IT IS no surprise that men and women in their thousands are flocking to see the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, which was released here on Thursday. Or that those who set themselves up as the guardians of our morals are issuing stern warnings and recommending boycotts.
When it comes to sex, we all have our opinions. Some of us - fewer and fewer as the years go by - see intercourse as the ultimate expression of intimacy between a man and a woman; a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bonding that is one of the richest and most precious gifts given to us by our Creator.
A few see it, quite wrongly, as nothing more than a means of procreation.
But for most of us these days, and for decades now, the act of sexual intercourse is seen as simply a physical function, much like having a meal together or playing a game of tennis, something to be indulged in purely for sensory pleasure.
Why this movie, based on a book that has sold by the tens of millions (it returned its author some $77 million in the first year), has caused such a fuss I can't quite figure.
This nation is every day saturated in sexual imagery, staring us in the face wherever we go and whatever we do. The advertising industry in all media, including billboards visible to everybody irrespective of age, unashamedly use sex to sell anything from underwear to perfume to motor vehicles; television, books, magazines and newspapers serve up a regular diet of salacious clad or naked women and men, often in the act of intercourse.
Advertisements for Viagra and Cialis and a string of other drugs designed to restore or increase sexual performance regularly crop up on television and in magazines, along with those "Sex for Life" ads we find sprinkled through newspapers day in and day out.
Anyone with a computer and an internet link can spend a full 24 hours looking at cyberspace sex and porn sites - from nudity to hard-core heterosexual and homosexual sex to bestiality and other utter depravity - without it costing a cent. And by the end of the day there would still be several days of viewing left.
In a land awash with sexual titillation aimed at everybody from little children to the intellectually disabled to the aged, movies such as Fifty Shades - all three of them - are going to make little difference.
I'm not surprised, either, that customers are already moaning because the first sex scene doesn't come to the screen until 40 minutes into the film. Fifty Shades of Grey, and its sequels, all of which I skimmed years ago during the outcry when they were published, is simply a vehicle by which to present a series of nauseating b&d sex scenes, strung together with screeds of indifferent prose, much of it interminable justifications of the behaviour of the two principal characters.
When I finished the trilogy, I knew I'd wasted my money.
Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First, says: "The premise of the movie is that a woman who is humiliated, abused, controlled, entrapped, coerced, manipulated and tortured is somehow an 'empowered' woman. And a man who is possessive, controlling, violent, jealous and coercive is somehow showing 'true love'.
"These are foul and dangerous lies. This movie, and the book it is based on, simply glamorises sexual violence and should be rejected by everyone who is concerned about family and sexual violence."
He's right, of course. But in a land awash with sexual titillation aimed at everybody from little children to the intellectually disabled to the aged, suggesting a sordid movie featuring sexual violence might make matters worse is rather ingenuous.
The real damage was done decades ago.
-Garth George is a veteran newspaper journalist, retired and living in Rotorua.