50 Shades of Broken: Why Do Women Fantasize About Abuse?

I first noticed it when I bought my Nook Color last year. Erotica. Everywhere. Written by and for women.

So much for letting my kids peruse the free books section!

It seems that e-readers opened up a whole new world to women, a world they were too ashamed to admit interest in with a Barnes and Noble bookseller judging their literary choices through chunky hipster glasses. What the internet did for teenage boys, the Kindle did for women, providing unrestricted access to titillating titles no one else had to know about.

While I was irritated that I couldn’t surf for free ebooks without wading through a sea of steamy look-alike Smashwords covers, I wasn’t incredibly surprised. After all, girls have been sneaking “bodice-rippers” home in their backpacks for decades. I WAS surprised, however, when “50 Shades of Grey” rode the e-reader revolution right to the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Haven’t heard of “50 Shades of Grey”? Here’s ABC News’s description, lifted from fellow Redbud Karen Yates’s excellent post on the subject:

Anastasia Steele, 21, and a virginal college student, can’t say no to dashing 27-year-old Christian Grey, who insists she sign a contract that allows him to submit her to his every sadomasochistic whim. In their first sexual encounter, Grey unveils his silver tie and binds her wrists in knots, and Steele does as she is told. He is also fabulously rich, a telecommunications tycoon, and uses his wealth to take care of her like a pampered princess. “Ana,” as he calls her, willingly and excitedly agrees to spanking, whipping and gagging, with props like ice, rope, tape–a repertoire right out of a BDSM (bondage, discipline, dominance and submission) manual. Grey instructs her to call him “sir,” and sets rules on everything from her diet to her most intimate grooming routines.

And this is sexy why?

I’ve written about the abusive themes in romance novels before, and have complained about the incredibly dysfunctional examples set by literary couples from Romeo and Juliet to Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. But really, BDSM erotica takes it to a whole new level. Swooning over a cranky alpha-hero can be chalked up to culturally-induced insanity, but it doesn’t seem to me that there’s anything subtle about the violence dished out in “50 Shades of Grey.”

Why do women fantasize about abuse? And how does it relate to the real-life sexual abuse and domestic violence that one out of four American women experience at some point in their lives?

I found the question so troubling that I did a little research, only to discover that the more it’s studied, the more female sexuality leaves scientists, psychologists, and sexologists shaking their heads in confusion.

Still, several themes emerged. Why do some women fantasize about abuse?

First, there are the cultural reasons. When a person grows up in a home with an abusive father and enabling mother, that’s what they expect relationships to look like. When people are plied with “romantic” stories featuring aggressive men and passive women, they are conditioned to believe that’s what romance should be like.

There are emotional reasons. Many people explain that Christian, the “hero” of “50 Shades of Grey,” was abused. Anastasia submits to the abuse as a way of getting close to him, so she can “rescue” him. It’s the classic “Beauty and the Beast” motif. It’s classic co-dependency. People forget that in real life, Beauty almost never wins. Her self-sacrificial enabling only guarantees her destruction, while turning her beloved Beast into twice the killer, twice the monster. There is no happily ever after when you offer your heart, soul and body to a Beast.

There are psychological reasons. Why did people make up stupid stories like “Beauty and the Beast” in the first place? Probably because they were trying to reframe traumatic experiences in a positive light. It’s a form of psychological self-defense, along the lines of the Stockholm Syndrome. Many victims of abuse also struggle with traumatic reenactment, subconsciously putting themselves (and others) in harmful situations.

There are even physiological reasons. This is a seldom talked-about phenomenon, and an area where men and women differ greatly. Studies show that for men, sexual desire and physical arousal are linked. This is NOT necessarily the case for women! (See diagram above.) Women tend to become physically aroused when they sense any possibility of sexual aggression in their environment. This lowers their chance of injury if they are raped. It’s not dissimilar to the rush of adrenaline people get when riding rollercoasters or watching horror flicks. We are wired to survive.

It is crucial to understand that this DOES NOT MEAN that women want to be violated, any more than a horror fan’s excitement indicates a subconscious desire to be hacked into pieces and plastered into a wall. But this phenomenon can cause a lot of confusion, shame, and secrecy for women who don’t understand why they feel so aroused when they are exposed to threatening stimuli (such as rape scenes in “romance” novels), or who experienced orgasm or other physical responses during an unwanted sexual assault. It also explains why violent fantasies provide such a startlingly effective way for women, alone in the safety of their own home, to manufacture pleasant–if guilt-ridden–feelings of sexual arousal.

So, um, Jenny, WHY are you bringing this up?

The church has gotten a lot better about addressing the use of pornography among men. Some churches even seem to revel in it–after all, men are supposed to be virile, hyper-sexual beings, right? Not a lot of shame in admitting that.

But when was the last time you heard a sermon about sexual addiction in women, much less one that addressed the sort of rape or bondage fantasies that seem popular in women’s erotica? (Yeah, can’t imagine that coming from the pulpit, huh?) This despite the fact that sales of erotica have surged 250% in the last quarter.

Here’s the deal. Women you know are reading this stuff. Women in your church are reading this stuff. They’re just not talking about it. They’re ashamed, and flying under the radar to avoid detection.

Also. Your daughters are reading this stuff. Or their friends are at least telling them about it. Bella Swan was bad enough–do you really want your babies to grow up wishing they could be just like Anastasia Steele?

No? Then we’re going to have to get honest, and start talking about some pretty uncomfortable things.

Like the fact that the three best-selling books in the nation right now are about a 21-year-old girl who has sold herself into sexual subjugation.

Think we might have an issue?

Let’s get talking.

Why do you think women are reading “50 Shades of Grey”?

What implications do you think its popularity will have on society? Will we see an increase in violence against women? A glut of troubled marriages? Increased sexual addictions?

How do you think the Christian community should respond, especially on the local level?

(Disclaimer: I usually will not talk about books without reading them. In this case, however, I am making an exception. I haven’t read them, but intend to go right on blabbing about the themes they present. So there.)

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144 Responses to 50 Shades of Broken: Why Do Women Fantasize About Abuse?

  1. Gina June 18, 2012 at 7:15 am #

    I like your post, Jenny, and I really like that you’re asking these questions. They desperately need to be asked.

    Just one thing (as an English major, I can’t help but bring this up :-) ): There’s much more to tales like “Beauty and the Beast” and “Romeo and Juliet” than just some sort of psychological trauma being turned into a story. “Beauty and the Beast,” for instance, can be interpreted the way you suggest, but it can also be interpreted — and is much more commonly interpreted — as a story of learning to look beyond an ugly appearance. And goodness knows that’s a lesson we keep needing to relearn.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 7:26 am #

      Thanks Gina!

      Well, that’s true about Beauty and the Beast. It IS commonly understood that way. The motif still troubles me though (most fairy tales ARE pretty troubling, when you start to think about them). A girl offers herself up as a “sacrifice” to the beast who was going to imprison her father, volunteering to be imprisoned herself? But then miraculously he turns out to be a great guy? How often does THAT happen? But girls still attempt it, in hordes. I personally think we should balance out every telling of “Beauty and the Beast” with a telling of “Bluebeard.” ;-D

      • Kristin June 29, 2012 at 2:17 am #

        I have been saying the same exact thing about Beauty and the Beast. I do not allow it in my home because kids have a tendency to replay movies over and over.
        I will allow my kids to watch it on a rare occasion but I remind them that only Jesus could change a beast to a prince.. NOT Belle.
        My ex was abusive in every way. I thought that if I learned to be a better wife, he would be kinder to me.
        Watching Beauty and the Beast reminds me so much of that lie I believed. I partially agree that the movie can teach us that people are not always what they seem; but, in this case he was really unkind and instead she was taught to excuse his behavior because he had a sad reason why he was cruel.
        This is that thing codependent women do. They take home the sick puppy. As if there are not fellow men, doctors, and counselors all over who can help them. The lie is that that abusive man just needs the love of the right woman and he will suddenly and miraculously shine. The diamond in the rough.
        I lived that nightmare.
        If that man needs a listening ear. Let him find one. Let him find God honoring men who will hold him accountable and guide him.
        I once was attracted to the prideful, arrogant, domineering type. If they believed they were the greatest, they must be right. #facepalm
        I think I also wanted the protection of a man and I thought that an aggressive and jealous man would protect me. It sounds strange now; but, it made sense then. He was who I needed protection from.

        I am no longer attracted to that type of man. I came across one recently and I was amazed that years ago his game would have worked.
        Jesus, Celebrate recovery, a loving church family, and great mentors helped me to get out of my patterns. I am still working on getting healthy but I have come a long way thanks to God.

        “A godly man is never threatened by the gifts of a godly woman.” Pastor Rick Warren

        “Women don’t fear a man’s strength if he is a good man.” ~Captivating

        “God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 67:6
        will suddenly shine. The diamond in the rough.
        I lived that nightmare.
        If that man needs a listening ear. Let him find one. Let him find God honoring men who will hold him accountable and guide him.
        This gets me going.
        I once was attracted to the prideful, arrogant, domineering type. If they believed they were the greatest, they must be right. #facepalm
        I think I also wanted the protection of a man and I thought that an aggressive and jealous man would protect me. It sounds strange now; but, it made sense then. He was who I needed protection from.

        I am no longer attracted to that type of man. I came across one recently and I was amazed that years ago his game would have worked.
        Jesus, Celebrate recovery, a loving church family, and great mentors helped me to get out of my patterns. I am still working on getting healthy but I have come a long way thanks to God.

        “A godly man is never threatened by the gifts of a godly woman.” Pastor Rick Warren

        “Women don’t fear a man’s strength if he is a good man.” ~Captivating

        “God places the lonely in families; He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 67:6

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 29, 2012 at 3:58 pm #

          Amen! I’m so sorry for what you went through, Kristin–and so glad that you’re passing your hard-earned wisdom on to others!

        • dr blais April 29, 2013 at 8:07 am #

          i cant feel bad for you i can only ask why must all women love assholes until they are to old to start a family this really sucks being a nice guy in America. when no mothers teach their daughters what a good man is. and they do not learn it until they are to old to have kids nice guys deserve love too not just the left over husk of a women

          • Polly Anna April 7, 2017 at 12:25 am #

            That is quite an ego you are carrying around Dr Blaze. A husk of a woman? You seem a mere shell of a man. Chauvinistic and simplistic in thinking “all women” do anything.

            You are just another hole to be avoided.

        • Anonymous February 24, 2017 at 6:17 pm #

          I personally love Beauty and the Beast. It’s my favourite movie of all time. However, I do see why you may not want children to watch it over and over. While a person’s love can change a person (as that love is from Jesus), it is unhealthy for girls to be conditioned to think that it is acceptable for a man to be violent and that it is their duty to change that man into a kinder person. While Jesus does want us to love each other unconditionally, He does not mean for women to wed violent men, only to face another moral issue: divorce.

    • drblais June 3, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

      but when guys ask the same question they are called creepy for being nice

    • Nnn February 15, 2017 at 10:50 am #

      Thats not real abuse, its a stupid romantic version of it. BDSM will never be that clean. He slapped her ass a few times in the end. Seriously. ‘Oh noes, why did you hurted me??’ The real thing is ugly, bloody and much more scary.
      So what if a few women find it kinky to be tied up and tickled. They were going to have sex anyway. Your daughters might have sex. A young guy showed me pics of his tied up gf. It was mutual and nothing bad happened, just lots of sex which they were going to have in anyway.
      I know what abuse looks like, and thats not it ok.

    • H February 24, 2017 at 8:21 am #

      I think I can help you guys understand this, hopefully. You will be able to relate if you read with a open mind and give it some thought. I hope this brings some clarity, ive lived the hell ..We all have to some degree.

