Why I Haven’t Talked about 50 Shades

Gray paint colors

Here you go: shades of grey.

I have not thus far mentioned the “mommy porn” sensation with the E.L. James trilogy. Why haven’t I talked about Fifty Shades of Grey?

Other marriage bloggers have already covered the topic well. For example, see the following:

Intimacy in Marriage – Fifty Shades of Great Sex with Your Husband
Sheila Wray Gregoire – 50 Shades of Grey is Bad for Your Marriage
Generous Husband – Disturbing Trend in Female Sexual Preferences
Generous Wife – Escape into Grey
The Romantic Vineyard – Stop Grey from Becoming the New Black and White
Mystery 32 – Porn for Women

And there are plenty more who did a wonderful job tackling the issue.

I hardly think the issue is limited to Fifty Shades or even erotic romance. Has anyone seen an episode of True Blood or pretty much anything on MTV? Sheila Gregoire also recently wrote about the crazy hype of the male-stripper movie, Magic Mike. (I like my magic a la Doug Henning, thank you.) It’s not just this one book; it’s a whole cultural problem of being intrigued or even consumed with kinky sex.

I am bothered that we’re talking about this particular book because it’s apparently poorly written. I mentioned in my Q&A post that my “day job” is writing fiction. The writer side of me is irked a bit not to have this conversation about a well-written trilogy. At least then, we could discuss the inappropriate content with people and not have to field all the comments about poor story structure and grammar as well.

I wondered how much difference my statement of “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson” would make. It’s not as if Christian women don’t know at some level this isn’t okay. They have simply rationalized it to themselves. But I suppose I come here twice a week and hope to make a difference, so why not in this area too?

I didn’t want to make anyone aware of the book and thus influence them to purchase it simply to see what’s going on. I was reluctant to even mention the book’s title in this post, lest you head over to Amazon or Barnes & Noble to see what I’m talking about and find yourself clicking BUY. But it’s all the rage, and if you haven’t heard about it thus far, you’re living a hermit’s life. (And by the way, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the health care individual mandate, FYI.)

But I have decided how to help. Here’s where I am going to provide a service.

Some people are tempted to read novels that become conversation pieces. We want to know what all of the hubbub is about. You DO NOT have to read the novels to know what’s going on because the following is a synopsis. I am going to help you remain informed about the subject matter, yet never have to read about a poor young virgin being introduced to rough sex because her boyfriend is a control freak and thinks this is a fabulous way for him to get turned on (jerk). If you don’t want to know anymore, STOP READING HERE and click somewhere else or SCROLL DOWN to where the black text appears again.

Anastasia Steele is an intelligent yet naive college student who does a favor for a friend by interviewing a young business tycoon named Christian Grey. Anastasia (aka Ana) and Christian have romantic chemistry. After the interview, the two keep coming into contact with each other, often by accident (or there would be no story), as follows:

  • Christian enters the hardware store where she works to purchase plastic ties, duct tape, and rope. (Um, hello! My red flags would go off here.)
  • She realizes she needs a picture of Grey for the article and arranges a photo shoot. (I’d comb the Internet myself.)
  • Ana goes to a bar, gets inebriated for the first time in her life, and drunk dials Christian, who comes to pick her up. (Getting drunk and drunk calling are obviously bad ideas.)

Ana wakes up the next morning in Christian’s bed, but he says that he didn’t touch her and wouldn’t without a written agreement. (Written? Okay, now those red flags are the size of Pittsburgh in my brain.) They do share a kiss, and at some point Ana asks if they will “make love.” Christian says he doesn’t do that but instead demonstrates that he’s comfortable with four-letter words. (Classy.) Then Mr. Profane introduces her to his “Red Room of Pain,” where he invites her to be a submissive. You see, Christian Grey is into BDSM sex (bondage, discipline/dominance, sadism/submission, masochism). Ana admits she’s a virgin, which Christian decides to “remedy” right away (Can I smack him yet?). Now Christian wants Ana to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that she can’t reveal his twisted version of sexuality. (Run away, run away, young lady!)

