Posted by: littlebitofparadise | June 28, 2012

50 Shades of Emotion

[CAUTION: This post is not intended to be read by children.]

50 Shades of Emotion

I’m sure many of my readers are familiar with the blockbuster novel 50 Shades of Grey by British author E.L. James. It would be rather hard not to hear about 50 Shades with all the hype surrounding a novel touted as “groundbreaking” and “trailblazing” for it’s blatant, sometimes garish, uber-descriptive erotic scenes that glorify BDSM (stands for Bondage, Dominance, Sadism, Masochism).

You might have heard about 50 Shades of Grey because it’s a UK Bestseller and a New York Times Bestseller. Or maybe you’ve heard it’s becoming a major motion picture in Hollywood with stars like Angelina Jollie vying for a lead role. Or maybe you heard the news story of U.S. hardware stores who are seeing a spike in the sales of certain items, due to a newfound interst in BDSM. Or, maybe you’ve heard about the fuss James’ trilogy caused when a few U.S. libraries decided to ban her books from their shelves because they felt the content was inappropriate. You can imagine the media firestorm THAT caused.

But what makes 50 Shades of Grey really stand out? It’s not just that it’s popular and causing a buzz among critics of all types. Many books cause a national fuss – we hear about Twilight and Hunger Games and Harry Potter ad nauseum, right?

E.L. James’ books are unique for two reasons. First, the 50 Shades trilogy is a new extreme in graphic erotica literature. Secondly, her books are appealing most to young professional women and moms and women 30+. In fact, James’ trilogy has been dubbed “Mommy Porn” because of it’s surprising demographic of fans. Thus, you hear the media hashing and rehashing a new fad in female fantasies, female erotica, and female porn.

Why are these books so appealing to moms and older women? As one woman admitted to the New York Times: “It’s relighting a fire under a lot of marriages. I think it makes you feel sexy again, reading the books.”

Similarly, I’ve read at least one Catholic writer who justified reading the entire trilogy because a) she did not objectify her husband during or after reading the books, and b) it helped spice up her marriage tremendously, and her girlfriends report it spiced up theirs, too.

A desire to reignite fires and spice up their own marraiges definitely seems to be a #1 reason for the “mommy porn” popularity of these books.

An Interesting Observation

I took my boys to Costco yesterday, and as we usually do, we took a stroll down the book aisle so Mark could take a look at the Thomas the Tank Engine books. As I stood there while Mark browsed a book, I realized we were right next to a super-large display for the 50 Shades of Grey book. No joke – E.L. James was taking up half the book section of Costco.

Since we were there for several minutes, I had a chance to watch who was coming down the aisle to put a copy of 50 Shades in their cart. Every single person was female. That really wasn’t a suprise. But what DID catch me off guard was who they were. There were a few Grandma-types. You know, the lady who volunteers most of her time at church and probably leads a Bible study and goes to bridge club on Tuesdays. That type. But MOST of the women were young moms with baby carriers in the back of their carts and toddlers in the front seat. Most of them were moms in shorts and tank tops with a Crucifix hanging from a chain around their neck and sunglasses on top of their heads. Moms who wore flip flops and had large blocks of cheddar cheese and oversized boxes of Kirkland wipes and Huggies diapers in the bottom of the carts.

Just. Like. Me.

I was dying to ask WHY these young moms were choosing 50 Shades as their choice summer read. Is it because there’s nothing else out that’s worth reading this summer? Are we women fed up with something? Are we bored in our marriages? Are we looking for spice and sparks that are lacking at home? Is it just an innocent curiousity to see what all the hype is about?

My hunch is women are a bit bored and looking for a little new spice in life, in relationships, and ultimately in marriage.

Now let me be clear – I am ALL FOR spicing up marriage. I things a spicy marriage is GREAT. In fact, I’m absolutely convinced that Jesus Christ intended for marriages to be nothing less than spicy and sparky and exciting in every way.

But the question is, is there a right way and a wrong way to go about adding spice to our marriage? Do we need “mommy porn” to spike our sexual desires, interest, willingness to experiment in the bedroom? Or are there better ways to go about it?

A Lasting Way to Spice

Personally, I think there’s a much better way to fulfilling our needs and adding fuel to fire our marriages than reading 50 Shades of Grey.

St. Paul charges us in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

I believe that by pursuing what is good, true, and beautiful with our spouses is the way to fulfill the desires of our hearts.

