So unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve probably heard about the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon right? Huge breakout bestseller that everyone’s reading and/or talking about? Jill and I have both received emails, messages and lots of questions about our thoughts on Fifty Shades in the past few weeks. We thought maybe it was FINALLY time to stop putting our heads in the sand and hoping it goes away. Let me be honest – you may be surprised.
First of all, I’ve got to warn you that because of the subject matter of the book, it’s hard to talk about it without putting out a warning. The book is labeled erotica and the subject matter includes the BDSM lifestyle. If you don’t know what that is, be thankful. Don’t feel like you need to look it up. You may not want those images in your brain. That said, some of the things in this review definitely hold a warning that you shouldn’t let your tweens, kids, or young adults read EVEN THIS ARTICLE without being there to answer questions.
So now that we’ve gotten the heavy stuff out of the way…
This article is hard for me to write. It’s forcing me to share things publicly that I’d much rather keep out of the spotlight. But this is where I am and it’s what I’ve done. So here it is.
I read Fifty Shades but not as Fifty Shades. I read it when it was a Twilight Fanfic (story written by fans of a television show, book or movie involving the characters/settings – but still the fan’s own story) called Master of the Universe. I went through a period when I was a huge Twilight fan. I bought the books for friends, I watched all the movies (several in the theater) and had girl’s movie nights at my house where a bunch of us got together and watched them. And I read fanfic. I’m not a fan of Twilight anymore and I have my reasons for that, but that isn’t what I want to talk about here. This is about Fifty Shades.
Fifty Shades started out as a Twilight fanfic with Edward and Bella and Jacob and all the characters that everyone recognizes from Meyer’s universe. But it wasn’t a vampire story. It was what’s called an Alternate Universe story. In this one, the characters were all human and Edward was a CEO of a major corporation. Bella was a young woman fresh from college who applies for a job working for Mr. Cullen. Not as an administrative assistant or anything in the business – as his submissive. (That’s a sex partner in domination role-playing. Sorry if I mess up terms – this really isn’t my area of expertise.)
For publishing purposes, E.L. James changed the names of the main characters – anyone that could be identifiable as coming from Twilight – and went to an independent little publisher and voila! We now have Christian Grey and Anastasia; the main characters of Fifty Shades of Grey.
The book went on to become this huge phenomenon – even knocking some of our favorite authors off of the NY Times Bestseller’s list to take the highly coveted first place spot. Movie rights have been sold and it’s already made such a huge splash that it was lampooned on both Saturday Night Live and Funny or Die. In short, it’s pretty much everywhere. I have friends that absolutely loved the books and devoured them in just a few days and for a while it’s all they’d talk about. They’re Fifty Shades fangirls just like they were Twilight fangirls. I have nothing against those people that love it. I have a lot of friends I love very dearly who are fans of this book. I’m not here to cast aspersions on them or to convict them for what they’ve read or enjoyed. I’m here for everyone else who has heard of this book but isn’t sure if they should read it or not.
This is where I have to make my voice heard. The books are nothing short of pornography. Yes, I read one of them before it was famous and I didn’t go further than that. I realized pretty quickly what it was and yes, I kept reading on that first story. I admit it – though I’m not really proud of it. Why? Part of the story drew me in. I love redemption stories. This is a classic redemption story with a love story thrown in there somewhere. Christian/Edward is really messed up when he meets Anastasia/Bella. (From this point on I’ll put C/E and A/B.) He’s got everything in the world that you could want; money, fame, power, good looks, hot women….the list goes on and on and on. But he’s truly miserable. He doesn’t want to be touched at all. He’s got a lot of messed up ideas about love and romance and what he has to offer a woman. A/B is very innocent, not especially beautiful (not unattractive – just not drop dead gorgeous) and all in all, someone that we might pass on the street without more than a second glance. And for some reason, C/E breaks all of his own rules and starts to care for her. But he doesn’t know how. Outside of all the erotica and pornographic sex scenes, I fell for the idea of this. Eventually we discover (spoiler alert) that he was abused as a young teen and this is part of the reason he doesn’t like to be touched. The horrible terrible past that he grew up with shaped a lot of the ways that he is today – much like most of us. But C/E never had anyone to truly show him the reality of what love could be like. It’s a pretty dramatic concept with some deep raging abuse issues and the possibility for good introspection of character.
But that’s all wrapped around every other page sex scenes that are exceptionally graphic. I mean with descriptions that leave absolutely nothing to the imagination. And on far more than one occasion, it’s violent sex. Spanking is the least of what happens between them. Bondage, whips, beatings, pain, watching others have sex – and learning to be fully submissive in every area of your life (including what you eat and how often you exercise) are interwoven throughout this ‘love story’ to the point that you’re scrolling through pages and pages and pages of smut to get to any plot point – if you even want to call them that.
As someone who reviews books professionally and also works in the publishing world as a publicist, I have to be honest and say that the writing was sub-par. It was not, by any stretch, good writing or even really good storytelling. It’s easy to excuse grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and not well sculptured plot lines when it’s something posted on a message board. When it becomes the #1 book on the NY Times Bestseller list, you just can’t. You have to address those things.
