Escape Into Grey

May 10, 2012

in the generous life

I had a friend in college who used drugs … a lot. I understood why. His life sucked. Stresses were growing and drugs gave him a “time out” from all the bad in his life. The problem was that the drugs weren’t really helping. They felt good and gave him a break, but, every time he came down, life was still difficult (and becoming more so) and he was less able to work on the problems. He became less interested in fixing his life, opting to continue to escape into drugs. 

What does this have to do with you and me?

Lately you’ve probably heard a lot about a book called Shades of Grey. It’s erotica for women (sometimes called mommy porn). I think for most readers it is an escape similar to what my friend embraced. It’s a “time out” from all that is not right in their world. But just like drugs, it doesn’t really help. It “feels good,” but every time they come back to reality the problems are still there (and probably growing) and they’re less motivated to work on the problems and  more drawn to escape into the pages of a book.

It’s understandable, really. Life is full of stresses, marriage can be difficult and I think we all hunger for love, for passion, for intimacy.

The problem is that reading erotic novels is like eating Twinkies to stop your hunger. It’s sweet. It’s gives you a sugar high. It makes good food taste bland. It doesn’t give your body the nutrition it needs and all you do is crave more sugar, more Twinkies. The long term results are cavities, extra weight, and a host of health problems.

The same could be said of reading erotic novels to fill your hunger for intimacy. They’re “sweet.” They give you pleasure. They make the rest of life “taste bland.” They don’t give you real relationship and all you do is crave more. The long term results are a starved heart, drifting relationships and a life unlived (only imagined).  

Yes, life can suck, some days quite a lot. But escape is not the answer. (God does have answers. His Word is true and He has the ability to change hearts and lives. He is real food.)

Just a heads up ~ publishers see this kind of literature as a cash cow. There will be more of it and more of it available by electronic book (you don’t have to look the cashier in the eye when you buy it on Kindle). The advertising will be very seductive. Be wise and do not start. If you’ve started reading from this genre, please consider tossing/deleting these books.

I do not know what became of my friend. We drifted apart after college. I pray for him when I remember those days.

I’m praying for y’all too.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.   John 6:35 ESV

Image credit (c) Lori Byerly

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The Romantic Vineyard has a listing of blog posts about Shades of GreyStop Grey From Becoming The New Black And White 

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This is one of those must-read real-life kind of posts, good for everything life throws at you, including a difficult marriage ~ Crappy Marriage? What if it Doesn’t Get Better? Kudos to Julie (of Intimacy in Marriage).

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire May 10, 2012 at 5:10 am

Thank you for writing about and discouraging women from reading erotica. I was exposed to this type of literature in high school while nannying for a Christian family. I really respected the family and thought, “If she is a Christian and thinks this is okay, then maybe it’s not so bad.” Thankfully I never struggled with an addiction and never really had opportunity for more exposure, but I understand the lure for the fictional passion and intimacy. Men (and women) are warned against pornography, but it’s much more rare that erotica is mentioned. I completely agree that it’s an equivalent and I second the warning to avoid. Thank you!

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Mags May 10, 2012 at 5:46 am

The first thing I noticed about this series is the NAME of the man ” Grey and CHRISTIAN ” … I dont believe in coincedence..

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Tawnda Andrews July 28, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Interesting conclusion!! I hadn’t considered the implication of his name and I think you are absolutely correct. Such a huge indication of how our society views the world. Grey…

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Sara May 10, 2012 at 5:48 am

Thank you for posting this. When I was younger (high school and college), I used to read a lot of romance novels. I know this may not be quite the same thing as what you are referring to, but I think the same risk applies. It is easy to fixate on what you perceive to be an ideal marriage/relationship and even what ideal sex should be. It can be damaging to your relationships and your image of yourself.

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The Generous Wife May 10, 2012 at 10:07 am

@Sara and @Claire I did a “romantic novel binge” in my early 20’s too. I would agree that for many it could have a similar affect.

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The Generous Wife May 10, 2012 at 10:08 am

@Mags Yes, you kinda have to wonder why she picked those names.