      Beauty and the beast comparison:
      The father was pure and didn’t intentially do harm or prepare for the things he’d never do, however that doesn’t mean bad things don’t happen. So unfortunately he harmed his daughter, unintentionally. he (bells father) and his daughter (bell) had a much scarier evil beast after them: society.
      (older authority powerful dude) who threaten Locking up dad in a mental prison (victim blaming) and also rallied the troops to attack the beast for he and his minions personal gain…(propaganda/ pack mentality) …

      power, control, manipulation & socitiety norms. A bunch of scared poor towns people who are being controlled by the guy in power and he’s only in power because he’s ruthless and evil and only in a selfish way. People are taught to idolize and adore the adult baby who was large, literally, stupid, big and good looking, (self abosbored narssitst (gueston) …

      … and well as unintentional or intentional as it is, life, parenting, consistency, bullying, awareness, life planning and support … all were lacking in Bell’s life … she’d wander the streets and read and lived in a world without protection… which can never really be achieved because there is no utopia, life and people are messed up and they will literally devour the pure kind ones who care and love (empathic helpful people) …

      Anyways the beast originally was the narssitic prince and he was punished by being as ugly mean and unloveable on the outside as selfish narssictic people are on the inside…. only thing that changes people is consequences …

      Well given the options, he was the lesser of two evils and actually had been punished so he knew more about right and wrong and if bell was willing to not abondon him and stick it out and being willing to serve the needs of the beast…she’d be rewarded with basic needs being met, protection for her and her father from society (resources)… at the cost of having to be with a self loathing controlling conflicted beast who understood his own feelings but was literally having to be taught how to care about someone else life and feeling needs and desires …it was a long road … “FINE IF YOU DONT WANT TO COME HAVE DINNER WITH ME …CAN JUST STARVE!!!!”…..(oh emotionally adult babies shouldn’t be given that much power, obviously..look at that rationale option :1. dinner date with me or 2:you can starve… yep okay it’s clear, no one let that guy dictate anything… he might be a bit unfair if not getting what he wants or feeling rejected … despite the fact he just took her and her father hostage.

      But, wait …. why is he literally saving her from herself and the big bad world? … well unfortunately he is right… she should go eat and he asked nicely …it would be best for both to have rules and let him take care of the person who didn’t know how to take care of themself in that way … bell wasn’t capable or secure in life and literally was the prey of the real monsters… they would have ruined her life and rob her of all joy and turn her into a empty shell who serves gueston while being verbally abused about her crazy reading and stripped of all identity. She’d be shamed and miserable for the rest of her intimateless emotional abuse life being used…

      The struggle of any partnership and life is nothing if there are no moments of authentic pleasure joy and freedom to be yourself and loved for that.

      Abuse in its purest form is neglecting dehumanizing & ultimately dissociation /derealization… losing oneself …or having someone else define you and your reality, it’s the most painful death, because your physically still alive and everyday all day and night you relive the experience of what I imagine one does right before they literally pass away in death… waking up and realizing another day in limbo as a former empty sad shell & dead inside All because the person and people who “murdered you” … didn’t care about who you were and anything that didn’t serve them was disguared….total character assassination…

      So you see the beast, fifty shades of grey dude and all other Master’s IF they commit to just one and pledge to love and take care of her and her emotional needs and cherish her life like an actual master would … then he’s supposed to not only protect her but also give her a life that’s fulfilling and rewarding stimulating and she should now feel the both checked in but also controlled by someone who knows More about life and reality (good and evil) and as her master (father figure) will ensure that he’ll protective her even from herself and it’s because he genuinely loves and wants what’s best for her and her life (realisticly) ….’s not up utopia or heaven … it’s literally as simple as this: we are all a bunch of beast/ human condition. Any gained knowledge applied and care for another’s quailty of life is rewarded, one way or another.

      If your not realistic enough you will make the error of false perception..

      Trust no one… make them EARN IT & PROVE IT … never commit. Make them earn it everyday… If you aren’t happy, if they aren’t sure or getting it wrong, if it doesn’t feel right….RUN!

      And never look back .Because chances are you have more then one beast after you .surving is lucky.
      Happiness & joy & perfect ending… fairytale and as real as magic…

      sorry the best you can hope for is survival …

      I think people play with role and try to achieve happiness and hold some belief life is safe enough to be so bold to say they deserve to be happy ….

      We Deserve to be alive … humans can even control or prevent one another from killing. Literally we are murderous savage beast still …

      I don’t know if I’d go so far or be as bold and be as naiave as bell and her father with the whole I deserve happiness thing …how about you get real and accept first we must all as humans achieve mastering the whole do not harm onto another thing first ….ps: focus on the fact your someone else’s prey still in this world … be careful. Good luck.

      Lessons from a broken mind.

    • niki June 5, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

      I agree with your view completely. In all truth, women where made opposites to the man. They are often ruthless and harsh whereas we are kinder, more gentle and understanding. So these stories greatly emphasize those qualities in relationships.

  2. Susie Finkbeiner June 18, 2012 at 7:43 am #

    I’ve intentionally avoided everything about this book. I’m glad you wrote about it in a safe environment (I didn’t want to see any “clips” from the book). I am astonished that this book is so popular. I’ve worked against sexual exploitation and trafficking for nearly three years. I work with some survivors. I don’t think a single one of them would understand the appeal of this.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 7:59 am #

      Thanks Susie–I’m glad you thought it was a safe environment! I really, really value that. I considered posting a trigger alert because I know some aspects of this could be really troubling to people who have experienced abuse or exploitation–but then by the time you say that, are you triggering something anyhow? I decided to just keep it as frank as possible. And then I nearly got cold feet before pushing “publish,” but prayed over it and decided it needed to be talked about.

      Thanks so much for the work you do!

  3. Bethany W. June 18, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Thank you for this post (and the resulting stomach ache that I’ve had since reading it…). This is heartbreaking. Thank you for being willing to bring it up and ask these questions. After reading another blog post about these books (that didn’t even address the abuse), I knew they weren’t books I was going to want to get anywhere near, let alone read.

    I’m 17 and currently involved in the anti-trafficking movement, and the more I learn about how things like this play into it, the more sickening it is. As far as the implications of the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey, I think it’s only going to intensify things like abuse and trafficking, and that breaks my heart. I wish I knew how we should address this, but I do look forward to hearing other people’s thoughts!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:10 am #

      Thanks Bethany (and sorry for the stomach ache)! I popped over to your blog–what an incredibly cool idea! You go, girl!!! Thanks for raising awareness and being an advocate for people trapped in slavery!

      • Keith Roe August 23, 2013 at 9:27 am #

        Thank you Miss Armstrong for raising awareness of this difficult topic. I would like to bring attention to the Hunger Games character Katniss as more of an ideal than Bella or Ana Steele would ever be. i’m proud of my wife for having her own business and not having to depend on me. She is with me because she wants to be not because she has to be. Any man who thinks his wife is better because she is weak and dependent on him is not much of a man.

  4. sheli geoghan-massie June 18, 2012 at 8:21 am #

    thank you. as a victim for years i am sickened that those around me are reading it. letting it invade their souls and their bedrooms. sickened that they would think this is entertainment and what kind of example they are setting for their daughters. thank you strong girl….keep pushing the envelope….

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:29 am #

      Oh, Sheli. *hug* I hate that. Hate that you were hurt, and love you!!! We’ve got to keep talking about it, ya? We’ve got to keep shining the light of truth on these areas, to expose the brokenness and begin the healing.

  5. Lisa June 18, 2012 at 8:29 am #

    I haven’t read the books, haven’t glanced through them, only heard about them once on Morning Joe, and on a few tweets on twitter. I have no interest in reading these books. Maybe because I’m almost 50 and this just seems stupid to me? And gross? I don’t know. But I think I get why women would want to read and why they would be turned on and certainly why they wouldn’t want to admit it.

    I read on a photography website in the discussion forum (it had everything, including bondage categories) where some of the women who posed for these photos (not models getting paid but the average working woman) that they enjoyed bondage photos & books because they were tired of having to be in control all the time. Control at home – making sure everyone was taken care of; control at the office – making sure clients & bosses were happy and projects were getting done on time; control at church/in neighborhood – being the good “girl” who took care of the community, etc, etc. These bondage books & photos gave them a chance to “lose control” and relax. Yeah, relax. But on some levels that makes sense.
    Tell you what though, as much as we need dialogue on this, I really don’t think I want to hear my priest give a homily about it.

    My fear: men will use this against women. I’m pretty sure my fears will come true.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:53 am #

      “My fear: men will use this against women. I’m pretty sure my fears will come true.”

      That’s honestly my biggest fear about this, too–that it will be used as a “See, women want this” sort of excuse for oppression, exploitation, and abuse. And that women who fall into this trap, who find themselves entralled and ensnared by the dysfunction, will begin to believe it as well. That’s why we need to be willing to stand up, call a spade a spade, and get aggressively honest in a way that builds people up, instead of tearing people down.

      • Lisa June 18, 2012 at 9:14 am #

        Many Christian women are in this trap now and it often comes with the blessing of their pastor. It’s been “cool” for the past couple of decades for pastors to tell their congregations that what happens in the marriage bed is okay. Oral sex? Ok. Anal sex? Ok. And it goes from there. Porn has made its way into Christian bedrooms w/the blessing of the pastor. I’m not talking about situations where both husband & wife are in agreement about trying these sexual acts & positions. I’m talking about women being coerced, bullied, forced into these situations.

        Many times women think they HAVE TO do those things because their husbands want it. The bible verse saying “the marriage bed is undefiled” is used against them and so now it’s not only their husband but GOD telling them to do things they feel are humiliating. If women are being forced against their will, it doesn’t matter HOW MARRIED they are and HOW CHRISTIAN their husbands are – forcing someone to perform sexual acts that they find demeaning is not GOSPEL. It’s not an example of how Christ loves the church.

        So anyway, my point is – pastors might think, well if this is what women really want, then they might encourage the men in their congregation to do these things. The marriage bed is undefiled, right??

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 9:24 am #

          Ooh, Lisa, you are SO right on! Did you see the series I wrote on that recently? Here’s a link to the first part of it:

          • Genesis September 27, 2012 at 2:24 am #

            Jenny. I happened on your entry by chance and took the time to read it. I also when through a few of the comments and figured I would level you one.
            I noticed above that you and another individual were discussing that your biggest fear was that these things would be used against women.

            **”that it will be used as a “See, women want this” sort of excuse for oppression, exploitation, and abuse. “**

            I want to leave you with a few experiences of mine. Honestly as food for thought. I has been my experience that in many women, certainly NOT ALL, but many women, they do want this. I will explain to you why I say this.

            At 26 years old, I have been involved with many women on many different levels. I assure you, I say that as a reference not in some type of bragging why. An instance that comes to mind was a time that I, a guy friend of mine and three other girls all went out dancing. Harmless enough, right.

            There was a situation where one of the girls was pulled very suddenly into a dance with another guy. Kind of shocked me, however what shocked me more is that she made no move to break away. She quietly danced with him. Now at this time, she was no longer being held. In fact, he didn’t have his hands on her any longer than it took to pull her in close proximity, yet still she didn’t retreat or back away. Now, the group and I watched this in a kind of amused shock. Saying: “Whoa! Is he serious?” Or “Why in the world would he do that.”

            After watching for maybe a few seconds more I had to say to them, if she didn’t like this, I’d imagine she’d just walk away. He’s not hurting her, so I guess it’s not a really big deal.
            Here is where it gets a bit more interesting (at least to me) another of the girls casually walked over and slightly urged the first to walk away, but was almost instantly set on by another guy (possibly friends with the first) To my honestly shock she simply says “Oh my god.” with a bit of a laugh and starts to dance and I’m standing there thinking “What?? Why?” The second girls is in somewhat of a giggling fit as she dances with this guy behind her, my other friend in front of her and the first random guy finishing of this line.
            I watched this as it played out for maybe another minute until my third female friend simply reached over and with some effort, pulled the first two away. The two guys left without a problem and the night went on. However, after we left and were driving home, the biggest shock of the night came. Comments like
            “Oh! Those guys were so gross!” or
            “What the heck was wrong with them?”
            “I can’t believe this. You can’t just do that to people.”

