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Why I’m So Tempted to Watch Fifty Shades of Grey

I wept the full of a Tuesday, and part of a Wednesday.

No matter what I did to cheer my soul - it was useless and quickly it became unmistakable.

I was grieving.

At one point I stopped, and I turned my weeping inward and upward asking questions like: “What’s the deal? Why am I so upset? What is it that is tearing my heart into shreds like this? I feel sick and angry and am so heartbroken…”

I didn’t read the books. I knew they were about some twisted love story with a man obsessed with abusive sexual practices. Sounded like garbage to me, and a slap in the face (literally) for women's progress. I thought for sure women wouldn’t accept popularizing a story that romanticizes such blatant disrespect for a woman’s body or sexual intimacy – not in a generation where human trafficking is in the social justice spotlight.

When over 100 million copies sold, I counted it as just another test positive. A temperature reading showing our culture has a fever and indeed moral infection has set in deep. The humorous light banter about it on national news as “Mommy Porn” and a “secret vice” or “indulgence” only confirmed the infection was working its way. The viral consumption of this storyline was likened to eating bon bons in the middle of the afternoon. So funny, so trivial, so innocent – even helpful really to take the edge off a stressful day.

Women have and will flock in droves to read and watch this story classified as “erotica” (can I just say, I never imagined I would type such words in my life). This shouldn’t surprise us, our culture’s obsession with sexual perversion isn’t new or even shocking anymore. What surprised me was how many women have ingested this and other erotica works, yet identify themselves as Christians (which tends to suggest they know God’s thoughts on such matters and care about his feelings generally enough to make life decisions that don’t break his heart.)

Since women of Christian faith were also “indulging” in this series, and now with the movie version of Fifty Shades of Grey almost released, I thought it wise to read the carefully researched book, Pulling Back the Shades, written by well-known Christian psychologist Dr. JuliSlattery and best-selling author and speaker for teen girls especially, Dannah Gresh, to see what impact the film’s content could have on the women in my community.

When I worked as a lawyer and tracked legislation, I often considered research on the effects of certain policies on families and communities. I knew in my mind how various policies served to either ultimately help or harm women. But since I stepped away from law and politics a few years ago, and entered ministry vocationally, I have heard more-than-I-can-count testimonies of women in bondage, and even teens, addicted to pornography, engaging in all kinds of destructive sexual relationships, substance abuse issues related to sexual hurts, and so on. On multiple occasions these experiences had driven the girls or women to attempt taking their lives, and I know because I have visited them in clinics in these darkest hours. Marriages where husbands demanded multiple partners or pornography, cryptic messages from women in abusive relationships afraid they will be found reaching out for help, and of course, stories of women who commit adultery themselves. 

Sexual fantasy and imagery is not only a male struggle, far from it. I knew first-hand how destructive sexual material or exposure could be to a soul, I was exposed to pornography at a family friend’s house only at age 5, and the repercussions for me lasted decades.

Our culture’s anthem is “doing what you want, when you want is the path to freedom and happiness.” But what my professional experience, personal eyewitness, and yes faith proves is that the opposite is actually true: living lawless without boundaries ultimately leads to bondage and destruction.

To best prepare for conversations coming, I chose to read another book, one that addresses Fifty Shades of Grey and the greater genre of erotica now available with one click.

Reading Pulling Back the Shades was, in my mind, me simply doing my job as a women’s ministry director. The struggle with erotica would surely be for other women – mostly women who have no relationship with Jesus, or have shaky marriages, or broken pasts, or are longing with doubts in singleness.

I watched the movie trailers online. I started reading more about the plot (Dr. Juli Slattery read the series in preparation for writing with Dannah, and did so entirely on her knees as others prayed for her, though even still she confesses she did not come through it unscathed). I poured through their book, Pulling Back the Shades, and was left shell-shocked over what has been and what is about to be broadcasted for all of our generation to absorb like dry sponges.

But. What happened next in my soul was at the root of what left me grieving the remainder of Tuesday, and Wednesday, and to be honest…hasn’t quite left me since. 

I was actually curious about it. I felt the hook in my own soul - I longed to sink my teeth into Fifty Shades of Grey for myself.

After watching the trailers alone, I began to wonder how I could watch it, but in secret. I wanted to indulge in darkness, and bring dark chocolate with me. Maybe I could get a sitter and go during the day when no one would know? I felt stuck with being in women’s ministry – so exposed and accountable. I knew my closest friends would never encourage it, afterall, this is why they are my closest friends!

It is God’s grace friends, present and active in my life, that this moment of hidden hysteria only lasted a few seconds. After some minutes and then hours as I plowed through the pages of the book by Dr. Juli and Dannah, I came to see my own desperate hunger and longing for the very thing stories like Fifty Shades and other erotica outlets are designed to hook in women.

