A few days ago I was sitting at the pool and noticed five ladies reading Fifty Shades of Grey. I knew the books were popular, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been all that surprised. What surprised me though, was that three of these ladies were teens. I had heard that these books are called “mommy porn,” but it's not just mommies who are reading them.
Fifty Shades of Grey is the first book in a trilogy which follows the relationship between an innocent virgin, Anastasia Steele, and a powerful, but emotionally damaged business man, Christian Grey. Like most romance novels, the books deal with the ups and downs and ins and outs of their complicated relationship, including his attempts to seduce her into his bed. There's nothing normal about the seduction, though, as Grey tries throughout the books to convince Ana to join him in sado masochistic bondage sex.
Most romance novels center around an innocent girl who is overwhelmed by a powerful and more experienced man. Her innocence and virginity are lost (usually outside of marriage) and readers cheer them along never realizing that this 'love' story misses the mark on who God has created us to be. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy misses the mark as well. Christian Grey is a man who uses women for sex and misses out on the great Divine Love that human relationships were created for.
I decided to ask one of these teens at the pool what she thought of the book, and she turned bright red when I interrupted her. She even admitted to being embarrassed because I interrupted her at “a really naughty part.” When we talked about it, she said that she knew the sex scenes were “a little much” but didn’t see anything wrong with it. “After all,” she said, “It’s not like I’m sitting here at the pool making out with my boyfriend while I read.”
Let’s be honest: There’s only one reason why these books are so popular. It’s because of the steamy, lengthy, and ultra-explicit sex scenes that are found within the pages. It's because they are scandalous and shocking. But those ultra-explicit and scandalous sex scenes are exactly why we should steer clear of Fifty Shades.
Why isn't it okay to read books like this?
- Because sex is more than use. Sex – and all the things that physically, emotionally, and mentally lead to sex – was created by God to be shared between a married man and woman. Sex is an expression of love that reflects the Divine Love of God – a Love that is free, total, fruitful, and faithful. Pornography and erotica are a mockery of the intimacy and beauty of Sacramental love. It reduces the mystery of sex to mere use, turning something sacred and Godly into something profane and dark. As Blessed John Paul II said, 'The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is use.' The lust that these books infect us with is all about self-gratification – it’s all about use.
- Because the Church teaches us it's not okay. Pope Benedict addressed the issue of pornography and erotic literature saying, “A relationship that does not take into account the fact that a man and a woman have the same dignity represents a serious lack of humanity . . . The moment has come to energetically halt the widespread distribution of material with an erotic and pornographic content, including through the internet in particular.”
- Because lustful thoughts lead to lustful actions. Pope Benedict and Blessed John Paul II both understood that erotic words and images (like in Fifty Shades of Grey) create lustful thoughts in us. Those lustful thoughts don't just end there; they cause in us physical reactions which end in lustful actions. Even St. Augustine struggled with this disordered and vicious pattern in his own life. After his conversion he wrote about his struggles with lust saying, 'Lust indulged became habit, and habit unresisted became necessity.'
If you want to live a virtuous life, you have to be vigilant about it. Evil only needs to find a tiny little chink in your armor of holiness to begin to work. Don’t let these books crack open your virtue and start you down the vicious cycle of self-gratification and lust. Avoid these books, this author, and authors like her (V.C. Andrews comes to mind).
Pray for the intercession of St. Augustine and Our Blessed Mother in remaining chaste and pure in all of your thoughts and actions.
'Of all inner conflicts the most arduous are concerned with chastity. These battles are of daily occurrence.' – St. Augustine
Editor’s Note: Kristin Bird is a youth minister from Wisconsin. Two things that Kristin loves are teens and books; so it seemed appropriate to ask her to weigh in on this topic and share her wisdom.