Pulling Back the Shades (Book Review)

pulling-back-shadesDid you know that 20% of all Christian women say they are addicted to pornography? This statistic shocks most people, but experts who pay attention to this kind of thing, experts like Covenant Eyes, know that porn abuse and addiction is a growing problem.

One of the more recent epidemics of sexually related sin concerns a literature genre known as “erotica.” The run-away bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey series by E.L. James has introduced Christian women to the dark world of BSDM, while portraying it as a harmless adventurous diversion.  (Joe Carter at The Gospel Coalition wrote a short article that shines the light of social science studying violence on women onto the Fifty Shades phenomenon.)

Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery noticed the seriousness of the problem, and have written a book to sound the alarm for many women who have been enticed by a counterfeit sexual thrill. Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, is both a negative and positive treatment of the subject of female sexual and relational desires. It unmasks the dangers of dabbling in erotica literature, and sets forth the long lasting benefits of living within the bounds of biblical sexual boundaries.

This is an honest book. Both authors are frank about their past and present struggles. They understand and relate to the allure of erotica as women with real human desires. Yet these women, through their ministries to other struggling women, recognize that reading “mommy porn” is a profoundly spiritual experience that is diametrically opposed to the Christian life.

“Really?” you might be asking.  So why do Christian women so often succumb to the temptation to indulge in erotica? What’s the allure?

The authors identify five basic longings of women, and demonstrate how successful erotica attempts to meet those longings. From page 17:

A Woman’s Five Longings

  1. To escape reality
  2. To be cherished by a man
  3. To be protected by a strong man
  4. To rescue a man
  5. To be sexually alive

Characteristics of Successful Erotica aimed at a woman’s longings

  1. Focuses on female fantasy
  2. Presents an innocent female protagonist who makes a man forget other women even exist
  3. Presents a controlling alpha male who dominates the female
  4. Characterizes the female protagonist as the only one who can meet the deepest, darkest needs of a man
  5. Offers detailed descriptions of sex

The authors proceed to explain how the Fifty Shades of Grey series has these characteristics in abundance, and how the reader finds her longings feeling met (in her fantasies and in the short term).

But the erotica cure is actually a poison. The relational destruction erotica inflicts on its readers in the long term is frightening. The authors share anecdotes of married women who are no longer aroused by their husbands. Single women who find themselves unable to build a relationship with a man. Women who find themselves caught up in fantasizing about secret affairs or leaving their husbands for the prospect of exciting sexual escapades. Moreover, Gresh and Slattery examine the various biblical passages that address God’s instruction for sexual behavior. They conclude that God is not a prude. Far from it! (Just read Song of Solomon.) The Bible’s sexual ethic of intimacy only between a husband and wife is actually liberating by promoting life and happiness.

Pulling Back the Shades is not primarily a book about sexual healing from past sins. Neither is it a book applying the gospel of Jesus Christ to sexual brokenness. The book does touch on the gospel and healing, but it is more a book on the dangers of erotica and the goodness of living according to God’s law as it applies to sex. Healing is promoted in the book through participation in the personal reflection questions at the end of each chapter (“Pull Back the Shades”) and in the group discussion questions at the end of the book.

Gospel-Eight Diagram (click to read tract)

Gospel-Eight Diagram (click to read tract)

A small tract called “The Gospel Eight Diagram” (included as an insert with my copy of the book) illustrates how the human hearts often responds to the gospel. Resistance leads to isolation, unless there is repentance which leads to restoration. It is applicable for all types of sin, including sexual sins such as indulgence in the sins of the mind like reading erotica.

I recommend Pulling Back the Shades for any Christian woman who is more or less intrigued by erotica, is familiar with the Fifty Shades of Grey books (which is also scheduled to be made into a movie), and for anyone interested in understanding how God fulfills the longings of a woman’s heart.

[Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.]

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