers – with a beautiful and brave personality to boot.

If I have any criticisms, or nagging questions, to add I would argue that “Misconceptions of A Neo-Virgin” perhaps incorrectly identifies the book. I’m not sure it accurately describes the contents. “Memoirs of a Christian Girl in a Modern World”, or “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Too Religious to Ask” (joke!) could be more instantly appealing. 

In conclusion, Prude is not worthy, pious, or preachy; it’s truthful, it’s flawed and it’s inspirational. We should all aspire to be more like Carrie – in touch with her own sense of self, and not scared to admit and publicly overcome her demons. Like the author, Prude is engaging and sincere and never betrays its mission, or message, from the start right through to the finish.

Buy now


 

Malcolm Croft

Malcolm Croft is a freelance author, editor and Senior Editor at Carlton Books. Over the past decade, Malcolm has published, and written over 20 music, film, travel, quirky reference, gift, humor and popular culture titles, including two of the bestselling Cool Series, aimed for pre-teens. He is the author of The Travel Book, and lives in London.

In Defense of Her

by Vanessa J. Chandler

Fourteen million viewers watched as Katy Perry catapulted from one song to the next during her much-anticipated Super Bowl Halftime  premiere. My three-year-old nephew was one of those viewers watching the show in fascination.  He stared at Perry with a confused expression and finally turned to ask, “Is she ‘nice’ or ‘bad’?” He sincerely couldn’t figure it out, and it’s a question people have been trying to answer since.

Many in the religious world wondered when she was going to tear off her fiery orange costume that subtly resonated a “girl on fire” theme and display something similar to a teeny-weeny bikini. If other women dance suggestively in nothing more than lingerie, and Justin Timberlake rips off Janet Jackson’s breastplate to showcase the unmentionable on primetime TV, then surely we need to quake in fear over what Perry might do. So, what did she do during our country’s most favorite all-American family event of the year? 

Nothing.

Nothing but good, fun entertainment—complete with dancing sharks. (Wait, sharks? Yes…) It was even appropriate for church audiences, yet how dare she be that great? Now, before some of us rise up in offense to defend our good old-fashioned values, please take a few minutes to read on. I’d like to challenge us to broaden our sometimes one-sided view.

As Perry stood there on a shiny, golden tiger, her outfit blazing like makeshift fire, I felt proud. Not patronizingly proud as if I had the right to say, “Good job, Katy. I’m so proud of you.” But proud as in, “She knows who she is as a performer, and she does it well.” Think about it: If we as followers of God believe that God is Creator, then it makes sense that all creative gifts come from Him. Here’s a statement that will make some of us writhe with animosity: Katy Perry is manifesting a  righteous gift of creativity just by being herself. 

I suggest that we focus on the good Perry is bringing to the masses, not what she might be doing wrong.

“How?” Some of us might ask. “And what about the lyrics…?”

Okay, let’s look at the lyrics of her breakout hit, “I Kissed a Girl.” The first rule of literary criticism is that no one truly knows the intention of the artist’s words but the artist. Yet if we put our best interpretive hat on, we witness a girl stepping out of religious confinement into womanhood, and in the process, she’s attempting to find herself. 

This was never the way I planned, not my intention.

I got so brave, drink in hand, lost my discretion…

Yes, it’s also as simple as her gaining fame in a guaranteed way—using sex and shock value to create controversy (Kim Kardashian, anyone?). Yes, she uses figures of demons in her “Dark Horse” dance routine. Regardless, her popularity is a testament to this next generation’s desire to understand themselves and their belief that pushing the boundary between good, bad, and gray areas will bring them to some sort of enlightenment. They are hungry for spiritual truth, and the Church as a whole is too afraid to address that need.

Think about recent teenage fixations: magic, vampires, and superheroes. Whether or not it’s her intention, Perry’s speaking directly to this generation, saying, “This world with all of its war, religious fanatics, bullying, and sexual confusion is difficult to understand. But you know what? You’re going to make it through. You’re going to find yourself. You’re going to figure life out.”

Before the song ever gets into its just-believe-in-yourself motto, “Firework” states,

Do you ever feel

Like a plastic bag

Drifting through the wind

Wanting to start again

The song sympathizes with what so many young people feel: lost, lonely, hopeless. Then it turns into talk-yourself-into-greatness:

'Cause baby, you're a firework.” Which other pop singer—except for perhaps Colbie Caillet—is sending positive self-esteem messages to this up-and-coming generation? Parents are crying out for better teenage role models for their children, but oftentimes fail to see who’s actually speaking in their language, who’s meeting them right where they are.