In that honest moment when I met my own lust and longing for dark and secret promises of life – I met my confession. In choking sobs I confessed my own weakness, and my doubt in God’s ability to fill my deepest longings.

My heart broke for us all, sisters, because we run to the world’s dark and secret promises of life because we long deeply, don’t we? And we don’t think God gets us.

A longing to escape reality

I live a dream life, my dream even. And I know it. I’m even grateful for it and sometimes I record my gratitude in lists. I have a husband who adores me, a daughter who looks and acts like a cherub seriously, a home that allows me to nest beautifully, a community that accepts me fully and a vocation that releases my soul.

And, yet. I long.

I get bored doing the same laundry, the same way, with the same clothes using the same detergent. I pick up the same toys every 10 minutes, struggle against the same negative thoughts I’ve had since I was 10 years old, and tweeze the same bushy eyebrows I’ve shaped since high school. I make about 17 lists an hour of the same things I keep forgetting that I wrote on earlier lists I’ve misplaced. Again. And that’s all by 8am. Then I realize I’m acting ungrateful and I’m consumed by shame for complaining over 1st world problems my friends in Peru, or even down the street, would be grateful to have if only they were as blessed. But guilt doesn’t help me accept my boredom with joy, it only increases my desperation to escape my reality.

If I would allow myself room to long, room to desire and dream about amazing adventure and deep purpose with long-lasting impact – and give myself room to feel bored in my moment…perhaps I wouldn’t be so desperate to run to fantasy. If I would share my boredom with the Creator of time and space, I may discover he has another way yet that allows me to be honest, not escape, and yet not simply accept boredom either.

Other longings identified in this book include, but are not limited to: to be cherished by a man (to be chosen above all others); to be protected by a strong man; to rescue a man; and, to be sexually alive. [1]

I am a sucker for a good love story, and polls show I’m not alone. These longings identified are at the heart of every story we watch over and over. Problems come though when we run to the love stories to fill our longings rather than the Author of the greatest love story…this is when our longings can take us to some dark places.

“It’s time to let the light shine into the room of your heart that contains your deepest longings…”

I have deep longings, and God made me – and you – this way.

Often we don’t feel safe admitting we long, especially when we are Christians, blessed or leading with influence. We feel we should have this stuff under control, or perhaps not “feel” anything when temptations arise. Friends, burying these longings is what is truly dangerous! Keeping secrets and hiding indulgences will not last for long – whether we run to erotica or chocolate. We need honest community – I need it! If we are going to leave an influence on a generation that offers hope, life, light for darkness…we won’t do it with secrets and hidden indulgences. We will only do it when we bring our heart into the light and trust God with our deepest unmet longings.

“…determine which of these are unmet in your life and may be leaving you open to acting out with erotica, porn, or in other ways. You might even write a letter to God expressing your frustration for the unmet longings in your life. It’s good to get it out.”[2]

Dr. Juli and Dannah tell story after story of well-meaning lovely wives, moms, sisters, daughters, friends, who simply longed – and took their longings to this world instead of God. They were left with even deeper longings mixed with deep regrets and images imprinted on their minds they are scratching desperately to erase.

I have been there, I get it.

Sisters, I’m writing to you today. I’m not writing to the national news co-host that honestly couldn’t care less what Scripture has to say about life issues. I’m writing to you, the one who not only knows what God says about our sexuality, our relationships, our hearts – but you care a little too. You want to live a life without regret, you want to leave a legacy, you want to have an influence on the next generation that looks like light in darkness.

And yet, you long.

Sister, to you I write. And I’m not trying to point fingers and preach, hear me please, hear my heart. I’m sounding an alarm at your bedside to wake up! Be alert! Watch! You have an enemy who hates you and is infecting our culture. He hates your marital bed of fidelity and hates your family. If you are single, sister, he hates your influence, your potential future husband and the future memories you will make together. If you are raising or mentoring young girls, he hates your words of life. If you are a tween or teen girl, he hates your purity, he hates your vigor and passionate hope for great things to come.

Sisters, now is the time to know who you are, and know who truly gets you, to your core! He made you with these longings, don’t forget then that he knows how to fill them extremely well, in a way that won’t leave you feeling dark and empty. We are the ones who have to learn how to let him meet our needs - he already knows what he is doing.

Sisters, I know some of you are going to see the movie anyway. I understand, you long. Please don’t let this divide you from one another, don’t let this be a reason to finger point at one another. Be compassionate because we are weak, we long, so pray for one another. Pray, don’t point. Love, don’t list wrongs against each other. 

But honestly, if I could, I would tackle every single one of you to keep you from the theater.

Not because I judge you, but because I love you. I long like you. I get it, and more than this, God gets you. And he loves you even more.

