Pornography, the Rape Myth and 50 Shades of Grey

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Pornography and 50 Shades of Grey

I don’t really want to talk about this and I’m fairly sure that there are some who don’t want to hear it, but we must address the evil, insidious, and deceptive sin of pornography.

This week, just in time for Valentine’s Day, a movie called 50 Shades of Grey will be released. This movie is based on a book of the same name. Both the book and the movie are classified as erotica, which is a form of pornography.

There was a big ratings controversy because normally a movie like this would be banned from mainline theatres. However, since they know this movie is going to make a tonne of money, and despite its pornographic and violent content, the movie will be released in two versions: one rated NC-17, which is basically X, and one rated R with a few of the most graphic scenes cropped down.

Anti-pornography and sexual exploitation groups have worked hard to try to get the film boycotted or at least given a stronger, adult rating. Some theatres in Britian are looking for permission to have themselves get an exception and “legally change themselves into sex-film venues” so they can show the more hard-core version.

What’s in 50 Shades of Grey?

What is the big deal, you might be asking? There have been lots of movies of a sexual nature that have come to the theatres, so what makes this one different? Well, this one is more dangerous – by far. To quote the US National Center on Sexual Exploitation:

“Hollywood is advertising the Fifty Shades story as an erotic love affair, but it is really about sexual abuse and violence against women. The porn industry has poised men and women to receive the message that sexual violence is enjoyable. Fifty Shades models this porn message and Hollywood cashes the check.”

Obviously, I refuse to buy or read the book, but I took some time this week to read some chapter analyses from a website set up by a professional therapist and abuse victim who takes apart each section of the book, shows what’s happening, and explains the damage being done. I managed to make it about half-way through the chapter 8 analysis before I had to quit. It was some of the most disturbing stuff I’ve ever read.

Let me read to you the excellent summary of the book put out by a site called “End Sexual Exploitation”:

“The Fifty Shades trilogy follows wealthy and powerful businessman Christian Grey as he meets Anastasia Steele, a virginal college student lacking confidence, and woos her into his BDSM (sexual sadism or torture sex) world and ‘red room of pain.’ The relationship maps onto what would be considered an abusive relationship rife domestic violence in the real world. Christian puts Ana under contract to serve as a sexual ‘submissive’ and uses intimidation, coercion, humiliation, violence, stalking, manipulation, jealousy and other controlling behaviors to groom Ana and keep her under his domination. The franchise advertises it as a love affair and erotic sex—what it’s really about is abuse and violence…”

I can attest that this is a very accurate description.

Erotica Goes Mainstream

Pornography, erotica and sexual perversion have always been popular –it’s been around forever – but for a very long time it lived in the shadows. Pornographic movies were kept away from other movies, dirty magazines were kept behind the counter, blocked out with paper, and delivered in black bags. Sexualized images used to be blocked out and only seen very late. But now, with advent of the internet, porn has gone mainstream. It’s easily accessed on our home computers and can be brought up on any smartphone, anywhere. (I appreciate Tim Challies’ post on this)

And it’s growing even more popular. Porn hasn’t stayed in the shadows. It’s not just in the dirty magazines and on the bad-websites… it’s on TV, at the movie theatre, and in Superbowl commercials. We live in a pornified society.

Advertisers figured out a long time ago that they can hock more product if they juice it with sexuality, but this is more than a pretty girl in an advertising campaign. Pornography is now a normal part of popular TV shows and mainstream books. It’s literally everywhere.

And it’s sneaky. Let me give you an example from our church. In an attempt to get you used to their brand and their form of writing, Harlequin (the publisher of the erotica novels) put out a series called “Love Inspired” for Christians. One of the first things I did when came here was to clear out an entire shelf of Harlequin romance novels. Our church library had novels by the same publishing company that released “10 Rules to Sex Up a Blind Date”.

