Why “Mommy Porn” Is Spiritual

by Dannah Gresh and Juli Slatterymommy p_101238286

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

When the current wave of erotica hit us, the term “mommy porn” came with it. But it’s not just moms reading porn crafted with black-and-white words. It’s their daughters, too. The youngest reader of erotica who has corresponded with us began when she was 9.

Do you believe there are forces of good and evil in the world—that humans are constantly in the cross-hairs of an epic battle that can only be described as spiritual? We do. And we think most of the world does. Just look at the popular literature of our culture—even children’s stories are filled with good guys and bad guys. Forces for good and forces for evil. The plots around Star Wars, Avatar, The Wizard of Oz, Sleeping Beauty, Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and Twilight have little else in common other than they suggest a spiritual struggle.

Through the Bible, we can discover and discern the two leading forces of good and evil in this epic battle. The Lord God Almighty is our Creator and the source of everything pure, holy, and redemptive. He is good. Satan is a powerful fallen angel who rebelled against God. He and his demons are in constant battle against God. He is evil (Isa. 14:12–15).

But where are the battle lines drawn? Is a “good witch” who uses “white magic” on the side of good or a deceptive expression of darkness? Can a vampire—a symbol of death—become a symbol of life and love if he is “good”? Could erotica become good if it awakens a dead sexual life, or is it an outlet for the single woman who is struggling to be pure? Be careful before you answer any of these questions. One of Satan’s strategies is to confuse the battle lines: “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). He is crafty, deceptive, and even attractive. He often uses your very legitimate but unmet longings to seduce you into destruction.

With this in mind, let’s consider “mommy porn.” We believe this genre of literature and Fifty Shades books specifically are very spiritual books with an aggressive spiritual agenda. Reading mommy porn is not just a little guilty pleasure. It doesn’t simply represent a love story with some kinky sex scenes. It takes you on a wild emotional and sexual ride. But unlike an exciting roller coaster, you will not be dropped off right back where you started. These books take you on a journey that has a spiritual impact and an intended spiritual destination: destruction.

Mommy porn distorts sex

The definition of erotica is “art or literature intended to arouse sexual desire.” Why is this a spiritual issue? Because sex is inherently spiritual.

God designed sex as a powerful symbol and celebration of covenant love. It is a physical and emotional expression of the deepest commitment two people can make to each other. But sex is more than that. It represents the ultimate covenant love—God’s love for His people.

The Bible constantly uses language related to marriage and sexual intimacy to express aspects of our relationship with God. The New Testament tells us we are the bride and He is the groom. Worshiping an idol is referred to as adultery and prostitution. Old Testament prophets often spoke of Israel as God’s bride and even use sexual terms to describe the intimacy He desired with His people. The Hebrew word for sexual intimacy, yada, means “to know, to be known, to be deeply respected.” It is a word that transcended the physical act to speak of a deep emotional connection. In a beautiful expression of His desire to know us, God inspired that this same word be used in the Scriptures to express a deep knowing and longing for God: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know (yada) me” (Ps. 139:1).

Because sex is a portrait of God’s sacred love, Satan will do anything he can to destroy the beauty of it. He has tried to twist, tarnish, and distort the beautiful and holy picture of sexuality in every way possible. From creating shame about sexuality in Christian women to sexual abuse and prostitution, his agenda is to separate us from ever celebrating sexuality within the context of God’s holy design. Sex has been dragged through the mud so thoroughly that most people can’t even comprehend that it is intended to be something holy. Sex trafficking, pornography, friends with benefits, sexual perversions and addictions—they all paint an animalistic and degrading picture of something that was created to be a glorious expression of human and divine love.

Reading mommy porn is falling right into this spiritual agenda.

Evil’s primary attack on sexuality is to simplify it—to separate the physical act of sex from human love and divine design. Every time sex is abused or distorted, the physical act is split off from the relational and spiritual elements of sex. If you have suffered through sexual abuse, your body may have been aroused by how you were being fondled. Yet your heart was crying out, “I don’t want this!” You were physically aroused while being spiritually and emotionally violated. In a hookup relationship, you may have felt physical pleasure and even a moment of being loved, but it was quickly replaced by shame and rejection when you each moved on to the next hookup partner.

Erotica like Fifty Shades of Grey is aimed at awakening your physical sexual desire without any connection to emotional, relational, or spiritual reality. Even if the main characters are “in love,” you are not! Whatever emotional and sexual response these novels create in you, they are disconnected from your love relationships and your longing to know and honor God.

