This is not a lecture against 50 Shades of Grey per se. I haven’t read it personally, but I have regretfully stumbled across other books in the genre over the years. Honestly, I doubt Christian women need a lecture against reading it. No one’s reading it because they think it is a morally good thing to do. Those types of books sell because there is a deeper issue in our hearts, and it is that deeper issue that I prefer to address.
The Twilight Series was a lighter version of 50 Shades of Grey. Call it what you want – erotic fiction, BDSM, or in the Twilight Series, paranormal young adult fiction. There is a bottom line element of both series. Good Girls in love with Bad Boys. These particular series have been in the news recently because the individual books reached a mass market audience, but “romance” novels involving the “hero” treating the girl badly and the girl wanting him anyway (with the hope of reforming him) have been hugely successful for hundreds of years.
The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t surprise me, because God predicted it in Genesis 3. The woman’s desire or strong craving (addiction if you will) will be for the man, and he will rule over her. And there you have it! THAT is why Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight Series, and countless other lesser known masochistic “romance” novels have flourished over the years. When Christ is removed from our relationships, that is what is left – men oppressing women and women lapping it up, even if it’s just in fiction. I imagine men will not appreciate that characterization any more than women will. I may get some negative comments. Yet, apart from Christ and God’s common grace among unbelievers, this is where both sexes default in my humble opinion, and I think history affirms my view.
This is not to say that, apart from Christ, we don’t have countless societal coping mechanisms for dealing with this phenomenon. I see feminism as the major coping mechanism. Though some people will not like that I say this, I’m frankly thankful for aspects of feminism, particularly the first wave of feminism. I see it as a great manifestation of God’s common grace. Feminism didn’t change anyone’s heart, but the movement did help to restrain sinful oppression of women in many countries and in many different walks of life. But for every educated, take charge feminist woman you know, there remain 50 in the shadows of life contributing to their own sexploitation. After 3 waves of feminism, countless laws, and much education, there remain millions of women who’d run after the sulky vampire in their fantasies, choosing to suck blood for the rest of their lives rather than living in the light.
Here’s a trailer for the documentary Missrepresentation, which discusses how media portrays women and how women contribute. (Warning: the trailer contains some disturbing sexual images and one use of profanity.) The makers of the film document the problem well. One only has to take a cursory look at Hollywood to have every affirmation you need of the fact that men exploit women and women participate. The coping mechanism that Missrepresentation supports is better portrayals of women in media. And that’s a good idea, but it won’t change anyone’s heart either.
There is something much better than a coping mechanism that is helpful in some ways and detrimental in others. Christ has broken the curse and is slowly but surely redeeming His children from its effects. For many women reading this (and men too), a lot of this sounds completely foreign. If you’re saying to yourself, “That’s not MY husband or MY history,” then praise God!!! Perhaps as a child you were raised to know Christ and His Word. You recognized early on your creation in His image and your worth as His honored son or daughter. For the most part, that’s our family, though occasionally I get glimpses into my tendencies apart from redemption. I would have lapped up the Twilight Series hook, line, and sinker during my teenage years. I thank God regularly that He kept me from the kind of guys I would have been willing to date when I was too naïve and immature to recognize this in myself. He gave me a husband who has loved me sacrificially, and He helped me to see myself created in His image, though I still desire of my husband at times things only God can fulfill in me.
The only thing I want to say about Fifty Shades of Grey is that while it is in many ways just like Playboy for men, there are motivating factors for women that are very different than the male counterpart toward pornography. I think that understanding the reason that so many women are flocking to this book can be a powerful tool to pointing them back to the gospel’s answer for the dark longings in their heart. To that end, I hope this analysis is helpful.