We married women – especially those with children – we don’t need “mommy porn” to sit at home and fantasize and lust and masturbate over a book that glorifies domination and female submission to the whims of a dominant sex partner. It’s not flattering to the human person, to marriage, and especially to women.

Instead, we’d be much happier, healthier and holier if we read a bit of what Scripture says about glorifying the Lord with our bodies, and perhaps a little bit of what Blessed John Paul II has to say on the topic of becoming a sincere and total gift of self – fueled by love – to your covenant spouse.

We’d be happier by verbally communicating with our spouses, sharing ideas of how we can spice things up in the bedroom and beyond with some chandelier-swinging toe-curling fun. And then maybe a trip to the mall for some new lingerie, some scented candles and a bottle of prosecco. THAT’S where the magic of marriage and love and sex and pleasure and happiness collide. By living and loving GOD’s way.

The world can give us “mommy porn” out the wazoo, but guess what? It’ll never satisfy. It’ll never bring happiness, or contentment, trust or even true pleasure. Those surging cotton rope sales at American hardware stores won’t bring lasting happiness, and neither will a hundred million BDSM trilogies.

Letting our hearts and minds and bodies be transformed in Christ and offered as a total gift of love to our spouse? Now that – THAT – is something worth writing home about. Because THAT is a little bit of paradise, a glimmer, ever so faint, of all that’s in store for us in eternity. Because THAT is one of the only human experiences that gives our feeble human natures a glimpse into the Heavenly Kingdom: where we will live in sheer mind-blowing, toe-curling, total and complete ecstasy around the Throne of the Lamb.


“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8



  1. amen. : )

  2. I read them. The books are without a doubt nothing more than an extended harlequin novel. They’re not well written or particularly imaginative. I would barely call them amusing. What I find odd is how much people fixate on the BDSM aspect, when that is a very small portion of what goes on. From what I can tell, the “mommy porn” aspect of it comes from finding a man who was closed off and unattainable, and having him fall so hopelessly in love that he stopped just short of worshiping her. He lavished her with gifts from jewelry to cars to houses. He threw aside his entire life to make her the center of his whole world. I don’t think it speaks to any sort of sexual revolution. I think it’s popular with the housewife set because they’re lonely. The same way Twilight ended up with a huge “mom” fanbase. Women want to be adored and loved and fawned over, and if the sex was as fantastic as it was reported to be in these books, so much the better.
    I read them because they were fluffy and sort of silly and not terribly thought-provoking. It didn’t “spice up” my marriage, because any marriage that could be truly improved by a fictional romance has deeper issues. I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as you make it seem. It’s a male character written by a woman for women, and it made some lonely housewives think for a few minutes about how it would feel to be wealthy and adored before they went back to their suburban lives. No harm, no foul.

    • Well said, and I can see your side of things while I tend to agree. Especially your comment if a marriage needs a book to spice it up, there’s underlying issues.

    • Does enabling someone to run away from problems rather than confront and overcome them help a person? Is loneliness cured by a book?

      If a really well-written book only advocates and describes the most effective methods of rape in the first three chapters, but the remaining 29 are tremendously insightful, does that make it a worthwhile read?

      This book seems to feed a female fantasy of causing the emotional slavery of a man. Is that healthy for either person involved? “You can’t hold a man down without staying down with him.” (Booker T. Washington)

  3. I enjoy the chick-lit genre as long as it is tastefully written. I had a Facebook friend recommend this book and unlike my normal routine I didn’t look up information on the book. I got about 1/4 of the way through and it was like a normal chick-lit book then boom it became offensive and down eight disgusting. I was appalled at what the book turned in to. I THEN researched the book and saw how bad the book was supposed to be. I deleted it from my iBooks. I have to say honestly I can’t believe so many people are reading them and enjoying them. That’s the last time I take a recommendation without researching it first!!

  4. Its bizarre to me that the justifications good Christian women give for reading this book are the same that married men try to give for watching porn – to “spice things up”. How sad! It’s proven that porn does the OPPOSITE to your actual sex life… All the fantasizing not only encourages objectification, but it’s been proven to make men more easily BORED in their actual sex lives. Cause – shocker – pornography, whether visual or literary, is not at all real. It does not reflect the reality of sex.

    Also… What really confuses me, is how so many lovely, moral women can be comfortable with this when so many secular, amoral individuals are openly scandalized by it!
    (YouTube Ellen Degeneres reading 50 shades of grey. Of course she’s trying to be funny and exaggerated, but I think it’s safe to say she IS shocked by the graphically pornographic content!)