            Yet, I’m recalling the situation and think there wasn’t an ounce of fight or resistance from either of you. With a word, I or my other male friend would have stepped in. More pointedly at any time you could have just walked away. You weren’t being held there. I recognize that you were pulled into the situation, but nothing kept you there. So this outrage you are feeling right now is crazy and very hypocritical. I told them such as well and at the end I asked. Why didn’t you just walk away? Neither was able or willing to answer the question and by all signs it was because they didn’t want to.
            For you blog, I will keep details of the next thing I want to say to an absolute minimum. Yet, in my sexual experience, I have been so surprised at how many women want so extremely aggressive behavior. Even earlier today that I’m writing this, I am a comment to a female friend of mine about a crazy sex act I was told of that involved the woman being hit and I said “Where does this stuff come from?” Her response “LOL. Sounds sexy.” And I thought She can’t be serious. So, I questioned it and she was. What’s more is, I thought to myself, I should have expected this from her. Perhaps that’s why I told her about it. Yet, the truth is, I know many girls that would have most likely said the same thing.

            My overall point is, I know many women, that desire, fantasize and like that sort of thing. They do want it. I know enough to where it is not an abnormal thing for me to hear about it. I’ve adopted the mindset that half the women love it, the other half doesn’t.

            I say all this to ask, have you ever sat down with women that are not of the same view point as you. Those women that not only like books like 50 shades, but live it or really deeply want to? Have you ever tried to figure out how many of those women are, not so much out there, but happen to be around you on a regular basis? You may be surprised. Perhaps people are focused on the wrong things as to why this type of behavior is becoming very very COMMON as of late.

      • Lexxy September 29, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

        Jenny, I wandered across your post, and took the time to read it. While I happen to be very into the kinky stuff, and sadly have not had the chance to read this book, I also fear that men will assume that all women want this sort of sex and actually abuse women who are not consenting to the kinky stuff. I would also like to say that your post thing is well thought out, and well written, and I applaud you for it. I also appreciate that your opinion on kink differs from mine, and respect your right to said opinion. in short, I enjoyed reading your post.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Also, what you said about women being “tired of being in control.” Some of the research I read talked about “rape fantasies” having to do with sexual repression (they don’t have to take responsibility for their sexuality), or a desire to “retreat into the mammalian mid-brain”–no joke–to not have to think, just feel. But we were CREATED to think, to excercise judgement and good sense, and discerning and choosing between right and wrong is part of our human DNA. If we are tired (and so many of us are) we need to lean into God and rest in God’s sufficiency, not cede ourselves to some other human or regress into our “mammalian mid-brain.”

      • Lisa June 18, 2012 at 9:47 am #

        Yes, exactly – meant to say that about true rest for the mind, body, & spirit, leaning into God’s sufficiency!! Thank you for posting the point I forgot to make : )

        I’ll check out your link for part one. Thank you!

      • madame October 23, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        I’m here for the first time following a link a friend posted on Facebook.
        Great post, and great questions!
        I would like to add another positive option to this:
        ” If we are tired (and so many of us are) we need to lean into God and rest in God’s sufficiency, not cede ourselves to some other human or regress into our “mammalian mid-brain.”

        How about finally ADMITTING that we are tired? I see tired women all the time who refuse to admit to it, and who would rather keep charging on, tired, hoping to one day “make it” and be “perfect”. Like in the film “I don’t know how she does it”, women keep taking on more and more, trying to gain more control in life, and believing that if they just practice hard enough, they will keep all those plates they are juggling from falling on the ground. The message is “I should be able to do it”.

        As to why we fantasize about abuse, not long ago I read an article that made very good sense. It was about women and porn, and how porn only perpetuates the shame and pain we desperately want to escape because we choose practices that keep reliving those painful experiences.
        Maybe we felt (or were) dominated or violated as children or young women, and now fantasies of being violated or dominated arouse us. I don’t know… it could be a combination of wanting to let go instead of controlling everything and an unconscious desire to be dominated, maybe forever seeking to feel in control of that lack of control, if it makes any sense?
        Whatever it is, it needs to be brought into the light. It’s an aspect of our brokenness.

        Anyway… Thanks for opening the proverbial can of worms!

        • madame October 23, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

          I forgot to add.
          I read some excerpts of the book (nothing sexual). The book is so poorly written, it’s not worth anyone’s time or money.

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong October 23, 2012 at 2:14 pm #

          Great points, particularly about admitting how tired we are! I know that I have sometimes tried to deal with elements of life that feel out-of-control by adding more to my plate. Not sure how I think that helps, but it’s definitely not an uncommon phenomenon.

  6. Tim June 18, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    Jen, I really appreicate how you brought in the cultural, emotional, psychological and physiological aspects of this. I think there are a lot of men who are as bewildered by this as you are, since we aren’t fantasizing about a 50 Shades of Grey type of relationship either.

    Here’s one way to deal with the 50 shades phenomenon, though. Make fun of it. That’s what FunnyorDie did, and it really is funny and clever, and Selena Gomez really sells the insipidity (she’s so talented!):

    P.S. Aimee Byrd posted a new guest piece I did about singing off key (linked through my name above). Hope you get a chance to look it over, Jen.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 10:07 am #

      *snicker* Thanks for introducing a little levity, Tim! WOW–you’re right, she sold it! Someone should have cast her in Twilight… ;-D

    • Lisa June 18, 2012 at 10:16 am #

      Watched the video. It’s a venue to sell paint not deal with what’s harmful about the 50 shades series.
      Would we suggest using humor as a way to deal with men struggling with porn? IMO, humor only seems to legitimize it.

      • Gina June 18, 2012 at 11:59 am #

        Sometimes mockery is the best way to handle these things. If people can laugh at something, they get a new perspective on it, and often that perspective shows them just how bad it really is. (There’s practically a “Twilight” mockery industry out there, which probably saved at least a few girls from getting swept up in that trainwreck!)

      • Tim June 18, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

        Lisa, I’m sorry; I didn’t mean to offend. As Gina said, humor can liberate, and that video (to me anyway) takes all the oomph out of 50 Shades by showing how ridiculous it is.
        If you would care to read my very serious view of how harmful porn and sex trafficking are, you can see it here in my guest article Jen just posted right here on this site last week:

        • Lisa June 18, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

          No, I wasn’t offended. But I don’t get the impression that Gomez and the paint company were seeking to put the Series in its place. I think they were using it to be funny and sell paint. Sometimes humor can work in a situation but I don’t think it works in all situations – such as child-porn, sex trafficking, molestation & abuse, etc.

  7. Lisa June 18, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    And I fear that my opening comment might convey that I think I’m above all this.

    Not in the least! I had my own struggles w/porn in my early adult years and then again a few years back. Not w/bondage or hard core but it was still a problem. Was a victim of child porn when I was small child. And had a father who thought soft-porn was completely acceptable. Counseling. And then more counseling. And many many prayers to break free.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 11:38 am #

      Thanks so much for sharing your story! This is EXACTLY what we need to be doing! It doesn’t seem to me that women who struggle with sexual addictions have the same resources available to them that men do. And it’s probably scarier for them to admit it, too, because they think they’re the only ones.

      • Kristin June 29, 2012 at 2:30 am #

        I have heard women discuss sexual addictions and abuse at Celebrate Recovery meetings.
        I write this in case someone reading needs a place to find healing. has a list of locations all over the country. (and CR is also in other countries)
        CR is for any hurt, habit, or hang-up. A safe place.

  8. Karen Yates June 18, 2012 at 10:43 am #

    Jenny, THANK YOU. Thank you for talking about this. I am, like you, troubled. I am troubled on so many levels, from the secrecy that shrouds it (if you have to hide that you’re reading it, should you be?), to the way women are using this for fantasty and re-igniting their libidos, to dismissing the S&M between a virgin and a man 7 years her senior as a redemptive love story, to the way its trickling down into our culture today. I cannot tell you the number of women I know who are Christians who are reading it, and I think about whether it is beneficial or edifying, whether it is pure, lovely, admirable (think on these things), whether we are bringing glory to God by spending the precious moments we have on this earth reading it, and I’m word-less. I’m not saying there might not be some elements of a sweet romance, but the themes of dominance, control, pain, objectifying, in a sexual relationship is dangerous. Additionally, I don’t quite understand how we can get all over men for watching and reading porn, but then when women read ‘erotic fiction’ we call it ‘fiction.’ I’m sorry for men that there is a double standard.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 11:41 am #

      Thank YOU for lighting the fire under me to write about it! I’ve been basically ignoring the phenomenon until I read your post, and realized that you are exactly right. This issue isn’t going anywhere, and silence is only going to work against healing in this instance–especially with all the “it’s not so bad” chatter going around. We need to SPEAK UP!

  9. Kim June 18, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    Thank you for addressing this topic and including the comments regarding co-dependency and rescue. For years I mistakenly thought being a rescuer and totally self-sacrificing were godly character traits to be desired and developed. What could be more Christlike than helping someone become emotionally healthy? Little did I know I was really playing God, getting in His way of working in someone’s life and harming my own emotional health to boot.
    After reading your post and the comments I feel better prepared to engage in conversations about a popular book I don’t wish to read myself.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

      Thanks, Kim. “Little did I know I was really playing God, getting in His way of working in someone’s life and harming my own emotional health to boot.” That there? You nailed it!

  10. Luke June 18, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Thanks for bringing up codependency. There is so little discussion of codependency in the church. I often have wondered if it’s perhaps because many pastors themselves have codependent tendencies that appear to be “godly” and “servant-hearted” when really, they are dysfunctional.

    I know that’s not exactly what you’re discussing but I’m glad you’re putting this vocabulary out there. Everyone should read “Codependent No More” by Melody Beattie.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

      You’re right, codependency is a HUGE problem in the church! I do think many people in ministry struggle with it–it’s part of the culture. Thanks for the books suggestion!!!

  11. Alyssa June 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm #

    Something that especially freaks me out about this is the people who don’t have any shame or concern with reading these books. I recently flew from Phoenix to Orlando an d saw many women reading it in airplanes and airports, reading porn right out in the open! I have friends posting about reading it on Facebook and twitter. Keeping it hidden and in the dark is incredibly dangerous, but the blatant advertisement of people (even “Christians”) is also terrifying news for our culture. I fear the ramifications this will have on men and women. I work in college ministry and know several young women reading this series, as if they need any more sexual pressures than they already deal with on a college campus. I’m heartbroken by the effects this series is having.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

      It is interesting to me how many people are defending it as “harmless,” and you’re right–the implications of that are frightening. I imagine this WOULD be a lot to deal with on college campuses–yikes!

  12. Jane June 18, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    I am really happy to read someone promoting more resources for women dealing with sexual sin. I know quite a few women who have struggle with it in a variety of ways, and subsequently get really tired of the stereotype of sexual sin being a man’s struggle, because it simply isn’t true and only serves to alienate struggling women even further in their shame.

    That said, I feel like we need to be careful in how we approach the subject of women reading this book. Condemning its perversity and expressing disbelief at its appeal does not serve to love our struggling sisters either. While the book certainly doesn’t match Paul’s entreaties in Philippians 4:8, it isn’t the issue here. The issue is that it like, pornography and romance novels alike are ensnaring the hearts and minds of our brothers and sisters.

    I just feel like the vehicle for sin is not so much the problem as the depravity of our hearts, and the shame that keeps us in the dark where there is no repentance, no help in the struggle. Worrying over the world’s newest form of depravity is not as useful as seeking to help those that struggle with it.

    I just think that if I was reading that book and found its content appealing, I would be simply more ashamed by people questioning the why of it, rather than attempting to come alongside to come up with solutions and to offer resources and counsel and to help me know that I am not alone.