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Casey May 10, 2012 at 11:53 am

Thank you for encouraging women to stay away from this. This book is everywhere and it can be hard to keep curiosity at bay when so many people are talking about it. There are so many red flags with 50 Shades; I don’t know where to start!

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Chelsey May 10, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I usually love most things you post, but I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. I have read the books – all three of them. And while it does have an erotic theme, I find that the biggest underlying theme is the amazing communication they (as a couple) have. I have found myself being more open with my husband – both sexually and in general. Yes, it’s fiction. No, life isn’t like the book. And while trashy romance novels are not my thing, I found the books to overall promote communication and trust. The books are more than the “mommy porn” tag they are being given. I believe if you watch reality TV you are likely to fall into the same boat. Finding a false reality and longing for your life to be different comes in many different shades, if you will. ;)

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Emily May 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

I tend to agree with Chelsea here. Erotic writing is not the enemy-Satan is the enemy and he uses lots of different tools. Yes, we have to guard our hearts, but only the individual can discern for themselves, prayerfully of course, what to view or read. Personally, I’m more affected by certain popular TV shows than I was by this book. My main qualm with the book is that, like other books, films, TV shows, it perpetuates the wrong definition of “submission” and distorts our interpretation of the Scriptures that call us to submit to our husbands. When we have this chain-and-shackles, unquestioned-obedience picture in our heads, it makes it difficult to have a submissive heart toward our husbands. One blessing that came from reading Fifty Shades of Grey was that I began to study the Biblical meaning of submission, and examine how I’m fulfilling my role as a wife.

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The Generous Wife May 11, 2012 at 7:34 am

@Chelsea and @Emily I do understand your perspective and, to a point, agree. I enjoy the occasional murder mystery and I’m not tempted to murder anyone, I enjoy the twists and turns of the story and sometimes God even uses it to teach me something. (God can bring good out of most anything, including bad stuff.)

However, and this is really a very big however, sex is a very different thing. When we see or read about or hear about something sexual (even if it is not something that would specifically turn us on) our bodies respond with arousal and start sending out all kinds of hormones/chemicals (I’m thinking specifically of oxytocin, a bonding hormone). We become physically aroused and that response can (especially with repeated exposure) become a bonding experience. Do we really want to become significantly effected by literature where people hurt each other as a part of their intimate sexual lives? Where unmarried sex is OK? Where the mind games and personal control are seen as exciting and “trust building”?

I know we’d all like to think that we choose who we are and that we can remain unaffected in the face of such literature, but the science says otherwise.

If we really want to choose who we will be sexually, then we need to make the choice about what we expose ourselves to before we turn a page, holding to what will build and excluding what will teach us perspectives at odds with the Word.

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Kate May 11, 2012 at 8:54 am

The problem I have with people who go after books….what are you watching on TV??? Seriously, I’ve seen so many Christians go after literature like sharks…only to find out that they watch shows like “Grey’s Anatomy” and their sons watch “Transformers”(the new movies), and their daughters love “Victorious”

Hope you are all throwing out your TV’s.

I am so tired of book bashing. It’s a BOOK. If you don’t want to read it, don’t…but don’t assume that women who read it are falling into temptation. I haven’t read it, because I’m not interested in the genre of book.

I read Harry Potter, and I haven’t become a witch.
I read Twilight, and I haven’t longed for a sparkly vampire to bite me.
I read the Hunger Games, and I haven’t killed any children.
I read the DaVinci Code, and I don’t believe that any of it is true.
I read the LOTR trilogy, and I haven’t become a Hobbit.

