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Why 50 Shades of Grey Appeals--and what our response should be

Fifty Shades of Grey is coming to theaters everywhere next Valentine’s Day. It’s become the highest advanced ticket sales for any R-rated movie ever. Groups of women are going to see it together.

What should our response be?

It’s sold as a series that can reignite women’s sex drives, boost their libidos, and even enhance their marriages. But is that true?

Today all over the online world bloggers are uniting to talk about this movie and why it’s a bad idea. I’ve written several posts on the book before, including:

I want to take a bit of a different approach in today’s post and talk about why the movie appeals–and then what we should do about that.

Why Are Women Drawn to 50 Shades of Grey?

Honestly, I’ve read a lot of Christian commentary on 50 Shades of Grey, and the response is often something like: “it’s wrong, period!” People see the whips and the chains and the awful language and we’re horrified.

I agree that reading erotica is wrong and that it will harm your marriage. And this particular series glamourizes what is essentially a violent, abusive relationship (with shades of pedophilia in there, too).

Nevertheless, many women are drawn into the sexual fantasy about it.

But here’s the complicating factor: a lot of sin in our lives isn’t caused by sinful hearts as much as it is caused by brokenness–by deep places of hurt within ourselves. Remember when Jesus warned people not to be a stumbling block to one of his little ones and cause them to sin? He wasn’t denying that the little ones were sinning; but he was saying that the cause of that sin was not some evil on the part of the little ones, but some way that they had been hurt or harmed by someone else.

Brokenness is as much a cause of sin as our own sinful nature. Brokenness is dangerous.

And just like many men (and women) are tempted towards porn because they feel lonely and it gives them a sense of control, so there is something inside of many women which draws them towards this kind of erotica.

Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman's HeartDannah Gresh and Juli Slattery do a great job in the book Pulling Back the Shades to explain why 50 Shades of Grey is so alluring to so many. But I want to take it even farther today. They talk about how women are looking for more excitement in their sex life; how they’re sick of being bored (among other things), and that’s all true. But that would apply to any kind of erotica or any kind of sex toys, etc. The simple fact is that there is something unique about this particular brand of erotica–this particular story of bondage and sado-masochism that has captivated millions. What is it? That’s what I want to figure out today, because I think when we understand the root we’ll understand the response.

Root #1: Feeling Alone

The Fantasy Fallacy: Exposing the Deeper Meaning Behind Sexual ThoughtsIn her book The Fantasy Fallacy, Shannon Ethridge looks at how we all have sexual fantasies, and those fantasies are not all bad. Some, however, cross a line. But where do those fantasies come from? Our sexual self is very rooted in our identities, our fears, and our deepest longings. And those are shaped especially by our brokenness. So it’s hardly surprising that our sexual fantasies often say much about the state of our hearts.

When you look at the root of the fantasy appeal of 50 Shades of Grey, you can see a lot of brokenness.

Let’s start with this: The book centers on a naive 21-year-old who is alone in the world and just beginning her adult life.

Do you remember those years?

I do, and they weren’t pretty. They were the loneliest and scariest of my life. I didn’t know what I’d be doing. I didn’t know who I’d marry (or if I’d marry). I didn’t know if I’d be alone my whole life.

I have two daughters aged 17 and 20, and so I’m surrounded by them and by their friends. And this is a hard, horrible time for many of them. It’s just really unsettling. I wouldn’t want to go back at all.

And so, in the midst of feeling naive and unprepared for life, she meets this strong, confident billionaire (yes, billionaire. Good, realistic plotting isn’t exactly what this series is known for). She gets someone who will take care of her (even in a warped way). And that can be really intoxicating.

 Root #2: Feeling Like You Don’t Have To Be In Control

A lot of women are control freaks. It’s not necessarily because we want to be in control, though. It’s because there are so many things we’re desperately worried about, and because we’re multitaskers, we think about them all the time. We can’t get away from them. And because we worry so much, we feel like everything rests on our shoulders. If we don’t do all the right things, everything will fall apart.

That’s a heavy responsibility.

We feel responsible for making the right decisions about our kids. We feel responsible for our marriages, for our parents, for our friends. We feel responsible for keeping ministries going at church. We have so much on our shoulders.

Doesn’t being free of the burden of control sound intoxicating?

A while back I had some health scares and I had to go through a number of tests. I posted a Facebook update that I had had an MRI–and despite all the banging (MRIs are really loud) I almost fell asleep. It was one of the most relaxing times I’d had in ages! I got to lie there, and there was absolutely nothing I was allowed to do except be still. It was heaven. And all kinds of women echoed similar things.