I ask this, even if you are bent on seeing the movie and are already planning it with friends. Will you consider this one gift to yourself, to your relationships, to your soul: read this book first. Read it. Share it with the group you are planning to see the movie with even if you have the courage. Just give yourself permission to read the warning label on the drug before you take it, and then make your choice. 

Ok. I’ve done what I can do. Consider yourself lovingly tackled. Now what will you do?

The first 2 people who respond to this blog post will receive each a FREE COPY of Pulling Back the Shades, so let’s hear from you!

For those of you reading this who are ready for honest community and want to get help where you are stuck, please, please consider coming to re:generation. My friends in the ministry are kind, compassionate, full of grace and ready to walk with you toward healing because they have had to walk there themselves. We all do.

May God make you brave and help you leave a light-in-darkness legacy, friend.

Heather Yates

[1] “Pulling Back the Shades – Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart” by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery, p. 16-17.

[2] Id. at 27-28.


17 comments (Add your own)

1. Brooke wrote:
Heather, thank you so much for writing what I know had to be an extremely difficult post. It is so hard to toe the line of tough love and do it with such grace! I read the books, as I too felt the longing. The longing to feel worshiped, taken care of financially, and satisfied sexually. Even now, after reading countless anti-gray, christian blogs I feel the pull from the enemy to indulge. Because you are so right - we long! Your words about these longings ultimately only leading to more destruction ring so true. Thank you for your wise words that touched my sinful heart!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 2:43 PM

2. Tara Pigeon wrote:
wow what a convicting well written article. I haven't read the book but I know women who have and I think now I understand why. Great perspective on longings and how we should deal with those, who we should take those to, and what we should flee from.

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 3:09 PM

3. Sandy Tyree wrote:
So heartfelt, honestly and beautifully said! Love you, friend....but His love is sooo much greater!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 3:27 PM

4. Julie Hopland wrote:
Thank you!!! Well said friend!!! I refused to read them, but have had ithers try to convince me into reading them.

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 4:29 PM

5. Scott D. wrote:
A great read even for a man. We long for many of the same things and seek that escape from our everyday lives as well.

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 4:32 PM

6. Barbara Gemar wrote:
Selah. Well said, my dear sister. Thank you so much!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 4:45 PM

7. Amy R. wrote:
This was a beautiful read. Thank you for your stand and your gentle push to choose what is right!!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 4:50 PM

8. Tina Riesz wrote:
So much compassion. I love the honest, raw, openness you share. You put into words what most of us feel and struggle with.

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 4:59 PM

9. Paula Claytore wrote:
You speak from the heart and shine light on each of us sister. We are all sinful by nature, saved by grace and it's only thru supporting each other thru issues like this that we grow strong and serve Him. Thank you for the honesty, the passion. Keeps us strong! Sisters in Christ!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 5:52 PM

10. Brooke Jones wrote:
Way to say something that really needs to be said, Heather. I haven't read the '50 shades' books, but I did watch the trailer when it came out to see what the fuss was all about. Seriously, the day it came out it flooded my news feed on Facebook. It was the status post of nearly every woman I had showing on my page! At first I wondered, "Is this movie really that good? Why is everyone so obsessed? Am I missing out on something?" I mean, I haven't really liked a movie since Beauty and the Beast came out on VHS so I'm pretty behind on the times anyway. My first thought after watching the trailer was "thank goodness no one was around me because that would've been awwwkwaaard" and then I quickly realized that this movie was just not for me (by the grace of God, it seems!) However, after reading this blog post, I can completely understand what makes women want to watch this because it is the same thing that drives my desire to be skinnier after watching America's Next Top Model or my longing to be SuperHomemaker after scrolling through Pinterest- it's our sinful nature. The way I feel sometimes, the way some women feel about this movie, it's just reminds me of how much the world needs Jesus. I am so glad that you mentioned Re:generation and the loving community it provides to hurting people who have been affected by sin (and that's all of us). It is such a relief that in this day and age when we are surrounded by so much darkness, that we have communities and resources (like this blog post!) available to help point us back to the Light who is Christ! Thank you, Heather for your honesty in writing this inspiring piece!

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 6:48 PM

11. Betty Hill wrote:
Once again, my friend, you have brought me to tears with your transparency! You write what I feel, but I cannot articulate as eloquently as you do. I have shared review after review of this movie and book series, but yours has touched me personally. I know you have ministered to those hurting because they have not made the best choices early on and now feel the sorrow, regret and yes, guilt, deep in their souls. They do not feel worthy and suffer from low self esteem. Suicide has been contemplated by them and they have taken measures to self inflict pain on themselves because they feel so unworthy of God's forgiveness. I pray this message will touch the hearts of those contemplating seeing the movie or those already planning on watching it, in secret, once it is available on other media. I pray for those who actually go to watch it that God will touch their hearts and they might be bold enough to leave the theatre. The star of the movie has already forbidden her famous Hollywood parents (Melanie Griffith, Don Johnson) from viewing the movie. That in itself should be warning enough. Thank you Heather for being real !

