Driving along a stretch of California interstate the other day, I steered my car down the highway casually as I fiddled with the radio dial until I landed on my favorite country station. As Rascal Flatts crooned somethin' about a banjo, I looked down for just a second to pick up my Starbucks drink out of the console and started to take a sip when I noticed - something was wrong with the road. Suddenly I realized - the line in the middle of the two-way highway was gone. For a stretch of the road ahead of me, the painted middle lines were all worn away, leaving nothing but a wide road with no boundaries to keep the cars going North on one side and the cars going South on the other...to keep vehicles from crashing into each other. Thankfully, I carefully stayed on my side of the road, no oncoming cars passed me and soon the disappeared line showed up again in it's rightful place as I continued. But that little experience started me thinking about boundaries. Lines on a two lane highway are set in place not to annoy, frustrate, or suppress us - they are set to protect us. To communicate something, to guide and to guard. Having that experience caused me to realize how little I've thought of boundaries. Of things like medians, stop signs and those white, black and yellow lines painted on streets we drive every day. Imagine the chaos, craziness and sheer danger we'd all be in if they were not there.
Thoughts about boundaries and their almost unseen importance laid heavy on my heart as the week progressed. And a couple days after my "lines on the road" experience, I heard about a certain trilogy of books that caused me to think about this subject....even more.
The first time I heard about the book "50 Shades of Grey", I was absentmindedly watching Good Morning America on TV while working on other projects around the house. As an aspiring writer myself, my interest peaked when I heard the words, "...and the book has sold one copy every second, hitting the New York Times Bestseller List and selling 10 million copies so far with no signs of slowing down..." I stepped away from my work and stood in front of the TV screen, watching a middle-aged British woman answer questions about a book she wrote. On a whim, a lady named E.L. James penned and self-published her first novel...only to watch it explode in popularity in America. I watched in awe (not the good kind of awe, mind you) as she described the book as including "graphic sex scenes", "bondage" ...and something about "I have two teenage sons" (That's the head-scratcher that topped it all off. The first question racing through my mind was - why would you write a book like this if you have two young sons? What kind of model does that set for them as a woman, as their mother? But that's beside the point.) Based upon the skyrocketing popularity of this novel and the millions of women giving it rave reviews (including some Christian women I know), I want to share with you, my dear readers, my thoughts and heart on this topic and the reasons why I believe it is harmful, damaging and inappropriate reading material for anyone.
I soon found out all about this "erotic novel" as it's being talked about on mainstream news channels and written about in widely read news articles. Reporter Savannah Guthrie of NBC described "50 Shades of Grey" as "...Explicit and extremely graphic" and said that "...parts of it are disturbing." The story's plot centers on a college-age virgin who is seduced by a handsome millionaire (who by the way, is described in the novel as an abuse victim and sex addict) who persuades her to sign a contract that allows him complete control over every aspect of her life - dictating when she can eat, sleep, groom herself, and work out - to taking complete dominance over her sexually as he systematically abuses her throughout the story. Much of the "50 Shades" trilogy includes very graphic sex scenes involving BDSM- "bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism." And yet, it is being portrayed in many circles in a rather cutesy, funny, "steamy", "romantic", "kinky", and light manner. The New York Times described it as "mommy porn". Yet I (who was trained up by my parents never to just take what the media throws at me, but to use my own mind - to discern things carefully and wisely) believe that the content of this novel needs to be viewed more carefully and honestly.
Highly respected Dr. Drew Pinsky shared his perspective on the novel: "I can't emphasize enough the disturbing quality of this. This is a woman who is naive to these issues, and then is manipulated and exploited by a man who has a severe personality disorder and a sex addiction who is violent with her..." he also stated, "Why women would pick this up as any sort of substitute for intimacy or any sort of model for a relationship, I just find...disturbing."
Clearly, this story does not depict a normal or healthy relationship. As I researched the book and heard respected individual's perspectives on it, I could not help but shake my head and wonder how so many intelligent people could fall into truly thinking these novels are harmless, or even "helpful" for a woman's love life. I fear American women are falling into not just "50 Shades of Grey"....but 50 shades of confusion.