With the release of Perry’s most recent album, Prism, and such songs as “By the Grace of God,” there has been some debate as to whether or not she has returned to faith. If Perry has come back to Christianity is not an issue to be debated. “By the Grace of God” suggests that she understands her past and wants something different in the future.

Through Perry’s lyrics, she’s honest and vulnerable. She sings from experience. She understands what it feels like to be lost.  She grew up with an understanding of God, morality, and religion.  She followed that path and found confining walls of judgment.  She then forged a new path in the world by playing the game, and now, after winning that game, she has the freedom to return to the truths of her upbringing and reveal the spiritual ideas she values if she so chooses.

In Western culture, when someone has stood out in one way or another, be it through politics, Hollywood, or music, we tear them apart and call it “free speech.” Why do we feel we have the right to do this? Post Super Bowl, social media buzzed with positive and demoralizing comments about Perry. Some praised her for putting on a good show that was appropriate for all audiences while others criticized her for including songs with controversial lyrics. Yet, if any of us had an audience with her, I’m sure our negative commentary would take a much different tone.

Most people like the idea of being rich and famous or of being a “mover and a shaker” in their generation.  But being in the limelight comes with cost.  We certainly don’t want millions of people to analyze everything about us, our words, actions, family members, travel destinations, social media posts, or even, God help us, our restaurant choices.

Now my question is for the religious-minded, or more specifically, Christians: Who are we to judge Katy Perry, her actions or her heart? What we do with the information about her personal life choices displays more about our hearts than hers.

And let’s at least give credit where credit is due: Perry put on a respectful performance.  She was wearing a skirt that nearly scraped her knees, and her backup dancers wore bikinis from 1956.  Modesty and modern society rarely make it to primetime, but Perry managed to pull off a breathtaking show without displaying it all.


 

Vanessa Chandler

Vanessa is the Founder of Red Arrow Media. If she's not heartily working at the office, she can be found secretly stowed away in a closet reading a fictional story, researching historical facts in a library, or drinking thick, black coffee and eating pastries at a French cafe. She feels that writing is her life-blood, and after years of writing books and articles for others, she's finally able to pen her own work again. This is the first opinion piece she has published on the Red Arrow site.

2014: A Year in Review

In 2014, some of the popular voices of the book world urged us to Thrive, remain Unbroken, and to "diverge" from the norm (think Divergent series).  We took these powerful messages to heart.

Our year was filled with transition and challenges as we continued to diverge from the publishing norm, and yet ultimately, it was a year of growth and joy. We transitioned from coffee shop meetings to a quaint brick-style office in our city's artistic epicenter. Soon after, we hired new talent that exemplifies Red Arrow's dedication to literary excellence and expanded our creative capacity. We traveled from the bustling city streets of London to the picturesque, snow-peaked mountains of Jackson Hole, WY, making new publishing acquaintances that launched some of our favorite moments of 2014. We dove headlong into the minute details of our client's longtime writing dreams (we literally laughed, cried, and prayed with them through their year of personal struggles and triumphs).  We couldn't be more thankful for every individual that crossed our path and brightened our lives this year. It has been our pleasure to be a small part of your story.

In no particular order, here are a few of our favorite happenings and successes of 2014:

1. Hiring Jennifer Westbrook, our brilliant Senior Editor extraordinare.

2. Starting and finishing client Michael Pruett's book The Hard Road (to be released in April 2015).

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3. Meeting our publishing advisors and affiliates, Karen Campbell and Joe Questell in-person at the RA office!

4. Witnessing our dear friend Carrie Lloyd complete her FIRST novel, The Virgin Monologues, to be released in the UK this January (click here to read our November interview with Carrie).

5. Publishing our FIRST children's book, What If?: Adventures with Grandma Metta by the adventurous, loving, and effervescent Jimetta Mayne.

6. Self-publishing celebrated Doctor of Chiropractic, Danielle Finden, in her first instructional manual, A Guide to Alternative Chiropractic Technique.

7. Moving into a beautiful brick-style office in the center of our city's downtown area.

8. Helping client Danny Silk achieve "top-seller" status on Keep Your Love On! and distributing his book in 17 countries worldwide.

9. Meeting and working with even more incredible graphic designers from London!

10. Watching our first book trailer for our client Michael Pruett's The Hard Road (produced by KGB Productions).

11. Sharing our passion for literature and publishing expertise with countless writers through: ConsultationsManuscript ReviewsGhostwriting and EditingGraphic Design, and Marketing. You make our dream possible!


Thank you all for a brilliant year! What stories will unfold in 2015?