Wed, February 11, 2015 @ 9:48 PM

12. Theresa Decker wrote:
Heather, thank you for writing such an encouraging and authentic article. It is my prayer that it helps many women, myself included, identify the longings that drive us to partake in unhealthy, damaging, and secret behaviors. God has created and given us our heart's deepest desires, and He longs to fulfill them in the healthiest, fullest, richest way imaginable. Yet so often we flee to lesser shadows of those desires that leave us empty, ashamed, and sad. We must turn back to Him - trust Him - to fulfill the desires of our heart.

One issue weighing heavily on me, which I think is being missed in a lot of the public dialogue about this subject, is the fact that the main characters' behavior is nothing short of domestic violence. He is extremely abusive and exhibits all of the classic signs of an abuser - stalking, jealousy, controlling behavior, manipulation, coercion, extreme displays of anger, put-downs/insults, isolation, the list goes on and on and on. And there are women who struggle secretly in these relationships everyday, wondering if they will survive. I cannot imagine their heartbreak when they see this man's behavior becoming so mainstream and laudable... people proclaiming, "I need to get myself a man like Christian Grey!" all over social media. Their pain goes undermined and invisible, laughed at, popularized as sexy and romantic. "What is evil will be called good." My heart goes out the silent victims that can't talk about it because the subject is now so popular.

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 9:06 AM

13. Sarah H. wrote:
Thank you for such a heartfelt article Heather. I know this will not be a popular view here, but I have a some issue with this point of view. It is a slippery slope to take a stance on this movie/book without doing the same about almost every other movie/book/show as well. How about entertainment that glorifies violence, idolatry, revenge, substance abuse? If you are saying entertainment like the fifty shades series is sinful to view, then almost every entertainment is also sinful.

First, let me start by saying that I have not read the books (only reviews of) and I have no plans to see the movie simply because it does not interest me. I feel it is a bit legalistic to say that reading book like this is inherently bad for everyone. Sure if you struggle with pornography abuse or adultery then you should probably stay away from anything on the topic of sex, but I would say that the majority of women can see/read things like this for the entertainment value. To me books/movies like the Notebook are far more "dangerous" as they glorify the idea that premarital sex is an irresistible part of a true romance and nobody bats an eye at it. Fifty Shades of Grey is clearly out of the norm and the book itself is completely unrealistic (a gorgeous 30 year old self made billionaire that never has to work... he might as well have a pet unicorn). The story itself is about the struggles and damage that sexually traumatized man and woman have to work through from what I have read in reviews.

This part of your article is a bit disturbing to me (because it contradicts what the rest of this article is about):

"Sisters, I know some of you are going to see the movie anyway. I understand, you long. Please don’t let this divide you from one another, don’t let this be a reason to finger point at one another. Be compassionate because we are weak, we long, so pray for one another. Pray, don’t point. Love, don’t list wrongs against each other."

Once again, I do not plan on seeing it, but to say that reading or seeing this is sinful is a bit too legalistic for my taste and will ultimately lead to pushing people away from our God by unnecessarily ostracizing them from our community with a "holier than thou" attitude.

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 10:19 AM

14. Maegen Mills wrote:
Oh Heather, you write beautifully and straight to the heart. I haven't read the book, nor did I ever have an interest. Luckily when something is "popular" I tend to run the other direction away from the fuss at least until it all calms down and isn't white noise. In this case I am glad I did. I couldn't honestly sit in a theater watching that movie knowing I would be opening up another avenue for the devil to drive his way to my heart. I'm reading the warning sign and alarms are going off in my head, Praise God! Now I pray for all the other men and women who may not have or listen to that voice in their head saying, "no, please don't".

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 1:02 PM

15. Maria I. Morgan wrote:
Thanks for your transparency, Heather! It's SO exciting to see you sharing Truth with the ladies at your church. God bless you as you continue to challenge and encourage your sweet sisters in Christ!

Thu, February 12, 2015 @ 3:03 PM

16. Connie Davis wrote:
I just saw this post on someone else fb and read what you wrote and it is touching my heart I read the books just thinking why not? Where can I find the book pulling back the shades i think I need to read it

Sat, February 21, 2015 @ 1:19 AM

17. Natalie Tulloch wrote:
Such a great post, Heather. It is amazing and even surprising that longing never seems to stop, even when you start to see God fulfilling promises and dreams. I love you so much, friend, and am humbled by your compassion as it relates to this topic. Praise God that we are His and He understands us, His own handiwork--imprinted with His image, come alive with His breath--to our very core. Your passionate words and insights remind just how much He LOVES me; how much He LOVES us! Keep up the great work, my dear, blessed friend!!!

Tue, February 24, 2015 @ 10:03 AM

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