    Those are just two reasons I could never justify reading these books – despite the fact that I am a voracious reader who is also generally curious about wildfire books like these! I still could never hold my head up if I read them.

  5. The reason I think this book is popular is because Christian women know porn is wrong, but by dubbing this “literature” they feel it’s okay to maybe read it and indulge in fantasy for a bit. I’m still on the fence whether or not I’m going to read it. I probably won’t because I dislike hyped up books, movies, etc. and it makes me stubbornly refuse said books and movies. But I think this type of writing is costumed in a way that makes porn “acceptable” to read.

  6. Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback. I thought all of you brought up really good points!

  7. WOW! That was beautiful Stephanie!

  8. Why are these books so appealing to moms and older women?

    Because they offer an escape from the rote existence so many women live. It’s a modern, more honest prince/princess fairy tale, with the added excitement of something new and edgy.

    We’d be happier by verbally communicating with our spouses, sharing ideas of how we can spice things up in the bedroom and beyond with some chandelier-swinging toe-curling fun. And then maybe a trip to the mall for some new lingerie, some scented candles and a bottle of prosecco.

    But where do those ideas come from? You didn’t invent the concepts of alcohol, candles, and lingerie. Those things (plus chocolate) are the original “mommy porn”. Why do you dismiss out of hand anything more adventurous? What is it about lingerie that is good and acceptable, where a riding crop is ungodly?

    You’re right, “spice” isn’t per se the secret to a happy marriage. But an honest and shared exploration of life absolutely is. So why fence off areas of exploration? If these ideas are reinvigorating people’s marriages and offering an exciting joint experience of new concepts, what’s the harm?

    • Hi Mark,
      Thanks for your thoughts – they are very provoking and I agree with you that exploration is not wrong a priori. It seems you do, however, assume that they are shared explorations, which may very well not be the case, and if they are not, does that not increase loneliness and boundaries in a marriage? Isn’t escapism actually detrimental to a marriage?

      Then there’s the issue surrounding the nature, extent, and purpose of any particular act of exploration. There are most certainly boundaries, as there are in every aspect of life, and which we all follow for a variety of reasons. The location of those boundaries is obviously open to vigorous debate, and I think three good tests for any exploratory journey could be the following:
      – Would this act hinder or destroy the intended purpose of something? For example, if your boy really wants to beat your computer with a hammer, should you allow it in the name of exploration?
      – Is the simple pursuit of pleasure or knowledge a sufficient good, given the potential drawbacks? Or should there be some deeper purpose in the action? If so, what would that purpose be, and is that a positive goal?
      – Does this act improve or damage concepts like respect, loyalty, or honor?

      • Yes, I was making the assumption that it would be a shared exploration. If it’s not a shared exploration, than it is a secret. Marriage doesn’t really work with secrets. But the issue there is the secrecy, not what is being concealed. The marriage with secret toaster purchases has more fundamental problems than the marriage with shared fantasies. So yes, individual escapism is detrimental. Shared experiences (whether escapist or of a more banal nature) are at the heart of marriage.

        Would this act hinder or destroy the intended purpose of something? For example, if your boy really wants to beat your computer with a hammer, should you allow it in the name of exploration?

        Considering that whenever I dispose of a piece of electronics (whenever it can’t be sold or repurposed), I disassemble it and then destroy it — I’d have to say “it depends”. 🙂

        Is the simple pursuit of pleasure or knowledge a sufficient good, given the potential drawbacks? Or should there be some deeper purpose in the action?

        Pleasure? No. Morphine is pleasurable, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a pursuit. Knowledge, certainly! What higher value can there be than truth? For any higher value to exist, it has to actually exist, and thus be true. You always come back to truth. Sure, some truths may not be, in the moment, worth the cost it takes to learn them (like exploring the limits of human pain endurance and cruelty), but on the whole, it is better to know than to be ignorant.

        Does this act improve or damage concepts like respect, loyalty, or honor?

        Absolutely. This is key. And I don’t think this rules out more non-traditional sexual exploration. It’s non-intuitive, but voluntary surrender of control can actually be empowering. These concepts can be explored without compromising on respect.

  9. […] again to everyone who joined the discussion on yesterday’s blog post 50 Shades of Emotion. I really appreciated reading what you all had to […]

  10. […] 50 Shades of Emotion […]

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