You’ve had to be living under a box to miss all of the buzz about Fifty Shades of Grey, the first installment in a trilogy of erotic novels by British author E.L. James that came out last year. The book follows the relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young businessman, Christian Grey as they engage in sadomasochism, bondage/discipline and dominance/submission (BDSM). James’ series has sold over 60 million copies worldwide, and the book set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time, surpassing the Harry Potter series.
Needless to say, the book has become accepted worldwide. I’ve talked with moms, grandmothers and teenagers who all barely breathed as they sped through the book. Most of the media has appeared to be in support of the book—they’ve praised it as an invigorating, amorous and sexually freeing book that has empowered them as women to new explore sexual frontiers. Because of the culture’s enthusiastic reception of the book, even many Christian women have picked up the book.
It’s my opinion, however, that, despite the normalization of the book, it’s not helpful reading (nor do I believe that reading semi-erotic romance novels like Danielle Steele’s work is helpful). The mind can be incredibly visual, and I believe that it would be very difficult not to struggle with lust and fantasy while reading Fifty Shades. I think that, for the most part, we live in a world where you can learn enough about BDSM while watching The View or the Today Show to give you enough ideas to pursue with your spouse (should you choose) without inviting an explicit novel into your home.
Additionally, if you are married with kids (and we are on the parents’ blog site here), then it’s likely that your son or daughter are watching what you and your wife do and what you don’t do. If you are a wife reading this, would you want your husband to read porn around your son or daughter? Would you, or do you, even want that type of content in your home? If the answer is “no”, then I would recommend that you have a similar ban on erotic novels. The content you bring into your home, whether online or offline, is just one shelf, one drawer or one click away from your child’s reach. You don’t want your kids believing that BDSM is a normal and acceptable form of sexual expression. Kids tend to act out the things that they see and explore the things they don’t understand. I’ve had unfortunate conversations with parents who have read Fifty Shades only to discover that their eight-year-old has read sections of the book and then googled information about what they read only to encounter highly graphic images and pornography of BDSM.
It’s also important to remember that we are to be in the world but not of the world. I think we can engage with the world about sex without having to expose ourselves to graphic sexual content. Once we open the door to explicit content—even if it is just a little bit—then it can become very hard to shut the door and regain a sense of purity. Books like Fifty Shades can open us up to reading and then later viewing more graphic content, which can set the stage for sex addiction. I know more and more wives that are struggling with some form of sex addiction—often it was some small experience or some little exposure that served as their gateway drug. Christ tells us to flee sexual temptations; if reading books like Fifty Shades causes of to be tempted (and I believe it would cause most of us to be), then we should flee rather than follow in the footsteps of the culture.
Finally, if you discover your wife reading Fifty Shades talk to her about her motives for reading the book. Maybe she just needs a little more attention and wants a little more sexual excitement from you. Work through your sexual slump together rather than apart. Remember to be creative and caring for one another sexually. Be bold—delight in one another’s bodies. Live into the full-bodied sex that God designed us to have in marriage, and don’t sell your self short by living in someone else’s fantasy.