As people ask me whether they should see 50 Shades of Grey, here’s why I’m telling them, “no.”
1) It doesn’t represent God’s design for sex. The movie features sex between an unmarried couple that involves intentional infliction of pain and bondage. Neither of these is what God intended when He gave us this gift.
There are many reasons God designed sex for marriage only. The level of intimacy is one reason. When you read Old Testament accounts of sex you’re told the people “know” one another. And marriage is described as a “one flesh” relationship (Genesis 2:24). The sexual union is the most intimate way a couple can “know” one another. And, though “one flesh” means more than sex, when the two are joined physically their bodies form together as one. We serve a God who is a trinity, three persons in one God. Though that relationship is not a sexual one, God gave us sex and marriage as a way to give us a glimpse into who He is. That’s one of the reasons why God regularly refers to His people as committing adultery when they start worshiping other gods. God offers people the opportunity to join together in a beautiful bond and He intends that bond to only happen in marriage.
Now, the pain part. I give married couples great latitude in their sexual relationships. I think exploration is one of the joys of marriage. But I can’t see how intentionally inflicting pain is part of God’s design. Read Song of Solomon. Read Proverbs 5:15-19. It seems God designed sex to be a mutually pleasurable experience. How does beating someone show them you love them?
2) It degrades women. In their book Pulling back the Shades, Dr. Julie Slattery and Dannah Gresh show how sexual longing is a totally legitimate, God-given part of a woman’s soul. But the things in this movie aren’t legitimate expressions of them. In the movie and the book, the lead character (Christian Grey) has a woman sign a contract that allows him to essentially do anything he wants to her (e.g., bondage, whippings, canings) and she agrees not to complain. I know some say this is somehow empowering to women, but I can’t see it. Sex should be about mutual service and satisfaction, not one partner submitting to the cruel fantasies of the other. Women have been seen as sex objects by men for hundreds of years. Why should we see a movie that perpetuates this?
We could also say it degrades men too. A man of God isn’t one who simply looks at a woman as a sex object. Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look lustfully at a woman (Job 31:1). The Bible describes the husband’s role in marriage as one of service to his wife (Ephesians 5:25-27). God didn’t create women solely for the pleasure of their husbands. Men need to live like they believe that.
3) It normalizes pornography. The rise of the internet has been so awesome! But it has also been destructive. Pornography is now accessible in an instant on your smartphone from wherever you are. But until recently, porn was still frowned upon in society. This movie seems to cap something that has been going on for several years: the mainstreaming of pornography (Game of Thrones, anyone?). When I look at the lineup at my local theater I see American Sniper, The Spongebob Movie, and 50 Shades of Grey. That sends a signal that porn is normal and just another entertainment option.
Also, pornography use among women is rising at a shocking rate. In his book Wired for Intimacy, William Struthers shows how pornography actually makes changes in the brain that are destructive. And we can’t forget, pornography is ultimately an empty substitute for the real thing. We need less porn, not more.
4) It isn’t pure. Philippians 4:8 gives us a wonderful and simple paradigm to look through when we’re weighing whether to watch, read, listen to, talk about, or even think about something. “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable – if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise – dwell on these things.” If not, then stay away!
5) It’s a chance to share Jesus. Many of your friends are going to see the movie because they loved the book. They’ll ask you to go with. When you say no with a gracious spirit that lacks condemnation, you’ll get an opportunity to tell them why you don’t want to see it. You can share Jesus with them and show them how your relationship with Him not only means you don’t want to see the movie, but also leads you to a greater satisfaction than any movie could ever give.