IT’s ENTERTAINMENT. If you have a problem with lust, or have marriage issues….don’t read it, but let’s stop judging people who do. Sex is fun, maybe it’s giving housewives some good ideas. ;)

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empathologicalism May 11, 2012 at 9:52 am

Saying you can read about murder and not want to murder, or you can read about a perfect husband and not daydream of him in place of your own husband, is not very deep analysis of the porn of romance novels. I wonder if you’d subscribe to the idea than a man can look at naked pictures and not imagine those women in bed in place of his wife? Well, guess what….he can. And yet I cannot support porn, not at all. Womens perceptions of the male mind “on porn” are so badly wrong its almost humorous. I dont know why. But the effects are there, and they exploit our gender specific proclivities for doorways into sin. Lets not pretend sin and the father of lies are not clever, lets not assume silliness like “oh if I read about sex I will wanna go have some”….nope, its just not that simple, I wish it were

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The Generous Wife May 11, 2012 at 1:53 pm

@empathologicalism I’m sorry if I was not clear. I think porn is destructive and I think that erotic novels are as well. Sex is different. It effects us differently and we need to be wise about what we expose ourselves to.

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The Generous Wife May 11, 2012 at 1:54 pm

@Kate This post was about a book, so I was fussing about books, but I can fuss about TV too. :)

That said (back to books), for some, reading Harry Potter will soften them toward witchcraft. For some, reading Twilight will soften them toward supernatural themed books (much of which is erotica). Etc.

What we read, watch, etc. will effect us. We have to know ourselves and know our weaknesses. The bottom line is that we need to be wise about what we feed our minds.

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Paul Byerly May 11, 2012 at 8:59 pm

One thing to remember is that sex and arousal affect the brain in significant ways. Reasons is lowered, as is impulse control. Sex is different, and reading sexual things is far more likely to result in changes in thinking than reading most other things.

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Erin (Mystery32) May 14, 2012 at 8:32 am

Great post, Lori. I think the main thing we all must remember is that Satan will use any vice to try and ruin our marriages, and sex is by far one of his favorite things to use. God created sex to make us one with our husband or our wife and that does not leave room for 3, 5, 89, 10002… etc. 1 husband + 1 wife= 1 intimate relationship. When we include other people- whether that be by books, TV, movies, or the real thing- it is a danger to our marriage. There are healthy ways to grow in our sex lives with our spouse, this blog is one of them, but do not be deceived by the lies that books like Shades wants you to believe.

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Cindy at Affaircare May 14, 2012 at 5:10 pm

I understand that current philosophy sort of dictates that “if it feels good, do it” or “if it makes you happy, you deserve it” or that if it feels natural and it’s fun, just go ahead…that kind of idea. But I have to say that I do agree with Lori–for believing Christians, our priorities are different. God doesn’t tell us to be all boring and never enjoy life–in fact even the apostle Paul says in I Corinthians 10 that as Christians we have freedom! BUT… (and that’s a big ‘but’ there) our new goal and our new priority is going to be obeying God and doing what HE has told us pleases HIM.

And He has been fairly clear what pleases Him. I Cor. 10: 23 says we are free to eat or drink or do anything…but then says “but not all things are beneficial…not all things are constructive” and verse 24 follows up by saying that “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” So rather than looking at erotica for my own pleasure and my own horniness (something that occurs naturally)….as a Christian I would have first consider if the erotica would obey God, if it would please God, if it was beneficial to others, and if it was constructive. Would reading the erotica seek the good of others? Or is it just seeking my own good?

Another really good example is Phiippians 4:8 “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.” So before I read erotica (or watch TV, or listen to music, or eat food, or play a video game, or do ANYTHING), I would ask myself: “Is this sexualized kind of writing true? Or does it have distorted images of love, lust, desire and sex? Is “mommy porn” lovely? Is it admirable? Etc.

I think you can see that the issue here is not that the erotica or other books or other TV shows aren’t entertaining, titillating or natural. They are! But as Christians, I side with Lori and encourage readers to do the right thing and consider the good of others and consider looking to your Bible to do what it says.

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Kate May 14, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Anything and everything we take in with our senses effects us!!! It shapes us and changes us. It is the principle of collision! When we collide (TV, reading, listening to a friend, physically running into something) with anything it impacts our life. Some for the good and some for the bad. But don’t think for a minute that reading these books will not change you, even if you think it was created for “entertainment”. I agree with Lori, sex is different then other issues. Sex is sacred for a husband and a wife. When men and women view porn or read porn, it warps sex into something that isn’t real and sells us a lie. Sex should be fun and exciting, but God created for all of that to be able to happen without “others” entering the bedroom or our mind through porn of any form.