So perhaps it’s no wonder that the whole idea of bondage and someone else being in control and making all the decisions appeals in a deep way to women. Many of us are wounded because we are carrying around burdens and cares that cannot and should not be our own.

Root #3: Dealing with Shame

Many of us are just plain ashamed of our sexuality. We equate being aggressive in bed or even enjoying ourselves with being slutty or being “bad”. It’s hard for us to initiate sex, or to tell our husbands what we want in bed.

Having a man that takes the choice out of it, then, is freeing. If he’s doing something TO you, and you can’t resist, then you’re free to enjoy yourself without having to admit that you’re somehow bad.

So those are many of the roots. They aren’t the only ones, but they’re the obvious ones. Do you see yourself in any of them? If you can understand why you may be drawn to these things, then it’s easier to fight against it. You don’t need to beat yourself up; you need to deal with the underlying brokenness.

Dealing with the Ugly Fruit

Remember, the root just shows us what our heart issues are. But when we let that root take hold and we let that grow, we can bear some awfully ugly fruit.

And that’s what happens with erotica like this. We may have reasons to be drawn to it, but when we read a lot of erotica, or watch it in movies, it clouds our fantasies. It starts to pair our sexual response with a fantasy rather than a person (our husbands), and just like porn does, it makes it harder to stay present with our husbands. We’re not making love with them; we’re using them while fantasies are going through our heads.

And those fantasies are hard to remove. Soon you need them even to get aroused. Not a good thing. And that’s when we cross the line from brokenness into sin.

Then there are those who will eventually start to act this stuff out. There’s a reason demand for bondage gear is growing. But when you start living this out in real life, you cement a relationship which is the farthest thing from truly intimate you can find. You create a violent, degrading relationship instead of a healthy meeting of two equals.

What Should Our Response to 50 Shades of Grey Be?

If you’re drawn to 50 Shades of Grey:

Recognize the reasons. Try to identify the roots of the appeal of the fantasy. Is it that you don’t want to be alone? Don’t want to feel in control all the time? Want to enjoy sex without feeling shame? If you can identify the root, then you can help heal any brokenness that’s there. You can run to God to work out your insecurities. You can work with your husband on how to feel more comfortable with your sexuality. You can start wrestling with God about how to trust Him in faith and not having to be so in control.

That’s a tall order, I know, because for many of us these roots run deep. Many porn addicts suffer from a similar thing. Their roots are often things like never being properly affirmed (in porn the women are always there and ready and eager), or never feeling like  you’re powerful enough. Sometimes a big part of defeating the temptation of these things is seeing the root.

If you’re talking with someone who is thinking of seeing the 50 Shades movie:

Explain the chemical process of how we start to pair sexual arousal with fantasy, and then we can’t get aroused in a relationship anymore. Tell her it’s a very similar physiological response as men with porn. And here’s what else happens: once we start using erotica, we tend to want more–and different. So we read weirder and weirder stuff that we would never have been drawn to before. It changes you in ways you don’t want.

Emphasize this rather than just “it’s sinful”. The “it’s sinful” doesn’t always help. Yes, it is, but sin has repercussions. If you explain the repercussions, it’s easier for people to see the danger.

The Pull for Porn & Erotica for Women Is Going to Escalate

Porn is a problem for men today in a way it never was before the internet. It was always a temptation, but it was never this widespread.

This is going to escalate for women now, too. We’re the next target. And it’s an easy progression from erotica to full blown porn.

So let’s start realizing that not all porn users are male, and that females struggle too. And let’s protect ourselves (and our daughters). Talk openly with your friends so that we make talking about this mainstream. Get filters on your computer. And fight against it!

Sex Can Be Fun–and Healthy!

So let’s spread the word that we don’t need bondage, whips and chains to have fun in bed! What we need is greater openness, less shame, and more intimacy.

31 Days to Great SexAnd that’s why on this Fight Back Against 50 Shades of Grey weekend I’m going to put 31 Days to Great Sex on for just $2.99 from my store (in .pdf) and on Kindle at Amazon.

I want to give you EVERY REASON to pick up this book. Seriously, it’s only 3 dollars! And it’s got 31 challenges you and your husband can do together to help you talk about sex again, explore more, flirt more, be more affectionate, and spice things up. And I have several days where we deal with all the junk that’s holding us back, too.

Already have it? Pick up a copy for a friend, or a sister, or a relative that is thinking of going to see the movie. Show them there’s another way!

31 Days 50 Shades Sale

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