As I said, porn is everywhere, and it’s going more and more mainstream. How mainstream? 50 Shades of Grey, the book about sexual sadism or torture sex, was the #1 bestselling book of 2012 and the #2 bestselling book in 2013! In some places it outpaced Harry Potter for how fast it sold. The author has made millions of dollars. The movie trailer has more than 48 million hits on YouTube. And the movie is, supposedly on track to make 60 million dollars in its opening weekend. That puts it in the territory of The Lego Movie, Star Wars 1, and many of the Marvel Movies. Presale ticket numbers are already much larger than expected.

Mommy Porn

And do you know who’s buying those tickets? Women. Women are way into porn right now. Not just secular women, but married, Christian women too. There was a survey conducted that showed that the same ladies who were the best customers for bible studies were, at the same time, reading 50 Shades of Grey.

They are releasing both R and NC-17 versions of the film because the fans of the book are demanding it. The producer of the film recently said:

“What we’re kind of hearing from the fans is they want it dirty… they want it as close as possible [to the book]…. The sex scenes featuring bondage, spanking and sadomasochism were a big part of the appeal of the so-called ‘mommy porn’ books by EL James.”

That’s what they’re calling this phenomenon: “Mommy Porn”. Married, conservative, women with children are going crazy for this book series. Yes, it’s still mostly men that use porn and struggle with porn addiction, but women are rapidly increasing in number. Men escape into hyper-sexualized images, but women are more interested in the storyline. Therein lies the danger of 50 Shades of Grey and other forms of literary erotica. They “fill the relational void of their loneliness, marital strife, or the pain of abuse” with pornographic fantasy (source). Just as many men have generated a personal harem in their mind, a rolodex full of pornographic images, so now do women have their own version of sexualized and pornographic library.

Satan has almost destroyed men with porn and his next target is women – and it’s working. Even against Christian women. Satan is inviting women to consume spiritual death – and they are in record numbers.

Statistics show that many men in the church use pornography regularly, and some of them are addicted. Research also suggests that 20% (that’s 1 in 5) of Christian women use online porn regularly. I know more women who call themselves Christian and have read 50 Shades. One author I read tells the story of visiting a friend who is a sex therapist who said, “For the first twenty-five years I had no women in my sexual counselling. Now 30 percent of all the people I see for sexual addictions are women.”(“Culture Shock” by Chip Ingram, Pg 48)

Every man I have ever had a deep conversation with has admitted that they struggle (or have struggled) with pornography. That includes preachers, youth pastors, elders, Sunday school teachers, ushers, small group leaders and everyone else. Now, it’s the females in the church that get to feel guilt, shame, discontent, disconnect from God, and shrink away from the faith.

Most of the people who bought this book, Christians included, didn’t give it a second thought. That shows how insidious it is. Their consciences should be screaming at them, but they aren’t. There might be a gentle whisper of the Holy Spirit, but He is quickly told to shut-up because they are “just curious”.

That kind thinking that brings porn into the mainstream – it normalizes it. It builds the callous around our hearts and makes us more accepting of sin. People can’t see what’s right and wrong anymore because they live bathed in sexual sin. Folks watching House of Cards, Game of Thrones, Trueblood, or almost anything on HBO or Showtime are supporting the normalization of pornography. We watch, they make more, we deaden our souls.

The Slope of Depravity

This is no surprise to Christians. Romans 1:16-32 tells us all about the corruption that comes from accepting and exposing ourselves to a regular diet of sin.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (vs 16-17)

Paul is going to spend the rest of the book talking about the “power of God for salvation to everyone” through Jesus Christ. Here he introduces the topic by talking about the “righteousness of God” that has been “revealed” – which he’ll go on to explain to mean the righteousness that comes through faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But before he gives the Good News, he has to give the bad.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (vs 18)

God through the prophets and Jesus and his Apostles didn’t just “reveal” “the righteousness of God”, but have also “revealed” the “unrighteousness of men.” And even though their sin has been “revealed” to them, instead of admitting it and repenting they “suppress the truth” because they love their sin more than God. They see the truth, but reject it and actively try to put an end to it.