The Sex Trade and Fifty Shades of Shame

by Sarah J. Harris

Nothing says romance like a disturbing “love” story that celebrates bondage and abuse in a pornographic format.  Even though it may seem like seventy steps back from the early feminist movement, E.L. James’s book, Fifty Shades of Grey, has been so well received that its cinematic rendition was released on Valentine’s Day, taking in $85.17 million during its first three days. Culturally speaking, American men are accustomed to the poison of porn, but James’s book isn’t meant for them. No, this persuasion is meant for and embraced by millions of women worldwide.

Over the last few decades our culture has pushed the boundaries of sexual freedom and exploration, and audiences have grown accustomed to scandalous sex scenes and graphic nudity.  We have finally landed here, with the controversial story chock-full of the glaring lies society has come to accept, ranging from the somewhat easily digestible—men don’t care how smart women are, they just want them to shut up and be sexy, to the alarming—women should be sexually submissive, even to the point of physical pain and fear in order to secure love. 

THE VIRGINAL IDIOT

The protagonist of the story is Anastasia Steele, a plain, introverted, girl-next-door British Lit student, whose virginity at the beginning of the franchise is a point of contention. Of course, Ana’s academic intellect is glossed over; instead, her level of sexual experience defines how smart she is or in this case, how dumb she is. “Well, I haven’t had sex before, so I don’t know.” 

The ironically named villain/billionaire love interest, Christian Grey, is appalled by Ana’s purity and admonishes her for not revealing this fact sooner. Although confused, defiled, and debased, she is bound by contract to submit to Christian, and any signs of regret are met with his manipulation, “Do you think you could just embrace these feelings, deal with them for me?”  The story concludes with Christian finally proposing to Ana, though an arrangement like this one never, realistically would result in wedding bells.  Ana, the whipped and worn out cow that has been giving milk for free, would typically be put out to pasture.

SEX IS JUST A GAME

After interviewing a group of teenage girls who have been rescued from the sex-trade industry, the consensus was simple: Fifty Shades is dangerously similar to what happens in the realm of human trafficking.   Films like this are “promoting violence toward women” and glorifying a “twisted way of showing love.” This is precisely how many pimps and their facilitators lure young women into what they refer to as “the game.”

According to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “The themes of trauma, abandonment, and disruption, begun in childhood, are central to the narratives of adolescent girls trafficked into commercial sexual exploitation.  Girls describe having had a profound sense of being alone felt that their isolation, lack of connectedness, and separation were the single most important factors in making them vulnerable to prostitution to begin with.” 

Not surprisingly, Ana portrays several of the characteristics that are associated with girls who fall prey to prostitution.  She is from a broken home, her mother seems unreliable, and with the cost of college tuition, she is struggling financially.  Ana is exactly the kind of girl who gets swept up in the wave of a successful man, no matter how demoralizing he may be.  The conclusion is that Ana’s successful relationship is secured with sex. 

Even more alarming is that Christian’s behavior resembles the “seasoning” practices of a pimp.  A brief overview of sex-trafficking terms puts the Gucci-clad Christian right in line with a corrupt street thug: “Seasoning is a combination of psychological manipulation, intimidation, gang rape, sodomy, beatings, deprivation of food or sleep, isolation from friends or family and other sources of support…it is designed to break down a victim’s resistance to ensure compliance.”  Sound familiar?

Throughout the book, Ana is genuinely afraid of Christian.  Terms like “threateningly” or “commanding” are used in every chapter. Scenes involve moments of terrifying rage, “He bangs his fist on the table, making me jump, and stands so abruptly he almost knocks the dining chair over.” Regardless of her frightened internal dialogue, this tale claims that having the daylights beaten out of her and other bondage escapades results in Ana’s physical pleasure even though she simultaneously admits to the reader, “And he hits me again and again, from somewhere deep inside, I want to beg him to stop, but I don’t.”

PUT OUT OR GET OUT

It’s bad enough that young girls think they need to look like porn stars in order to gain male attention; apparently, now they need to act like them too.  In this day and age, that means being the recipient of some form of abuse. Visit one porn site, and without actually watching a single video, you can readily deduce that women enjoy physical mistreatment, general disrespect, and verbal cruelty because it is sexually exciting.  Men learn that this is the kind of sex they should be having, and women learn this is the kind of sex they should be providing.

A 2010 study by the University of Arkansas analyzes the content of popular pornographic videos with the objective of updating depictions of aggression, degradation, and sexual practices. “Findings indicate high levels of aggression in pornography in both verbal and physical forms. Of the 304 scenes analyzed, 88.2% contained physical aggression, principally spanking, gagging, and slapping, while 48.7% of scenes contained verbal aggression, primarily name-calling. Perpetrators of aggression were usually male, whereas targets of aggression were overwhelmingly female. Targets most often showed pleasure or responded neutrally to the aggression.”  The message to women is clear: Be willing to get weird and possibly wounded. Oh yeah, then pretend to like it.