I also agree that there are many TV shows that cross lines! Keeping these things out of reach and out of site will allow us to freely explore our marriage with our spouse-and no one else! We cannot underestimate or rationalize away these books-they do affect us, whether we choose to admit it or not!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire May 15, 2012 at 5:41 am

Totally agree with Lori here.

Here’s the big problem with erotica for women: for us, far more than for our husbands, sex begins in the brain. We have to decide to be turned on for our bodies to follow. It really doesn’t matter what he does; if we aren’t “into it”, our bodies won’t follow.

We need to feel safe, loved, etc.

But, there’s a caveat. Many women, when they just can’t get aroused by what their husbands are doing, turn to fantasy when they’re making love as a way to “short circuit” arousal. Their bodies begin to physically respond, but it’s responding because of what they’re thinking about, not because of their husbands. And thus you’re not really “present”. The phenomenon is called dissociating during sex.

When we start reading erotica, we give ourselves something to think about, and it can become increasingly difficult to “pull” ourselves back to be present in the moment while we’re making love. Sex has become merely physical, and our husbands become almost like a sex toy rather than a partner.

Yes, erotica can open us up to being more adventurous in bed, but are we really present?

I’d just caution any woman against it because it can lead to this sort of problem. We need to be able to stay with our husbands in body and in mind if we’re going to have a fulfilling sex life, and that’s why so often these things are destructive.

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The Generous Wife May 15, 2012 at 8:53 am

@Sheila Dissociating during sex – yeah, that’s a problem. Thanks for sharing from this perspective.

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Alecia May 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

Great post! Loved what Sheila said above too about disassociating during sex. What we end up doing when we allow these things into our lives and marriages is treating our spouse like a “tool” rather than an actual person to interact and create intimacy with. I’d rather have the latter.