Keep reading and we’ll see how the suppression of the truth leads directly to sexual sin.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (vs 19-23)

There’s the first step. Every human being has an inherent knowledge that there is something greater than themselves. Humanity universally recognizes the “invisible attributes” of God. We see it in the creation around us and the conscience within us. Everyone ever born has an “inner sense of what God requires, but they choose not to live up to it.” (Life Application Bible Commentary – Romans, Pg 24.)

They love their sin, and want to be their own gods, so instead of acknowledging this truth, they suppress it, ignore it, and speak against it. In other words they darken their hearts. And, like any bad scientist, in order to prop up their selfish conclusions, they come up with all manner of wise-sounding nonsense, twisting the evidence before them to match their own conclusions.

But it doesn’t stop there.

“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (vs 24-25)

CS Lewis once wrote:

“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it.”

Tim Keller adds:

“All God does in the end with people is give them what they most want, including freedom from himself. What could be more fair than that?”

People have an inward sense of the existence and moral law of God, but they always choose against it. And God allows us that choice. Just as He allowed Adam and Eve to eat from the tree, so He allows every person to make their own choices about how they will live their lives, even if conscience cries out against it. And people are geared for worship – we must worship something – and therefore we turn our worship to created things.

And the ultimate created thing, the pinnacle of God’s creation isn’t “birds and animals and creeping things”, but humanity.  We don’t stop at worshipping merely all the wonderful things God created around us – though that’s where we start – but we are inevitably drawn to worship God’s greatest creation: us. This leads us to all manner of “impurity”: pride, theft, covetousness, wrath… and ultimately to the greatest mix of idolatry and worship: sexual sin.

“They exchanged the truth about god for a lie and worshiped and serve the creature.” God’s greatest “creature” is humanity, and the greatest form of personal, physical, emotional pleasure we can get is through sex. But, because we worship ourselves and not God, we don’t want to experience it God’s way… we want the lie we’ve crafted for ourselves… and so we create our own rules about it.

“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.” (vs 26-27)

Again, we see God giving people what they want. In their depraved minds, bent on worshipping the idol of humanity and getting as much sexual fulfilment as they can, they create more and more unnatural and depraved ways of finding physical pleasure. God set the law in nature that sexuality is between the male and female of the species. And He set the law in our hearts so that we know inherently that it’s sin. That could be why the gay-rights proponents are working so hard to get the blessing of church ministers (and therefore God) – to assuage their guilt at the knowledge that what they are doing is against God.

God’s way isn’t what they want, so they seek to normalize and find approval for homosexuality, lesbianism, and polygamy. They exchanged truth for the lie, suppressed the truth, and come up with their own forms of wisdom to make excuses for their out of control passions.

But it doesn’t even stop there. Since humanity is worshipping the creation rather than the Creator, they find that creation comes up lacking. Normal, godly sex isn’t enough. Their own perversions of it aren’t enough. Homosexual sex isn’t enough. Polygamy isn’t enough. Humanity simply can’t come up with anything close to what God offers in committed, heterosexual marriage, but people are unwilling to turn back to God and accept His gift the way He’s offered it. They’ve darkened their heart and believed the lie so their sin must go deeper.

The spiral towards hell continues.

“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (vs 28)

They go from a “foolish heart” to “dishonourable passions” to “a debased mind”. “Debased” means corrupted, depraved, perverted, deteriorated. Their worship of humanity ultimately becomes worship of self. And when you’re god, you make the rules. Therefore everyone around you exists to serve you. Take what you want and punish anyone who gets in your way. So their out-of-control lust descends into all manner of sexual perversions and selfish behaviour including rape, incest, child porn, and other forms of evil.

“They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (vs 29-32)

They completely throw off any form of authority or godly morality and make themselves (and anyone that thinks like them) the decider of right from wrong. Of course they give approval to “those who practice” the same sins as them! They’re doing it, and they are a god, so it must be ok. That’s why so few stand up against pornography, abortion, or euthanasia. It’s because they are so steeped in their own sinful perversions that they can’t help but give approval to those who are doing what they are doing. Otherwise they’d be hypocrites!

