Lately I began thinking about a movie with the female lead as an ingénue and the male lead as a flawed anti-hero. The current “Fifty Shades of Grey?”
No. “Dirty Dancing,” which of course starred Jennifer Grey — what a coincidence — as a teenage girl nicknamed “Baby” and the late Patrick Swayze as a streetwise dance instructor with a checkered past who seduces her.
In fact, when that movie came out about a quarter-century ago it did arouse a bit of controversy. During a discussion on local Christian radio, one commentator called “Dirty Dancing” “a woman’s sex fantasy.”
And that may be the very same issue surrounding the extremely erotic “Fifty Shades of Grey”; when the book came out that a newspaper or magazine reported that one woman recommended the book to another, with this admonition: “Wear a panty liner.”
With the latter production has come the predictable amount of evangelical hand-wringing, especially the apparent glorification of sex, which many consider part of the coarsening of our culture.
Though I have no intention of reading the book or watching the movie, I have a different take: I see it as women falling for what I call “dangerous men.”
Having read the book “Wild at Heart,” I understand this phenomenon a little, with author John Eldredge explaining it as women wanting a sense of adventure in a relationship with a man. Not for nothing are fraternity men, athletes, entertainers and cowboys (to a certain extent) regarded as “hot”; mild guys who are morally upright and stable are, on the other hand, often as a result considered boring.
And this has been going on for decades now.
Here’s the rub: Eldredge also says that when women catch one of these “wild” men they often set out to tame him. Some refuse (I did in my last relationship), while others comply — and promptly lose their mojo, the very thing they fear. Some years ago a newspaper advice column ran a story about a couple in which the woman wanted her husband to trade in his pickup truck for a minivan and he was resisting for that reason. (I thought, “Why not buy the minivan but also keep the truck?”)
In one case, Eldredge referred to a wife who wanted to spice things up in her dull marriage, and he advised her to “invite [her husband] to be dangerous” — which in her case meant allowing him to buy a motorcycle, to her chagrin.
I’m seeing now that church culture usually doesn’t invite men to be “wild”; it’s supposed to turn out good and moral people who don’t make waves, but that has also hurt the masculine journey because a certain amount of passion is lost in the process. For that reason, adventure should be part of a man’s life. (It’s one reason I play jazz and blues, both an adventure every time out because in some cases no one knows what will happen next.)
So perhaps the issue isn’t really eroticism; it’s a desire for women to be intimate with a strong man. Or what they perceive to be one.