Erotica has become mainstream. And that scares me.
Today I’d like to share with you about a great book I read recently: Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery.
They’re talking about how the book series Fifty Shades of Grey and other erotica can wreck your sex drive, your marriage, and your spiritual life. And they’re so right. We can’t ignore this stuff.
I write a lot about pornography on this blog: I write about the effects of porn, how to deal with a husband’s addiction to porn, and more. But while porn is a major problem for men (and increasingly for women, since 30% of porn users are women), that does not mean that women are immune from these types of struggles. They just take different forms–and erotica is one of the main forms.
And so I’d like to share with you some quotes from the book, and some of my own thoughts. They write:
We believe that the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey series was a transforming moment that fueled the erotica craze, normalizing its use. The series has done for women and erotica what the advent of the Internet did for men and porn.
Fifty Shades of Grey made erotica become mainstream–and acceptable.
My family and I were on a cruise shortly after the craze, and my girls were gobsmacked by how many women were reading it on their Kindles on the pool deck–with their husbands sitting beside them, where everyone could see. It’s socially acceptable now, because it’s seen as empowering! It just boosts a woman’s libido, and what can be the harm in that?
Well, Dannah and Juli show how it boosts that libido in a very significant way, by appealing to a woman’s five major longings:
- To escape reality
- To be cherished by a man
- To be protected by a strong man
- To rescue a man
- To be sexually alive
Think about how a book that’s about a strong, rich, multibillionaire who is troubled getting a young, naive girl involved in bondage will answer each of those 5 needs. The woman reading it escapes reality. She enters a story where this man who has everything is nonetheless obsessed and enthralled with this normal girl. He showers her with gifts, yet at the same time he is very strong–he totally dominates her. But he has these demons that only she can get rid of for him by her love. And in the midst of all that she has amazing sex (and as you read them you get aroused, too.
Erotica feeds right into our essential desires, but it does it in a counterfeit way.
“Erotica strategically and masterfully pulls you in by exploiting what your heart secretly longs for.”
Then Juli Slattery says this:
Having read the Fifty Shades trilogy, I will say with great confidence that these books are not merely fiction—a story that could be true but is not—but are actually fantasy— something that could not possibly be true.
Sure, they may meet our needs, but it’s completely not true. If you look at the plot, it can’t possibly be true. And that makes it a fantasy. The Narnia series is a fantasy–it breaks the laws of physics and nature by creating an alternate world you can travel to. Lord of the Rings is fantasy because it breaks other laws of nature to create a magical world that can’t exist. But those fantasy worlds are good ones, because they do not break moral laws. The erotic novels, on the other hand, actually change the laws–moral and relational laws. That’s why it’s called shades of grey–there aren’t black and white anymore. And the author says so explicitly in the book.
Breaking down moral rules is part of what she sets out to do in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Her main character is even called Christian. And look at what passes for love–dominating, humiliating, being abusive and making someone else complete you.
They do a wonderful job of explaining the black spiritual undertones to the books, but then they show why it is that even with these undertones we gravitate towards them.
Think about this, though: having to call someone Master–it’s a spiritual thing. And Jesus came to proclaim freedom! But they show how the BDSM lifestyle can appeal to women who are desperate to have a man act more like a man. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t enhance intimacy. It replaces it with adventure and danger, which does heighten sexual response because it releases certain hormones which make us feel more alive. But it isn’t intimacy. And the more that sexual response is paired with this kind of thing, the less your sexual response will even work when you’re trying to “make love”–when you’re trying to be intimate.
They share many stories of girls and women who have read the books and have gotten caught up in erotica. Some of you have shared those stories with me, too. I’ve had several women write about how they grew up in very conservative households, and they started with the Beverly Lewis Amish books. They devoured all those from the church library when they were 12 and 13, so then they moved on to the Karen Kingsbury and other romances there. When they had read all the romances, they went to the public library and looked for secular romances. And soon they were reading Nora Roberts and books with explicit sex scenes.
And before you know it they were seeking out erotica online–even as teens in a conservative Christian home.
Now they’re adults and they can’t stop. They count the moments until they can take some time to themselves and read an erotic novel. And they can’t have sx with their husbands without picturing some scene from the novel. It’s invaded everything.
But that kind of “boosting your libido” is fake.
The authors write,
Erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality. Even if the main characters are “in love,” you are not! Whatever emotional and sexual response these novels create in you, they are disconnected from your love relationships and your longing to know and honor God.
It’s not that adventure in bed is wrong–and they do a good job of what’s okay and what’s not okay in the bedroom, and came to EXACTLY the same conclusions I did in The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex on EVERYTHING, so I’m glad about that! Adventure is good, and discovery and exploration is good. But when it’s combined with something that isn’t about intimacy but is about humiliation or degradation, there are some serious problems.
While erotica might originally heighten sexual feelings, over the long haul it erodes something much more important—intimacy.
I know many of you are struggling with addictions or temptations towards erotica.
I know for many of us it IS a huge temptation. And that is not wrong. We’re all tempted towards something. But if you continue to read this kind of erotica, it will impact your sex life with your husband in a very negative way. You’ll be living your sex life through fantasy, and that is basically the same as cheating. How would you feel if your husband had to picture porn to get aroused? If you have to picture a scene from a book, you’re doing that, too.
Pulling Back the Shades is a great book. It’s not only about Fifty Shades of Grey–it’s about the whole erotic, BDSM phenomenon that is sweeping through our culture. And I’d encourage you to read it, even if you’re not struggling with this, because we need to understand what’s going on so we can talk to our friends, our sisters, and our daughters about it.