    I don’t know, maybe that is just me, but I think it is super easy for us to be disgusted by something and because of our repulsion to thrust those struggling with it further from us and from Christ.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

      Oh, I hope I didn’t come across as judgemental, Jane–my reasoning behind probing into the “whys” comes from my work with women who were victims of abuse, and concern that some people will (like Lisa said in an earlier comment) use it against women, promoting the idea that “See? Women really DO want to be treated this way.”

      You’re absolutely right–the problem is in our hearts, and shame only serves to keep us isolated from one another. My hope is that removing some of the mystique of *why* certain things that shouldn’t be appealing DO appeal to some people may shine a little light on the situation, and help women think about their “guilty pleasures” more objectively, instead of thinking there’s something horribly wrong with the way their brain and body works.

  13. Beth Lattery June 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm #

    Thank you for writing about this problem. I didn’t know anything about this book until a friend posted about it on her facebook. Why would a well educated intelligent woman who is happily married with young children have a need to read or even have an interest in this book? I don’t get it..
    I spoke about this to some of my Christian friends and they more or less shrugged it off and said they read similiar books, I was very surprised. There seems to be lots of help for men who are struggling with porn addiction but womens porn addiction is not really addressed. This forum is a really great way to get us started talking about it and a step in the right direction to find some healing.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 18, 2012 at 10:39 pm #

      Thanks Beth! It is odd, the way we deal/don’t deal with erotica as Christians. I think that perhaps we just are less familiar with the medium, and aren’t sure what to make of it? And then women feel like they’re alone, and are too self-conscious to talk about their struggles. This is part of why I think it’s so important to have ministries that focus on women–and not just in a “putting on tea parties” sort of way (not that there’s anything wrong with tea parties, mind you–put out the goodies, and I AM THERE!). Women (and men, I’m sure) need a safe place to discuss things like this.

  14. DragonLady June 19, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    From what I have read about 50 Shades of Grey, I called just a step up (or down) from the “traditional” smut novel, which I consider just a step up (or down) from the Harlequin-type romance novel. I spent a lot of years in the smut novels feeding a dysfunctional sex life through what became a sexual addiction which was one step away (and a few shots of tequila) from video porn. You’re right, it hasn’t been addressed like it should because 1) women addicted to literary porn (and that’s what it really is) are going to be defensive about it 2) men and women alike are going to be uncomfortable addressing the subject in mixed settings and 3) too many churches (at least in the Bible belt south) are so enslaved to the “performance gospel” (“Thou shalt pretend thou hath no sin”) that confessing to other Christians that we have an addiction or even just a strong desire for erotica and/or porn is inviting condemnation from the very people who can pray with us and for us for stregth to resist the desires of the flesh and turn to Christ for deliverance and healing.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

      “Too many churches (at least in the Bible belt south) are so enslaved to the “performance gospel” (“Thou shalt pretend thou hath no sin”) that confessing to other Christians that we have an addiction or even just a strong desire for erotica and/or porn is inviting condemnation from the very people who can pray with us and for us for stregth to resist the desires of the flesh and turn to Christ for deliverance and healing.”

      And therein lies the problem! Thanks for being part of the answer!!!

  15. Lacey June 19, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    The popularity of this series is very troubling to me, as well. And you’re *absolutely right* that teenagers are reading this. They’re sneaking it away from their parents. They’ve heard the [true] rumors about it being a story that started as Twilight fan-fiction, and they’re intrigued by the more “adult” version of what has become a cultural cornerstone for them. It makes me feel a little ill that this is so popular, period — but I feel especially squeamish knowing that the minors I work with are reading it, too.

    A few years ago, while having a conversation with a good friend who grew up on “bodice rippers”, we came to the conclusion that these types of books ARE to women what porn is to men. Like porn, they display women’s fantasies of men, not characters who look or behave like real men, much the way porn perpetuates unrealistic images of women’s bodies and sexuality. Like porn, they can be used as an escape and abused as a means to find a level of fulfillment (sexual and emotional) that doesn’t require the connection with (and spiritual growth) that comes from actually engaging with another human being. I think that both porn and erotica damage and impede healthy relationships (and this is from someone who formerly browsed erotic literature on a semi-regular basis, so I hope that these comments are not coming across as distant and judgmental).

    Realizing that erotica and porn really were no different was a wake-up call for me, and I’ve since abandoned written erotica in solidarity with my disapproval of porn. But I think that it’s a problem that many people see porn as damaging and porn addiction as something to be avoided/worked with, but that erotic novels, including traditional “bodice rippers” are still framed as essentially benign. This may be a result of culture continuing to take women’s sexuality less seriously than men’s; it may be a lack of understanding for what is happening psychologically.

    Great post, and something I hope our culture continues to dialogue about. It is not by any means a simple issue.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      “Like porn, they display women’s fantasies of men, not characters who look or behave like real men, much the way porn perpetuates unrealistic images of women’s bodies and sexuality. Like porn, they can be used as an escape and abused as a means to find a level of fulfillment (sexual and emotional) that doesn’t require the connection with (and spiritual growth) that comes from actually engaging with another human being.”

      Oh, Lacey, you are brilliant and I love you! :-) When can I get my hands on an ARC of the book you’re editing?

      I imagine this phenomenon MUST be awkward, from the teen librarian standpoint. :-/ Yikes!

      • Lacey June 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm #

        I haven’t heard anything about ARCs, but the book itself will be out in September and is starting to be promoted with ACTA’s “fall release” literature. I’ll ask the publisher about ARCs, and if they don’t do them, I’ll send you one of my copies when they arrive in exchange for a review. :)

        Yes, the teen librarian perspective is its own can of worms. I don’t really mind “edgy” fare aimed at teenagers (and I actually think a lot of it is healthier than more chaste/”benign” books like Twilight), and I don’t mind teens reading books that are written for adults. But finding out teens are reading *this* made me want to discourage a teen’s reading choice for the first time ever. :(

        • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

          Of COURSE I am going to review your book! ;-D I’m on the edge of my seat!!!

  16. rev.spike June 19, 2012 at 10:44 am #

    We have referred to this sort of material in our house as ’emotional pornography”. As a man, I was shocked that any woman would subject herself to a book where the word “thrust” appears at least 100 times. It is a far cry from the repressed pseudo Victorian fodder of days of old, now we are just without any shame, and that is a shame.

    Christian women have no business meddling with this sort of nonsense; the only possible reason I could see for a believing woman to subject herself to this sort of drivel is in the hopes that doing a little homework would empower her to lift another woman out of the slavery of pining for a life that they do not have.

  17. Mackenzie June 19, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    Did you even read the book? “Ana,” as he calls her, willingly and excitedly agrees to spanking, whipping and gagging” No, no she doesn’t. She is terrified, and they set limits, and he restricts the actual controlling portion to one room in his house. They have safe words, and she can say no at any time. They compromise on the things he asks, and he actually doesn’t control her diet. He provides her with things, yes, but out of love in his heart that he finds after watching his prostitute crack whore mother be killed, and after being beaten himself. This book deals with a ton of social issues. It’s a little graphic, and if you’re uncomfortable with your own sexuality then I could see how non vanilla could be scary for someone that’s not used to thinking outside the box.

    It deals a lot with temptation, and lust, but there is a lot to be learned from it as well. The overwhelming theme is Ana pulling him out of his shell and teaching him how to love without having to control everything around him.

    I’m sorry you’re too close minded to see that side of it.

    • Jessica McKnight June 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      If you didn’t notice, Jenny mentioned that that was the “ABC News’s description,” so no need to be so harsh!! She also wrote it in the disclaimer that she has not read the book. Maybe YOU should read more closely before you set out on the warpath…

      • Mackenzie June 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm #

        Oh trust me, that wasn’t a war path. But it’s senseless to write a column on something you haven’t seen for yourself. You’re just keeping your freak flags somewhere in the closet. I can only pray you’ll realize how fun sex it in several different forms some day. xx

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      Hi Mackenzie–no, I didn’t read the books. A lot of my work involves how the Christian community deals with domestic abuse and the sexualization of women, so I used 50 Shades popularity as a springboard to discuss what is so appealing to women about books in which women are hurt and/or controlled by men in some way, shape or form–be it a consentual BDSM relationship or the old school “bodice rippers” where the hero rapes the heroine. If it were only about sex, that would be one thing–it’s the themes of control (and women trying to “rescue” the controlling man) that concern me.

    • lee September 3, 2014 at 4:20 am #

      no, in the book I read, she was willing. very willing. no threat, no force.

  18. John June 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Would you have an opinion on the outlander series by Diana gabaldon?

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

      You know, I’ve heard of the Outlander series, but never read the books, and don’t know much about them. Sorry! :-)

  19. Kevin June 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Thank you for reviewing the book. I encourage you to take confidence in the ability to review something you’ve not read. It used to be sufficient to read about something to understand it. It is a philosophical mistake to conclude that one must experience something to understand it. That is a form of empiricism that denies rationality and eventually leads to an complete inability to empathize or discriminate between good and evil. So, please keep reviewing things based upon clear evidence without feeling the need to experience them first hand.

    I hadn’t though much of the sexual aggression from the female perspective. I was astonished when I learned how successful this novel (trilogy) is. And it saddened me. I’ve seen a sub-culture among Christian women for over a decade now that finds solace in entertainment where women are behaving badly, such as “Desperate Housewives” et al. This is yet another form of women behaving badly. I know that the hope is to see the 21 year old antagonist as a victim – but I’m a bit credulous there. In any case there are things that shouldn’t be talked about among Christians (except for the purpose of admonishment to Holiness) and the salaciousness of this trilogy seems to have crossed that line from page 2.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 19, 2012 at 6:01 pm #

      Well, the 21-year-old woman was certainly behaving badly, but she wasn’t doing it in a vaccum. 😉 For the sake of context, much of my work is with women who are victims of abuse. What concerns me in these books (beyond the smuttiness), is the victim-like characteristics that she exhibits, and the way a “happily ever after” is manufactured out of a very dysfunctional situation. Books that promote these types of relationships are selling women a lie, and, as my friend Lacey mentioned above, VERY young women are gobbling it up right alongside their mothers. Culture has a profound effect in this area.

      Of course it is important that people resist this sort of temptation. But what happens when they don’t, and then find themselves ensnared in a situation they can’t get themselves out of, as so many women (and men) do? We are ALL just a few bad decisions away from being a victim, in over our heads and unable to climb out of the pit we slipped into. Spiritually, we are all there, anyway. That’s why we need God’s healing power in our lives.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that by pointing out “victim” tendencies, I am not trying to excuse the behavior–I am trying to prevent the people who are most susceptible to these sorts of dysfunctional relationships from falling into them!

  20. Rachel June 25, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    I have never read this book, but I confess that I have been tempted to. The honest truth, which I have never told anyone but my husband, is that the idea of authoritative control, of spanking, of many of the things described in this book, are indeed erotic for me, and have been for as long as I can remember. And I have no idea why – there’s no trauma in my past of which I am aware, no reason I can fathom why I would be attracted to this. I realize that many people (Christians in particular) will think I am sick, perverted, weird, and I completely understand, because I have often felt that way about myself. I’ve prayed, I’ve fasted, I’ve done everything I can think of to get “free” of this. But I still don’t even understand the root of it in myself, much less in other people. I grew up in a loving Christian home, I’m married to a wonderful godly man, and I am very involved in fighting against sex slavery and human trafficking. Why would I feel this way? I wish I knew. Just thought I’d give the perspective of someone who completely understands the book’s appeal without understanding why, but at the same time works to prevent it actually happening.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

      Thanks for being so honest, Rachel! You are not alone–if nothing else, the books’ popularity should assure you of that!

      “I realize that many people (Christians in particular) will think I am sick, perverted, weird, and I completely understand, because I have often felt that way about myself.”