ABUSE IS AFFECTION

This lie is becoming a possible future truth due to the prolific reach of porn and our cultural acceptance of it. In 2004, Internet Pornography Statistics showed that the largest consumers of Internet pornography were between the ages of 12-17. Subsequently, the current majority of monthly viewers is 70% of American men ages 18-24. Do the math. The 13-year-old kid who was secretly watching X-rated videos on his parent’s computer back then is the 24-year-old man with a link to PornHub bookmarked on his iPhone now.  Most modern men are already brainwashed while Fifty Shades is indoctrination for the dames.  

Today, 35% of all Internet downloads are pornographic and 94% of that material highlights violence toward women.  That is an incredible amount of people who think that beatings in the bedroom are perfectly benign. Those folks are foolishly mistaken. Researchers at the Center for Innovative Public Health Research (CiPHR) in San Clemente, Calif., found that youths who watched violent pornography were six times more likely to engage in sexually aggressive behavior compared to non-viewers. These behaviors include in-person sexual assault, or technology-based sexual harassment or solicitation. This connection persisted even when other important factors like substance abuse, prior sexual victimization, and aggressive behavior in general were taken into account. It is no wonder that bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, or sadism and masochism have helped us redefine what we call the “intimate relationship.”

Physically rough encounters and sexually painful interactions have been muddled with emotional connection, and arousal at someone else’s expense confused for affection. James’s work fits into this category easily: “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.” Happy Valentine’s Day, I guess.

MODERN DAY ROMANCE IS MISERY

As a book and a film, Fifty Shades is definitely fiction and, like its pornographic counterparts, entirely unrealistic. Relationships are not based on who signed up for the submissive or dominant roles.  Mature, healthy relationships are based on communication, compassion, and mutual respect. Being intimate should suggest sensitivity and openness. There should be a sense of security that comes from this bond, not forced bonds that require someone to trust that he or she won’t be strangled to death.

 Clearly, loving your partner because you love who he or who she is has become an antiquated notion.  As one review put it, “This is the central tension of the books: Ana loves Christian, but she doesn’t want to be his submissive; Christian loves Ana, but he’s turned on by violent sex.” Being in love with someone in modern terms means that you must be sexually insane, unabashedly provocative, and brazenly uninhibited in every possible way.  That is not the kind of love that makes a person feel complete and happy.  This is not the kind of message we should send to any woman.  Fifty Shades makes me ashamed and afraid for women today. Perhaps Anastasia Steele summarizes it best:

“Now I feel like a receptacle—an empty vessel to be filled at his whim. I have an overwhelming urge to cry, a sad and lonely melancholy grips and tightens round my heart. Dashing back to my bedroom, I close the door and lean against it trying to rationalize my feelings. I can’t. Sliding to the floor, I put my head in my hands as my tears begin to flow.”
— E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey

SOURCES:

Clawson, Heather. Dutch, Nicole. Solomon, Amy. Grace, Lisa.  “Human Trafficking Into and Within the United States: A review of the Literature.” August 2009. ASPE. Hhs.gov. 26 Feb 2015. Web.

 Bridges, AJ. Wosnitzer, R. Scharrer, E. Sun, C. Liberman, R. Violence Against Women. “Aggression and Sexual Behavior in Best Selling Porngraphy Videos.” 16 Oct. 2010. Pub Med. 26 Feb. 2015. Web.

 “Glossary of Trafficking Terms.” Shared Hope International. SharedHope.Org. 26 Feb. 2015. Web.

 Green, Emma. “Consent Isn’t Enough: The Troubling Sex of Fifty Shades.” 10 Feb. 2015. Atlantic. 26 Feb 2015. Web.

 Focus Features, Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, Fifty Shades of Grey, DCP 2K, 2015.

Undisclosed names. Recorded Audio Interview. 12 February 2015.

James, E.L. “Quotes from Fifty Shades Trilogy.” GoodReads.com. 25 Feb. 2015. Web.

Top Ten Reviews. “Internet Pornography Statistics.” Copyright 2014. 26 Feb. 2015. Web.

Ybarra, ML. Mitchel, KJ. Diener-West, M. Leaf, PJ. Hamburger, M. Aggressive Behavior. “X-Rated Material and Perpetration of Sexually Aggressive Behavior Among Children and Adolescents.” Jan. 2011. Pub Med. 26 Feb. 2015. Web.