Another meeting: Ana’s college graduation where Christian Grey is a speaker (on world hunger no less).

Ana wants more from this insane guy (why, I don’t know), so she agrees to become his submissive. Christian tells her what to do in numerous other areas of her life, presumably to protect her, and they negotiate what they will and won’t do in their BDSM relationship. You can bet that Christian bends the contract toward his own liking. (Why are the feminists not storming the publisher’s workplace about this book?)

Christian is controlling in other ways — getting angry about the car Ana drives and then buying her a new one, being angry about how much she does or doesn’t eat, being angry with her spending time with friends or family, being angry with her rolling her eyes, etc. (Kind of makes those Angry Birds seem mild by comparison.) They also meet each others’ parents somewhere in this (which I guess is supposed to indicate that their lives are becoming more interwoven). 

Once Christian introduces Ana to his version of sex, they have a whole lot of it. It is described in detail. There are sex toys. They go into the “Red Room of Pain.” (Is it just me, or is anyone else hearing “redrum” from The Shining in their heads when you read that?) Despite all signs that this guy is dangerous, crazy, and downright abusive, Ana concludes that she loves Christian and is willing to be his sexual submissive. (Will you now all join me in smacking him . . . and her? What is wrong with these people?)

There are two more novels in which any self-respecting woman should want to smack the “hero,” yet the “heroine” is the one getting smacked.

The original novel was conceived as fan fiction, written in the wake of the popular Twilight vampire series. Ana is characteristically like Bella, and Christian is supposed to mirror Edward. There is no longer much connection between the Twilight and Fifty Shades novels, as James has clearly taken a different route with her books.

Those who advocate that BDSM is an okay sexual practice often point out that a “submissive” willingly gives up power in the bedroom to a “dominant” and that a “safe word” is always designated. A safe word is a code word used by a submissive if he/she feels that the action has gone too far; the dominant is required to then stop (as in after she’s already experienced more than she wanted).

Excuse me while I recover from the stars circling after now smacking my own head against the wall. It is NOT okay to create such an imbalance in your sexual relationship, even if you agree to it. Just as it is NOT okay for your spouse to beat you, even if you were to say, “Go right ahead.”

And please, for heaven’s sake, do not give me the you-didn’t-read-the-book or you-haven’t-tried-S&M arguments.

No one has to experience something terrible to take it from others that it’s terrible. I come on this blog twice a week hoping that people will NOT make the mistakes I made and never feel the need to try premarital promiscuity or come within two yards of a divorce to see if it’s something they want to do. Hey, Will Robinson, trust me: You don’t want to try it.

It’s simple really: Just say no to drugs, don’t drive impaired, don’t go without flossing for a year, and don’t do porn. Even a secular book reviewer for The New York Daily News noted that it is porn: “Firstly, and I can’t believe anyone would argue otherwise, ’50 Shades of Grey’ is pornography, plain and simple. There could be no other use for it.”

Whatever I say is rubbish, however, compared to what God said on the subject. So ignore me, fine. But check this out:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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

“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.” Ephesians 5:3-7

Now make your own decisions about what you should read and watch.

Note: I researched online to put together a synopsis (without reading the book or details from the book that I didn’t want or need). In particular, College At Thirty blog provided helpful information, although I disagree with some of her comments. Yet I believe in giving credit where credit is due, so my thanks to her. I am glad I did not read the book, and plenty of the reviewers I found wish they hadn’t.

49 thoughts on “Why I Haven’t Talked about 50 Shades

  1. Jasanna Czellar

    Love your post on the topic! I hear everyone getting into this book and I’m really glad there are some strong Christians out there willing to write on the topic. I appreciate your passion and honesty and call to people to stay away from this sort of “mental porn.” There are sooo much better things to spend your time and mind on! 🙂

    http://munchtalk.blogspot.com

    1. J

      Thanks, Jasanna! I agree about the better things to do. Personally, my to-be-read pile is about two feet high, and not a single porn title in the bunch. Although there is one book called Crazy Good Sex, but I swear it’s a Christian sexuality help book. 🙂

  2. Jolene @ The Alabaster Jar

    Wonderful post J. There’s a reason why God says to think on things that are true and pure…..He knows how easy our minds can be filled with garbage and how difficult it can be to dump the filth out!

