Women are asking, “Should I read Fifty Shades of Grey?” I hate to see them falling into the same trap that has claimed so many men.
by Dave Boehi
Recently my wife, Merry, asked, “I’ve been hearing about this new book,
Fifty Shades of Grey. I wonder if that would be good to read?”
To answer her question, I began by looking up the book on Amazon and reading
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and
independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana
hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his
vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by
the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical
affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark
“Actually, this description doesn’t reveal much about what the book is really
about.” I said to Merry. “From what I’ve read, this is a book about sexual
bondage and sadism. So … does that sound like something you want to read?”
“I don’t think so.”
It was an easy decision for Merry, but apparently there are many Christian
women today who are hearing about this book and are wondering, “Should I read
Fifty Shades of Grey?” Many women love stories about romance, and
here’s a book that has become a national sensation—the book and its two sequels
rank 1-3 at the top of the New York Times paperback bestseller list. So
many women are talking about the book that others want to become part of the
For some women, the decision of whether to read it is simple once they learn
what the book is about. Others are curious and want to try it out, so to
speak. And others can’t understand what the fuss is about. “Isn’t this just a
book?” they ask. “It isn’t real, after all, it’s just fiction. It might even
spice up your sex life with your husband!”
Falling into the same trap
Words like these sound awfully familiar to me because they’re the same
justifications that men use for consuming pornography. And that’s why I’m
writing, as a man, about a book written primarily for women. I hate to see
women falling into the same trap that has claimed so many men.
I’m writing these words a few hours after watching a preview session from
FamilyLife’s upcoming Stepping Up video series for men. In this session, men
were challenged to “stand firm”—to step up and do the right thing no matter
what temptations you face or what circumstances you find yourself in. As 1
Corinthians 16:13-14 tells us, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like
men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
One of the ongoing battles for any man is with lust, and each day he is
tempted to look at images that feed this lust. At one point the video session
focused on one man’s struggle with pornography and how it nearly destroyed his
marriage. And it struck me that there’s little difference between the effects
of a man choosing to view pornography and the effects of a woman reading books
like Fifty Shades of Grey.
The right place for sexual desire
Some people will say it’s unfair to criticize a book I haven’t read. Often I
agree with that sentiment, but not when it comes to erotica or pornography.
Here are a few points to consider:
1. Erotic photos, videos, and books are all designed with one thing
in mind—to stimulate sexual desire. From a biblical standpoint, sexual
desire is good as long as it’s in the right context. But I think it’s
safe to say that the creators of erotica and pornography are not very concerned
about whether they help couples build stronger marriages. Instead, using these
media invites men and women to fantasize about sexual relationships outside of
marriage. That’s a dangerous path to walk. It leads to unhealthy comparisons
with your spouse and a host of other problems. If the sexual relationship in a
marriage is weak, reading erotica or viewing porn is not a good way to add some
2. Erotica and pornography promote a corrupted view of something God
designed as beautiful. Dr. Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, says it well:
understood and rightly ordered, marriage is a picture of God’s own covenantal
faithfulness. Marriage is to display God’s glory, reveal God’s good gifts to His
creatures, and protect human beings from the inevitable disaster that follows
when sexual passions are divorced from their rightful place.
physicality of the male and female bodies cries out for fulfillment in the
other. The sex drive calls both men and women out of themselves and toward a
covenantal relationship that is consummated in a one-flesh union. By definition,
sex within marriage is not merely the accomplishment of sexual fulfillment on
the part of two individuals who happen to share the same bed. Rather, it is
mutual self-giving that reaches pleasures both physical and spiritual.
A man who directs his sexual
drive toward the one-flesh relationship in marriage, Mohler writes, “is the perfect paradigm of God’s intention in
creation.” By contrast, a man involved with pornography subverts his sex drive
toward lust and self-gratification. “Rather than taking satisfaction in a wife,
he looks at dirty pictures in order to be rewarded with sexual arousal that
comes without responsibility, expectation, or demand.”
3. The particular
genre highlighted in Fifty Shades of Grey, BDSM, is even
worse. BDSM stands for bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism.
These practices are the opposite of the “mutual self-giving” that should
characterize a holy, biblical sexual relationship in marriage.
4. The fact that a
book is fiction doesn’t negate the damaging consequences of reading it.
Words can penetrate your mind in negative ways just as images can. In
Philippians 4:8 the Bible tells us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about
these things.” Can you truly do that while simultaneously reading this book?
5. You don’t need to
join every conversation. We like to think that teenagers are
particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, but sometimes I wonder if it’s just as
bad for adults. Think of what a mother tells her kids: “If all your friends
jumped off a cliff, would you do the same thing?” The same goes for friends
urging you to read erotica or look at pornography.
Is it good for your
“I’ve been studying what God
says about sexuality for 15 years,” writes Dannah Gresh in a blog post
titled, “I’m Not Reading Fifty Shades of Grey.”
According to Him, there is only one who should
stimulate sexual desire in me: my husband. Since that’s God’s plan for my
sexual desire, anything other than my husband creating arousal in me would be
missing the mark of God’s intention. (Translation: it is sin.) Jesus said it
this way: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell
you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery
with her in his heart.” The same is true of a woman looking at or reading about
Erotica, especially the genre involving bondage and sadism, easily leads to a
corrupted view of something God created as good within the context of marriage.
It sparks physiological reactions that require greater and greater levels for
fulfillment; it causes unhealthy comparison to a real-life spouse; and it leads
men and women to be preoccupied with sexual fulfillment at the expense of other
relationships, including their relationship with God.
So you’ve got to ask yourself: Is any of that good for your marriage?
My hope and prayer is that Christian women, when faced with the temptation of
a book like Fifty Shades of Grey, will “be watchful” and “stand firm in
the faith.” Don’t fall into the same trap as men do with pornography.
Used with permission of FamilyLife, a ministry of Cru (the name of Campus
Crusade for Christ in the U.S.), www.familylife.com. Copyright © 2012 by
FamilyLife. All rights reserved.