Let's be honest here -
As a smart, healthy woman..... I believe this novel is not harmless. It's not light. It's not cute. It is not just a little "kinky." It's anything but romantic. It's not just "entertainment". And it is not okay. I believe (and experts, doctors, psychologists - and the Bible - agree) it is very disturbing, very unnatural, and extremely disrespectful to women. In light of the truth that real women daily undergo the horrors of domestic violence and rape, I believe this type of literature should not be treated as simply "fantasy", meaningless, or just a light "racy" read. I question the women who support the book - why on earth are women who publicly defend the rights of women and children (such as advocating for exploited women in this world who undergo sex slavery, rape, and domestic violence) running out to buy and happily promoting through the media a book that clearly glamorizes not only disrespect but raw violence towards women? In several interviews I watched, "sex experts" were questioned about this very concern, to which several replied this sentiment: "Aw, it's just a fantasy!! It's totally harmless! Women who read these books just need an escape - they would never act this out in their real life!" To which I ask - so why are they spending precious moments of their life reading it? Why are they supporting the book monetarily by purchasing it? Why are they bringing this message into their homes, for little eyes to see - for curious children to possibly pick up and read disturbing and violent words that shape their minds and view of sexuality? As I initially watched that interview with the author on Good Morning America, I was stunned to see mothers with their young daughters standing outside the studio, clapping and screaming while holding signs that praised "50 Shades". Ladies, is this truly what we want to model for young, impressionable girls?
Dr. Drew expressed deep concern regarding young women reading this book: "I worry about 15-year-olds and 19-year-olds who are reading this and formulating a notion that this is anything close to a reasonable relationship. I worry that this is going to be a model for something pathological." This is not only destructive to women readers and their minds, hearts and relationships - but also to young people reading. And even if you disagree with the points I'm shedding light on, you surely will not disagree that this book is a dangerous thing to allow into the reach of impressionable young people. It concerns me for our children's future and the future of this culture.
As a Christian woman, I believe the content of the "50 Shades of Grey" trilogy stands in stark contrast to the pure life God calls believers to in Scripture:
And I get it. Words like "lust", "sin", "righteousness", and "purity" are not all that popular in the time we are currently living in. They're sure as heck not popularly used in my generation's vernacular. And if you search for them on Urban Dictionary or any stylish lifestyle website, magazine, or blog - you won't find them. But I don't care. Haters can hate, but I'm not ashamed of being a 20-something young woman who is saving sex for marriage, who confidently trusts my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and strives to follow what He says in the Bible as the best way for me to live my life.
This is my call to all of you - are we gonna go with the flow of our culture's whims? Or will we be smart and wise, stand strong, being true to what is right and graciously yet firmly saying "no" to what is wrong. I, for one, want to be cherished in a relationship with a man. To be honored, cared for, treated with tenderness, gentleness and dignity. And....respect. I choose to be a strong woman of integrity.
I choose to say yes to God's way, knowing His way is best - He created me, He loves me, and if I believe in Jesus, if I say I'm a Christian - then I understand the Bible is not a cafeteria plan that I can pick and choose from. If I believe I am saved, forgiven, and loved by God - if I firmly believe that when I die, I will go to Heaven because I'm a daughter of the King, then I just as surely must believe that ALL He says in the Bible is true - that lust is wrong, damaging, and harmful to me. That sexual sin is a fire not meant to be played with - a fire that would burn me beyond repair. The Bible says that lust (which is exactly what the material in "50 Shades" flares up) is serious and it's a big deal.
We can't have it both ways, friends. Yes, we all make mistakes. And the tone and heart of this post is not to condemn or judge those who read "50 Shades" or anyone who struggles with lust and sexual sin. Thankfully, mercy, grace, forgiveness and love are waiting in God's arms when we mess up. But we have to choose - will we be strong? Will we choose the harder road? Will we fight lust? Will we fight sin? Will we embrace integrity and lives of purity? Will be make wise choices to protect the purity of our marriages and our children? Embracing the boundaries placed around precious gifts like sex - knowing that if we ignore those boundaries we can be hurt.
Boundaries are important in life. Yet, I see our culture quickly taking a nosedive into boundary-less territory more and more. Anything goes. It truly breaks my heart to see that the black and white, the right and wrong of how to live is slowly fading into shades of grey. The "lines", the boundaries on our culture's "road" are fading quickly. And I fear that, just as a lack of boundaries on our freeways and highways cause deadly mayhem and terror on the road, a lack of boundaries and a forgetting of what is right and what is wrong is going to cause serious "crashes" in our lives. God sets boundaries to protect us. I fear that if we just follow along with the activities this world offers without seriously considering consequences - we will plummet off the side of the "road without lines" just as I could have driving in my car the other day.
Don't get confused. Don't let the Enemy rip you off. Whether you are single or married, a teenager or a mama - I plead with you, do not let this filth and garbage into your mind or home. This is your life, this is your body, this is your mind, this is your relationship, this is your purity, this is your marriage. Be a woman of honor and stand up and be strong for God.
My prayer is that my words - these rambling thoughts from the aching heart of one sister crying out to another - may cause you to think. To re-evaluate. To be encouraged. To be strong. And to stand up and fight for what is right.
nothing worth having comes easy.
But it is so worth it in the end.
"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
*inspired by "Not Even A Hint", a book written by Joshua Harris. I highly recommend it if you struggle with lust and desire to live a life of purity.