    1. J

      I agree wholeheartedly, Jolene. Everyone’s mind can get in the gutter if we let it. Thanks!

  3. Gina Parris

    Hey there J! I always love reading your insights. I also have read lots of detailed reviews about the book so I wouldn’t have to read it to get what’s going on. I do find it a bit telling, that in the final book the couple is married and Christian gives up his BDSM ways. Even that speaks to the truth that somewhere the human heart longs for pure love.

    1. J

      Thanks, Gina. That ending makes me crazy too! It perpetuates the idea that the sheer love of a good woman can turn a “bad boy” (abuser, drug addict, whatever) from his wanton ways. I know too many women personally who were broken when that didn’t happen. I suggest women wait for the man to make his changes first, and then you’ll know he’s a catch.

      And yes, I love your line: “The human heart longs for pure love.”

  4. Britney

    Thanks for posting this! I had already decided to steer clear of this book but this just reaffirms my decision. Between this and the movie that just came out, I am saddened for my generation of women and the state of our hearts.

    1. J

      Thanks, Britney. It saddens me too because I think women really do want the real thing, but they are misguided about what that real thing is and how to get it. Blessings!

    1. J

      Thanks, V.V.! Yeah, I’m not sure I was ever very good at going with the popularity wave. That’s probably turned out to be a positive thing. 🙂

    1. J

      Thanks, Debi. Your post on this subject was excellent. After reading yours and some others’ that spoke to the dangers so well, I wasn’t sure what my voice would add.

      But, as my hubby will tell you, I guess I can’t stay quiet for too long. Eventually, words come out. 🙂 Of course, I agree that the best words in this post are God’s, not mine.

  5. Sara with an H

    I kept hearing things about these books and decided to look into them to see if they’d be something I’d be interested in reading. After all, I read “The DaVinci Code” because of all the hype and found a story I really liked (aside from all the garbage theology, its a good story. But I digress). What I found was appalling but to be honest, a bit intriguing. I’ll admit, part of me was curious to read the books, but something inside me knew it was wrong. I continued to do research and found, as you did J, that the book is poorly written, and just an outlet for “mommy porn.” The more I read, the more I didn’t like, and now these are on the “never gonna read them” list for me.

    As far as “Magic Mike” goes, I have friends – Christian friends – who have gone to see it and rave about it. I’m also part of a mommy group that is making a girls night out just to go see it. While part of me wants to go for the camaraderie, I refuse to go because of the movie they’ve chosen. I feel like I’m missing out on all the fun, but I know how porn can harm a relationship (it caused my parents to nearly divorce – thankfully, it didn’t happen).

    Our world is so messed up when it comes to sex. That’s why I am so thankful for you, J, and bloggers like you who are being open and honest about married sex and how fantastic it can be. You have truly helped me with struggles I’ve faced, and I consider you a trusted friend. I pray that your message and those like you are able to break through all this crap and reach the world in a way only you can.

    1. J

      I also enjoyed the story of The DaVinci Code while recognizing how foolish its theology was. Unfortunately, plenty of readers didn’t get how uninformed Brown’s theory was.

      Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly that we need to tell people how fantastic married sex as God designed it can be. And you have definitely hit the Top 5 Compliments on my blog with calling me a “trusted friend.” I always hope to come here and share with you all what I would share with my best friend. Thanks so much!

  6. Anonymous

    Thanks for posting this – your synopsis made the storyline sound so vacuous that I now have no desire at all to read it!

