“Fifty Shades” phenomenon: Women starved for strong men
In a culture that constantly celebrates women’s independence and freedom, it is strange that a movie about bondage—Fifty Shades of Grey, based on the fastest selling paperback of all time by the same title— is so eagerly anticipated.
All of a sudden, words like “submission,” “master” and “obedience” are not only acceptable, but erotic. In a conversation on The View about Fifty Shades of Grey, Barbara Walters suggested that “when you go home, you want the guy to be in charge.” After reading the series, Walters also stated, “It raises the question about whether or not women like to be submissive . . . that’s the theme of the book.”
And it will be the theme of the movie.
A dangerous form of submission
Research indicates that women involved in bondage, dominance, sadism, and masochism (BDSM), which are glorified in the book and will likely be in the movie, are more prone to act as the submissive than the dominant. One survey found that 89 percent of females active in the BDSM lifestyle preferred playing the submissive. This often places women in positions of extreme humiliation.
You would think today’s Christian woman would not find appeal in such abuse. But Barna research found no statistical difference in the percentage of Christian women versus non-Christian women who read the book. A major Christian publisher discovered that it was the top read among its buyers in 2012.
The current normalization of erotica is going to do to Christian women what the advent of internet porn did to men—increasing the temptation to explore very dark and harmful sexual sin. But the Church is acting like it’s not happening. As my co-author, psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery, and I point out in our recent release, Pulling Back the Shades, it is happening to Christian women near you.
This seems to have come out of left field. But has it, really?
Yearning for strong men
While I’m extremely thankful that I have the ability in our culture to vote, own property, and make more money than my husband, the feminist movement has also taken something from me and other women in the Church. The mantra that “you don’t need a man” has created a culture of strong women and weak men. Now we secretly yearn for the very thing our independence has destroyed—strong, confident men.
Solving the “weak man” problem with bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism is about as illogical as curing obesity by promoting anorexia. Both are dangerous distortions of appetite. The problem must be solved by providing the right nourishment to feed the starved souls of women.
It is Scripture that should be informing the Christian conversation on submission and strength; not the leading voices of third wave feminism and not erotica that celebrates transgressive sexual lifestyles. While it has to be noted that some legalistic sects of Christianity do control women, and that is not biblical, a true Bible-based approach leads us to thoughtful and balanced instruction on strength and submission.
Women aren’t second-class
I am one of many Christian women who prefer strong men and find my preferred form of submission in the Bible. The Hebrew language, which is the original language of the Old Testament, referred to the first woman as ezer kenedgo. The word ezer means “helper” and the word kenedgo means “to accompany.”
We believe that God created the first woman with the intention that she would accompany man in order to help him. But the power in submission isn’t found until you look more carefully at how these words are used throughout the whole of Scripture. Only two references in the Bible point to a woman’s being an ezer, a helper. All the rest describe Someone else in that role: God himself (Ps. 33:20; 146:5). God is called our ezer multiple times in the Old Testament.
Being a helper is no second-class position. What a privilege we have as females to reflect the concerned helping quality of God our Maker. He certainly does not walk subserviently behind us, but comes tenderly alongside us in a position of strength. That’s what it means to be a helpmate. This places submission in the light of incredible power and strength, not weakness.
Women who walk in the strength of submission do not fear the strength of men, nor do they have to stifle it. We revel in God’s design, and that gives us what our hearts long for in men: strength that is protective to the point of being willing to lay their lives down as Christ did for the Church.
In the absence of this kind of strength and submission, our Christian women will fall for the most horrific counterfeits. And they are. Let’s start taking our cues from the Bible so we can be led to a strength that doesn’t involve whips and chains but the hard work of preferring one another within the context of male and female relationships