You see, I'm a peace-keeper by nature. I don't like controversy or confrontation, so I usually keep my little opinions to myself. I fear looking stupid or un-educated, worry about rocking the boat, and usually don't say much about topics that might be a little uncomfortable. But you see, I've read this book and for some reason I need to talk about it. (Of course, that was one of the conditions of being part of the launch team - I got a copy of the book for free and agreed to give an honest review of it when I finished.) :) I have a feeling, though, that even if I hadn't been part of the launch team, I'd still feel the need to discuss this book, to share with you what I've learned and what has been on my mind since I finished it.
A little disclaimer: This blog post contains some sensitive subject material (sexuality) so if you're easily offended by that or if you're one of my younger friends, it's OK if you close this window right now. Also, by sharing this with you, I realize I'm opening up a discussion that needs to happen. I only ask that you are respectful in your comments (here or on Facebook), and that you remember I'm writing from MY perspective: that of a 30-something Christian wife, mother, and friend.
“This book is not ultimately about the Fifty Shades series or even about erotica. This book is about the spiritual battle for the hearts and souls of women.” (PBTS, p. 146)
About two years ago, I came across a blog post entitled, “I’m Not Reading Fifty Shades of Grey”, written by Christian author and speaker, Dannah Gresh. I had heard some buzz about the book series, but I didn't consider reading them. The romance/erotic fiction genre of books isn’t of interest to me, and is one I purposely avoid. I'll admit, my initial reason for this wasn't an overly 'spiritual' one, but was out of respect for Jared. If he is committed to avoiding tempting images, shouldn't I refrain from filling my mind with them as well? The blog post generated a lot of discussion. People held strong opinions about whether the books were good or bad. What surprised me most, though, was the number of Christian women who defended the series. (Interesting quote from a more recent post on Dannah's blog: There’s no statistical difference in the percentage of Christian vs overall women who’ve read the Fifty Shades of Grey series.)
Fast forward almost two years. Dannah Gresh posted on her Facebook page that she and Dr. Juli Slattery have written a book in response to the series and the effect it, and other books like it, have had on our culture, our minds, and our marriages. Applications were being taken for a spot on the book’s launch team, so I gave it a shot and was chosen.
This book was written from the perspective that “spirituality and sexuality were never meant to be mutually exclusive” (PBTS, back cover). For years, the topic of Biblical sexuality has been so under-discussed in the Church, it’s almost become taboo. The fact is we were created as sexual beings. Women (Christian women included) have desires that they long to have fulfilled, yet, for many different reasons (unmarried, past abuse, dysfunction in marriage), they cannot. This is where erotica can come in. "No man needed, no risks of heartbreak involved, you don't even have to put on makeup...just start reading and you can have your body and mind awakened any time you want" (PBTS p. 24). Even though it may seem innocuous and a better choice than casual sex, having an affair or viewing pornography on the Internet, this is dangerous ground to tread. The authors felt burdened by the number of women turning to erotica and trying to have their longings met by fantasy, so they joined forces and wrote this book. As they state in the beginning pages, “We want to be very clear: your sexual desire is not wrong. God created you to be sexual. Your body and your mind are wired to long for sexual pleasure and intimacy. Unfortunately, many religious messages separate being a sexual woman from being a spiritual woman…You don’t have to turn off your desire to know God in order to turn on your desire to be sexual” (PBTS, p. 25).
Over the nine easy-to- read chapters of the book, Gresh and Slattery explore the effect “mommy porn” (erotica) has on women, what boundaries we should set when it comes to sex, disturbing sexual practices (common themes in the Fifty Shades trilogy), sexual satisfaction, and spiritual satisfaction. There is no shaming of the reader who may have read the series or other books in the genre, only a deeper understanding of why we’re drawn to them, a sharing of Biblical truth and encouragement to live differently. Each chapter is written candidly and thoughtfully, and sensitive topics are discussed with grace and compassion.
While it seems much of the content is intended for married women, the authors recognize that single women also struggle with some of the same temptations and issues. Single readers are well-included in the book, but might be frustrated by the lack of practical advice to help them pursue purity and contentment. With the evidence given that some girls have been exposed to erotica at ages as young as nine years old, it’s obvious this is a topic that needs to be discussed in our families. However, I would caution parents to read this book prior to letting a student under college age read it.
Pulling Back the Shades is wonderfully summed up in this excerpt: “We’re supposed to be making different choices and living a different kind of life than the rest of the world. While you certainly can and should celebrate your sexuality, there is also discretion required of the Christian woman who seeks to have her sex life be what God designed it to be: a picture of His passionate love for His people! God’s Word clearly calls us to live our lives as He designed them to be lived in all areas, including sex. This demands that we choose a different path than the world’s way. He calls us to holiness.” (PBTS p. 134)
If you're interested in hearing more about the book, please feel free to message me. From now until March 31st, Dannah Gresh is offering 50% off Pulling Back the Shades on her website. Just enter the coupon code FIFTY at checkout. Amazon's stock was sold out as of March 7th, but they do have the Kindle version available for a little over $7.
I hope my motives are clear here. I am not condemning anyone who has read the Fifty Shades books. I am not perfect, and I certainly never will be, but if you are struggling with erotica or other forms of pornography, please know that I am available to talk with you (confidentially, of course). So many times, things continue to hold power over people because they stay hidden. I would love to point you in the direction of some resources that can help you.