      That’s part of why I wrote this post–to shed a little light on this phenomenon in a (hopefully) non-emotional way. I think a lot of women feel that there is something “wrong with them” that they find these themes erotic, but who do they talk to to figure out why they feel this way? I know I had a lot of “Aha!” moments when I was researching this post, particularly regarding women’s physiological response to threatening or domineering stimuli. We’re wired to get physically aroused in these circumstances–and if we’re safe, why wouldn’t our brains follow?

      “Just thought I’d give the perspective of someone who completely understands the book’s appeal without understanding why, but at the same time works to prevent it actually happening.”

      Hey, everyone experiences temptation, but it’s how you respond to temptation that shows the orientation of your heart. 😉 Be blessed, sister, and rest in God’s incredible, abounding love for you!!! There is no condemnation–Romans 8!!!

    • Fireflyeyes February 8, 2013 at 7:39 am #

      Fifty-Shades of Grey, which is an appalling piece of fiction whether you are a Christian or into BDSM or both, aside, I don’t see why should feel the need to get free of something that turns you on sexually as long as it remains within the context of your marriage and consensual. I am a Christian, was a virgin when I got married, had no abuse whatsoever, not even a bad boyfriend. But sometimes I enjoy it when it gets a little rough in bed – I like the occasion light spanking or hair tug or being shoved up against the wall. And my husband likes to be handcuffed to the bed and blindfolded once in a while. We talk about what we like, what we want, what our boundaries are and try to do things the other person enjoys while respecting ourselves and each other. It allows to explore our sexualities in a safe way while bringing us closer together. Which is what married intimacy should be about in my opinion. Abuse of women is a serious issue, but women feeling like their desires are intrinsically wrong or bad is also a big problem in the church these days. It’s so sad to me that you feel like a pervert just because you get turned on by something outside the mainstream – you’re not! Part of being a healthy and empowered woman is to own your desires, to be able to share them with your husband and work out ways in which you can be satisfied and explore in a way that is safe, enjoyable, and consensual for you both. And maybe your husband is just Not Into that, or maybe you don’t actually want to try it. That’s fine too! But you shouldn’t feel bad about feeling interested in something – I feel that message is another way the church tries to control women’s sexualities. The issue of reading and passing smutty books depicting unhealthy relationships is, to me, entirely separate from the one of the sexual freedom within marriage.

  21. Sadie June 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    Interesting conversation, and a lot of really good points, but I have to admit I am bothered that it all starts from second or third hand information/opinions about the book in question. Before anybody flames me, I get that the original post was a comment on the genre at large and not a review of a specific book. It does concern me though that there are a lot of people – many of them Christians, and no doubt all well-meaning – condemning a book for no other reason than that somebody else told them they should.

    That said, I am totally in agreement with the comment that women reading erotica should equal men looking at porn. Just because we can still use our brains when thinking about sex in that way doesn’t (or shouldn’t) make it somehow ‘ok’. I kinda wish I’d stumbled upon your blog earlier and joined in properly rather than turning up at the end and chucking in my 2 pennies. Sorry about that!

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 26, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

      Ooh, I wish you could have joined in earlier too–but I’m glad you’re here now! I totally get what you’re saying about badmouting a book you haven’t read. I’m generally not a fan of that AT ALL myself. But I really wanted to talk about the themes (sexualization and abuse are big topics that I cover–I didn’t just hear about these books and decide to write about them out of the blue), and really didn’t feel good about the idea of reading the books personally–I considered it, but decided against it. Anyhow, welcome, and I agree–in a hypocritical sort of way. 😉

    • Mark November 2, 2014 at 8:13 am #

      Sadie, you say erotica for women is equal to porn for men, right? I agree. But then you say that condemning book’s like this without reading it is unwise. Doesn’t that imply that it’s also necessary to actually view pornographic rape videos before you are permitted to condemn them? Obviously, that is incorrect.

      But I do understand the confusion. Hard porn videos are clearly victimizing people who are the actors. Erotic, doesn’t seem to victimize in the same way. So it’s seem as less harmful. But it seems to me that the potential harm to the reader or viewer is equivalent between porn and erotic. So it seems unwise to read those kind of books simply to discourage others to read them. Just like it’s unwise to watch hard core porn before discouraging others to watch it.

      I want to legitimize my point of view by confessing to former addiction to “glamour” photography (topless or even nude but never depicting sex). I never watched hard core. I was, at-the-time, justifying admiring “glamour” photos and videos since those those don’t really victimize women models like hard-core does.

      Well, after escaping from that addiction and now enjoying a very fulfilling and happy marriage, it seems clear to me that condemning 50 shades of gray and the damage that books similar to that can do to a male or female is completely appropriate–even without reading it first. I never did read 50 shades of gray, however, I did read the synopsis on wikipedia–which is much less graphic (I’m told) than the book but gives the basic outline of the story.

      NOTE: I deeply understand Jenny Rae’s main point. Why? I was the victim of physical abuse as a child. So it’s now very clear to me that “glamour” models and erotic books (I read some too) fed deeply into my wiring to victimize women. So, sadly, I victimized my until I got help and now healed completely from the childhood trauma.

      Jenny Rae’s main point is that this type of book is particularly damaging to someone who is already wired to victimize (as a man) or be victimized (as a woman). For others, who are not already wired that way, it might be much less harmful..but can it really be beneficial?

      Additionally, I feel that kind of books and movies showing dysfunctional relationships can “turn-around” like Beauty and the Beast are dangerous just like you said, Jenny Rae.

      You may find my perspective on that interesting. I’m speaking as a father of a girl the same age as Anastasia in 50. And also, I victimized my wife emotionally for twenty years before getting help and healing. Now we have a fairy tale marriage. So my wife’s endurance eventually did pay off. BUT do I advise my daughter to find a man like me and get victimized for untold years to try fix him? NO!!!!!!!!!!

      My daughter is very clear about avoiding a victimizing relationship to begin with. I’ve already seen 2 different kinds of dysfunctional guys after my daughter. One very domineering and harsh…she spotted his attitude a mile a way and avoided him like the plagued until he showed his true colors and yelled at her. The other is conversely weak and lacks self confidence, she really, really likes him…but cannot agree to date him she says because “he doesn’t know what he wants”.

      It does seems a little sad at times that when a young girl seeks a well-adjusted man, those are relatively few and far between especially at that age. I certainly wasn’t emotionally stable as a 20-year-old.

      My final point is that normal women (not victims in the past) who feel a secret desire to be controlled or more harsh sex seems totally natural to me. I feel those desires come from the natural god-given instinct of women to be attracted to a man who is “decisive”, “confident” or “knows what he wants” rather than a guy that is wishy-washy and unsure. Also, women naturally need to feel desired and desirable in contrast to men who need to feel desire and passion.

      So just men like enjoy and like to increase their feeling of desire or passion by the wife/woman doing provocative dance or tease or lingerie and such. In the same way, women enjoy to increase the feeling that they are highly desired and extremely desirable. So for women, the thought of a man feeling so much desire and passion for her that he totally loses control of himself, forgets is “manners”, and gets rough and harsh or even force himself on her to fulfill his need for her is titillating to practically any healthy woman.

      But feeding on that natural desire by reading erotica about rape or BDSM (even consensual) still seems unwise. And even more so for the fantasy of “fixing” a man that is broken.

      My wife tried to fix me for 20 years and never succeeded. It was my daughters and others who did an “intervention” that got through to me.

  22. Daniel June 28, 2012 at 3:32 pm #

    Jenny –

    Thanks for the important call for the church to begin engaging these issues. I think you are absolutely right that, while there is plenty of effort and preaching and pastoral care being put into addressing these issues with men, women are often overlooked.

    That said, I would echo the comments above that suggested 50 shades is somewhat different than something which simply celebrates and sees as good the domination of women. Yes, it is undoubtedly pornographic and clearly there is a need to consider the emotional reactions it is resonating with, but it is clear from the start that Ana does not want this type of relationship and rebels against it. She goes along with this for a while, but it does actually end up really screwing her up. It also becomes clear that she cannot “save” Christian. The book makes clear that dominating sexual and emotional relationships are not just fun and games, but are incredibly destructive. After all, the book ends with Ana realizing this is an abusive relationship and telling Christian ( sorry for the profanity, but given the severity of the subject material I think that actually quoting it is necessary):

    “Well, you are one fucked-up son of a bitch… You need to sort your shit out, Grey!”

    And she leaves him, ending the relationship. She recognizes precisely that she cannot save him and that the only thing that can happen is he will continue to hurt and demean her.

    Now, none of this is to say that people should therefore go out and read it, but it is to say that, unlike other popular books which simply see as desirable and un-harmful the aggressive and dominating male ( twilight being the most obvious example), 50 shades shows that this is not the case — it is finally only abusive and destructive. And the woman needs to get out, whatever the cost. In some ways, then, whatever the troubling elements in the book (and I don’t want to diminish those), it actually stands closer to your own convictions. It also seems to open up precisely the type of discussion you are interested in having, precisely because it recognizes abuse is always abuse and never okay.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      “Now, none of this is to say that people should therefore go out and read it, but it is to say that, unlike other popular books which simply see as desirable and un-harmful the aggressive and dominating male ( twilight being the most obvious example), 50 shades shows that this is not the case — it is finally only abusive and destructive. And the woman needs to get out, whatever the cost.”

      Well, I’m glad to hear that! Hopefully women will pick up on that, more than some of the other themes. Although I still worry about the tendency to try to “rescue” those messed-up men…

  23. Dawn June 29, 2012 at 2:50 am #

    I started reading the book. It was the hot item. I had a friend be the victim of some very harsh judgement because she read it. I wanted to know what the big deal was. I stopped just over a hundred pages in.

    Every woman around me has told me that it is a fabulous book. No one told me it would trigger memories of abuse and attack. I expected racy. I thought “Is a necktie really that big of a deal? I can see where a silk necktie could be a little intriguing.” Well, it is beyond racy, it was painful for me to read.

    I wish I had seen your post with this warning before I traumatized myself with this book. My friends said my husband would be a happy man when I read this because it produces those physical, take-me-now, sensations. They were wrong. I want to curl up in a ball and not allow him near my body unless it is to hold me while I sob.

    After reading part of this book, I am devastated and appalled that this is what women everywhere are talking about and fantasizing about. They have no idea how painful that type of sex actually is. They have no idea what it does to your emotions and your body. I should be sleeping, instead I’m reeling from what I’ve read of this book tonight. I’m not ok.

    • Jenny Rae Armstrong June 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      Oh, I’m so sorry about that, Dawn. :-( That absolutely stinks. I’m praying that God’s peace and healing will seep deep into your soul–and that you will feel it beginning to happen, even if it takes a while. Blessings on you, Dawn.

      • Dawn June 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

        thank you, I truly appreciate that

  24. Christine Alexander July 2, 2012 at 9:36 am #

    I did not like the book, but not for the reasons you mentioned. Also, the main guy’s name is CHRISTIAN not Christopher! Not to sound rude, but if you are going to write an article about a book, make sure you have the charecter’s name correct! I thought the book was kind of immature, and there actual misspellings in the book itself, I was shocked that something would be published that wasn’t even spelled right! Among other things, the book irked me and I will not be reading the other 2!

