Fifty Shades of Playing with Fire

September 2, 2012

At New Life we don’t often directly address things in our culture that we feel are less than, shall we say, beneficial to New Lifers. Yet we have seen a growing trend that we find disturbing. We therefore offer this post as a warning and a tool to equip you as you engage your friends who are being impacted by this trend. To share on this topic we decided to ask Lisa Jones, who frequently speaks on issues of intimacy with both teen girls and adult women. While this post is a little longer than usual, we encourage you to read it with an open mind and heart as you consider the dangerous proliferation of what has been called “mommy porn”.


There’s a book out there that I’m pretty sure you’ve at least heard of…Fifty Shades of Grey? I couldn’t help but hear a little of the controversy surrounding it, but it wasn’t really on my radar. I knew it was being called somewhat “pornographic”, and the big buzz was that it was written by a woman, but that it read like it was written by a man.  And if that’s not intriguing enough for you, maybe it would catch your attention to hear that a hotel owner in England has actually removed the copies of the Gideon Bible that normally graced the 40 rooms of his establishment, and has actually replaced them with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey. Wow.  Now it’s on my radar. Time to address this mess.

I’m not really a big “romance novel” person to begin with, and the pornography aspect wasn’t exactly sweetening the deal. In fact, I didn’t need to read it to know that to do so-for me-would be playing with fire. I’d already discovered the strange and strong draw the romantic novel can have when I-out of desperation for reading material-ended up devouring my daughter’s copies of the Twilight series.  I couldn’t believe a book could have me staying up until 3am, and that I (48 years old at the time) could become so enamored of this abundantly fictional 17 year old heart throb…never mind that he was a vampire to boot! Ridiculous, right?!

Ridiculous or not, that is exactly where I found myself. Slightly obsessed. Daydreaming at times, of this “perfect boy”. (Don’t worry, in my daydreams I was “20”-tops!;). It may sound harmless enough, but that is the subtle seduction of the romance novel. It paints the picture of the perfect guy, gives him the perfect words to say, and suddenly any real flesh and blood guy is at a distinct disadvantage.

Even as a grown up married Christian girl-committed and in love with my husband of 30 years-I noticed a certain amount of discontent creeping in. Why didn’t Tim just want to stare at me for hours on end while I slept? Why wasn’t he enthralled every time I opened my mouth? Why wasn’t he obsessed with protecting me? Why couldn’t he stop an out of control oncoming van as it careened mercilessly toward me with his bare hands? Ok, forget that last one…but you get the picture.

As I said, I didn’t have to read “Fifty Shades of Grey” to know that it wasn’t going to be good for me…but I did have to read it if I was going to be able to write about it with integrity. So, there. I put myself in harms way for you;)

And really, what kind of harm are we talking about here? I mean it’s just a book.  I think that’s what takes us off guard, though…how can a mere book be bad for us? (As a side note, books sit with us a lot longer than, say, a movie. A movie is generally not watched alone, and has your attention for a couple of hours, and maybe you think back over it for the next few hours. A book, on the other hand, is a “solo activity”, and you can take as much time as you want reading and re-reading it.  And it goes unchallenged by anyone else’s thinking, since you are experiencing it alone.)  For years I’ve been saying that romance novels and even “chick flicks” are the female version of porn. So, before we explore the truth of that statement, let’s remind ourselves why ‘porn’ is a bad thing.

Just for starters, porn presents men with women whose bodies-for the most part-do not occur naturally in this life. It presents women who are always up for sex, and don’t mind the inclusion of a friend or two-or 12-in the mix.  And most damaging of all, porn is never tired.  It’s never angry. It never needs romanced. It’s never sad. Porn is a selfish pleasure that leaves a man woefully out of practice for a real relationship. Counselor friends of mine have told me of the husband who has a beautiful wife ready and waiting for him in the bedroom, but he would rather surf the net for variety, and someone he doesn’t have to actually relate to.

Sadly, lots of young girls these days aspire to be just like the sexually exploited women they see prolifically on the internet-but they are only fooling themselves. They are flesh and blood women and eventually their body’s and their gender will betray them.  Lots of married women can tell you the day they discovered their husband’s affinity for porn-and how devastated they were and diminished they felt by it. All that to say, can we agree we don’t want our husbands/boyfriends (or especially our daughters) viewing porn? Good.

Now, back to the premise that even the more innocuous romance novels and chick flicks are in essence “female porn”.  How so?  For starters, they tend to present men who are “other worldly” handsome, with abs of steel, endless amounts of money, while at the same time having jobs that only keep them busy for a couple of hours a week, leaving them with endless hours to spend with the women in their lives-which, btw, is all they want to do.  Men who are obsessed with their woman’s every move and every thought. Men who seemingly have never even heard of ESPN.

In the same way that men will never find a real life porn star-even if they’re married to a real life porn star-(you see, she’s acting.  She will encounter “that time of the month”, and all the joys that come with it; she will be tired at the end of her long day of pretending to want sex every waking minute; she will feel objectified, and want that candle lit dinner and platonic massage, dozen red roses, and an evening that ends with cuddling and nothing more, just the same as you and I)-in much that same way, the woman who reads romance novels will likely find herself pining for someone that doesn’t exist. Someone who her boyfriend or husband will be diminished by, and never be able to live up to.  Whether he realizes that or not is neither here nor there. The problem will start in her mind, and it will become poison not only there, but in her relationship, if she doesn’t recognize it and starve it senseless.