Do you see how the slope of depravity works?

  • Deny the existence of God and become gods ourselves.
  • Since we are gods, we are worthy of worship, therefore we worship ourselves.
  • Our worship of self naturally turns towards one of the best things He gave humanity, sexuality, which is quickly corrupted because we are corrupt creatures.
  • Our form of corruption is unfulfilling so we must try others.
  • We go from foolishness to corruption to debasement, coming up with more and more ways to pleasure ourselves and harm others.
  • And to make it right, we petition and then force others to agree with what we are doing – or else.

You must see that this is happening in many forms right now.

Pornography Harms

This is why I can’t stress enough how dangerous and destructive pornography and erotica is. Constant exposure to pornography, which is the worship of humanity, and ultimately the worship of personal pleasure, darkens the heart. It creates expectations that are absolutely unattainable in reality. Soon the fantasy relationships become more important (and certainly more exciting) than the real ones, which creates discontent, resentment, and boredom. Which means going back to the porn for another hit. But that porn doesn’t do it, so you have to get more depraved. Soon just watching doesn’t work for you and you have to go try it out. This isn’t just me saying this, it’s documented fact. And it’s not just Christians saying this.

Exposure to pornography has also created what people are calling the “Rape Culture”. 50 Shades of Grey is the perfect example of how depravity has become normalized to the point where rape and violence towards women is seen as acceptable.

“Pornography is the theory, and rape is the practice.” (Feminist Robin Morgan)

“The porn industry has poised men and women to receive the message that sexual violence is enjoyable. Fifty Shades models this porn message and Hollywood cashes the check…” (Dawn Hawkins of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation)

Pornography is getting more and more violent and the acceptance of 50 Shades in the mainstream is a glaring example of its effects. People now openly talk about adding bondage, roleplaying, torture, and all forms of physical and emotional abuse to their list of things they want to try in the bedroom. All under the guise of “erotic liberty” and “consent” … which is laughable considering the violent, manipulative and deplorable nature of the acts. But to their darkened hearts and depraved minds, it’s normal… and acceptable… and helpful… and fun.

You’ve no doubt heard by now about the public trial of CBC’s disgraced host Jian Ghomeshi. He is literally a real life example of the lifestyle promoted in 50 Shades. He’s a middle aged, wealthy, intelligent, persuasive celebrity man luring, manipulating and threatening young women into violent sexual encounters. More and more women have stepped forward against this man, but some, at the time, went along with what Ghomeshi was doing – giving tacit consent because they were afraid of what would happen if they didn’t. This is what 50 Shades looks like when it’s played out in reality. It’s not fun, it’s sexual abuse.

The Rape Myth

An Encyclopedia of Psychology I have says, “The presentation of rape themes in pornography has been one expression of the sex and violence linkage and has led researchers to conclude that this results in increased acceptance of the rape myth, of rape fantasies, and of violence against women. Even where pornography is only implicitly hostile to women, without overt violence, a dehumanizing effect still is found…. The dangers from pornography are now widely established in the mainstream of the psychological literature, and legal restrictions on child pornography apply in many countries.”(Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, 2nd ed., p. 884)

“The perpetrators [of rape and prostitution and pornography and child molestation] are in a common set of beliefs, and when we look at the research we can see some of those common beliefs, so that we know that individuals who are exposed to pornographic media have beliefs such as [thinking that] rape victims like to be raped, they don’t suffer so much when they’re raped, ‘she got what she wanted’ when she was raped, women make false accusations of rape because it isn’t really rape, sex is really either good or great and there isn’t any other option other than good or great, no one is really traumatized by it. All of these are part of the rape myth. People who use pornography accept the rape myth to a greater degree than others. So we have a sense that pornography is teaching them to think like a rapist and then triggering them to act like rapists….  When you cheapen sex and you cheapen women’s bodies, when you treat people like things there’s a consequence and one of the consequences is sexual violence…” (Dr. Mary Anne Layden, director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology Program in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania)

Scripture on Pornography

All over the scriptures we are told about what an amazing gift sex is – God is certainly NOT anti-sex – but He also warns us to be careful with it. For the same reasons, and more, that these experts are starting to figure out. We’ve already read Romans 1, but the power, beauty and danger of sex is all over scripture.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30)

This isn’t just for men, it’s also for women. Jesus is so serious about us not getting on the slippery slope of erotica, pornography and masturbation that He says it would be better for us to gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands than to go there.