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AHappyWife May 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Do you read romance because you are unsatisfied with your intimate life? This is a general theme I see on forums that are anti-romance. Everyone is assuming that people turn to romance when they are not being fulfilled by their own marriage bed. If that is the reason you read romance then perhaps you need to look at your marriage/intimate life and try to understand why you not being fulfilled.
I DO occasionally pick up a romance novel or peruse some romantic lit. I have absolutely zero complaints with my marriage. I am quite fulfilled by my husband.*wink* There is no “withdrawal” or using my husband like a toy when we are intimate. If I want something like being tied up or something else kinky I don’t just fantasize about it, I ask him to do it. (And he is generally more than willing.) When I fantasize HE is always the hero.
I think that you all are missing the most important aspect of the romance novel. The most compelling characteristic of an romantic novel is the dominance the male character displays. Dominance attracts females. That’s just how we are wired. Our behind-the-times instincts still try to evaluate men based on the level of protection, shelter and food they can provide. Our feminist infected brains fight this trying to scream “equality” and “I’m just as good as any man.” But, it does not change the fact that we are still wired to search out the alpha male who will best protect his family.
Romance is simply the result of the stifling of our femininity and our men’s masculinity. Since we can’t HAVE a relationship in which our guys lead and we submit to his desires, we simply sneak little peaks into stories that portray this. Ironically, we get angry because we are turned on by the thought of a man bending us over his knee and spanking us for sassing him, or the image of being tied and helpless as he takes his pleasure as he desires.
When we turn to examine our vanilla intimacy (in which we women make all the calls) and we are dissatisfied. We can’t let our man do something that would make us vulnerable, but we get frustrated because our husband won’t fulfill our fantasy because they have been taught to be more like women than men! Worse, If they try anything out of the norm we say NO even though we secretly long for him to ignore our command and do as he pleases. You don’t agree that we long for our men to take charge and be the caveman type sometimes? Why do you think there so many novels with this theme? Even poorly written trash with cheesy plot lines and awful conversations sells very well.
Our current culture does not idealize masculine characteristics. We must all be “politically correct” and “sensitive” Today guys are programmed as kids to embrace their “feminine side” and squash their masculinity. Women are taught they should always be in charge/equal with their husbands. This obviously is not fulfilling them so they are turning to romance for their Masculinity Fix.
Reading romance is NOT the problem. Romance is just the band- aid. The problem is that our men don’t know how to take charge and our women are taught to fight them if they do (even though many will secretly admit they love it and long for it.)
I find “romance” a breath of fresh air because it celebrates the masculine. Has anyone stopped to think that maybe this “alarming” trend in romance novels is simply an expression of women’s desire to get our MEN back?? We want a guy that will take charge and take responsibility. We want a guy that is aggressive in bed, we LIKE it when our men display strength and confidence in and out of bed. We LIKE to be made to submit to our guy. (This would be a whole new subject so I won’t bother to defend that statement. There are more than enough books selling with that theme to prove my point.)
Maybe some romance takes it too far. We probably don’t all want to wear collars, follow a strict set of rules and only speak when spoken too, but I totally understand why this D/S trend is taking on such momentum in our novels. Women desire confirmation (even extreme confirmation) that they belong and are protected and that their men are MEN.
I for one know that I desired someone that would stand up to me long before I ever read my first romance novel. I knew I wanted someone who would make me fulfill my vow to OBEY (yeah I did the old fashion wedding vows and *gasp* promised to obey my husband) before I ever knew anything about “BDSM” or whatever you call it. Romance DID NOT give me these desires; it simply put into words what instincts already told me.
I don’t think the people who are saying that the books make women unsatisfied are totally incorrect. The books DO open our minds to a part of our femininity that we are taught to ignore or that we don’t even know exists. The action we take on the knowledge is what matters! If we find ourselves attracted to the lifestyle/ intimate life / attitude of the hero and heroine in certain types of romance novels then we should talk to our spouses about it. We should try to teach ourselves to think beyond the politically correct, sissy slush that’s been shoved down our throats since childhood. We should encourage our men to be men. You want a dominant hero in your bed? Then act like a submissive heroine! Don’t just sit there all angry because your clueless husband won’t take any action! He is only behaving as years of conditioning and years of you saying “no” has taught him. How is he supposed to know that suddenly you want him to act like a barbarian claiming a woman as his slave/mate?
Anyway, in answer to this article saying that reading romantic literature is dangerous or wrong I must say that the motivation behind the novel reading is what makes it right or wrong. I’m not reading it to get something I can’t get from my husband. I’m reading it because I agree with it. I enjoy reading romance that inspires me. It makes me creative in bed. It helps me express myself to my husband. I will admit that a very well written one might turn me on, but it makes me want to go find my husband and have some fun. It does not make me wish I had married a vampire that keeps me as a intimate slave in cage.
If I were reading it as a supplement to my husband then it would be wrong! If I were using it as a DRUG to escape “dull reality” of marriage then YES that would be wrong. But I love my marriage, my husband, and our intimate life and I have no need of drugs to escape it.
People think that the awesome, mind -blowing intimate portrayed in novels is just fiction and therefore they think it is harmful because it will make us discontent with dull “real” intimate. I have good news! Real intimate can be even better. Romantic books describe a very real possibility if you and your spouse are open minded, adventurous and willing to laugh at mistakes.
So ladies, if romance has become a DRUG to help you escape the reality of you marriage I advise you to take action at once. Do some research, find out what you want and then tell your husband in a way that will not squash him. I mean don’t say, “Our intimate life sucks, let’s try this.” Obviously that is going to step on whatever masculinity he has managed to retain. Try something like, “Love I would really like it if we could try a little romantic spanking…” Most guys are going to perk up at such a suggestion. Forgive my tasteless pun.
If anyone has made it this far and is wondering at my use of intimate instead of S E X OR Romance/ Romantic instead of E R O T I C A It is because the spam filter on this site keeps blocking those words…LOL

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Dawn July 3, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Everything in moderation….grey all day everyday probably not a good idea but as an occasional treat like a Twinkie can sweeten the day!

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The Generous Wife July 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

@Dawn Everything in moderation? I do understand what you are saying, but I think there are some things that are so destructive or disgusting that we need to not go there. How about a little poo in your brownies? Some anti-freeze in your lemonade? Just a bite, just a sip. It’s just a little thing, no harm done.

