This month I got the opportunity to review a new book by Dannah Gresh & Dr. Juli Slattery called “Pulling Back the Shades“. This book is written as a response to the popular 50 Shades of Grey series, and upcoming movie. This will be different than my usual book review, a little more personal, and not in the format I usually do book reviews in.
Before I begin I would like the make 2 things very clear.
1) I have not read the 50 Shades series, but in my past I have read books of the same genre.
2) I am aware that some of my very own Christian & non-Christian friends have read the 50 Shades series, as well as other series from that genre.
Knowing all of this, I ask you to just keep reading.
I can’t tell you how old I was exactly when I was first exposed to any type of pornography. I can pin point it to my elementary years, I’d have to say it was third grade or even younger. My father kept his collection of Playboy magazines in his living room. When I say “collection”, I mean it. It was a dedication shelf unit, of multiple shelves with stacks and stacks of magazines. My father gave clear instructions to us that we were not to look at them, ever. Which pretty much means, as some point we were curious enough to do so. My father gave the classic “for the articles” excuse, and as photography was a hobby of his… I wouldn’t exactly say it surprised me that he would look at the pictures. As a fan of art myself, from an early age, I had seen plenty of nudes in museums. While I looked at some of the pages, I was not really impacted by what I saw. Or, at least I didn’t think I was.
Fast forward a few years, and my mother would bring me with her to a friends house. It was in their home, when I asked to use the restroom, that I would come across my first “Hustler” magazine. Unlike my father’s Playboy magazines, these images were a lot more graphic. I knew I shouldn’t be looking, yet I thumbed through the pages.
By high school I was reading books that were certainly not on the high school reading list, but recommended by some friends. They would definitely fall into the realm of erotica, even back then. Let’s be honest, erotica has been around for quite some time. Just more hush hush, in the background conversation.
As time progressed, and movie and TV standards have loosened, there is hardly anyone I know that hasn’t seen a movie with some sort of graphic sex scene. Long since have the days of suggested sex scenes passed, and very little is left to the imagination. This isn’t just confined to mutual consensual sex scenes in movies, but also graphic and violent rape scenes. And, now, with the release of these books and the upcoming movie… a darker side of sex is being brought to the forefront. A side that combines violence and sex into a singular encounter, normalizing it, taking the taboo off of it and making it mainstream.
You can’t deny this, as of date statistics state that over 100 million women alone have read one or more of the 50 shades books. And, there is very little difference between the % of Christians vs. non Christians who are reading it.
Over time, as I became a Christian, I began to find conviction about reading these books, watching these TV shows and movies. It was easy to convince myself that you can flip past the pages or fast forward through these scenes and enjoy the rest of the material. There is some naivety to that thought process though, as we have all learned at some point, or another, where that attempt failed. Not to mention, leaving these tv shows sitting in your DVR is no different than leaving a romance novel (which is a tame erotica) on the coffee table, or a magazine carelessly on your bathroom counter.
If you do not believe your kids will key into it, you are gravely mistaken. There has never been a copy of 50 shades in my house, I’ve never talked about the book in the presence of my family. Yet, my 15 year old daughter knew enough about it that when a promo played at the movie theater about the 50 Shades movie… she knew what it was and questioned how they were even allowed to show it in theaters.
A mom was collecting books for a book drive, and before she sorted through the box herself, one of her daughters sifted through it looking for anything interesting. The mom had no idea that her daughter, who was probably 12 or younger at the time, had grabbed a few romance novels and shuttled them off to her room.
I also think back to a friend from high school that would tell me about all the “things” her mom kept locked up in her room, in a special chest. She had been told to stay out of it, but when her mom was a work she found the key. She wanted to know what her mom was hiding.
Kids are curious. They will look at things we never expect. They will disregard rules to satiate that curiosity over what we are hiding from them. Group all of this with the internet, which can answer (with pictures) just about any question a kid has about a taboo topic from school…. well, there you go.
I began to purge my home of anything related to these materials, in essence I asked myself … “How would I feel if my kids walked in while I was watching this?”… “Would I want my teenager to pick up this book and read it?”…. and “What would God think about me watching this?”. Truth is, I already know what God thinks about it. His word is pretty straight forward.
