Concern #4: “50 Shades” Blurs Sexual Reality (while suggesting it clarifies it)

IMG_0939The lines between reality and fantasy are dangerously blurred in our culture. “Reality TV” isn’t real. We are beginning to live vicariously through the photos and newsfeeds of others on social media. Airbrushing photos can be done on any smartphone in seconds.

Sadly, following the drift of our culture, “Fifty Shades of Grey” blurs the line between fantasy and reality in sexual relationships. After reading the book or seeing the movie, many women fantasize about the main lead character, Christian Grey. They errantly romanticize the story of coercion and abuse because they long for the way Grey patiently builds the sexual tension.

Women then expect their husbands to match the careful preparation and intentionality that Grey demonstrates in pursuing Anastasia. Real men cannot live up to the expectations formed by an idealistic fantasy. Similarly far too many men are buying into the airbrushed fantasies of pornographic pictures and videos. Real women cannot live up to the unreasonable expectations of carefully staged and professionally edited images.

Generally men are visually wired sexually. Pornography draws a man’s heart away from his wife to an airbrushed, sensual beauty that doesn’t really exist. He becomes unsatisfied and frustrated when his expectations that his wife match the non-exist woman of porn go unfulfilled.

Generally women are relationally wired sexually. Erotic storylines (like the one found in “50 Shades”) draw a woman’s heart away from her husband to an imaginary man whom she dreams would patiently build the sexual tension as he pursues her as a lover. She becomes unsatisfied and frustrated when her expectations that her husband match the fictional hero of the story go unfulfilled.

When both a husband and wife pursue sexual fantasy over sexual reality, neither is satisfied. Intimacy fades. Frustration grows. As fantasy is normalized and reality is overlooked by our culture, more couples report less sexual satisfaction in their relationships.

As God introduced Adam and Eve to each other, he established the pattern of sexual reality (Genesis 2:24-25). He said that a man and woman leave their parents, come together in commitment, and then for the rest of their lives passionately pursue oneness with each other personally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Growing sexual satisfaction happens when that pursuit is based in everyday reality not unreasonable fantasy!

“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.” -1 Corinthians 13:6

Concern #3: “50 Shades” Undermines Sexual Dignity (while suggesting it supports it)

While millions of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey of fiction, there are many other women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him.” -Dawn Hawkins (Executive Director of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation)

IMG_0929“50 Shades” is being promoted in the entertainment and media industries as a story that empowers women. It supposedly gives them dignity historically assigned to men. They argue that stories like “50 Shades” empower and enhance the dignity of women. In reality, “50 Shades” devalues women and robs them of their individual, personal, God-gven dignity and power (Psalm 139:13-16).

During the Grammys Sunday night a young woman who is a human trafficking and domestic abuse survivor made a bold statement that rightfully received a response of thunderous applause from the entertainment industry crowd. Brooke Axtell declared with passion, conviction, and clarity that “Authentic love does not devalue another human being. Authentic love does not silence, shame, or abuse.”

How can key cultural voices of influence endorse secretive, coercive abuse in the storyline of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” book and movie while at the same time applaud the bravery of a Brooke Axtell? She challenged women in relationships that silence, shame, or abuse them to “Please reach out for help. Your voice will save you.” 

Our culture is sending battered women mixed messages! On the one hand, controlling abusive sex is healthy and empowering. On the other hand, controlling abusive sex devalues and is not authentic love.

Does it not make sense that fewer women who are experiencing domestic violence will speak out as our culture normalizes manipulation, coercion, domination, and abuse in sexual relationships?

Some supporters of “50 Shades” point to the consensual participation of it’s female lead, Anastasia. Others have explained how over the course of the three book trilogy she stays with the abusive male lead, Christian Grey,  to help him. Apparently, throughout the trilogy she recognizes he has deep issues of pain that shape how he views and approaches his sexual relationship with Anastasia.

One Facebook post I read said that by the end of the third book, Anastasia has helped free Christian from the demons that haunt him. Her willingness to travel the journey of his own pain with him through their twisted sexual relationship eventual liberates him. She stays in the manipulative relationship for good reasons.

What? Is this not the classic problem in domestic violence? Women who are abused often return to their abuser out of a desire to help free him from what ever torment causes him to abuse. Battered women believe they may be the only person who truly loves and can help the very person who battered them.


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered.”   -1 Corinthians 13:4-5



Concern #2: “50 Shades” Decreases Sexual Activity (while suggesting it increases it)

Voices in the media have suggested that the intentional release of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” movie to coincide with Valentines Day will increase sexual activity among lovers. The movie will supposedly encourage Valentines to be more physically expressive with each other because of it’s story and content. If this were true, it would address a growing problem in American marriages.