Reading erotica, like viewing pornography, may lead to an intense sexual reaction, but the characters are one-dimensional lies. With each page of erotica or image of porn on a computer, evil is reinforcing the lie that sex is just about physical pleasure—divorced from true commitment, unselfish love, and God’s holy design. You will be left with a deep ache for something more. The truth is you were created for something more! Your sexuality was never meant to be separate from your deepest spiritual and relational longings but to be an expression of them.

Is nothing holy?

The explicit scenes in the Fifty Shades series bothered me (Juli), but what haunted me even more was the seemingly intentional agenda to drag God and His holiness into the sewer. Most people who read these books seem to be so mesmerized by the sexuality that they appear to walk right past what I perceive as an even greater danger and offense: spiritual darkness. In fact, those who haven’t read this particular series need to know that what I write ahead is definitely graphic, but I feel so strongly about this terrible offense that I have to sound an alarm.

I can’t apply this to all mommy porn because I haven’t read it all, but Fifty Shades has plenty of spiritual language, including the name of the main character: Christian. The books are filled with Christian metaphors and allusions, like this statement by Ana: “I’m Eve in the Garden of Eden, and he’s the serpent, and I cannot resist.” In Christian’s “red room of pain” is an old wooden cross. At one point, Christian and Ana have sex with her pushed against the cross.

The author of Fifty Shades has two words that she obviously really likes because of how often she uses them throughout the books. The first word is profane—the “F-word.” It is used in some form approximately 100 times in each of the three books. Surprisingly, her other favorite word is holy, which is also used approximately 100 times in each book. Whenever the word holy is used, it is paired with another word. Here are some of the combinations:

  • Holy crap
  • Holy hell
  • Holy s***
  • Holy f***
  • Holy Moses
  • Holy mother f*****

Before you think I’m splitting hairs, making a big deal out of nothing, consider that the word holy means to be set apart or consecrated unto God. The third person of the Trinity bears the name “Holy Spirit.” There are few words that are more central to the description and expression of who God is. The few times in the Bible we get a glimpse of someone actually standing in the presence of God, holiness is always central to that experience.

  • When Moses encountered God in the burning bush, he was told to remove his shoes because he is standing on “holy ground” (Exo. 3:5).
  • The place where God lived among the Israelites was called the “holy of holies.”
  • The prophet Isaiah was ushered into the heavenly temple of God. Above the Lord were seraphs (angels), each with six wings, covering their faces as they sang: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isa. 6:3).
  • John wrote the book of Revelation to record the spectacular visions of the future the Lord showed him. In Revelation 4, John records that he stood before God’s throne in heaven. Creatures surround the throne; day and night they never stop declaring: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

Holy is a word that describes the indescribable and causes us to worship One who is pure and perfect in power. That the word holy would be used casually is one thing. But to link it with the filth of sin and evil is an appalling offense to our God.

One more example of how the holy is profaned is particularly disturbing. While in the red room of pain, Christian has bound Anastasia’s hands and feet to the bed, blindfolded her, and is erotically flogging her. The spiritual aspects of the scene are obvious based on the conversation surrounding the action. Here are a few of the things Anastasia says:

. . . seven shades of sin in one enticing look. My mouth dries, and I know I will do anything he asks.

. . . he sounds like the devil himself.

I am dragged into a dark, dark part of my psyche that surrenders to this most erotic sensation . . . I’ve entered a very dark, carnal place.

During this whole episode, Christian has music blaring into Anastasia’s ears. She describes the music as “a celestial choir—singing a capella in my head, an ancient, ancient hymnal. What in heaven’s name is this?” The ancient Latin hymn sung during this carnal bondage and fornication is called “Spem in Alium.” Here are the words translated into English:

I have never put my hope in any other but in You, O God of Israel who can show both anger and graciousness, and who absolves all the sins of suffering man Lord God, Creator of Heaven and Earth be mindful of our lowliness.

I doubt that E.L. James intentionally included these spiritual, holy themes in order to aggravate Christians. However, I am absolutely convinced that Satan, through these books, intended to mock and desecrate things set apart to worship God.

When I have talked to Christians who have read Fifty Shades of Grey, they are quick to admit the sexual themes in the book, but none of them mention or even seem to notice these more subtle offenses to our faith. Yet I believe this is the more direct and belligerent attack. If you call yourself by the name “Christian,” identifying yourself as a “Christ-follower,” I beg you to allow the full impact of that offense hit you!