  25. John July 26, 2012 at 8:44 pm #

    I am utterly horrified that this type of book even exsists!! Found out about it when my wife brought it home and started glorifying it to everyone she new, mostly all females. We have since split but let me fill you in on the details of why I’m personally horrified. To premise all this, let give you a brief “recap” of her tortured life. “Shel” was born into a severely alcoholic home, mother drunk daily by noon. No belief in church at all. Mother also depressed and suicidal with several attempts in presense of children. At age 4 or5, Shel remembers being “gang-raped” by group of 5 or so cousins and thinks her brother too. Was forcibly inserted by some type of bottle (this comes into play later with the whole 50 Shades thing). all thru her adolescent years, her brother finger raped her daily after school. At age 16, she was brutally raped by a so called boyfriend, smashing her head on concrete repeatedly and anally raping her. Pregnant by 17. Met her at age 38, she was in midst of a 5 yr affair with a married man who more or less used her as a mistress to serve as his sex doll. She is a life long alcoholic with suicidal tendensies and life long dependency on anti depressants. That brings us up to present. We split while she was in the midst of glorifying and reading this smut novel. Her 19 year old daughter inquired as to what the book was. Shel EAGERLY tells her she has GOT to read this book. Daughter is now hooked and singing the praises of it also. I’m just aghast at the fact that women find pleasure and get turned on by a book about a “master” exerting total control over a helpless woman, torturing her with pain etc, inserting all kinds of devises as she is left helpless to fight it. This is exciting? Rape? Torture? Pain? How romantic! What a wonderful thing to teach your 19 year old daughter. This is how sex between man and woman is supposed to be. And you would think she of all people would be horrified by all this as it must relive very horrid memories. I don’t get it! How do women get aroused by violent sex, how does a rape/incestual molestation victim find pleasure in this. So much so that she giddily cannot wait for her young daughter to find interest in it also?!?!

  26. shame July 29, 2012 at 11:11 am #

    Was browsing the web to find a site about why women *read I* enjoy watching porn where women are abused. I am one of those women. It would shock people if they knew, I think. I’m a pleasant person, calm, kind and outwardly balanced. I have two degrees, BA and MA, I’m quite attractive, look younger than my now just turned 40, from northern Europe with a good job, have my own place, car, great friends and freedom to travel. I am also not married, I have no children (although I have been pregnant twice) and recently came out of a relationship with a previously married middle-eastern (Christian per cultural definition) man whom I was controlled by during our five years together. He was a patriarch, dominant, rough and intense all the while very loving. I was attracted to him because of his dominance and I still am attracted to that in men. Lived with another man who was his opposite and who was an atheist. These two relationships spanned over the past 10 years. Prior to them I was promiscuous. Not going home with strangers, but having several relationships which lasted from 3 months to a year or so. I was always loyal, but I either left the guys against their wishes or chose guys who were emotionally unavailable. My parents divorced when I was 4 years old. I don’t remember anything of it. My mother remarried when I was 6 years old. My mother comes from a good, conservative Christian home and my dad was also a Christian. My stepfather and my mom, however, went through an odd phase. They became Israel-friendly and lived like Jews for some years. He didn’t work, she didn’t work and we had no money. Although we had ‘angels’ who delivered food to our apartment. At one point we were evicted from our apt and had to run away from social… not social-workers, but state-employees who were going to take me and my younger away from them and put us in fostercare since our parents hadn’t paid rent. My mother was an incredibly naive women and completely smitten by my stepfather who had a magnetic charisma; she understood nothing at the time. Anyhow we moved. First we went to a house where a bunch of foreign immigrants stayed while waiting for other housing and then we got a two-bedroom apartment that was paid for by the state. In that apt I lived with my mother, stepfather, my younger brother, my two older brothers, a dog and a cat. Since our apt was small, my brother and I shared bedroom with our parents. And, like most adults, they had sex. I remember waking up one night, hearing my mother cry (at least I thought she was crying). It turned they were having sex. After that, I woke up many a nights while they had sex. He was rough with her every now and again (at least, that was my impression) and there I was. I was in the bed which was literally 2 feet away, looking at them having sex. Somehow I came to want to look at them having sex. It did something to me. I was growing older – I think I was around 12 or so – and I wanted to peek at them. It’s strange. While I lived in a family where we could all be naked in a sauna together and where my stepfather would wash his private part in the sink right in front of me, they were Jews and Christians and what not. My mother was incredibly conservative. If I asked anything about the body (which I did once) she would not want to talk about such things as it was sinful. She was not emotionally available as she was all wrapped up in him (who also smoked pot, sold pot, had a rifle or two, lots of women after him as well as men) and I was emotionally on my own. I was in general a kind and obedient child, but I was a curious one who wanted to understand reasoning behind statements. Me asking questions was considered disrespectful, or sinful if I had questions about God, and not often, but every once in a while she would slap me, pull my hair, lighly kick me, bite my finger when I tried holding my hair so that it wouldn’t hurt when she pulled it or chase me with a hanger. Sounds insane. Anyhow. Anything that had anything to do with sex was never discussed or anything else that had anything to do with the body. I never leaned on her for emotional support and I can’t remember ever talking to her while growing up about my thoughts and feelings. I would often sit in the storageroom outside the apt for hours and make dollhouses out of cardboard or spend hours outside with my friends. My mother ended up divorcing my stepfather. They would physically fight – both of them – and apparently her eyes opened up one day. I was about to turn 16 by the time they split up. And at 16 I had my first boyfriend and mom found out about it. She forbade me to ever have sex again. Or, at least wait until I was legal (18). So I had sex again (I was in love) the night before I turned 18 (and felt guilty that I did not wait until the next day when I actually turned 18). So. I have always gone back and forth to church. I have always said I believed in God. But I have always lived life on my terms. Even now (it’s one year ago since I last had sex with my ex (or anyone for that matter) – but only a couple of months ago since I told him we could no longer stay in touch) I crave intimacy. And so I check out porn a couple of times a month. Hardcore. Where women experience some pain (not really into S&M) by insensitive men. And all the while, I try to get closer to God. I went to Bible School a year ago and I go to church regularly. I struggle with reading my Bible, but I do read it every now and again. But I become fearful when I read that I am not saved if I watch porn. I’m one of those slow converts and I only pray that I will live to see the day when I am fully Jesus’ daughter. When I live with the Spirit. But it’s a struggle. As for my mother, I am closer to her today, not because she’s owned up to everything, but because she has Alzheimers which has brought love back between us. My dad died 5 years ago. Gees. It all sounds like we are trash, but somehow I’ve at least pulled through when it comes to education and work, my older brother is a successful businessman and my younger brother is a successful politician as well as he is in management. It is only one of my brothers who have suffered from psychosis a few times and how has to live on medications as he suffers from schizophrenia. So there. This is one reason why one woman looks at hardcore porn. A messed up emotional life can do that to you and no one would know looking at me. The only thing that is different with me is that I have no family of my own – which is my deepest regret. Oh, and counselling? Went a couple of times, but never told them my story.

    • Marta September 18, 2012 at 12:13 am #

      Dear “Shame,”

      Please insert your name here because I hate the thought of adding one more once of shame to your precious soul. Thank you for sharing your story here so vulnerably. I just want to respond to you and your story to say that you are not alone. God has not distanced himself from you or abandoned you because your struggle with pornography.

      One of my favorite quotes is from an author named Brennan Manning (who you just might LOVE too). He says, “God loves you just as you are, not as you should be.” He often goes on to say, “‘Cause none of us is as we should be.” We are all broken and messed up.

      You have been through a lot of pain in your life. I’m so sorry that your experience with a counselor was not helpful. Have you considered looking for a Spiritual Director? Like counselors, some are much more skilled/mature than others. I’ve experienced great help from a couple of Spiritual Director types, as well as a couple of good Christian therapists. I wouldn’t give up on this option.

      I would also say, if I may, to not give up on the Church. None is perfect, that’s for sure. But I believe there is one out there that is right for you. Also, two books that I’ve found helpful in my midlife season are Falling Upward (Richard Rohr) and When the Heart Waits (Sue Monk Kidd).

      Lord, please comfort this sister. Give her hope. Hope that can only come from you. Help her to experience your love for her. Help her to embrace your forgiveness. Lead her to a community of Jesus-followers where she can find help, love, healing and wholeness. And please help her to find an excellent spiritual director and/or counselor. Amen.

    • chris April 9, 2013 at 2:50 am #

      So sorry to hear about your experiences. So many things I would have liked to respond to but I will restrict myself to one only:
      This fundamental gospel truth has sustained me over many years, and still does:
      Christ died for the ungodly, the imperfect, the flawed, for sinners basically, coz the “perfect” ones among us don’t need a Savior.
      I wish you peace and pray that you’ll find a Godly party soon, one who will love you like you didn’t think was possible.
      Thanks for sharing your story. In a strange way, you have made me less judgmental, more appreciative of the complexities of life and more gracious to. strangers (people whose stories I don’t know. Much love.

  27. Erica July 31, 2012 at 11:42 am #

    Hi Jenny, I was reading another blog and she had an article about this book as well… WOW. Did she hit home for me. Never is abuse OK. She had a link to your blog and once again reinforcement staring me down. Keep up the good fight. Articles like this make a difference.

  28. lee August 19, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    newsflash………you will be shocked to learn that the women read this book actually know that it is FICTION

    • Tim August 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

      lee, no one here is mistaken on that, of course. The real point though is to explore why women choose to read this type of fiction. Jen has explored the issue quite well, as have many of the commenters.

      • lee November 14, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

        try entertainment. pretty much the same reason i enjoy tom clancy novels

        • Tim November 15, 2012 at 12:08 pm #

          And then the question becomes why they find this entertaining. At some point a novel’s subject matter can become so abhorrent that finding it entertaining is symptomatic of a real problem.
          Same thing for movies, which provide a good example. Some people are entertained by snuff films. I’d say those people have real problems.


  29. D September 1, 2012 at 10:04 pm #

    I think it is absolutely unbelievable the assumptions you have made. Women who read this aren’t being overly erotic or out of control. They are being more sensitive and sensual lovers to their husband’s needs. I’ve heard countless stories of women being more intimate with their husband’s because of reading this book.
    I also am trying to make sense of your comparison to beauty and the beast….specifically that you are encouraging women not to give their hearts because of few and far between ” beasts ” in the world.

    • Tim September 1, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      That leads to another question then, D. Do the “needs” of those husbands glorify God? In what way? Not all mutually agreed upon sexual relationships are to God’s glory.


      • akash January 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm #

        except where in the bible are those definitions of what is too God’s glory

        In the christian world it seems that things of God’s glory in relation to sex is as the woman demands- a husband if he ever seeks something else is a sinner?

        just wondering where the lines are drown
        btw- the bible never allows men to dominate women so this is obviously wrong but where are the lines drawn?

  30. Andromeda December 26, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    This article hit home to me. I do not read BDSM but fantasize about being abused and my imagination runs so wild it is very real to me. Can I be healed?

    • TL January 30, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      Andromeda, yes you can be healed. Seek deliverance prayers. Rebuke the thoughts and ask God to fulfill your heart needs. I’ve seen many women healed of similar but different types of bondages of thought.

      Take heart. Acknowledging the need is one of the first steps. Desiring to stop it is another step. Add to that an aggressive attack on the thoughts when they come. And then some serious prayer warriors praying against it and praying down the Holy Spirit to infill your thoughts, dreams, etc. And you’ll be a new woman. :)

      • dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 4:09 pm #

        the bible is what teaches women to be that way says it right in it to be subservient

  31. TL January 30, 2013 at 10:51 am #

    I suspect that one of the many possible reasons a woman will submit to this stuff is the attention. All this control involves a lot of attention. Such a man is very involved (thought in a sick way) with the woman’s life issues.

  32. Observer February 7, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    Dear Jenny,

    I’ve read some of your articles and have been very impressed which is why I kept reading this article. I have low tolerance to people who write terrible things about a book based on the opinions of others (should one tell a terrible story about a friend based on other’s gossip?), but you have not proven to do that so I was interested.

    I try not to expect others to behave according to my experience or walk with God, but rather how the world reacts without God in their lives. Therefore, I’m not horrified that this book exists. I love reading and didn’t understand what the fuss was about so I read these books. I was extremely disappointed in the writing and research. The whole book was about 2 very dysfunctional people and the author seemed to be love to shock people with graphic details rather than research and discuss the abuse and how to conquer the past. The 21 yr old never sign anything or let the man do anything that she doesn’t want. I felt let down that the author seemed to just want to sell poorly written books rather than show redemption from the pain (and it does somewhat show the pain of abuse).

    So, after reading the books, I guess I feel that instead of condemning the world we should be looking toward a solution on how to help abuse and not glorifying and hiding the worst aspects of the book?