    I’m intrigued by your view on BDSM though – how do you define it? Does it only become wrong once it starts involving leather and handcuffs, or is even a smack on the bum in the heat of the moment inappropriate? My husband sometimes likes to tie my hands to a bedpost with his tie when we’re making love, I think for the same reason men like to tickle women – it makes them writhe around and I guess that’s kind of sensual. I wouldn’t be able to untie myself – he has to do it. Does that make him “dominant” and therefore make it wrong?

    I suppose I’m confused because you seem so open-minded about sex, but a lot of positions *require* one partner to be “dominant” and one to be “submissive” to some extent – someone has to go on top, right?! We’re in our second year of marriage and still learning what the other one likes, but if my husband gets a little rough I physically can’t just squirm out from underneath his weight without saying anything. But the word “stop” makes us both feel kind of rebuffed, so we use a a kind of “safe word” – a silly word that makes us smile, to lighten any awkwardness in the event that one of us doesn’t want to continue for some reason.

    I’m just wondering how you decide which of these situations where the balance of power isn’t 100% equal is “wrong” and which is “ok”.

    1. J

      This is an awesome question and really worthy of its own post. I admit to being pinned during sex with my husband before when he’s on top, and I have to say something like, “Oof. I can’t breathe” in a muffled voice. Isn’t he in control there? Not so much. And didn’t we all have a “safe word” in childhood when you needed a break from tickling? “Uncle! Uncle!” Not that your cousin ever paid any attention to it…but I digress.

      Basically, in a healthy sexual relationship, no one person has all of the control. From my understanding, in a BDSM relationship, one of you is dominant, one of you is submissive, period. That’s a huge imbalance. It’s different from alternating “I’m on top, you’re on bottom.” Also, God did not design sex to bring injury, so if you’re leaving marks, that’s a tip-off that you’ve gone too far. I’m not saying I’ve never been injured while making love, as I have indeed smacked my head on the headboard in a particularly enthusiastic moment, but that wasn’t our intention.

      To be honest, I don’t think I could draw a definitive line and say, “Okay on this side, but not one toe over!” It’s more a matter of reasonable boundaries, attitude, relationship, prayer, agreement between the spouses, etc. So you and your husband will have to figure out what fosters your intimacy and honors God in your sexual relationship.

      Thanks for the question! I really might want to expand on this in a post sometime.

    1. J

      Thanks, Casey. Good for you doing your research and reading the description first. Those book blurbs can let you know a little of what you’re getting into.

    2. J

      Oh no, Casey! I hunted around for your original comment on my administrator site, but I didn’t see it. If any Blogger guru out there knows how I can get it back, comment here, please!

  7. Greg

    J, as always, thank you(!) for speaking out about this! It’s frightening when people who claim the name of Christ are so desensitized to this crud. So much media nowadays is just trashy shovelware. Give me wholesome black and white TV shows from the 40s or 50s any day. I want a clean conscience.

  8. Heidi

    I think I do live under a rock because I hadn’t heard of it until yesterday! And the only thing I heard was “mommy porn”. That made me have no intereste in even looking the book up and after reading your synopsis I’m disgusted by it! Thanks for a great post!

  9. Valencia

    Love your post and plan on reading the others you mentioned. I am a Christian and (for some reason) tried to read the book. I got about 100 pages in and my spirit (and every part of me) screamed NO. This is not for me and I disagreed with it on sooo many aspects. The writing, S&M, her being a virgin, the list goes on. I think you should write a book (if you haven’t all ready) about a Christian married couple who has HOT sex. I would love to read that! 😉

    1. J

      Thanks, Valencia. I totally appreciate you sharing your experience. Good for you stopping. That’s hard to do.

  10. Anonymous

    Thank you for putting the warnings and then red text for the synopsis part so that those of us who might stumble just from reading even that much could skip that part. (Maybe it was nothing, but I didn’t want to take the chance, so I didn’t read that part of the post).

    1. J

      You’re welcome. There wasn’t anything terribly graphic in the synopsis, but the story itself is disturbing in some ways. Blessings!

