50 Shades of Christians

As always, comments are welcome as long as the debate remains respectful.

Let’s focus on these four questions:
1. Are both the movie and the books, 50 Shades of Grey, pornographic?
2. What are the effects of porn?
3. What does the Bible say about porn?
4. Did God intend sex for pleasure?

1. Are both the movie and the books, 50 Shades of Grey, pornographic?

Many people – both secular and Christian – have told me that 50 Shades is not pornographic. “It’s just a book,” I’ve been told. Let’s look at the definition of the word “pornography” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “The depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement.” According to the definition of the word “pornography,” the book is pornographic. If the book is pornographic, then certainly visual images of the book on screen is also pornographic.

2. What are the effects of porn? 

Once again, both secular and Christian people have told me that a little porn here and there never hurt anyone, or that it even benefits their marriage.

According to scientific studies, porn is addictive. Drug studies show that regular use of drugs causes the brain’s reward system to kick in by releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin. Eventually, the brain becomes desensitized to these chemicals, which results in the need for more of these chemicals to reach the same “high.” This is when a person becomes addicted. Studies of the brain show that porn has the same effect on the brain.

Addictions are never good things. Addictions are never beneficial. They are overwhelming and consuming and difficult to break. There is no addiction that benefits a marriage or a relationship or an individual. Addictions change our priorities, and the change in priority changes our behavior. In fact studies give evidence that those who use porn are more likely to cheat on their spouses, and one survey with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers concluded that 62% of divorce attorneys acknowledged that porn was a “significant factor” in cases in the span of one year. Studies show that regular porn users have less sex and are less satisfied by sex, and that male users often develop erectile dysfunction, even in their teens and twenties. Yikes.

Studies also reveal that porn and violence go hand in hand since 88% contains violent acts, with 94% of the recipients being women, who 95% of the time receive the violent acts with acceptance. 50 Shades clearly falls into this category. The message this sends is that it is okay to be violent and degrading, especially towards women, who should happily accept. This is absolutely not okay. I estimate that about half my friends have told me they have been raped. I, myself, was sexually assaulted when I was 13 and 14 multiple times by a boy my own age at my church. We need to be careful about the messages our culture accepts, and 50 Shades has certainly lowered the standard. While it is true that taking part in porn will not turn every user into a rapist, one study presents this scary information: those who regularly use porn are six times more likely to confess to having raped someone.

3. What does the Bible say about porn?

If you try to look up the word “pornography” in the Bible, you’re not going to find it. However, the information we’ve covered makes it clear that pornography would be included in the categories of sexual immorality and adultery. So let’s see what the Bible has to say about those topics.

“But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” – Matthew 5:28

“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5-6

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3

“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” Hebrews 13:4

Why does the Bible talk so much about sexual immorality? The verse below explains it all: our bodies are God’s temple, and we shouldn’t defile God’s temple.

“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 Corinthians 6:18-20

Perhaps you acknowledge that 50 Shades, both books and movie, are pornographic, and perhaps you acknowledge that porn has serious, harmful effects. But perhaps you don’t see why you, yourself, can’t take part in 50 Shades or any porn or why anyone should participate in a boycott of this movie. Sometimes, we need to focus on the greater good of others rather than on ourselves. This verse says it well:

“‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say–but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything,’ but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-24

Lastly, God does not call us to sit on the fence. We are not called to be grey. The Bible is pretty black and white.

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” Revelation 3:16

4. Did God intend sex for pleasure?

Christians have a tendency to focus on the “Law” part of what God says about sex, but there is more! This is the cool part. God designed marriage, and God did not intend for us to be alone. Genesis 1:28 says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…'” People in biblical times knew how to celebrate a wedding. Their wedding feasts lasted seven days, and the husband was to leave his family and cleave to his wife, so much so, that men were excused from war and work for the first year of marriage (Deuteronomy 24:5). How amazing would it be if we still put this emphasis on marriage and had week-long wedding receptions and year-long honeymoons? Read through Song of Solomon, and you’ll find plenty of proof that God created sex to be pleasurable.

God understands that we are tempted. Jesus, being fully God and fully human, was tempted – even sexually. God always gives us a way out of temptation. Marriage is the way God intended us to indulge in sexual pleasure and to keep us from temptation.

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his wife’s sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs. ” 1 Corinthians 7:2-3

If you’re willing to step up against porn and its consequences in our culture, don’t be afraid to do so. Let’s make a better world for our families, our friends, our children. Let’s return to God’s intentions for pleasurable sex and healthy relationships. If you’d like to learn more about the good things God has to say about sex, I highly recommend reading Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships by Chip Ingram and also Intended for Pleasure by Ed Wheat, M.D. and Gaye Wheat.

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