No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey

February 23, 2015

No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey
Marie Notcheva

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Marie Notcheva

No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey

A Word from Your BCC Team: Today’s blog was first posted at Julie Ganschow’s blog site. We are re-posting it with Julie’s permission and the permission of the author, Marie Notcheva. You can also read the original post here.

When Perversion Is Called “Love” and Abuse Is Entertainment

There are certain things I never expected to see go completely mainstream. By “go mainstream,” I mean to reach a level of complete societal acceptance. Such things would include “Daisy Duke” shorts. The militant GLBT agenda in American education. And….pornography marketed to women.

If you harbor any doubts that this world has completely lost all moral compass, look no further than the recent 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. (I nearly typed, “this country,” but the trilogy seems to be quite popular with teenage girls in Europe.) On Valentine’s Day, the sadomasochistic duo of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey came to a cinema near you.

A Disclaimer: I have not read the books, and do not plan to. I am, however, familiar with the premise: A college student begins a BDSM relationship with a businessman, which is somehow construed to be a romance. From what I read on Wiki, there doesn’t seem to be much of a plot – just a lot of “incompatibility,” leading to breakups; beatings; and violent perversion. The books portray an abusive relationship as being a romance; Ana, in fact, displays classic battered women’s syndrome by falling “in love” with the man who victimizes her. I will assume the readers of this blog are adults, and do not need me to explain what “bondage porn” is. A University of Michigan study demonstrated that women who read these books were statistically more likely to have an abusive partner (25%); binge drink (65%); and were more likely to have eating disorders.

We are about to see a new wave of counseling cases because of 50 Shades of Grey, and here’s why: Christian women are reading this tripe at the same rate as the general population. A Barna survey shows that 9% of American adults have read 50 Shades, and the statistic is exactly the same for professing Christians. Shocked? Screenings for the movie sold out fastest in Bible Belt cities, too. This is not a demographic—these are our sisters in Christ. There is something desperately wrong when a Christ-follower chooses to put this kind of material in her mind. Let’s consider three specific “heart issues” involved with choosing to read or watch 50 Shades.

The Normalization of Sexual Sin

First of all, let’s dispel the myth that lust is uniquely a man’s sin. It’s not, and we can safely say that adult women can also violate Matthew 5:28, since they are huge consumers of pornography. The difference, of course, is that it is literature designed to titillate, rather than actual photography (although the movie is said to be the most graphic R-rated movie released to date). Therein lies the difference: men are more visual; whereas women are more relational. Men are more likely to habitually view porn, while women prefer to indulge in “romance novels.” In both cases, the heart issue is the same: lust. A craving for satisfaction outside of the way God intended it.

While I am not justifying it, I understand—up to a point—why women are more likely to fall into emotional affairs than men. Or why men enjoy the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. Certain weaknesses are inherent in our DNA. What I cannot understand, however, is what the attraction is in BSDM porn—the most extreme perversion of human intimacy imaginable—and how on earth porn has gone from public perception as seedy and shameful to being celebrated as a romantic art form. Philippians 4:8 commands the Christian to think on what is right; pure; honorable; lovely; and of good repute. Does this kind of “literature” fall under any of these categories?

What, exactly, does reading about a deviant, violence-filled sexual relationship do for you, ladies? Does it help you to grow in holiness? When you put it down, what does this book’s “wisdom” inspire you to do….unload the dishwasher? Pack your kids’ school lunches? Iron the family’s clothes? I like to think things over while ironing. I’m sure that’s it.

Abuse as Entertainment

A 2013 Journal of Women’s Health study stated the novels “romanticize abuse of women” and deemed the ironically-named “Christian” to be an emotionally and sexually abusive cad. No kidding, really? Did we really need a study to tell us this?