Paul says to the believers in Corinth who are committing gross sexual sins even inside their church. Here he talks about the spiritual reality of pornography, adultery, and masturbation.

 “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, ‘The two will become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Cor 6:13-20)

For a Christian to look at porn, read erotica, and be addicted to masturbation, is the same as when the Israelites would walk into the Temple of God and put up a false idol right next to the Ark of the Covenant. It’s a deplorable sin with far-reaching, spiritual consequences.

How serious are these consequences?

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them…” (Ephesians 5:1-6)

Sexual sin is a sign of a hard heart towards God. Partnering with pornographers and erotica publishers by buying and recommending their products is a sign of being a non-believer. Paul says “sexual immorality… must not even be named among” the people of God!

If you think you’re a Christian and can look at porn, read 50 Shades of Grey, fanaticize about extra-marital sex, accept pornography as good and helpful, reading it without guilt and shame, and enjoying that kind of impurity, then that’s a sign that you’re way beyond grieving the Holy Spirit and are actually working with “the sons of obedience” who are under “the wrath of God”. That’s not a place you want to be.

Words of Hope

Let me close with some words of hope. Sex is as wonderful as it is powerful.

“God resists any notion that we can separate sexual desires or actions from the rest of our life. God [wants] the best for us and wants to protect sex and its sacred power for two people to bond in an environment where they know intimately and are known.” (“Culture Shock” by Chip Ingram, Pg 60)

We live in a culture that says that if you want sex you should go get it: anytime, anywhere, with anyone. But the teachings of scripture says,

“No, that premise may seem logical, but it misses God’s design for sex… Sex functions like the fire in a fireplace. God wants the fire to burn hot and passionate inside the fireplace of marriage, where it brings light, hear, warmth, and intimacy. But when the fire is taken out of the fireplace to places it shouldn’t be, it destroys and its purpose is also destroyed…. God declared the boundaries of the fireplace so He could also say, ‘I want to protect you. I want to provide for you. I want to give you the highest and the best.’ More than just an action, sex matters to God and he gave it to us as a sacred gift.”(“Culture Shock” by Chip Ingram, Pg 66)

If you are stuck in sexual sin, trapped under its weight, constantly feeding yourself death, and want to get free, I want to read to you two more scriptures.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:13-15)

“They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.” (Ezekiel 11:18-21)

You’ve lived according to the flesh, and you’ve felt the destruction of your spirit, but you don’t have to stay that way. Turn from your sin, hate it, repent from it, and come to Jesus who offers you forgiveness and strength. He offers life “led by the Spirit of God”. Call out to your Father in Heaven and ask for forgiveness. Exchange the lie for the truth. When you are under temptation, call out to your Father in Heaven because you have been adopted as his child and He will come to you.

Remove the “vile images and detestable idols” from your life and stop living with a divided heart. Stop making excuses for them and see them for what they are – lies and detestable things that lead to death. God promises, when you turn to Him, that He will give you a new spirit, a new heart, and the ability to obey Him.

If you have sinned against someone through sexual sin, ask God’s forgiveness, and then ask forgiveness of the person you have sinned against. Whether you tempted them to sexual sin, committed sin with them, or used them selfishly to gratify your own flesh, talk to God about it, cleanse your heart and then go and ask forgiveness of the person you sinned against, and God promises to cleanse you, give you a new heart, and make you into one of His children.

Once you’ve asked forgiveness of God and the other person, don’t try to continue the fight alone. You need God’s help and you need the help of other Christians. Tell someone you trust. Ask them to help you and hold you accountable. And together, let’s live lives of purity and love – the kind that God intended for us.