I am chaplain to a women's prayer group which meets most Monday evenings. This evening we had an interesting discussion over tea after our devotions. It concerned the forthcoming movie Fifty Shades of Grey based on the novel of the same name. It seems there are an awful lot of women out there excitedly waiting for the movie's opening on St Valentine's Day: "hotly anticipated" according to Time magazine. None of the ladies at the prayer group, I hasten to add, were fans of this book.
For those of you who do not know about the book and movie, it concerns a BDSM relationship: bondage, domination and sado masochism. The books sold like hotcakes a few years ago, and now the makers of the movie may well be laughing all the way to the bank as the ladies line up to see....to see....what? To see a young woman being abused and brutalised by a man for his pleasure, and it seems the young women gets pleasure in this too. And apparently there are millions of women out there, many of whom are fans of this book, who would like a crack of the same whip (no pun intended). As a result S&M products are, I'm told, in great demand - the "ideal gift for the woman in your life" it seems.
Now I am scratching my head and wondering whatever happened the feminist movement? Since when was abusing women not only tolerated but actually celebrated and greeted with teenage glee? Was Emily Davison's rash act a loss without any lessons? Will the ghost of Emmeline Pankhurst rise from her grave in Brompton and halt outside the Multiplex on the Fulham Road? I hope so, and may she engage in a bit of domination herself as she batters her erring sisters with her placard should they attempt to enter the cinema.
But there is a darker side to this, and this is what occupied the women at the prayer group this evening. In Ireland at the moment a man is on trial accused of the murder of a woman, a woman who was allegedly killed during a BDSM session: allegedly stabbed to death to heighten the man's sexual pleasure. The trial is shocking many here, and rightly so: a life lost in such a shocking and senseless way. And yet, many of those shocked at the details emerging from this trial, media included, are tingling with anticipation at the thought of this movie; already making plans for the "girls's night out" to see it.
Have we lost the ability to make connections?