Russell Brand blasts 'Fifty Shades of Grey': An opening for parents to talk about sex?

Comedian Russell Brand posted a video lamenting the challenges that films like 'Fifty Shades of Grey' present to healthy romantic relationships. His comments present an opening to address relationships with teens.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/FILE
In this Nov. 3, 2012 file photo, comedian Russell Brand performs at "Eddie Murphy: One Night Only," a celebration of Murphy's career, at the Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, Calif.

It looks like Russell Brand has struck a chord. The other day the actor, comedian, and commentator posted a thoughtful - if expletive-laced - very personal video about the film "Fifty Shades of Gray," pornography, and sexualized culture. The video has already received nearly a half a million views.

“This cloud of pornographic information and even soft cultural smog like '50 Shades of Gray' … is making it impossible for us to relate to our sexuality and our own psychology and our own spirituality,” Brand said. “Whether or not this is porn from a female perspective, it is still the commodification and mainstreaming of soft-core porn. What does soft-core porn do to us? And what does porn in general do to both men and women and the way we relate to each other?”

He quotes an unnamed priest as saying that porn doesn’t reveal too much, it reveals too little, “extracting sex from its biological, emotional and psychological context,” he said, not to mention its ethical context. From the Journal of Adolescent Health, he cites these effects of prolonged exposure to porn, effects he says he himself is trying to address in his own life:

  • An exaggerated perception of sex in society
  • Diminished trust between intimate couples
  • Abandoned hope of sexual monogamy
  • The belief that promiscuity is a natural state
  • Other effects he cited from a Texas-based psychologist Gary Brooks: voyeurism (looking at not interacting with someone); objectification of women (“Guilty,” Brand said. “I’ve been acculturated; this is something I work on, to see everybody as equal human beings”); “the need to validate masculinity through beautiful women”; “trophyism, women as collectibles”; “fear of true intimacy – inability to relate to women in a real and intimate way despite deep loneliness.”
  • No question this is sobering (it could well be one of the reasons for the sexual harassment and misogyny that has gotten a lot of exposure this past year, if you remember “#gamergate” last summer?). But it shouldn’t lead to fear or alarmism, which stop rather than support much-needed communication. I like therapist, sex educator and author Marty Klein’s advice: Don't have big-deal, once-in-a-blue-moon talks with our kids about online pornography, but rather occasional low-key ones tuned to what our kids and their peers may be encountering online, if that’s at all possible.

    But the bigger questions Russell Brand raises about our culture are just as important. Children benefit from and respond to honest, respectful questions like Brand’s that appeal to their intelligence and genuinely seek their perspective. Besides, their perspective is valuable, and they appreciate collaborating on problem solving. In any case, they shouldn’t be left on their own to find accurate information. They need to know about healthy, loving relationships and sexuality (see this Centers for Disease Control fact sheet on teen dating violence), and let children you know and love know about, a helpline that provides research-based information on dating abuse and healthy relationships.

    “It’s jarring and distracting. I think what’s happening,” Brand concludes in his video, “is that the circuit in the mind which is connected to sexuality moves very, very quickly, the circuit connected to love and compassion is a little bit slower. So if you’re constantly bombarded with great waves of filth, it’s really difficult to remain connected to truth.”

    The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Anne Collier blogs at NetFamilyNews, and you can find this original post with relevant related links here.

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