  11. Anonymous

    PORN of any kind will just mess up your sex drive inside and outside of marriage–when men masturbate, it can RUIN their bodies–since women are orgasmic, it wouldnt be as hard on us, but why chance ‘adultery’ in the mind. Back in the 70s Xaviera Hollander was writing books-my mom read some and then I did as a teen. Another thing: PORN is getting to kids in ther SINGLE DIGITS and ruins their life..instead of playing with barbies and climbing trees–sigh—second hand smoke would be more ‘healthy’ on them than THIS

  12. Anonymous

    This stuff could be selling because part of women want to be ‘mastered’ by ‘real men’. Have you noticed that men seemed less ‘mascuiline’ today? I believe it could be the BC pill.
    Women who are virgins, when together working on a project their cycles would SYNCHRONIZE together, thats how powerful female pheremones are (its in their breath)
    Mens bodies could be reacting to women as ‘pregnant’ so they dont get ‘masculine’ even if they arent aware of it. men are so out of balance today anyway, (this is JUST A THEORY about the Birth Control pill)

    1. J

      I believe the presence of such written and visual material results from a culmination of events. There has always been porn (there are ancient carvings with pornographic images). However, our access to sexually-inundated images and writings has grown with technology. Also, our lack of Judao-Christian principles in society. The effects of capital F “Feminism” on the roles of males and females. And much more. I don’t know about the pill as far as the hormonal side of it, but the existence of birth control itself made sex as a completely non-reproductive act a possibility.

      As far “real men” go, I did a post about that: Man Up & Take Me. I would not use the word “mastered,” but I do believe that women typically desire strong leadership in men.

  13. Laurie

    I have read the trilogy twice and loved it..what starts out as BDSM,quickly turns to love for this couple and there is adventure in the 2nd and 3rd books. They even marry and have kids,so it is not just about kinky sex,although there is that. And as a married woman for over 19 years, a little kinky sex with your spouse is just fine….you need some spice to keep things exciting. I just dont like all the knocking of this book when you have not even read it…and truthfully,the writing improves in book 2 and 3

    1. J

      Since when does a relationship start out with BDSM and become a healthy intimate one? I was aware of the ending, but I think that’s wishful thinking that we gals can turn the “bad boys” around with a dose of love.

      As far as “kinky sex” is concerned, I think it depends on what you mean by that. Some people think “kinky” is a different position; others define it as including whips and a collar. I’m all for spice, but some things should be kept off limits.

      While I did not read this particular book, I have read a BDSM erotic romance (written by an author friend) that was very well-written, but I would not recommend it because of the problematic morality of the book. And I’m not reading any more in this genre.

  14. Anonymous

    I have read several blog posts regarding this topic… not because I have any interest in reading the book but because I was interested in the perspectives others might have about it. Your post was my favorite out of all the blogs I have read, and here’s why: your bible references at the end. from a christian perspective, or rather, from a biblical perspective(which sadly seems to often be very different then what one might consider to be a “christian perspective”) you cannot ignore the fact that the content in this book, and in this genre as a whole, is contradictory to what the Lord has called us to focus the thoughts of our minds and hearts on. There have been many arguments as to why the book is good for “empowering” women, spicing things up with their husbands, creating a sexual outlet, or just fun entertainment. But all of those arguments are to the exclusion of what the Bible has to say about such content. At the end of the post I love that you let the Bible speak for itself, no further argument required.

    1. J

      Thank you much. I am all for spicing things up and sex being entertaining in addition to intimacy-producing. However, reading erotica and viewing porn doesn’t really set our hearts on the things of God or the relationship with our spouse.

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you for this post. This subject (mommy porn, not necessarily these books) is one that has been on my heart. I get so tired of hearing people talk about how men struggle so much and women don’t understand cause they don’t have much of a sex drive, blah blah blah blah. NOT true. Women understand more than they think. I just don’t understand why its taken women so long to admit that this is an issue. To be fair, I have been hearing more about women’s struggles, but most of it is still about men.

