Love? Nothing Says Valentine’s Day Like Fifty Shades Darker & the SI Swimsuit Edition

It’s February, which means Valentine’s Day is coming.  The season of love.  You can tell a lot about a culture by the way it celebrates holidays and in this case, you can tell a lot about what a culture thinks love is.

If you asked a person on the street what love is, you would hopefully get an answer that refers to caring for another and being committed to another in a selfless way.  Meanwhile, everyone can admit that our culture is plagued with sexual travesties:  rape and child abuse at the top of the list, with more subtle stops along the way.  The subtle stops will be debated, especially in our post-truth culture where the prevailing value is each person gets to choose their own values.  This means even if a person’s sexual patterns are destructive, it is a worse crime to tell them they are wrong than it is for them to continue doing whatever they want, whenever they want, with whoever they want.

Most people will still admit they don’t like feeling objectified.  What I mean is, most women will tell you they don’t like it when men gaze at their breasts instead of making eye contact.  Most parents will tell you they don’t want boys ogling their teenage daughters like they are pieces of meat, and making advances to act on these desires of consumption.  Outside of the sexual realm, objectification still applies.  No one wants to be treated like property, disrespected as subhuman by their bosses or customers, or treated like they don’t have innate value and dignity.

Yet we continue to act like a child who ate all their Halloween candy in one night and is now wondering why they have such a stomach ache.  When told they shouldn’t have eaten all of that candy at once–that candy is good, but isn’t meant to be gorged on like that–they lash out in indignation at our audacity and arrogance to impose our values on them.

It’s so sad and ironic to me that Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition always comes out around Valentine’s Day.  Nothing says caring, committed, selfless love like millions of men lusting and masturbating over women wearing hardly anything.  If you’ve never seen a SI Swimsuit Edition, this is not a fashion catalog, but is a sultry Playboy with a little translucent paint (not making this up) as a covering.  That’s just one example, but the point is, these photos are printed with one purpose in mind: get men objectifying and consuming women for the sake of their body parts and nothing more.

Do you really think this mentality stops when men go out into real life?  Like there is an “on-off” switch a man can flip where he will stop desiring to look at women’s breasts he is in conversation with, or stop fantasizing about them after doing so.  No, the Swimsuit Edition, just like other forms of porn, mold and condition a man’s mind on how to view all women.  To view them as subhuman objects, consuming them, dehumanizing them, and acting as if all they bring to the table is their body parts and potential to supply self-gratification to a man.  Not only does this become the definition of what a woman is and what she offers, it becomes the very definition of love itself.

As any current or former porn addict can attest to, this addictive cycle of consumption does not lead to peace, contentment or satisfaction like it promises.  It leads to hopelessness.

The Fifty Shades of Grey franchise picked up on Sports Illustrated’s financially brilliant marketing strategy here.  (SI’s swimsuit edition magazine is the Time Magazine franchise’s top selling edition across all brands and makes SI 5x more money than their sports editions combined according to alley insider.com)  Like the drug dealer with the addicts lined up at his door, these companies have learned how to make a ton of money on Valentine’s Day.

The aura of Valentine’s Day puts the drugs in the air all on its own.  People feel like they need a “Valentine”, a date of some kind, in order to feel like they have value.  You’re pretty much a loser if no one wants to cuddle with you on this special day–or so the line of thought goes.  Human beings always carry with them a longing for intimacy, it’s just much more exposed on Valentine’s Day.  What Sports Illustrated has done is provided a quick, easy, and euphoric way to simulate the intimacy people crave on Valentine’s Day.  Because let’s face it, the turning of some pages is a lot less stressful than trying to align the stars with a wife or longtime girlfriend for a thoughtful evening, and it’s quicker and easier than trying to go find someone to hook up with for the night.  People are longing for a gourmet home-cooked meal, but they’ll settle for fast food.

What remains astounding to me is how public and accepted these expressions of faux-intimacy are.  It used to be that porn viewing came along with a sense of embarrassment and shame if found out, but nowadays men and women alike flock to watch graphic porn together in the same movie theater that is playing the latest Disney cartoon.  The Fifty Shades of Grey movie shattered the box office with its popularity and the Fifty Shades Darker sequel is already selling theaters out in pre-sales.  Because you may not be able to get your spouse or date to fulfill your selfish fantasies (because that’s what love is all about, right?), so Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele will do it for you.

Hopelessness is lucrative business because people will always, always, remain addicted to hope. Satan is such a master deceiver:  he will obviously never give people actual hope, but he’ll give them the synthetic version that looks like it and even initially tastes like it. But at the end of the day you are left hungrier than you were before you started.

Meanwhile, God is love and he demonstrated his love for us in this, while we were still sinners, He died on a cross for us! (Romans 5:8) In the utmost act of selflessness, Jesus took the punishment you and I deserve for our sins and put them on his shoulders.  He died so we could live.  He became guilty and condemned so we could be innocent and free.

He not only died for us, he also created us, and he created and designed sex.  He created sex as the ultimate bonding of intimacy between a man and a woman–the act of two separate fleshes becoming one flesh.  One physically, as well as emotionally, spiritually and mentally.  That whatever comes your way, I will be here for you.  Not just like a lame love song I’m using to try to get you into bed, but in a covenental vow I am declaring before God and all of our friends and family.  I will be there with you and for you for better or worse, in sickness and in health, til death do us part!

Whether you’re single or married, you don’t need to go looking for intimacy because Jesus is already offering it to you.  He’s offering you approval, acceptance, validation, worth, and affection.  Your cup is already full, anything else is just a bonus.  He calls you his Bride.  He calls you his child.  He calls you beloved.

Will you answer this call or will you continue looking to all of the cheap imitations our culture has to offer…still wondering why this nasty stomach ache won’t go away.

Maybe a little more candy will help?

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Noah Filipiak

Author of a book for men on finding identity in Christ in an over-sexualized world, currently being considered by publishers. Sign up for 4x/year author newsletter here.
Host of the "Behind the Curtain" Ministry Podcast
Executive Director of Seeds Christian Community Development
Blogging at AtACrossroads.net
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One response to Love? Nothing Says Valentine’s Day Like Fifty Shades Darker & the SI Swimsuit Edition


  1. “Do you really think this mentality stops when men go out into real life?”

    Such an excellent point!

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