It is no secret that filmography has gotten increasingly violent and more graphic over the last decades. 50 Shades’ glorification of violence against women has been well-documented, and is reason enough for anyone to avoid the film. But there is another truth that Christian ladies need to acknowledge: By watching this film or reading these books, you are choosing to entertain yourself with the very things that nailed Jesus to the Cross.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The increase in violent films, video games, etc., has led to an increasingly de-sensitized culture. Consider this: the sex trade is alive and well. Real young women like “Ana” are trafficked around the world, every day, and degraded against their will. They are all someone’s daughter. There is nothing more blatantly satanic than the degradation of another human being, who is made in the image of God.

The Message to Our Daughters

Knowing she had not read the books, I asked my 17-year-old daughter if they were popular among girls her age. She snickered, and admitted she didn’t know anyone who had read 50 Shades. “It’s women your age who are reading that stuff, Mom…and older women, in their sixties. We laugh at it.” (Most of the readers of 50 Shades are between the ages of 29-66). While I was glad that the book isn’t popular among American teens, the fact that my generation is popularizing “Mommy Porn” (and thus “normalizing” it) is tragic. If I didn’t have two daughters, who I want to raise as godly young women, it might not disturb me quite so much. But it does.

While we’re here, let’s dispel another myth popular among evangelicals: we cannot “guard” our daughters’ purity. In fact, we cannot guard anyone’s purity, except our own. We can only give them the Gospel; show grace, and pray that they will follow Christ. We do not want them to embrace a moral code and think they are Christians—we want them to embrace the living Christ; and follow His moral Law out of love and gratitude. If Christian moms are reading 50 Shades, what message about God’s plan for marital love does this send? Does it keep the marriage bed pure (Hebrews 13:4)?

Renewing the Mind Defiled by 50 Shades

While Christians may be reading 50 Shades, I do not believe they are able to do so without conviction. The shame attached to this particular sin makes it harder for female porn users to admit they want help in forsaking it, although they are not unusual in the counseling room. The first step is in admitting that reading or viewing erotica is, in fact, sin. For the believer, this shouldn’t even be a question. This is simply not a grey area.

Next, she needs to see the behavior porn depicts as God does: filthy. While images and thoughts cannot be “unseen,” all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are no longer enslaved to sin. We can control what we think about, and self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. It is wise to start with 2 Corinthians 10:5—“take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ”—to break the stronghold of sexual sin.

Throughout much of Scripture the process of choosing to think pure, godly thoughts is described. Renewal and transformation of the mind with the Word of God is crucially important for women who have become enslaved to porn, and “taking thoughts captive” is a good metaphor. Jay Adams wrote, “We do not have to let our minds go wandering down every alley; poking into every garbage can along the way.” Since all sin begins in the mind, I think of the first step of repentance as closing a door in my mind: “This is not an option. Period.”

Looking Upward; Not Inward

Unlike psychotherapy, which delves into the deeper reasons of why we may be prone to certain desires or behaviors, biblical counseling is more concerned with the solution: turning around and “putting on” the godly alternative. Forsaking a sinful thought pattern or behavior does not mean constantly ruminating on it or asking for deeper revelation into the reasons why we went in that direction. We sin because we are sinners; it is our nature. For example, when counseling bulimics, I do not ask them to keep a food journal—it focuses undue attention on the food itself; rather than the idols in their hearts. Likewise, a woman repenting of erotica/porn use needs to be in the Bible, but not necessarily fixating on every verse that deals with sexual sin. The whole of Scripture renews the soul by revealing the character of God—a start contrast to the dark, demonically-inspired world of 50 Shades.

In the Gospels, one sees the character of Jesus as one filled with compassion—whether He is healing a leper; forgiving an adulteress; or calling a tax collector. We see it implied everywhere (and stated explicitly in Romans 2:4) that it is His kindness that leads us to repentance—not guilt; shame; or fear. Coming to know the true character of God and receiving His grace is what will change the heart of a woman seeking fulfillment in the broken cisterns of literary porn.