    1. J

      I agree that plenty of women struggle. If they didn’t, men wouldn’t have anyone to struggle WITH.

      Access to these things has just changed so much with technology and the shift in societal values.

  16. lifeinabody

    Thanks so much for posting this commentary! Is his name really Christian?! That bothers me as much as the content. I haven’t read the grey books everyone’s talking about. I think sex is awesome, but S&M has never appealed to me in the least. Your synopsis confirms that they’re poorly written excuses for selling twisted sex. I’m surprised more women aren’t protesting this demeaning treatment. I do love your blog, and encourage you to keep up the good work of unpacking what God intended sex to be, not using another person’s pain for our pleasure, but giving ourselves to one another in a way that’s hot, holy and fun! You go, girl!

    1. J

      Yes, I freaked out about the character’s name too!!! Really? I wondered if people would be freaking out if the hero had been named Mohammed or Dalai or something. I understand that it’s a common name, but it is kind of icky for the author to choose that. Anyway…

      I am also surprised more women aren’t protesting the demeaning part of this, except that I do hear women saying that he CHANGES in the end and renounces his bad-boy ways for the sake of love. So are these women thinking we should accept terrible treatment in hopes that we can turn a guy around? I’ll take the real Christian guy who wants the hot, HOLY, and fun stuff any day. Thanks!

  17. tristahayton

    J, thank you so mich for this post and your blog. This is one of the first christian marriage blogs that i found that i really enjoy and read a good 97% of the posts. I have found others since but i really love your openness and willing to tackle hard subjects. I personally know people who read this book and until reading this post I never knew much about it except the “mommy porn” aspect so i never went near it. I cannot stand the porn industry as i have experienced they way porn can affect a marriage through my hubands struggle. I wish I had a friend like you that i could sit and talk to about thigs like this as openly as you do but i have found that it is hard to come by when you marry as young as i did (married at 18 and am now 20). I truley love your blog and i am so thankul for it. You have helped me in my marriage in more ways than i ever thought a strangers blog could. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

  18. tristahayton

    J, thank you so much for this post as well as your blog. I never knew mich about this book other then “mommy porn” so i stayed away. I know people who have read his and it makes me sad. I cannot stand the porn industry. I har seen he affect it has on marriage (through my husbands struggle). I will be refering anyone i know that mentions this book to this post.

    Thank you also for your blog. It is the first christian marriage blog i found that i really enjoy and i read a good 97% of your posts. Even if they don’t pertain to me now they may in the future since i am only in my second year of marriage. I wish i had a friend like you that i could openly talk to about thigs you post and things in marriage but i have found that people like you are hard to come by, especially when you marry as young as i did (married at 18, now 20). You have helped me so much more then i ever thought a strangers blog could! Thank you fromthe bottom of my heart!!

  19. van Rooinek

    Christian enters the hardware store where she works to purchase plastic ties, duct tape, and rope. (Um, hello! My red flags would go off here.)

    Hey, a lot of people have perfectly legitimate uses for those things! I have purchased all of them, with no ill intent whatsoever, and so has my wife.

    “Ya might be a redneck, if you’ve ever repaired a car with duct tape” – J Foxworthy.

    [Christian] says that he didn’t touch her and wouldn’t without a written agreement. (Written? Okay, now those red flags are the size of Pittsburgh in my brain.)

    No sex without a written agreement? Didn’t that used to be called a “marriage license”? My, how we have come full circle.

    Ana concludes that she loves Christian and is willing to be his sexual submissive. (Will you now all join me in smacking him…and her? What is wrong with these people?)

    She’s no different from the legions of “good Christian girls” who reject good solid Christian men in favor of exciting, dangerous “badboys”. We godly men COULD be badboys very easily; but our faith restrains us. Too bad it doesn’t restrain Christian womem. This was a real sore point in my single days, and a LOT of other Christian guys say the same thing.

Comments are closed.