  33. Irina February 8, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    It came up in conversation between me and my 19-year-old daughter.
    Me: “Have you read it?”
    Daughter: “Well, the first twenty pages of so, I don’t have any patience with writing that’s so bad.”
    Me: “Could you imagine actually doing any of those things?”
    Daughter: “Yuck no.” (with a “what do you take me for?” look on her face) And went off to read Pride and Prejudice.

  34. Yogamama February 9, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    I include BSDM with pornography, drugs, alcohol and other destructive & addictive behaviors. “Wanting” it is not the same as it being ok.

    Indulging in these behaviors is denying our God-given freedom of choice and will almost always end with us unhappy and trapped, even if we “choose” it.

    • Amy March 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

      That is not true at all! This is a terrible example of a BDSM relationship. If both partners enter the relationship with a clear head, a BDSM relationship is loving, intimate and provides a deeper trust than regular relationships. It is not destructive by any means. And it does not deny your freedom to choose. People who ‘choose’ to submit or choose to dominate can revoke that choice at ANY TIME. Do some research please before you condemn BDSM.

      • Retha September 20, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

        I have done research and asked BDSM people questions much too penetrating and personal for this blog.

        In short, it is easy to insist in a blog post that it is “loving” and ” does not deny your freedom to choose”. But in practice, a BDSM bottom’s “I can say no any time” is no different from an alcoholic insisting the same.

        The evidence is that every BDSM bottom whose blog I ever read does tell of enduring unpleasant things – feeling negative things during scenes and still not saying no. The simplest example is that many say yes to punishment beatings, and admit a punishment is something they do not like.

        It seems they secretly feel this punishment is deserved. But when you think you deserve the mistreatment a partner gives, you are indeed in a mindset that would not allow you to say no to the mistreatment. If you believe something about yourself – like “I deserve to be punished – that makes you stay in a situation you don’t enjoy, you cannot freely (withhold) consent.

    • Retha September 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm #

      Yogamama – from my conversations with BDSM people, that is exactly what I concluded.

    • dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

      drugs and alcohol do not involve violence and are not always bad like violence is and the bible is a drug that makes people stupid, blind and unable to think god has more to do with why women like abuse than how to fix it

  35. Amy February 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    I just wanted to partially answer one question, and to pose another one. When I was 13 or 14, I started fantasizing about sex. Of course, I knew absolutely nothing at the time, but I was aroused anyway by my very naive thoughts. Almost every single fantasy included rape, and I’ll tell you why: because I wanted my fantasies to seem real, like they could actually happen. I had determined to never have sex outside of marriage, and I believed myself to be a very “good” girl. So, in order to have sexual fantasies at all, I had to imagine scenarios in which I was being forced into sexual acts. I found I could do so with less guilt than I could just imagine myself being promiscuous. Now, I believe it is good to encourage our children to keep themselves pure for marriage. I’m not trying to blame my sinful behavior on sexual repression or anything like that. I just wanted to partially answer the question as to why a woman might choose to have those types of fantasies. That being said, here is my question: What can we do about this issue in our own teens and other Christians who struggle? The only thing I can think of, and this is a strategy I still use myself, is too wear myself out during the day, and keep my body and mind occupied until I’m too tired to stay awake any longer. Then I hit the sheets and fall right to sleep; my mind doesn’t have time to wander. But are there any other things we can do to help people who don’t want to live like this? I also think honesty is a step in the right direction, but no one wants to talk about this, especially if they struggle sexually themselves – ESPECIALLY if they are well-respected Christians. But shouldn’t we be the ones trying to help? We have some of the reasons “why” and if we are successfully combating our own desires, perhaps we can also help provide answers.

  36. Destinee February 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm #

    I’ve not read through all the replies, so forgive me if this is a repeat. I’m 24, and almost every woman I know has read it. However, I haven’t. From what I’ve understood from the book, women are looking for that strong man. We have a culture that is so pushy on women independence from men, and yet in the Christian community we are shocked when we learn that this type of book is a hit! God made a woman as a help mate, a compliment to man. NOT a “I’m gonna concur the world in my apple jeans and fur boots, and have some hot passive man be my side kick.” That isn’t how it works. We were not designed that way. There is a longing in a woman, deny or not, for a strong leader of a man that is going to love and take care of her. However, the book took it to extremes and I’m not advocating abuse by any means. I feel the church should respond by getting back to the basics of discussing parents raising young boys and young men to become strong men of God, who know how to love and honor their wives, and be Godly fathers. Chivalry is not dead, unless we allow it to disappear from our culture and faith. I hope I gave my view point clearly, forgive me if I did not, as I am not the best writer :)

  37. Christiana February 22, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    My first time here, Jenny. Excellent and thought-provoking post. Thank you. I appreciate the depth here on this subject.

  38. Amy March 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    I’d just like to point out that 50 shades is a HORRIBLE example of a BDSM relationship. Some women, yes, do fantasize about abuse. But you also shouldn’t lump in ‘abuse’ with ALL BDSM. BDSM is about trust and intimacy. And feel free to condemn 50 shades for the horrible erotica and horrible excuse of a BDSM relationship that it is- because IT IS. It’s a very unhealthy relationship. But don’t condemn BDSM just because you don’t understand it.

    I myself recently became part of the BDSM community, and while there are fetishes out there that I don’t understand or agree with, they do it for SOMEONE and that’s not my place to judge. BDSM can bring such a deeper connection between partners than a vanilla relationship can, because you’re trusting them so intimately.

    So while I agree with your comments about 50 Shades, please do more research about BDSM before condemning it.

    I understand that Christians as a whole condemn BDSM right off the bat because it’s about accepting your desires and even embracing them. But honestly BDSM is in the Bible.

    Women, or men, shouldn’t be ashamed of being into certain things. If you look at it from the outside OF COURSE you’re going to be horrified. You dont’ understand what’s actually going on. I was horrified too when I looked at it for the first time. BDSM isn’t about hurting someone or abusing someone – not when it’s done properly. It’s about trusting someone enough to take you to places you’ve been too afraid to go. And there is NOTHING shameful in exploring your sexuality. I know many married couples who practice BDSM in their own homes. Are you going to condemn them for that?

    Sure, everything has those few who take it to the extreme, but don’t throw the rest of them in with that lot.

    • Retha September 20, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

      I notice that you “recently” became part of the BDSM community. You realize, of course, that people often tell less than the truth at first? That it takes time to find out the whole truth about how getting insulted and beaten and treated like an object/ insulting and beating and treating like an object … will affect you?

      I got to tell you, from reading up extensively on the topic: Where BDSM people are not defending BDSM, some will admit the majority of participants suffer from Narcissistic personality disorder or Borderline personality disorder. Women will admit it is their bad self image that makes them feel right about being insulted and beaten.

      But really, blog commenters who defend BDSM always, if you get them to talk enough, contradict themselves and the realities found on their blogs. And the reality is that bottom partners eventually feel they deserve mistreatment, that the degradation is their “rightful place”, even mistreatment they will admit to not liking it.

  39. Mark March 20, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    What is so wrong about Bella and Edward?

    • dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm #

      hes a pedophile

  40. C. Grey March 21, 2013 at 11:15 pm #

    I am amazed that you all feel the need to judge the sexuality of other people. It all sounds self-righteous and superior “more-well-balanced-than-thou.”

    BDSM can be abusive but so can regular, vanilla missionary position sex. It all depends on how it is approached.

    Women like the 50 shades because they are tired of the overly domesticated, quiet compliant Mama’s boys that most men have become. Some women want or need a man they can turn to and lean on. They need a man to be strong, even with them, Your attempt to connect this kind of sexuality with abuse, dysfuction, and pathology is just plain wrong,

    I find the typical conservative Christians assumptions to the more of a problem. Judging what you do not know, because it is different from you, as well as your voyeurism about other’s sexuality in general, strikes me as a lot more dysfuctional than 50 shades.

    It’s not for everyone, but if someone likes it, what business is it of yours to comment and impose your judgements on them?

    • Retha September 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

      Associating hitting with abuse is wrong?

    • dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 4:14 pm #

      thats feminism they asked for equality and they get it

  41. Erica June 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    I think you are at risk of getting every woman labeled and condemned in Christian circles that finds things appealing to her sexually that you find unacceptable. As long as I can remember, I’ve fantasized about being spanked/whipped/whatever. I would NEVER want to be spanked/whipped by some stranger, and I don’t want my husband to ruthlessly dominate me nor harm me. But I have literally BEGGED him to spank me – not because I feel like some little child needing to be controlled, nor because I want to “give up control” but because this turns me on. It’s part of many, many women’s sexual desires, as 50-shades-of-gray has demonstrated, to find this sort of thing enticing. The last thing I want is for people in my church to start talking about this as if it it is something I need to start “dealing with” as some sort of sin in my life…it’s not. It’s something I enjoy – something that may be impossible for you to understand if you don’t get turned on by this sort of thing, as much as it may be impossible for me to understand why some person has some sort of shoe fetish or something. But please don’t turn this into a moral issue – it’s not. For thousands, and thousands of years, human sexuality took place in the context in many places of men dominating women. I agree that in practicality, this is not a good thing for humanity…but the primitive part of our brain that is activated in sexual situations might still enjoy going there. I know mine does.
    And if you were in my church, I would never tell you, because I would sense ahead of time that you would look down your nose at me for it.

  42. Luella July 4, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

    no comments, just extra information on the author of “Fifty Shades of Grey”:

    Author E.L. James, of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ reports that Deborah Harkness ‘Shadow of Night’ is her favorite author. The book is about ‘Discovery of Witches’

    Secondly, author E.L. James charmed a room of 400 women when she confessed

    “I had to do a bit of research for these books,” she told the crowd at Carlyle on the Green at Bethpage State Park Monday afternoon. “My computer, if it ever gets confiscated by social services, my children will be taken away from me,” she joked. James is married with two sons, ages 15 and 17, and lives in London.

  43. anonomous July 4, 2013 at 7:28 pm #

    Off and on over the years since as young as I can remember I have been fascinated by the idea of being tied up and or forced to do something including being spanked, hung by my wrists and or whipped. Forced to wear skimpy clothes in public, forced to be a servant or slave but never though to be raped or even cajoled into sex. Weirdly specific.

    It is like these thoughts or dreams or fantasies come in waves. It seems like they die away and then resurface and consume me. Not to a degree that they incapacitate me but given a fee moment or when I relax and lie down or sit back. Spare time to dream maybe then along they come. They may occur many times for a few years and then they will leave me for a time. Even a few years in a row. Maybe I supress them. I don’t know.

    Having reached 40, maybe having a bit of a mid life crisis, I have tried to be more specific. More direct. In talking with my husband about this. I am embarrassed to say the least. fearful too. On the one hand I want to experience my fantasy and on the other I know it is painful.

    Yet here I am once again thinking about this. Wanting him and in reality only him to tie me down and whip me mercilessly. I want to be able to scream out and have him ignore me and keep doing it. Or hang me by my wrists and not take me down when I beg or even gag me. I also want him to enjoy it. To get off on it.

    I do this even though he has at my request in the past tied me and whipped me a bit and it has been excruciatingly painful and from the first stroke been regretting it and weighing up how much I can take before I beg him to stop and he does. But now the fantasy has him ignoring my pleas. The pain I know will be unbearable and while it is happening I will hate it. Be consumed. Be screaming. Be begging. And when it is over I will be so so relieved. Then I will go for a time thinking how stupid I was and vowing never to do it again and then I guess I will start to dream again…..

