A sour smoothie


Yesterday I took a break and went to the kitchen to make a smoothie. I flipped on the radio, more out of habit than intention. My husband says we may have "radio wars" in our house, he not being a big fan of NPR. Here is our slight philosophical difference: My feeling is that I am grounded enough in the faith to "take" whatever they throw at me, while my husband's view is (to paraphrase ineloquently) "Why listen to crap?"

I tuned in to our local NPR affiliate, WHYY in Philadelphia, and the program that was airing at the moment was in the middle of a discussion about a book titled Fifty Shades of Grey, the first of a trilogy. The host of Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane, American as apple pie, paused to remind the listening audience that this was "an adult conversation."

I have heard Christians interviewed on this station with thinly veiled contempt and poison-tipped questions, as if they were child abductors. Not so for the University of Indiana "sexual research scientist" and the writer for Salon.com, whose erudition was received with respect and unchallenged deference.

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Shades is about a "BDSM" relationship-which is an acronym I just learned in 2011, having barely caught up with that other de rigueur term, GLBT. I don't want to say I'm far behind the pack, but I was startled by the phrase "BDSM community." (You mean there's more than two or three people doing this?)

The matter would not be worth troubling you with if it were a whacky fringe phenomenon, but the point of the interview was that the books and movement and commercial tie-ins have taken off like gangbusters. The genre is being called "mommy porn" because the largest readership is married women over 30. All the phone calls coming into the program except two (lonely voices in the wilderness) were enthusiastic. One was an 80-year-old woman who passes her books on to her friends.

An excerpt of the conversation:

Moss-Coane: "Do you think that … women will be more open-minded [as a result of this book]? Do you see this as breaking taboos and opening the door to breaking other taboos?"

Guest commentator: "I think it might. … I do see in the last few years a lot more public conversation about open relationships ... 'monogamesh'-to be monogamous but sometimes sexual with other people. So there are different terms that people use. … I do think that that's going to be another taboo we're going to see broken down. I think there are just so many people who are living their lives and their relationships in some sort of more interesting, nuanced way, rather than just 'monogamous or not.' And I think we can't help but start to talk about that more and, hopefully, eventually accept that more. …

"Increasingly we are accepting the fact that monogamy can and often does fail, and we are coming up with new and creative ways to address that … and that in general we're becoming more accepting of non-traditional family formations … so that gay marriage has become so much more acceptable. The transformation in that arena has become spectacular. …We're seeing a major transformation in our openness to conceiving of different family and romantic formulations. …"

So I drank my sour smoothie down but felt like tearing my robes from top to bottom and throwing ashes on my head.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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