[Today's guest post is written by counselor and author, Rachel Coyle. This article was originally posted at Counseling One Another.]
The best-selling book Fifty Shades of Grey dispels the old myth that women do not use pornography, that it’s a “man’s problem.” Forever we’ve heard the claim that women are “not turned on by sight.” But the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey reveals how pornography captivates women, too. In fact, it may captivate them more since women often indulge in other forms of pornographic literature that are not commonly recognized as such because they appear softer. The book has been dubbed by some as “Mommy Porn;” a cutesy term that makes light of a socially-acceptable form of pornography targeted at women.
Most women whom I speak to claim they have never “used” pornography, but as soon as I mention graphic romance novels some chuckle with embarrassment. “Sure,” might be a response, “I read romance novels. But that’s not pornography!” Are you sure? Just as the serpent deceived Eve into believing she should eat of the forbidden fruit, women today are deceived into believing lies about erotic literature. Consider the following definition of pornography: “The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writings) intended to cause sexual excitement; material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement” (Merriam Webster). The book Fifty Shades of Grey is pornography for the mind’s eye as women conjure up sexual thoughts and images while reading. The movie is pornography for the physical eye, no imagination required.
For years, I’ve been speaking the truth about the increased use of pornography by women and its deadly attack upon their souls, their view of romantic love, and their relationships. Many women have become captivated by erotica and are now so engrossed in it they have become totally enslaved. How should we as believers think about this issue?
Is God Silent?
Some argue that the Bible does not specifically address the issue of pornography and; therefore, God does not have an opinion about it. While it’s true the word “pornography” is not in the Bible, God indeed has an opinion about it. The Greek word porneia, which is the root of our English word pornography, is translated fornication or sexual immorality in many modern translations, including KJV, NKJV, NASB and ESV. We have a clear picture of God’s opinion of pornography if we understand what the Bible says about fornication or sexual immorality (Eph 5:3-16; Col 3:1-7). Pornography takes something God designed to be beautiful, intimate, and private between a husband and wife and deforms it into a public, perverse, and destructive evil. It is an obvious departure from God’s standard of purity and, therefore, is immoral.
Is a Taste of Forbidden Fruit Worth It?
Let me make it clear that I have not read the book Fifty Shades of Grey; nor will I ever pick it up. Some of you may think that in order to develop a fair opinion on this subject, you must read the book. Do not believe the lie that you must eat of the forbidden fruit in order to know why it is forbidden. Reading a description of the erotic plot of this book is enough for me, and just knowing this book and forthcoming film is dubbed erotica is enough for you to avoid it, too. Once an image has been imprinted on your mind you cannot easily erase it. There is no delete key for the brain. No “undo” button. I have counseled women who have agonized for years, trying to blot out the images that had become engrained in their minds and plagued them. They testify that a single taste of the forbidden fruit is not worth the pain and trouble it brings.
It saddens me to know that thousands of women, including some who profess to follow Jesus Christ, have become fans of this book. How did we get here? How have Christian women arrived at a place where they shamelessly read erotic literature and comfortably discuss it with their friends? In the past it was disgraceful, but “today’s woman” is brazen.
Now, I realize I may not be making any friends by writing this blog post, and surely will step on some toes, but I’m okay with that. Sometimes our toes are pointed in the wrong direction and they need to be stepped on. Truth is never popular, but it must be spoken. I want to---I need to---shout a warning: You may be dipping your toes into the pool of pornography through reading erotic literature or viewing images (like this movie), but you never know when pornography will wrap its chains around you and imprison your mind. A “dip” leads to a wade, and then the current draws you deeper in, deeper down, until you find yourself drowning in it. Don’t think you are strong enough to handle reading erotic literature---not even a single time! And do not be deceived when the world says that erotic movies are acceptable forms of entertainment.
Has the Fear of the Lord Disappeared?
The success of Fifty Shades of Grey has made it clear that pornography is something women read, watch, look at, fantasize about... And yet we want to believe that women in our churches are not affected by pornography? Surely they are not tempted, or engaged, or enslaved by it? Yes, they are. Maybe even in your own church. Maybe even you. How did we get here? It is through losing the fear of God and its resulting wisdom.
According to Scripture, wisdom begins with fearing God (Prov 1:7, 9:10). The first priority is to fear God (Prov 1:29), to view Him properly. A correct understanding of who God is brings unsaved sinners to their knees before the Cross in humble repentance and faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, and a healthy reverence toward Him causes Christians to consider the choices we make and how those choices affect our relationship with Him, and with others. A healthy fear of God will cause women to put down graphic romance novels, or turn and walk away from the TV screen in repentance. The fear of the Lord produces a desire to stay away from evil, including pornography. Are you actively keeping yourself away from all forms of pornography? Or are you already trapped?
The good news is that God’s grace is far greater than our sin. Romans 5:20 tells us clearly, “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (emphasis added). This grace is not cheap; it cost Jesus His very life. This isn’t a grace that gives you and me a license to sin; it’s a grace that frees us from the grip of sin (Romans 6; Galatians 5:13). This grace should stop us in our tracks. If you want to steer clear of pornography, the answer lies in first cultivating a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It begins with repentance and faith in His finished work on the cross. Then it develops through an active prayer life and faithful Bible study. This is how you get to know the Lord and what pleases Him.
What Can Concerned Believers Do?
For those of you who have been stirred by this post and want to help women who are struggling, what can you do? Share God’s truth with others. Those who are dipping their toes in, or wading in deep muck, need to be warned that they are heading down a path that leads to destruction. Others need a word of encouragement: They are not alone in their struggle and there is hope for freedom in Christ. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to call the women in your church, your friends, your family to a higher standard than what the world sets.
To help your ministry to other women, I’ve written a small eBook for the sake of helping reclaim purity among women in our generation. Help! She’s Struggling with Pornography explores the issue in more detail. I discuss the many facets of the media’s spread of pornography; including books, magazines, the Internet, movies, and even music. The book also provides Bible study suggestions, practical steps toward breaking free, and disciplines to keep your mind and heart pure. Designed for women to use on their own or in discipleship relationships, the book will educate and equip you to address the problem of pornography targeted at women. Together, may we faithfully call one another to the freedom and purity provided for in the gospel of Jesus Christ!