We go about our business and find ourselves distracted by sex.
I'm shopping for sunscreen and an attractive guy walks and stands too close to me. Now I'm not thinking about sunscreen. It's not just men who wrestle with lust.
Whether married or single, we are sexual beings and we either recognize and nurture our sexuality or deny that we have desires. As Christian spiritual director Ruth Haley Barton admits, "Many Christians respond to their sexuality with a mixture of denial, judgment, fear and guilt."
God has other plans for our sexuality. He doesn't see sex as a flashing pop-up ad. Solomon writes unashamed instructions for his son to notice his wife, body and soul.
"Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love" (Prov. 5:18-19).
The God of Israel is bold about sex. He's also bold in explaining when sex is most exhilarating: between one man and one woman who are committed for life. Monogamy provides the space for marital passion.
So, if married sex is so hot, why are so many married men and women bored? Why do people joke that marriage is like a bath: it feels pretty hot at first but then it cools off. Why are a growing minority of spouses seeking sexual intimacy outside their marriage ("The Young and the Restless")?
Have you ever been grocery shopping when you're hungry? You end up buying everything because yes, even that double stuffed Oreo three-for-one special looks like a perfect meal.
I remember settling for more poorly written, predictable, unrealistic romances when I was sexually starving. I would watch the movie or read the book and vow, YES, I want a man just like THAT.
When you're sexually hungry, you will devour anything.
With E. L. James's Fifty Shades trilogy topping the New York Times's bestseller list, I think we can safely say women are sexually hungry. If you haven't had good sex in years you will want to do a swan dive into Fifty Shades of Grey. Thirty- to fifty-year-old women are recommending the trilogy as the jump start to mommy libido.
James explained on The Today Show, "I put all my fantasies, out there." Her fantasies include her male lead, Christian Grey, suggesting a contract of sexual bondage, dominance, discipline, female subjugation, sadism and masochism (BDSM) to the virginal Anastasia Steele.
I do have concerns, for the following reasons:
- Genesis 1:18-19 teaches that men and women are made in God's image; this means that all we do, including our love-making, should tell the world the truth about what God is like.
- Genesis 3 introduces the roots of what we've come to call the gender war where man is judged to rule over women (Gen 3:15), and we've been attempting to dominate each other ever since. This isn't the way we were created to be.
- BDSM includes humiliation and domination, practices that are at odds with the way we were created as equals and at odds with honoring our spouse's bodies as temples of God's Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:18).
- Even Hebrews 13:4—"The marriage bed is not defiled"—does not give Christians a blank check to engage in any sexual behavior as long as it's consenting adults.
Nevertheless, I have interest in and hope for the readers of this series. Like Jesus at the well, I want to point them to living water.
It would be really easy to announce that all women who love Fifty Shades of Grey are sexually aberrant, dangerous women.
But we can't avoid them, not if we follow Jesus.
A book that spreads erotica and BDSM into popular culture is an easy target. Fifty Shades is a sitting duck for Christians to blacklist and condemn, not just the book and the author, but everyone who reads between the covers.
As an apologist, I want to offer another idea. What if we saw Fifty Shades as an opportunity instead of a threat?
You don't have to read the book to enter into this opportunity and hear how women want to share their stories of sexual desire and frustration. The fields are ripe right now. Fifty Shades of Grey means we can talk about another model of sexual pleasure, one created by a God who made our sexuality.
for instance, since bringing up this book at my hair salon, I've learned that it offered one woman a chance to realize she, too, had been sexually abused. Another woman explained that she related to the sadistic Christian Grey, using and abusing others with her sexuality. Both women never wanted their girls to read the book (interesting!), but loved what it did for them. It made them aware of their brokenness, their thirst for healing.
Both wanted to know if I could recommend books to help them recover their sense of worth in God's eyes and rebuild their sexual passion with their husbands. This is my favorite type of apologetics with women.
Remember, God is not embarrassed by our sexuality, nor is he embarrassed to tell us good and harmful ways to live as sexual creatures.
Solomon knew that when he said to be exhilarated with our spouse's love. Solomon knew these God-given desires can be most satisfyingly met by our spouse, with his body and soul in our bed.
And that is worth talking about.
Jonalyn Fincher is cofounder of Soulation, where she works as a speaker, writer, and philosopher. She has written for Her.meneutics about women's sexuality and women apologists. A graduate from Talbot School of Theology and the University of Virginia, Jonalyn loves writing about women and sexuality at RubySlippers.org.