Mommy porn makes an idol of love

Do you remember the Ten Commandments? Some of them are quite straightforward and understandable such as: don’t murder, covet, steal, or lie. But the first two commandments are more difficult to apply to our lives. Here they are:

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. (Deut. 5:7–9)

When you read these commandments, your mind might visualize statues and barbaric customs of bowing down to a “bird god” or worshiping the stars. This certainly doesn’t seem to be a temptation in our day. Not so fast: These first two commandments are ultimately about worship.

Every culture promotes idols—things or ideas that take the place of God in our lives. One of the primary gods of Western culture is the god of love. In ancient times, she was a Greek goddess named Aphrodite and he was a Roman god named Venus. Today, we are too sophisticated to invent names for what we worship, yet we continue to worship love.

“Love is an idol? Seriously? Aren’t you taking this a little too far?” you might protest. “After all, isn’t love a good thing? Doesn’t the Bible teach about how important love and marriage are?” Absolutely! I’m all for love and marriage. My whole ministry is devoted to helping women restore their marriages and grow in love. But a good thing that becomes the primary thing immediately becomes an immoral thing. Any good gift from God that is exalted above God becomes a tool of the enemy. Love, sex, and marriage are prime candidates.

In hid book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller defines an idol as

anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. [It] is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living. . . . An idol is whatever you look at and say in your heart of hearts, “If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.”

Erotica writers overtly present romantic love and great sex as the salvation of a forlorn woman. And who can blame them? If there is no God, what better replacement than a handsome, strong, loving, sexy man?

As Keller writes, “We maintain the fantasy that if we find our one true soul mate, everything wrong with us will be healed . . . the love object is God.” This is a primary theme in all erotica and certainly dominates Fifty Shades. Ana becomes a savior to Christian, her love erasing all the pain of his past and healing him. Christian’s psychologist tells her, “I don’t mean to stress how important a role you have in his Damascene conversion—his road to Damascus. But you have.” The “saving” isn’t one-sided. Ana is equally attached to Christian: “Oh, I love him so. I will be nothing without him, nothing but a shadow—all the light eclipsed.”

At one level, this kind of love and devotion is beautiful and endearing. But it is also very dangerous. No man, no amount of great sex—even the best marriage—can ever and should ever take the place of God.

Satan’s ultimate agenda is not just to get you to sin but to keep you from worshiping God. He will use anything—good or bad—to accomplish that purpose. Whether you are addicted to crack cocaine or addicted to the love of a fantasy man makes no difference. They both keep you enslaved to something that has replaced God.

A very real impact

There are consequences when we choose to worship something other than God. Many women have written to us to share the very real spiritual impact of erotica in their lives. The stakes are very high. Here’s the destruction one woman experienced:

At the peak of my addiction, I was spending five to six hours a day watching porn (both free and paid sites) and reading [erotica]. I was a high school small group leader, active in my church, and all the while dying on the inside. I started drinking, abusing Ambien, and ended up on depression medicine. Suicide was a real thought.

This is not a surprising destination for someone who embraces the lies of the enemy. Jesus makes the outcome of the spiritual battle very clear. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Do you want destruction? Run toward the enemy with your longings and brace yourself for relational dysfunction, depression, and an increase in your unmet longings, among other things. If you cooperate with him by reading erotica, you will face his destructiveness.

I think it’s important to note that not every woman will end up addicted or with lives that are completely destroyed—but all spiritual women will feel consequences at some level. One woman wrote:

The Holy Spirit convicted me when I first started [reading erotica]. I ignored Him. After a while, I no longer heard Him. I didn’t even want to be at church. I missed God. I missed our relationship. But the deeper I got—the more I felt like I needed to run from Him and not to Him.

Are you running from God or toward Him? We believe you have a choice to make.

It’s certainly not fun or politically correct for us to confront you in this way. But that is exactly what Jesus did. He told the religious leaders that their father was Satan because they didn’t believe him (John 8:43–47). He told one of his closest friends, “Get behind me, Satan! You are thinking of the things of men, not the things of God” (Matthew 16:23, our paraphrase). Ouch!

Maybe you’ve found yourself on the wrong side of the spiritual battle. Please remember Jesus’ words when he walked the earth. His words to you are not about condemnation but an invitation. He is inviting you and me to say no to the world’s distortions and say yes to the true love story. The question is, What will you choose today? There is no middle ground.

But you do have a choice. It’s not too late. The Giver of Life offers it to you no matter how deep you have fallen.

1 shadesDannah Gresh and Juli Slattery are the authors of Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart (Moody Publishers, 2014), from which this article is excerpted. It appears here by kind permission of the publisher.

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1 Response

  1. Deborah Poe says:

    Thank you for this article. May the Lord bless your work.

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