4 thoughts on “No Grey Area in 50 Shades of Grey

  1. I think it’s important that we represent a Christian viewpoint in the
    whole debate. We can’t just be opposed to it, we need to have something
    to present that engages those hoodwinked by the original 50 shades
    enough to show them that Christianity has a valid (better) alternative.
    I’ve talked to people til I’m blue in the face about the movie and domestic
    violence and respect etc etc but it’s hard to make them listen. I did
    though find a Christian fiction alternative that is mirrored on the
    story but presents God’s love not the fake and manipulative 50 shades
    love. Very based around John’s interpretation of Christ’s message and concepts like being a doulos for Christ.

    Interesting stuff in its own right and consequently I’ve found a few of my secular friends have said, oh okay if you’re just giving me a novel I’ll read it whereas they wouldn’t have engaged in a full blown debate over it.
    Two of those friends have now started to (periodically) attend church. One
    said to me ‘I didn’t know you had a bigger love until I read that book.’
    Drawback is it’s only on kindle though

  2. I think, though, Christianized books and movies that copy (but try to redeem) a secular, pop-culture alternative tend to be recognized for what they are, and never catch on as the originals do. I am thinking of a particular movie right now that attempted to do that, and was not well-received.

    In any event….I just read a review of a wonderful book, “When Your Husband is Addicted to Pornography”. Perhaps my next book will be the sequel: “When Your Wife is Addicted to 50 Shades of Grey”. Shameful that we’ve come to this point. (I still don’t get it.)

  3. yes well done a good article ! i refused to ”know anything about it ”. be innocent of EVIL” ! the bible says . the only thing i would add or disagree with is the part about counselling. i came a very long way with many issues from a hurtful past full of many losses . when i got born again in a penticostal ”victory or word of faith church ” one of the things Jesus did was ask me to tell him all about my past etc. i loved him extremely and wanted to please him / for him to show me the wicked way in my heart . i had lived without Jesus / God for 30 + yrs .–this went on for many yrs and it is a ”RELATIONSHIP around truth ” .my sins and WHY I HAD THOSE SINS and weaknesses / character defects etc why that was /what happened to me and how i dealt with it really helped me and in some of i was totally set free / the process was very freeing !! so i don’t believe you just turn like you said .
    God is a God of super understanding and comfort and it made him so real talking 2 way like that with him . these convos brought me out of that w of f. movement . i am in christrian 12 step and i believe he uses it to sanctify us and get me more ready for heaven. he does the changing but we need to BECOME AWARE and submit surrender cuz he doesn’t force us to change AND he limits his soveriegnty to have relationship with us . what do you guys think ? lets share about that – my pastor thinks like you and he says when God shows us our sin we just go to him and repent but thats not enough for me – it s like i’d have had a shallow relationship with God . all about me obeying but nothing else – you know ?

  4. It was written by a woman, for women and 98% of readers viewers were women. It has absolutely nothing to do with violence against women. It has everything to do with:

    Subtle feminism in our society that is so thin that:
    Women dominate men in this day and age. Men are afraid to be men in this “rape culture”. Men are afraid to lead and are walking away from tradition. They are not men any longer and do not want to lead and show leadership in a relationship.

    Women inherently want a man who will lead them and someone they can/will submit to, but in this day and age because of all the “girl power” novels and movies, they are seeking an “alpha” that will give them tingles instead of the “beta” who will be the provider and protector. They have set the bar WAY too high for men/boys.

    The novel/movie portrays a with Money, Power, Attraction, Confidence that is rock solid. He dominates her and she wants to be dominated. Equate that to real life, women in this day and age want the tingles from a man or he’s off the list. The “beta” is goodlooking, but doesn’t have confidence… he seems powerful, but is ugly…. he has confidence, but he is broke

    You name it. Ever let your daughter watch Fireproof? Perfect example, husband submits to wife’s authority over him. Read/ see twighlight, how about divergent, hunger games? Girl dominates. That is what you are allowing your daughters to learn and they are competing with young men who are not intimidated by your daughters. They just don’t want to compete for headship or earn their respect.

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