Fifty Shades of the Curse

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.

20 Responses to Fifty Shades of the Curse

  1. Amy Letinsky July 10, 2012 at 2:44 am #

    Loved this. I especially appreciate how you can look to the first wave of feminism as being an important movement that isn't against biblical values. I hear so much anti-feminism rhetoric in the church, and I think it's dishonoring what our fore-mothers did for us, just taking into account some of the extreme elements of our current third wavers. I can say I'm a feminist, just a first and possibly second wave one. When I teach feminism as a philosophical movement in my college courses, I'm careful to distinguish between the waves, as my very feminist professor did for me.

    Good connection with Genesis. Isn't there also an element of a twisted idea of submission wrapped up into it? At some level, we crave Biblical submission but when sin enters the picture, it becomes distorted to unhealthy, unbiblical, domineering/domination.

  2. April July 10, 2012 at 3:26 am #

    These are my thoughts exactly-on both these books and feminism. Love this post-I am linking it on Facebook! And I too would have lapped this up as a teenager. Now it disturbs me. Thank you Lord for sanctification.

  3. Wendy July 10, 2012 at 4:02 am #

    Good point about unhealthy submission, Amy!!! I hadn't thought of that but I think you're right on.

  4. Anonymous July 10, 2012 at 4:41 am #

    I did my share of both dating “bad boys” and filling my mind with versions of this stuff, mostly before I was saved, but also after, for a while.

    The running theme I see, in them, and in my own life at the time, was idolatry of the very worst kind. Women want to be the savior – the good one who loves the bad person, who takes abuse and hurt, until the bad person realizes how wonderful the the good person is and changes to be in relationship with her.

    It'as as anti-Christ as you can get.

    I do think their popularity are also evidence that marital intimacy issues aren't as one sided as the world or the church portray. There are a lot of Christian marriages I know of where the wife is the one wanting a lot of intimacy, and the husband not so much. Women in those situations used to not have many tempting avenues. Now they're everywhere.

  5. Vanessa S July 10, 2012 at 5:27 am #

    Well done. Very well done.

  6. sterlingsop July 10, 2012 at 11:51 am #

    I had to comment, forgive me, but I HAVE read the books and yes I'm a Christian and no, I don't think they are that bad! They are certainly not anti-Christ, especially when you consider that Christ chose to live his life among people who the rest of the world shunned – shepherds, prostitutes, those at the edges of society….

    The main thread of the story is that there are two people who are desperately in love but start at extreme points on the contiuum when it comes to life, love and general world-knowledge. Yes there is a lot of sex in it and sex is the vehicle to sell the books, but ultimately this is a story of how love conquers all and actually goes a long way to change people and their behaviour. Yes, Christian is a bad boy with baggage, but he is a product of evil as a child and has been corrupted when he was still an adolescent. Ana is as pure as the driven snow and yet somehow they manage to form a bond and they do find the middle ground between them and forge a loving relationship.

    To me this story is more about how love conquers all and how prejudices and misconceptions CAN be overcome and success can come. Ana isn't a doormat, she actively stands up for herself on many, many occasions and she doesn't allow Christian to “use” her for his own ends at all.

    Redemption is possible, even in the most unlikely of relationships!

  7. K July 10, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    Love this!

  8. Wendy July 10, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    Again, I am not writing against reading it per se. Two things–it is an unhealthy fantasy (in my humble opinion) for the girl to be white as snow, because frankly, we aren't. Ever. And second, I think it's unhealthy to paint a “romance” as one in which the girl rescues the bad guy. Because, in reality, even the most noble-intentioned girl can't rescue the bad guy.

  9. Rachael Starke July 11, 2012 at 12:12 am #


    Respectfully, I've got to totally push back. Saying that “sex is the vehicle that sells the story” but that the story is still the thing, is an identical argument to “Sure I read Playboy, but really it's about the great writing.”

    Erotic content aside, a book that argues for love conquering all and success coming in this life etc. is arguing for a wordlview that is, again, contrary to what God says about this world, marriage, earthly love, etc.

    And for the record, that's why I think it's a cop out for women to make a big deal about just watching G-rated Disney Princess movies and the like. Same lie, just more wholesome wrapping.

  10. Thia July 11, 2012 at 9:22 pm #

    Let me start with I am guilty…I first heard about the trilogy on Dr. OZ who recommended that women read the book. I downloaded it. I was so convicted and have not finished the trilogy because my mind was taken me place as a single women I should not have gone. It's porn. Men are visual they'll watch it, but because women fall in love by but we hear we'll read it…..side note…Can you image there will be a movie!!!!!!!

  11. merry July 11, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    Rachael Starke,

    My thoughts exactly. Well-stated.

  12. becky July 12, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Haven't read it (or Twilight) but agree with you about Genesis 3 & women's tendency to look to men instead of to God. Well said.

  13. Vanessa S July 15, 2012 at 12:22 am #

    And here's yet MORE reasons to avoid, flee, RUN form these things:

  14. Flyaway July 17, 2012 at 1:44 am #

    In my opinion Jesus was the first women's libber. He had no qualms about talking to the woman at the well, Martha and Mary, the woman caught in adultery, etc., when other men would thank God they were not woman! I think the majority of women want to get married and have a family. I was not one of them. I think only the minority of men want to get married. I don't understand why this is but somehow, in spite of all our fumbling around, God makes good come out of our relationships especially if we work on our relationship with Him first!

  15. margaret July 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

    I think the ideas put forward are valid and real and necessary. We (as a society) need to teach our children better, and we need to act better ourselves. We need to find positive role models who model the behaviors we want and promote them over people who set us back.

    As a side note, I did find it rather telling that negative media clips came mostly from Fox News and the positive ones were exclusively from left of center news outlets. Not to get political, but aside from Condie Rice, there seems to be an underlying political message here too. Just an observation.

  16. Jessica July 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    I always love what I find here and this is no exception. The earlier post is excellent, as well. Will be linking to these soon.

  17. ThirstyJon July 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    I think this article makes some valid points. I think you are right about the popular “good girls wanting the bad boys thing” as well.

    Although I think you missed it about the Twilight Saga.

    I think that series is more about girls wanting super strong men who are kind and have good character. Edward, the male vampire, has higher morals than Bella, is very kind, and loves her and puts her first.

    I see this more as a cry from the heart of a woman that the strong man would NOT be a “bad boy” but a loving and kind man of character who knows how to love selflessly.

    The vampire thing in that series is more about being super powerful and yet still being able to make right and good ethical choices.

  18. Wendy July 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

    Maybe, but he treats her terribly at the beginning of the first movie and again in the 2nd, abandoning her altogether. All because he “doesn't want to hurt her.” That's what we all want to think. That the guy that's hurting us deeply or treating us condescendingly really has good, romantic feelings for us. But in reality, the guy that abandons is the type of guy that abandons. There's no romantic way to paint real abandonment.

  19. G. Casey November 2, 2012 at 3:05 am #

    As a man and historian, too many forget that the Hefner generation of men preceeded the woman's movement which I wonder was a reaction and and effort to corrcct the situation.

  20. Anonymous January 21, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Hi Wendy
    Thank you for this post. It really convicted me and made me think. I'm single and have struggled with BDSM fantasies for a long time. I seem to manage for a while and but they always seem to come back. I have alot of feelings of guilt around them. I would be interested in any other thoughts or links you have on this subject, particularly about the issue of submission. How does biblical submission differ from the submission represented in the books?