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When the wave of erotica brought on by Fifty Shades of Grey hit us, the term “mommy porn” came with it. Why? Because while photographs and videos weren’t as appealing to the female mind, stories of romance and love that leads to sex are just the ticket to call a good woman to something bad.

But it’s not just moms reading porn crafted with black and white words. It’s their daughters, too.

The youngest reader of erotica that corresponded with us as we wrote this book began when she was nine. But many were in their tweens or teens when they began. Here’s what eighteen-year-old Shelli tells us:

I stumbled upon porn when I was about twelve, and I quickly became obsessed with it due to a sort of morbid curiosity. I was pretty much addicted. I read online erotica too.

Shelli reported feelings of guilt for using porn and erotica when she was younger. She was careful to hide her use from her “conservative Christian” parents. But then she found a mentor who she thought “helped her a lot,” but something worse happened. See if you can follow her logic here:

Now . . . my view has completely changed. I realized that hating myself and thinking I was disgusting was actually really bad for me! And then I realized that not understanding my own sexuality and thinking that it exists only for one man was a form of misogyny! I started reading up on gender studies, on female sexuality, and on human sexuality in general. Because I’m not so obsessed with “purity” now . . .

Our hearts break for Shelli. In her quest to find freedom, she has been misguided into another lie. Her conclusion that to pursue purity and to believe that God created her to have sex with one man within marriage is misogyny—that is, the idea of having sex with one man portrays hatred toward women—is a very dark line of thinking. Though she never intended to arrive at this place, I believe the Enemy of her soul had that on the agenda from the very beginning.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone. The average age of the first inception of porn or erotica is 11, according to CovenantEyes.com. Many of the adult women we interviewed when investigating the culture of “mommy porn” said that they entered porn through storylines written to romanticize sex. Some expressed angst as their daughters or granddaughters discovered “lemon stories”, fan fiction with graphic elements, online.

What hold does the Enemy have on you? Or on your daughter?

Here’s what you need to know about the risk so you can have an informed conversation with your daughter.

An Epic Battle

Do you believe there are forces of good and evil in the world—that humans are constantly in the crosshairs 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 (Isaiah 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 Corinthians 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 erotica.

We believe this genre of literature is very spiritual with an aggressive spiritual agenda. Reading erotica 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 stories take you on a journey that has a spiritual impact and an intended spiritual destination: destruction.

Erotica 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, 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 used 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” (Psalm 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 erotica 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 and porn are 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.

Erotica Makes an Idol of Love

Do you remember the Ten Commandments? Some of them are quite straightforward and understandable like: 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. (Deuteronomy 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.

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.’ ”9

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.”10 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.”11 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.”12

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.

The purveyors of porn and erotica may not have that in mind when they target our children with porn and erotica, but Satan does.

What do porn and erotica really want from our children? Not a one-time thrill or even a seasonal fling. Porn and erotica are seeking lifetime worshippers.

 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.

That’s kind of the whole point of this blog.

I mean, you probably started reading it to save your kids. But you cannot do that if you, yourself, are in bondage: 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, my 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.

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

This article is an adapted excerpt of Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart by Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery.

Join Bob & Dannah Gresh, Dr. Juli Slattery, Karen Potter, and Rod Stoddard from Covenant Eyes, the pioneer in Internet Screen Accountability. As a parent, you’ll be empowered by learning:

  • The top ten ways the porn industry targets children so you can block them
  • How to establish conversation-based accountability with your tweens and teens so you can train your children to make wise choices
  • How to recognize the signs that your child is using porn or erotica
  • What to do if your child is using porn
  • What the Bible says about sex – establish a solid biblical understanding of sex to inform your ongoing conversations with your children

The panel will answer questions from the virtual audience, and a post-event digital Workshop Resource Kit will be made available to all who register for this online event. It includes free resources from the panelists and a list of ten resources that help you talk to your children about porn at any age.

 

Please join us for a donation of any amount.

(Even if that is $0. But we recommend $20 or more, if you are able to help partner with our ministry to provide more parenting workshops in the future.)

Register now!