In a recent New York Times OpEd piece entitled “Searching for Sex,” former Google quantitative analyst Seth Stephens-Davidowitz said this about his research: “On Google, the top complaint about a marriage is not having sex.” He went on to say, “Searches for ‘sexless marriage’ are three and a half times more common than ‘unhappy marriage’ and eight times more common than ‘loveless marriage.’ There are sixteen times more complaints about a spouse not wanting sex than about a married partner not being willing to talk.”

Too many marriages today are described as “sexless marriages.” Solving this crisis would be a good thing for the longterm health of marriages. So, will “50 Shades” actually encourage more sex in marriage?

NBC’s Today Show reported last week that 50% of women surveyed said they would rather read the “50 Shades” book or see the movie than have sex with their spouse or partner. The hype around the Valentine’s Day movie release implies –  as one television commentator suggested: “There sure will be many happy husbands this Valentines Day.” In reality, the movie may increase sexual fantasy, but it may not increase sexual activity.

God wants married couples to enjoy a healthy, pleasurable sex life together. An entire book of the Bible, The Song of Solomon  illustrates for us the healthy passion of physical intimacy God intends for married couples to enjoy.

“50 Shades” has and will cause many readers and movie-goers to settle for living vicariously through it’s fictional lovers rather than seek physcial intimacy with their spouses. Don’t buy into the hype that says “50 Shades” will help couples pursue more frequent sexual intimacy with each other. The real impact maybe less actual sex, not more.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” – 1 Corinthians 13:7


Previous Posts Regarding the “Fifty Shades of Grey” Movie:

Concern #1: “50 Shades” Distorts Sexual Intimacy (while suggesting it deepens it)

“50 Shades of Grey” – My Concerns as a Man, Husband, Father and Pastor 


Concern #1: “50 Shades” Distorts Sexual Intimacy (while suggesting it deepens it)

IMG_0926If you need a “safe word” in your sex life, then you don’t have sexual intimacy. Safe words are used in forms of consensual and abusive sex to cry “uncle” with one’s partner. The suggestion behind “50 Shades” is that to go this far with each other is the deepest form of a sexual relationship. The idea that intimacy between two people who love each other needs some sort of escape from what the other is doing perverts the very concept of intimacy itself.

Sex between a man and a woman should get safer emotionally, personally, and physically over time as intimacy and trust grow. True, pleasurable, meaningful, sexual intimacy is all about mutual trust, personable vulnerability, and (literally) naked honesty.

“50 Shades” distorts intimacy by promoting selfish manipulation, objectification of others (particularly women), and putting one’s own gratification over that of one’s sexual partner. Paul’s great description of love in 1 Corinthians 13 contains truths that stand in complete contrast to the selfish and shallow intimacy promoted by “50 Shades.”

Love does not dishonor others…
Love is not self-seeking…
Love does not delight in evil…
Love always protects…
Love always trusts…

“50 Shades of Grey” – My Concerns as a Man, Husband, Father and Pastor (updated 2/12/15)

IMG_0924The movie version of the bestselling book “Fifty Shades of Grey” will be released to movie theaters nationwide this Friday, February 13th. The release is timed to coincide with Valentine’s Day and makes the implied promise that it will strengthen the sexual intimacy of couples everywhere.

Time magazine recently reported that in some sections of the Bible-Belt sales of pre-release theater tickets for the movie are running four times higher than the national average. The movie now has made more money on pre-release ticket sales than any other “R” rated movie in U.S. history.

I am not a fan of Christians simply boycotting everything we don’t think is right in our culture. I am also not a fan of Christians simply embracing questionable media releases with little or no concern.

There are several basic problems with the book and the movie. I must admit that I have not read the book or seen the movie – nor do I plan to. I don’t have to view porn to understand some of its inherent problems either.

Over the course of the coming week, I plan to share five concerns I have with the movie. I will share one concern each day – ending on the day of its release Friday. The text of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 provides the basis for the concerns I will share. I believe this description of love from our Creator’s perspective stands in complete contrast to the “50 Shades” perspective on love.

Concern #1: “50 Shades” Distorts Sexual Intimacy (while suggesting it deepens it)

Concern #2: “50 Shades” Decreases Sexual Activity (while suggesting it increases it)

Concern #3: “50 Shades” Undermines Sexual Dignity (while suggesting it supports it) 

Concern #4: “50 Shades” Blurs Sexual Reality (while suggesting it clarifies it) 

Key resources regarding the movie “Fifty Shades of Grey”

Below are some resources to help you and your family as you seek to be discerning about “Fifty Shades of Grey.” I will keep updating these over the course of this week.

  1. 7 Lessons from 50 Shades of Grey
  2. Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart 
  3. Truth about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Movie glamorizes sexual violence, domestic abuse
  4. #FiftyShadesIsAbuse
  5. Campaign against Fifty Shades of Grey asks cinemagoers to boycott the movie and donate to women’s shelters instead
  6. An Open Letter from a Mother to Her Daughter about the Movie ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’