The Fifty Shades Freed movie is the third movie in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. This movie was released in the theaters on Valentine’s weekend, but recently got released on DVD and Netflix. Because this is the culturally romantic movie of the season, I thought it would be a good time to help analyze what is being sexually promoted in our culture and how it sets us up to be hungry for it.
I would like to propose that as a culture we are moving away from a biblical definition of marriage and sex and as time goes on, it is moving further and further away from what God intended. Our culture has an “anything goes” mentality when it comes to love and sexuality. It has become a downward spiral. Let me explain how I see this happening. When the Twilight series came out, most of my friends loved the books and movies. Because of this, I decided to read the books. While I was thoroughly entertained by the books, my spirit felt disturbed and not at peace. I knew that women were being seduced by Edward Cullen. I read the books carefully and tried to figure out why so many women were falling in love with Edward. What was it about Edward that was so enticing to so many women? While he seemed so sweet and romantic, I felt that he had a dangerous control over Bella. He was too powerful of a figure in her life. He had power over her. This power and control tainted the love that seemed so sweet. Yet, most people didn’t see this element of power and control because it was seemingly subtle. I find it no coincidence that the story of Fifty Shades of Grey was originally posted on a Twilight fan fiction website. Christian, the main character in Fifty Shades of Grey is Edward on steroids. He is enticing yet dangerous. He wants to introduce sexual bondage to the girl who loses her virginity to him.
While I felt led to read the Twilight series and engage them, I felt led not to read the Fifty Shades of Grey books or see the movies. Some may think this gives me less of a voice in speaking about this series, but I disagree. If the Bible is our guidepost, then we need to see the warning signs of material that goes against the Word of God. The concepts that are being promoted sexually and the things that even Christian women are finding so exciting and stimulating are antithetical to what God intends for us in terms of our sexuality.
Sex is being turned into something to be used for power and control instead of a beautiful means of connection and intimacy. The true God given beauty of what intimacy and romance are meant for has been turned into a contract. Christian, the main character in Fifty Shades of Grey says, “I don’t want romance, I want a sexual contract.” The sex that is glorified in our culture and through the Fifty Shades of Grey series is that sex should have an element of power, control and lust. These are things that distort the true purpose of God’s design and intent for sex. God created sex as a beautiful means to bond as husband and wife. It is meant to be a true form of intimacy and connection.
The message of power and control during sex is being propagated through the avenue of pornography. Pornography is telling us that real sexual passion and excitement isn’t found within the holy context of marriage, but in heated affairs, where no rules apply. Pornography has introduced us to BDSM (bondage, discipline/domination, submission/sadism, and masochism). These terms refer to deriving pleasure in a sexual context. The terms bondage and domination refer to playing with various power roles in the sexual context. It is interesting and disturbing to me to see the progression of media’s influence. Now it is somewhat commonplace for a sexual scene in a movie to sometimes reference the influence of BDSM. For example, I was watching an enjoyable movie called, Love Rosie which had a scene that had Rosie, the main character handcuffed to the bed while having sex. When her daughter comes in and sees her, her partner can’t unlock her from the bed post, so she has to take her daughter to school with the bed post in tow. While the movie cleverly adds humor in regards to this issue, it also subtly normalizes sexual bondage. We are receiving the message that sex is more fulfilling and stimulating if there is an element of power and control. The message tells us that true sexual enticement must involve having the power and control while having sex or losing the power and control during sex and being “submissive.” This is a harmful and damaging message.
Sex and sexuality are being hijacked by the enemy. Sex was God’s idea. He created it for our pleasure as married men and women. Something that was made to be pure like snow has become muddied and blackened. Sex is something made to be beautiful and has become something that is shame inducing and harmful. In the book by Ron Welch, Controlling Marriage, Ron proposes that, “transformational marriage prioritizes your spouse over yourself. Your needs become secondary to those of the person with whom you have chosen to share your life with.” I would like to take the quote a step further and say that transformational sex in marriage prioritizes the sexual needs of your spouse. It is in selfless sex that both people will experience truly erotic sex. This involves selflessness, vulnerability and mutual submission. In contrast, the lies of pornographic sex and bondage tell us that sex is all about you. It is all about your needs and your satisfaction and you don’t need to consider the way you are treating your spouse or partner. Dominance, power, control and even abuse are enticing and essential to fulfill this kind of “erotic” sex.
Women are suffering as a result of being controlled and abused in relationships with men. As a Christian counselor, much of my work involves helping repair and instill hope in the areas of sexual brokenness and damage to my clients. Many have been sexually used, manipulated and abused. I work with wives whose husbands are addicted to pornography, as well as women who are addicted to pornography. I work with those who have had affairs and those whose husbands have had affairs. I work every day with the fall out and damage of the sexual fantasies and myths that our sexual culture has created. We are being lied to and we are all suffering as a result. Our sexual lives within our marriages are suffering, our marriages are suffering. Yet, many don’t know that there is a battle going on and that Satan, our enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy true intimacy within our marriages.
One of my former clients was formerly married to a man that she had known for years. He was her biggest crush. He was charming, handsome and seductive. When he wanted to marry her she felt like the luckiest girl on earth, like she had won the jackpot. It wasn’t long after getting married that she quickly realized that her fantasy was becoming a nightmare. This man was controlling, power hungry and abusive. He would expect sex with her almost as a demand. It was her duty as the “submissive wife” to give him sex whenever he desired it. She would wake up with him on top of her having sex. I asked her if she would give me a quote for this article and this is what she said, “The glorification of the movies/books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series is horrifying to me. I was married to a man who took advantage of my desire to be his biblically submissive wife. He assumed that it was his place and privilege as my husband to use, abuse and control me in every aspect of our marriage. The verbal, financial, emotional, physical and sexual abuse escalated with every incident. This relationship was extremely damaging to my identity, my self esteem, my life. I no longer felt valuable. I had no idea what it was like to be loved. I have a really hard time trusting anyone, especially men. It has been three years since that marriage ended in divorce. I’m still working on healing and learning who I am in Christ through prayer, reading the Bible and receiving professional counseling.” As you see from this woman’s statement, women are being harmed and damaged when sex is mixed with power and control, especially any kind of bondage.
Our culture has set us up to be sexually vulnerable. We need to fight to see the truth about God’s design and true intention for sexuality. We need to fight against the lies of pornography and the lies that women should lose control sexually. We who are married need to fight to have passionate, erotic sex that is not defiled or dirty, but holy and pleasing to God. This article is a call for us to be on guard against the cultural lies that are bombarding us every day. Let us not become lukewarm and grey but let us allow our hearts to be grieved and fight to be alive and pure sexually.