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abby July 10, 2012 at 7:15 am

I want to comment to “AHappyWife”.
There’s actually nothing wrong with certain Romance genres, in my opinion. I’m currently writing a romance from a Christian perspective, and it has none of the inappropriate themes of the Grey novels, instead, it’s about a realistic, healthy relationship. But that doesn’t mean it’s boring!
My favorite stand-alone novel is Pride and Prejudice, which is a pure Romance. I think people tend to forget that there are a lot of great books that don’t deal in “adult” themes and are actually well-written.
I don’t need novels or even TV to give me ideas about what to do in bed. I’ve read some great books about healthy sexuality that didn’t have graphic descriptions, and weren’t about fantasy, but about focusing on your spouse. One great book is Kevin Leman’s “Sheet Music”. He even discusses pornography briefly, and why it’s unhealthy in any form.
I’ve assisted with a class for women in my church who were recovering from addictions to pornography and sexual fantasy, and the message of the class, and the Bible, was clear, we were meant for something better than that.

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Precious Jem July 22, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This is a good read. Wisely written in a different perspective by using an analogy. Thumbs up! God bless you more! :)

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FarmerJ July 29, 2012 at 9:01 am

I have personal experience with how these books can destroy a marriage.

My wife has always had an emotional need for Admiration (see website marriagebuilders.com). I guess she has a need to be wanted, to be lusted after, etc. I admit, I had a hard time doing this, b/c it felt odd. But I do think this need so to speak, got reinforced or amplified by these erotic novels. She has had a Kindle for awhile, and she reads on it all the time. As hard as it may to believe, there are days where she can lay on the couch & read on her kindle all day long…from morning to night. I also know that she has purchased these erotica series and are part of her daily reading. Her friends at work all have these books as well, so I think that is where she got the interest from.

Her main complaint about me has been that I am not as outgoing, loving & passionate enough for her. That she wants more from me….

To make a long story short, I recently found out that she has been having an online cybersex affair with a stranger that lives 1,000 miles away. I found out that they were texting each other at all times of the day, they were sending photos of their privates & it has even escalated to them having virtual sex using smartphone video calls. I caught her & tried to get her to stop. I could not & moved out.
She has told me that she has been unhappy for a long time, that we are not meant for each other & that she is ready for a divorce. She says the ebooks have nothing to do with how she is thinking.

We have no children, so it is my best interest to let her go. It has been hard to accept all that has happened.

These books are dangerous, they get women addicted to fantasy that no one can measure up to.

[edited for privacy]

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Jingste April 18, 2016 at 8:57 pm

I have to agree to a certain agree to what FarmerJ wrote. Just that my story has been the other way around.
My husband and I have had problems in our sexual life for 17 years (since we got married) and we have done all you can do to “fix” this. I went to a psycho therapist, people prayed for us, etc. etc. What did free me completely? You won’t believe it! The book Fifty Shades of Grey! Yes! It’s true. It was so freeing to me, to finally read a non-christian romantic novel where the women is hot for sex and she can have sex all the time. I know, in real life it’s not this way. But in Christian circles it’s all about the poor women who does not feel like having sex and he just wants it all the time. And in this book you see the young women wanting sex just as much as he does. I seldom have heard of something like this before (I grew up in a very traditional, christian circle). And how sex with love can heal a soul of a man. I experienced this in my own marriage. My husband often says to me, that our intimacy makes him strong to face to troubles at work.
BUT because I became free through this romantic erotica, my husband supported me in reading more of these books. In the beginning (the first 6 months) it really gave our marriage fire in the marriage bed, but lately I can recognize just what the blog author is mentioning above. I feel so great when I can escape into this world of falling in love and the stories in itself. But once I start to read a new book, I can’t stop anymore and my household work become less important and I suddenly think that life isn’t worth fighting for.
Thankfully the Holy Spirit is already showing me the affect it has on my values in general and I’m starting to be more aware that reading these books can be as dangerous as someone watching romantic movies all the time or wasting time on Facebook. Yes, that can be just as bad, if you get addicted to it.

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