It’s not news: The reading habits of over 100 million have cannibalized the rest of the publishing world. EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey has set the record as the fastest selling paperback of all time and publishers and authors are re-orienting to publish more “mommy porn.” The fact is, this pornographic series has tapped into some very legitimate needs, despite the hard-core, violent approach to sadistic sex.
Here are four reasons why your friends—or you—may be headed to the theater soon to see the slightly milder and greyer version of the erotic bestseller/soon-to-be blockbuster:
1) Women long to escape reality. Many women get pulled into erotica simply because they are bored, desperate for an escape from the drudgery of normal life. There are seasons of life that can feel very routine, in which nothing new or challenging seems to happen. This often leaves women feeling lonely and depressed. They want to have a pulse again, dream again, and hope again. So, what’s the harm in an imaginary story that takes you away from the drudgery of your life? If you can’t have a real adventure, at least you can enjoy an imaginary one—one that’s guaranteed to have a happy ending.
Erotica promises to take you out of your boring world and inject some adventure—even if it’s only in your mind. For a brief time, you can feel alive imagining what it would be like to fall madly in love with a gorgeous man, to be so beautiful that heads always turn your way, to ride on a private jet to an ocean getaway, or to have mind-blowing orgasms at will.
The fact is: Your heart was designed for adventure, intrigue, romance, and suspense. These are the things that make you feel alive. God made your body to physically respond with invigorating chemicals like adrenaline, dopamine and cortisol when life becomes exciting and semi-unpredictable. Your longing is legitimate. We just believe there are ways to get what you are looking for without compromising God’s standards.
2) Women long to be cherished by a man. In every romance novel, erotic or otherwise, the female character longs for that experience of being chosen and cherished by the guy. Authors haven’t invented this as a major theme of romance—their stories simply reflect what every woman deeply longs for in her heart.
One woman who has a physically disabled husband put it this way:
Reading Fifty Shades of Grey gave me a sense of hope in a way. I was able to feel the love the main character, Christian, felt and the way the girl was so taken by him. I live a very harsh reality at 30 years old. I may never feel the love of my husband again, so if reading a book is a way I can vicariously live that life then great. I am my husband’s caregiver as well as taking care of two kids, not to mention all the home stuff. These books are approximately 500+ pages each and I got through all three in a matter of four days. They kept my attention and I honestly think there was some longing. I want that love!!!!!
Maybe you, too, remember being some man’s “one and only” in the early years in marriage. Or maybe you’re still waiting to be the one a man wants. Does your heart ache and long to be cherished?
3) Women long to be protected by a strong man. In a culture that constantly celebrates women’s independence and freedom, do you find it strange that a book about bondage is spreading like wild fire? All of a sudden, words like “submission,” “master,” and “obedience” are not only acceptable, but erotic. Even the most liberal women in the media are talking about the thrill of a strong man. In a conversation on The View about Fifty Shades of Grey, the fearless five—Whoopie Goldberg, Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Sherri Shepherd, and Barbara Walters—were discussing why women loved the book so much. Barbara suggested that “…when you go home, you want the guy to be in charge.”
This seems to have come out of left field. But it’s hasn’t really. The mantra that “you don’t need a man” has created a culture of strong women and weak men. No longer is it considered romantic or chivalrous for a man to open a door for his date or even to ask a woman out in the first place. Men have been told, “Step aside—we can take care of ourselves, thank you very much!”
Now we secretly yearn for the very thing our independence has destroyed—strong, confident men. There is something wonderful and even erotic about trusting the strength of a man who can provide, protect, and lead. So, women are caught in the crossroads of wanting the strength of a man, but not wanting to be controlled. We ask our husbands or boyfriends, “Why won’t you lead?” When they show strength, we respond with the feedback, “You can lead, but not that way!”
4) Women long to rescue a man. Rihanna and Chris Brown. Katy Perry and Russell Brand. Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown. Let’s even throw in Beauty and the Beast. These are all relationships where the good girl believed she could tame the bad boy. (This may explain why one woman after another lines up to be the next bunny for playboy John Mayer!) Some women are consumed by the desire to rescue the man they love. In a strange way, they may be more attracted to a troubled man who needs help than a normal, uncomplicated “nice guy.” They tolerate rude and even abusive behavior with the hope that “some day my love will change him.”
The Fifty Shades series and many other erotica storylines play on this longing, making it a primary part of the plot. Christian, the main character in the novels, has everything. He’s handsome, young, rich, talented, and successful. If the description of him stopped there, frankly he wouldn’t be that interesting. The charm of his two-dimensional appeal would wear off like a Hollywood heart-throb on the cover of a magazine. But Christian becomes more appealing and intriguing because he’s also very messed up. He has dark, mysterious wounds from his childhood that no psychologist can heal. He is deathly afraid of true intimacy, so substitutes it with kinky sex. In short, he needs a woman to save him from himself. His internal imperfection adds the irresistible element to his outward perfection. He must be saved. Ana’s heart is broken, thinking of Christian as a traumatized abused little boy who has never known true love. Although she is at times concerned about her safety, how could she leave him alone? Ana goes beyond wanting to help him—she becomes his savior.
All of us have a deep, imbedded desire to make a profound difference in the life of a man. The desire to help the man you love is a worthy aspiration. In fact, it’s biblical. God created you to be a completer or “helper” for the man you marry. How wonderful that God also gave you the innate longing to do just that. Like every healthy desire, this one also can be twisted and skewed which is what led Kim into an abusive relationship.
These are legitimate longings. The route to have them met through erotica that celebrates violence against women, despises the holiness of God, raises the risk of adultery and addiction, and blurs the lines of truth is not the right path!
Don’t go see the movie.
So, why would I just spend time telling you four reasons women would go to see it? Because our conversation right now has to be grace-filled, ladies. There are deep needs in the women reaching out for this counterfeit. Let’s ask them how we can help and have an intelligent conversation that leads them to an authentic way to meet their needs.