I also began to realize the double standard I was setting. I would never allow my husband to watch porn, go to a strip club, or subscribe to a “mens magazine”. Yet, somewhere in our minds we can convince ourselves that they are just words on a page. No pictures. No harm. The encounters are part of a bigger story. I challenge anyone to read any of these books, skipping the sex scenes, and tell me that they are well written books and story lines that hold on their own without the sex scenes. Fact is, the sex scenes are exactly what makes these books different. Calling out to a need not being met in the lives of women, everywhere. Christian. Atheist. Pluralist. Married. Mother. Single. Grandmothers. Mothers. Daughters.
When I grabbed the book, PULLING BACK THE SHADES, I expected this would be a book that would tell us all about how awful we are to read such material. I figured a good finger wagging was in order, anyone reading it would walk away with shame and guilt.
I WAS WRONG.
Instead you find quite the opposite, you find frank discussion about Christianity, sex within the confines of marriage, a gentle approach toward the single woman, and some real honest truth.
The co-authors take turns speaking from their own perspectives … one who read, one who didn’t… one who writes and speaks on modesty and purity, one who helps counsel couples who have struggles in their intimacy.
This is not a book bashing 50 Shades, but dealing with the entire industry of erotica… which is growing. It doesn’t shame you for being a Christian woman with sexual needs and desires, but instead points you toward HEALTHY sex life within the confines of marriage. It explores the damage that can come from erotica to your marriage relationship, to your expectations of your future spouse, and your relationship with God.
While it would be great to avoid it, the book accepts that some of us are past that point. We have been exposed at early ages, or later ages. They don’t call erotica “mommy porn” for no reason. So what do you do? How do you get those mental images out of your head? How do you stop seeing your husband as someone who doesn’t measure up to the hero or main character from your stories? Why isn’t a book like 50 Shades safe? (Guess what… even within the bondage community, the 50 Shades series is not supported and considered inaccurate, and dangerous)
Certainly Pulling Back the Shades is NOT suggesting you should read 50 Shades or erotica, or permissing it as ok. It doesn’t support the idea that porn is ok, when a husband and wife watch it together. Instead it gives us permission as women that our fantasies are OK, we don’t need the book or movie… we have our husband in the flesh!
MOST IMPORTANTLY, the book addresses something that is plaguing the Christian Woman today. The book addresses how over the generations Christian women have been so pressed about sexual purity, that they will find guilt in sex IN THEIR MARRIAGE. The place it has been reserved for, the very place we are supposed to have sexual freedom… we feel GUILTY because specifics about healthy marital sex have been avoided entirely in the church -OR- so much emphasis on shame that it becomes hard to escape it.
There is a reason women are flocking to erotica. There is a reason women are flocking to romance novels and movies/tv shows. They wouldn’t be a success, the industry wouldn’t be growing if it wasn’t meeting a need.
What need is it fulfilling?
Why does it meet it? Emotionally, physically & psychologically?
What is the truth, we need to hear? What are the risks?
How can we, as women, gain control of our God given sexuality in our marriages?
What if it’s too late? What if you are addicted? How do you overcome this struggle?
PICK UP THIS BOOK. IT’S A QUICK, EASY READ. READ IT. SHARE IT. RECOMMEND IT.
50 Shades gained so much popularity that a hotel in Europe replaced all of it’s Bible’s with copies of 50 Shades. It can’t be denied that society as a whole is normalizing this material, and that Christian women are not apart of their readers. With online shopping, no one has to worry about their Pastor’s wife seeing them shopping in the Adult Literature section of the local book store.
Personal stories shared in this book clue us into how something as simple as reading a romance novel can impact our lives, relationships and marriages in the long term.
I wish I could take back the images that have been ingrained into my memory. I wish I could erase those magazine pages, the things I saw. Fact is, they did impact me long term. The way I look and feel about myself, at minimum. Lord, I pray that you unbind these images from my mind. Take them from me, let them never be used to distract me again. There is always hope. For my hope is found in the Lord. He has saved me. He has washed me, white as snow. Protect my marriage. Protect my children’s eyes and ears, hearts and minds. Amen.
Pulling Back the Shades
Author: Dannah Gresh, Dr. Juli Slattery