I deeply appreciated this article when I was thinking about how I should approach putting this together. (http://www.purefreedom.org/blog/?p=320) The author of this article nails every single thing that bothered me about this story and she does it with more grace than I would.
I admit I’ve argued with God about this phenomenon. Not about reading Shades of Grey or enjoying it, but about the success of the book. I have several friends who are exceptionally great published writers who can’t get even a tenth of the traction this book has received. I’m on my own journey to get published and experiencing my own level of frustration, so when someone publishes a pornographic fan fiction and suddenly is the next big thing out there, I admit to being more than annoyed. And I’ve told God this. But in my talks with Him, He’s made it plain that this is what satan does. He takes the things that God has given us and turns them upside down for his own ends. You see GOD gave us the ultimate redemption story. He loved us so much that He gave His son for us. And I’ve experienced the change that comes when God works miracles in your life. How things change and you can learn to love so much bigger than you ever thought you could…that’s what God’s given us. That helped give me peace as I work on some of my own writing and stories that God’s planted in my brain.
I wish I could say “I’m not reading Fifty Shades of Grey” but I can’t. What I can do is share my impressions with you and let you make your own decision with a little more knowledge behind it. Remember, the Bible does not have any shades of gray. It remains very clear.
I’ll admit that I really didn’t want to write this article voicing my opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey. I was content letting the phenomenon pass me by and hoping that it would do so quickly. But then I noticed on Facebook that some of my friends were picking up this book and reading it – many of them after having been told about it by another friend. And I began to wonder if I could really keep quiet.
Then, after talking about the book with Lori, I knew we had to make it clear to others what this book is truly about. And I knew I had to clearly state the fact that I will not only not be reading this book, but I will be avoiding it and anything related with it.
I am not going to launch into an attack on the book – after all, I haven’t read it. And I won’t be reading it. But, I know from talking to Lori enough about the content of this book to not only stay away from it myself, but to want to simply ask you to think long and hard about whether or not YOU will read the book.
Let’s think through a few reasons why we may want to steer clear. First, as Lori explained above, the scenes in this book are nothing short of pornography. If we, as Christian wives, are going to hold our husbands to a “no porn” standard, shouldn’t we maintain that standard as well?
According to statistics, pornography use among Christian women is growing. One resource reports that 30% of all Christian women are addicted to porn (http://www.transparentministries.org/porn-stats/). Look closer – that doesn’t say 30% of Christian women have viewed porn once or twice. It says they are ADDICTED to porn.
This is an area of life that us Christian chicks rarely talk about. And it’s time. It’s time to stand up and admit that there is a problem – and that we can each be a part of the solution.
In fact, I had a discussion with a friend and her husband just this week about Fifty Shades of Grey. Her husband was telling the story that on a recent business trip he was talking with a coworker about what type of small gift he would bring home for his wife. His coworker recommended getting her a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey – he had heard that it was helping marriages. Let me repeat that: He had heard that it was HELPING marriages.
Thankfully, my friend’s husband checked the book out online and quickly realized it wasn’t something that his wife would appreciate. And it certainly wasn’t something that would improve his marriage.
The enemy is having a heyday with this, ladies. He not only has women convinced that this is a harmless novel, but he is now working to convey the idea that this book will IMPROVE marriages.
What a crock.
Studies show that pornography use actually DECREASES sexual satisfaction in marriage:
Results of the study showed that exposure to pornography negatively impacted self-assessment of sexual experience while some other aspects of life remained constant – namely professional satisfaction. Participants reported less satisfaction with their intimate partner, specifically with their partner’s affection, physical appearance, sexual curiosity, and sexual performance.
Additionally, participants exposed to the pornographic material assigned an increased importance to sexual relations without emotional involvement. Furthermore, and the most telling aspect of the research, all these effects were uniform across male and female participants. Meaning this is not only a male issue.
Fifty Shades of Grey is not a book that we as Christian women can simply not read. We must go a step further and talk about why we are choosing not to read the book with our friends. If we each tell a friend what we know about the book – the true character and content of the book – maybe we can impact our friends, our culture in a positive way.
About The Authors
Lori Twichell is the owner of Beyond the Buzz Marketing which handles publicity and marketing for a variety of clients. She is Jill Hart’s partner on Christian Work at Home Mom radio and a featured blogger at CWAHM. She and Jill own Radiant Lit and Fiction Addict; both websites designed to help people find the best books to feed their love of reading. She is a proud military wife and lives with her husband, three kids and two dogs in San Antonio, Texas.
Jill Hart is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms (CWAHM), a website that provides resources and encouragement for women who work from home. She is the author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom and has been featured in places such as The Wall Street Journal and FIRST magazine. But mainly Jill is a wife and mom of two. She lives with her family in Nebraska. Learn more about Jill at www.JillHart.com and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.