Fifty Shades of Grey is all of the above-and more.  Christian Grey, the book’s main character is jaw-droppingly  handsome, impeccably dressed on all occasions, wealthy beyond imagination, dark and mysterious, and he even warns Ana not to get involved with him. He’s not the man for her.  This, of course, only piques her interest more.

In fact, If you read Twilight, (sorry, but that’s my only other point of reference into the romance novel world) you might think this was a description of Edward Cullen-not Christian Grey. I was shocked by the number of similarities between Twilight and “Fifty shades”. Was it a coincidence? A simple case of imitation being the best form of flattery? Or is it simply because all the “romance novelists” are trying to scratch the same itch that every woman seems to have?

Women will follow you anywhere if they think you have the cure for that itch.  And if you’re particularly good at turning a phrase, you can make even something called “The red room of pain” sound intriguing. Fantasy can be a dangerous thing…and in the case of Fifty Shades of Grey, it has women lining up to be lied to-in a particularly twisted way.

You see, Christian-interesting choice of names-is a “dominant”, and he wants Ana to be his “submissive”. This involves anything from light spanking to leaving welts-punishment  for an infraction of one of the many rules. Infractions include: defying him; looking him in the eye while in the red room of pain…not eating all the food on her plate. Romantic, right? Not the last time I checked.

But fantasy has a way of bending reality until both are unrecognizable. And once fantasy takes on a glimmer of reality for you, you just might find yourself believing in a lie. Like the lie that “bad boys” can be “good guys”.  Or, that something called “the red room of pain”, is enticing in some way. That being told what to do and when to do it is a good time. That having a parent/child relationship with a guy is something other than oppressive and demeaning…that having a guy who “doesn’t make love to women”-normally-but uses them as utter objects for several months and then discards them completely (but is willing to make an exception for you because you’re a virgin), is uber romantic. Reinforcing two of the all time prolific lies about relationships: 1) You’re the exception to the rule, and 2) You can change him.

In the book,  Christian tells Ana right off the bat that he doesn’t do hearts and flowers-or girlfriends for that matter.  That she has to sign a contract before they can begin the three month “relationship”, after which, the norm is to never see the submissive again.

See a few red flags going up?

But wait-put your romance novel thinking cap on-maybe she’ll be the one who can change him. Rescue him from the damage of having a crack whore for a mother and then (after being adopted) having an older woman become his dominant for 6 years or so. He needs rescuing.  And she’s just the one to do it! After all, he’s already broken several of his own rules to accommodate her…I think it just might be love. I think she can save him…(I hope you can smell the sarcasm from where-ever you are). Women are suckers for a man they can save…a bad boy…in books and  movies it always seems to work out. not so much in real life. In real life the end result usually  isn’t hearts and flowers-unless, of course, the hearts are broken, and the flowers are dead.

The specific danger here is that this book messes  with a woman’s mind, and unlike men, a woman’s biggest sexual organ is her brain.  You mess with it-twist things up-and the effects can be damaging and long lasting. Like my friend, Elaine, who was first introduced to the concept of the birds and the bees by some boys on her Jr. High school bus. Trouble is, she heard them say how hot it was to see two girls together. Some twenty years later I was sitting with her in Starbucks as she confessed to me that, though happily married and the mother of 3 sweet children, she could not “get into sex” without picturing being with another woman. She was tormented by this, and kept it a  carefully guarded secret from her husband. The poison from this brief encounter with twisted thinking had effectively stolen intimacy from her marriage for over 15 years.

Yes, Fifty Shades is just a book, but it is a book that sends some pretty dangerous messages. Messages that you might not realize are taking root. Messages that-like my friend Elaine-you may not find easy to shake, once you’ve entertained them.

I have a feeling I could go on and on with this topic, and nobody really wants that. Let me just end with a few relevant words of wisdom from God’s word, and a closing thought or 2.

“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 22)

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8)

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20)

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (I’m pretty sure that goes for women thinking lustfully of men who aren’t their husbands as well). (Matthew 5:28)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

If your goal is to follow Christ in this life, then you need to be filling your head with truth. I am in no way advocating “book banning”, I am just encouraging you to be careful about what you allow into your hearts and minds. In the end, God has said it is His word alone that will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). Let’s not allow something so temporary to displace the eternal in our hearts and minds.

The most bothersome aspect of the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, to me, is the almost evangelistic movement it’s inspired.

-Women are pressuring other women into reading it. (More magazine, and Facebook)

-Advertisers are pushing sex toys inspired by the books. (“Jump on the bandwagon (or jump back on) and read the entire Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. Take home all 3 books in the series along with a sexy blindfold and handcuffs for $50 + free shipping and save 50% (reg. $100) Popular literature may have made you curious – find out what you need to know with a colorful mini vibrator for $15 + free shipping (reg. $50).”)-a coupon mailed to my inbox!

and, as I’ve already shared,

-The Damson Dene Hotel in England’s Lake district has replaced the Bible in favor of the “good news” of Fifty Shades of Grey.

I don’t know about you, but I see the thief’s fingerprints all over this one. What lengths the enemy of our souls won’t go to, to steal the intimacy God intended for marriage, and replace it with a counterfeit that may start out smelling exciting, but ends with his same old M.O.: stolen, killed, destroyed.

Ladies, (and a few men out there), above all, guard your hearts. There is a lover of your soul, and there is one who hates you. Whose ideas will you choose to open up your heart and mind to?  Let’s not fall for a counterfeit scratch to the legitimate itch God has placed in our lives for relationship.

-Lisa Jones

freelance speaker, writer, voice-over talent

Studied at Johnson Bible College

Married to Timothy W. Jones

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