The first thing you notice about Jasmine is a smile that lights up a room and soft, welcoming eyes. But, sit down with her for just a few minutes and you’ll be surprised by the road she's traveled. I was surprised to learn that this beautiful, put-together mom spent six years of her life trapped in the sex industry where she was beaten, abused and turned to drugs to cope with the reality of a life she never agreed to.
She slid the heavy packet of papers across the table to me; I could tell that her heart was even heavier. I started thumbing through the documents as she started talking. "These girls… they're right here in our community and they have nowhere to go. I want to open a safe home for them. A place for them to go and recover from the hell they've been ensnared in. Human trafficking shouldn't exist here, not in our neighborhood. How do we help them?"
She could barely talk through her tears, "Our marriage is falling apart. He pays more attention to those girls on his computer screen than he does to me. I'll never measure up; I'll never be enough for him. I hate myself and can't do this anymore."
I fasten my seat belt and pull a new book out of my bag as the plane makes its way down the runway. Through the author’s words I'm instantly transported from my safe seat on the airplane to a shipping container filled with 59 women. Women who were deceived into thinking that new life and new opportunities awaited them on a distant shore, but discovered too late they would be joining the 27 million enslaved in human trafficking around the world.
I log onto Facebook after being offline for a few days and find my news feed filled with posts from women who are "so excited" and "can't wait to see" a new movie coming out in a few months. The movie? Fifty Shade of Grey.
Can I be honest? I am so confused.
I'm confused by the message we are sending our daughters. We've fought for decades and generations to be treated as equals. We've fought to be seen as people and not as objects. We've fought for our right to say no to unwanted sexual advances. Why would we, through reading this book and watching this movie (and others like it), risk confusing our daughters with the message we are sending them?
I'm confused by the message we are sending our sons. We've declared that no one has the right to sexualize us or enslave us. We've fought for stricter punishments for domestic violence and date rape. We teach our sons to honor and protect women. What message do we send them when we tell Hollywood that the brutalization of women isn't just okay but it's what we want them to make movies about?
When women say yes to Fifty Shades I wonder if we confuse the men who buy little girls for their own selfish pleasure. I wonder about the message we are sending to husbands and sons who are wrapped up and consumed by their addiction to pornography. I wonder what message we are sending to businessmen who travel internationally and are offered their choice of women to satisfy any desire they have. What message are we sending to men who have been taught that no means no when we send a book to the New York Times bestseller list that says our no means yes?
We can't say no to human trafficking and yes to erotic novels.
We can't say no to date rape and yes to Anastasia Steel.
We can't say no to pornography and yes to Fifty Shades of Grey.
We can't say no to the victimization of women and hand Hollywood millions of dollars when they produce movies like this for our entertainment.
We can't pretend that us reading a sexually explicit book and a 12 year old girl's body being sold a dozen times a day aren't connected because they are. We either stand up for the rights of women or we don't.
My friend asked me an interesting question the other day. "How on earth are so many girls trapped in the sex industry if we all have mothers?" It's a valid question. What mother wouldn't fight with every ounce of strength in her body to rescue her daughter from a predator? Yet, as women, as mothers, we are not fighting. We are not raising our voices and saying "no more." We are not going into the darkness and rescuing the daughters. We are sitting poolside with our worn paperbacks and in dark movie theatres with buttered popcorn and we've forgotten this war we are in. And, ladies, we are in a war. When we allow ourselves to be entertained by movies like this, the enemy wins.
Contrary to what E L James might say, there is no grey here.
Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. – Ephesians 4:19