  44. Nat December 2, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I was hoping to find more comments on here from women who do fantasise about being punished as there wasnt any or many so I will share my thoughts as a woman who craves it. I do believe that 50 shades of grey has possibly set women back but in the book it is all consensual and respectful. But yes I do crave to be punished and humiliated and dominated. I have a high self esteem and need to be respected and cared about by who does the punishing. I dont know if it has anything to do with being abused as a child or not. and i am not an advocate for domestic violence it has to be enjoyed by both parties. theres something about fully giving someone that power and trust to do with you as they please and the element of danger. there is also the element of pleasing my master and having my hard work at serving him being acknowledged. for some reason i like the pain and being controlled and “forced” as long as boundaries are respected. what i want to know is why do I desire this?? I am normally quite controlling in relationships so the need for a shift of power perplexes me. i dont feel ashamed the next day its something i like and am not afraid to admit it. i dont believe in taboos or social restrictions i think if things were more openly discussed and people werent made to feel ashamed for feeling the way they do there would be less rapes and suicides. theres nothing wrong with it if it is not being used as a person to degrade themselves because they feel they deserve to be treated badly. society got twisted a long time ago. the romans were very sexually messed up! and stories like the little mermaid and red riding hood, snow white all come from the tales of the grimm brothers in the early 1800’s these were childrens books back then and they were not the sweet tales with happy endings we know today. they contained tales of incest, rape, torture and murder. and these were your great great reat grandparents childhood stories. Ted Bundy the infamous american serial killer said in an interview that stumbling onto graffic pornography as a child awakened a demon in him even though he had wonderful parents. watch your children people, and dont trust anyone!!! sad but true. i know atleast 20 people who were abused as children including my own mother. and a male friend who was abused by his catholic school’s priest and no one believed him. if you think something is wrong say something!! it damages people for life! if you see signs act upon it! it distorts the mind sexually and is probably the reason i like the idea of being abused.

    • dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 4:19 pm #

      its women like you that make me despise feminism so much

  45. Evie August 9, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    ” Studies show that for men, sexual desire and physical arousal are linked. This is NOT necessarily the case for women! (See diagram above.) Women tend to become physically aroused when they sense any possibility of sexual aggression in their environment. This lowers their chance of injury if they are raped. It’s not dissimilar to the rush of adrenaline people get when riding rollercoasters or watching horror flicks.”

    Women need to hear this, seriously. They need to know that this response is normal and doesn’t mean that they are a submissive or a masochist or something of that nature. Simply knowing that, and therefore knowing the fantasy doesn’t imply they’d like the reality, would go a long way to keeping them safe.

  46. yes August 30, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    You are off on this one because of your presumptions. I don’t advocate the book or the act. But this goes back far b4 any book or disney. Its not a man problem but a women problem. Study’s show that its beyond media programming, in fact my first encounter of this knowledge was in scripture talking about women who (some) liked men who would have sex like animals. Don’t ask society, ask women what the problem is. Look at feminist artist?

  47. sexe hard February 18, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Euɦhh êtesvoսѕ sûr de ce que vous nous écrivez ??

  48. charles abbott of provo March 3, 2015 at 3:33 am #

    What i do not realize is in reality how you’re no longer really much more neatly-appreciated than you may
    be now. You’re so intelligent. You recognize therefore significantly in relation to this topic, made me in my opinion imagine it
    from so many varied angles. Its like men and women aren’t interested until it’s something to
    accomplish with Woman gaga! Your own stuffs great.
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  49. Phil March 9, 2015 at 7:26 am #

    There is definately a great deal to know about this subject.

    I love all of the points you have made.

  50. John Rigler April 13, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    I haven’t read this book for a number of reasons, but here is the first: men don’t read romance novels or stuff like this. Last night my wife asked if I really wanted to watch “Outlander” with her (because apparently I am growing impatient with it). Pondering that show caused me to google to this blog. “Outlander” to me seems to be very much about rough sex, male power, and the scars on the heroes back from the public lashes that the bad guy inflicted on him. I am sure the lashing will happen again, probably with the heroine watching helplessly from a crowd and apparently getting sexually stimulated in the process. In real life, there are very few Christian Greys. What we do have is quite a few men who don Freddie Mercury mustaches, leather, dumb bravado, and floggers in order to fill this fantasy role for women. They don’t do all of this because they think it is cool, they do it because it excites all of the bored church-going housewives. It seems like these woman are in control in real life (topping from the bottom in BDSM-speak) , and it is the men who are playing the role of dutiful servant.

  51. dr.blais May 5, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    and how it mixed with feminism has cause girls to become more violent in general up 25% from a generation ago

  52. Patrick OToole June 15, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi Jenny Rae

    Thank you for this excellent post. I’m a Christian and a writer (and male) and as I study different popular books I couldn’t understand why women were drawn to stories in which women are abused. After reading this post and the other posts it links to, I now understand.

    The bit about Christian romance novels (“Lord, please kill my husband.”) was an eye opener.

    I think the activity/arousal/guilt/shame cycle creates a very strong feedback loop much the same way hard-core porn does for men. In both cases, it’s a corruption of the ideal.

    Thanks again for this excellent, informative and insightful post.

    All the best.

  53. good man gone bad February 10, 2016 at 9:50 am #

    Women don’t really want to be abused ? really so why do so many of those men get women ? I women want to be abused its beyond important to say so, and stop lying about wanting a nice man, its ruining good mens lives, like mine, I was told by my mother always be nice, I never got a woman ever, im 36 now and its too late, the thing I hate most apart from being lied to is that she herself went or an abusive alpha male, then lied to me ! can anyone say why ? she would put her own emotional little nice guy fantasy above my life ? its utterly devastated my life, now I cant have a woman because I see them all as liers, I cant keep my temper when women say they want someone nice, because a lot of men will believe them thining why would they lie ? Also for you women its bad because when you lie good men believe it so in effet your putting every good man out the chance to have a woman so you wil never get good men either because they thin you want nice, when you need to be abused ! The most utterly deVEstating thing is that the liers (the women) still get all the men they want , they still get everything they need, the evil men get everything they need, and good men will die aonle or have a horrible life living with resentment about being lied to ! WELL DONE WOMEN

  54. Steve Nelstrick February 19, 2017 at 11:10 am #

    Hello everybody. I’m a young male agnostic theist (for what it matters). And here are some points that bother me. It has been discussed that this is bad literature, and that implying that BDSM is something women want is scandaleous. Well, think of it the other way round. Porn movies don’t have the best script aswell, so if we agree that both are porn, both are at least as bad as the other. Now, BDSM is a sexual activity, not porn. Porn shows/writes about it, but BDSM is not porn. Besides, for having read the books out of curiosity and seen the first two movies, let me assure you that none of them can be considered as hard porn. Mostly soft porn (Googlethe difference if you don’t know). And about the BDSM ? It’s not even close to what real BDSM is (except maybe for the accesories) when performed down the street. It is about a woman (a stupid one) which discovers her sexuality with a man that has much more experience and has à very special sexual taste. Is it sick ? Sure ! Should you forbid it to your post-pubescent daughter ? Maybe not, and here is why. This book can help women to achieve a healthy sexlife. Because it speaks about questions like “what do i accept during sex?”, “what drives me crazy in bed?”, “what does he like ?”, “how far am i willing to go?”, “do both of us know what we want and what we refuse?”.
    This book can do that. It can strenghten womens sexual self-awareness. But not automatically. Men can use it against women, surely. But women can do the same, with enough imagination.
    Yeah but the master-slave thing, you ask ?
    Here’s my point. In both the book and the movie, Christian always ask Anastasia if she wants to do it before they begin. When they have vanilla sex, he asks her if she really wants it. She nods, they go wild. At the end of the second movie, it is Anastasia who insists to be “punished” because she wants to understand him. And here again, he tells her how many times she’s gonna be hit, and ask her if she really wants to do it. She says yes, he hits her. The most important thing about BDSM is respect. Nobody gets forcefully in an unwanted situation. But why the pain, you may ask… You know how much colder the winter breeze feels in your lungs after you just brushed your teeth ? BDSM is similar. The pain is used as a catalisator of pleasure. If you hit somebody on the army, then caress it with a feather, the caress, albeit much weaker than the hits, will feel much more soothing. I’m not saying this is good, neither encouraging anyone to try it, but atleast now you know it.
    But back to my first point. I believe the aim is for women to be self-aware of their sexuality, to know what they like and what not, and not having to feel ashamed at any moment about how kinky, rough, soft, how often or whatsoever. By wanting to forbid our daughter, friends, wives, girlfriends to read it, it is we that are shaming them. We are shaming their sexual curiosity. We are telling them what is right and bad, instead of letting them decide for themselves.
    This book is lame, badly written and the story is sickening. This is my opinion, and i say it because I read it. But i know that this must not be true for everybody. I would even encourage anyone to find out for herself what this book is about, and find for herself wether it’s good or bad. I want that all women can fully live their sexuality the way they want. Because this is freedom, but more because this is how to have a happy women in your life by your side. And no God will ever tell me how how to be happy, and none shall tell how to have sex, if not by telling you to enjoy it the way it makes you (and your partner) happy.

  55. Jack Faire April 13, 2017 at 5:14 am #

    Male sexuality is just as complicated as Female sexuality. The thing is us men are told “You aren’t complex your dick gets hard you fuck that’s all there is to sexuality for you” even when we know better.

    I know my dick doesn’t get hard when I see a naked woman even if I want to have sex with her. I know it does when she’s touching me. I know that my back is my biggest erogenous zone.

    I share these things to illustrate that the fantasies erotica and “bodice rippers” are not have not and will never be just for women. The complaint of lacking story is heard from everyone that attempts to enjoy porn. Look at the most succesful porn sites online today and each one has a theme attempting to capture some fetish or other and create a story around it to appeal to the situation instead of just the look.

    Sexuality as a whole is a complex issue for everyone and should be acknowledged as such.

  56. Rachel September 10, 2017 at 11:36 pm #

    I believe there are many exceedingly healthy BDSM relationships and categorizing this lifestyle as abusive is extremely narrow minded. There is abuse in the church. There are also extremely healthy christian relationships. Do not judge a community on a poorly written book you did not even read that many in the BDSM community are against because it does not portray consent in a valid light, and consent is sacred in the BDSM world. Yes there are abusers. Did you forget there are abusers hidden everywhere?

    Have you stopped to consider that the bible encourages christians to be a “slave to christ”? What is that relationship? What is the deeper meaning behind it?

    How powerful that consenting adults in a christian marriage can explore the same dynamic. One can submit to another with all of their being just as the church is to submit and obey and give it’s self entirely to christ. You can follow christian values and engage in wholesome BDSM and it can be utterly beautiful and a reflection of the relationship one can have with Jesus if they surrender their whole selves to his will.

    BDSM is not about shame and abuse. It is about freedom, sensation, being vulnerable with someone you trust, surrendering your whole self or someone taking on full and complete responsibility for another’s mental, physical and spiritual well-being…and so much more…

    It is a reflection on your intelligence you write so glibly about something you clearly have not really researched and do not understand. I have a religious background and am heavily into the lifestyle. I am not broken. I am not abused. I am happy and healthy and whole. Judgmental people like you are why I will never come back to the church.

  57. Nikki September 23, 2017 at 5:12 pm #

    Why? Thousands, if not millions of years of complicated biological evolution. They’re hard-wired for it. Just as men are hard-wired towards sexual aggression. If woman have discovered a way to enjoy themselves, I don’t see much of an issue beyond the need for broadening the scope of sex-ed. I feel like most women (and men) understand this is role-playing game and are capable of grasping it’s boundaries and ground rules.

    In fact, studies have shown a correlation between increased subjugation and degradation of women in pornography, and a decrease of actual abuse and rape case in western society. So it seems that if women subjugate themselves to a little bit of slapping around and choking in the bedroom, they decrease their odds of running into an unhinged predator looking to do them serious harm. To paraphrase one feminist author I read – it’s going to happen one way or another, better that it be with a man you can trust.

    It turns out when practiced in a safe and consensual environment, both parties can enjoy themselves in their own right. If the 50 Shades phenomenon is in fact helping women to face less unwanted harm and abuse, and instead, actually enjoy themselves a little more in the bedroom I have to say I’m all for that. So far, I’ve not seen any evidence that it’s actually causing harm to women.


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