Dr. Juli Slattery and author Dannah Gresh talk about the cultural fascination with erotica that's been largely spawned by the popular novel and now movie Fifty Shades of Grey and other sexually explicit media. Our guests explain why such material especially appeals to women, and the danger it poses to marriage and families. (Part 2 of 2)
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Dannah Gresh: The youngest victim of erotica that we talked with while we were writing Pulling Back the Shades, started looking at erotica when she was just 9-years-old
End of Recap
John Fuller: That is a disturbing statement and it reflects the way pornography has permeated the culture and the landscape and our families. That was Dannah Gresh and she works with girls and young women, encouraging personal purity and modesty and she's back with us today on "Focus on the Family" with Focus president and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and we're in the middle of a conversation with Dannah and Dr. Juli Slattery. As you might surmise, this topic and this discussion today is going to cover some mature themes, some adult content. And it's just not gonna be appropriate for younger listeners.
Jim Daly: John, it breaks my heart to heat what Dannah just said, that a 9-year-old girl [was] exposed to erotica and that's happening every day in this culture to boys and girls and come are younger. And you know, as Christians again, we have to do everything we can to be diligent, not to put fear into our children about God's gift of sexuality. I mean, He's done that for a purpose in the context of marriage and we need to celebrate that and lift that up. But again, the way the enemy of our soul has distorted it and made it evil in this culture is on full display.
One of the reasons we're airing this two-day broadcast, talking about this topic again and I know there's many of you who will want to write and say we shouldn't do that. I appreciate that. I understand that, but you know what, folks. The enemy has owned human sexuality for far too long and we in the church need to talk about these topics to put them in the right perspective. God gave us the gift of sexuality in the context of marriage and we need to regain it, especially in the Christian community.
And that's why we're coming back to this topic. I'm talking about one of the most popular books that we have seen and it's called Fifty Shades of Grey and it's all about erotica. They've now made it into a movie that will be releasing the day before Valentine's Day of all days. Remember the "saint" part of Valentine's Day.
John: Oh, yeah.
Jim: This is a time to honor God's design and yet, the world once again, has found a way to contort it into something that is not God's design. If you listened to the program last time, you hear some very straightforward talk about the topic of erotica and why women in particular, are drawn to it, perhaps now more than ever. And we want to help you, particularly the believers, those who claim Christ, to make good choices. It's easy to justify and I acknowledge, we're all sinners saved by grace, just like we said last time, John. I get that. We're not trying to be holier than thou.
Jim: We are really trying to be practical and real about what is tearing at our heart and today's program is gonna help you and me decide if going along with the culture in this regard is the right thing to do before God.
John: Well, we hope that we'll equip you to deal with all the marketing and enthusiasm about Fifty Shades of Grey, the book and now the movie. And this is day two of the conversation we had with had with Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh. If you missed part one, please get the download or get the CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or when you call 800-A-FAMILY. Let's go ahead and continue now with today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: Let me open up this time with a quote from Tim Keller. He wrote this just a while back. He said, "Until now, there has never been a culture in the history of the world that puts so much emphasis and so much hope in sex for happiness." Respond to that.
Juli Slattery: I would agree heartily to that. I probably haven't done research like Tim has on the history of the world, but we look at our culture today and everything is sex. Marketing is sex. Books, entertainment, movies, it's all about sex. People leave marriages and leave ministries because of sex. And uh … but the fact is, we talk so much about sex, there's so much emphasis, but there's no talk about sexuality, the biblical context for what's … what it's even created for? Why did God make it pleasurable? Why did God make it a strong drive in both men and women? So, it's very lopsided.
Jim: And even that lack of discussion I think is creating the atmosphere to where the mischief is had, that we don't know how to live out a godly sexual life, because it's a taboo.
Dannah: And it matters so much. That's the thing, is that I think Juli's differentiation between the word "sex" and "sexuality" is so important, because let me use "sex" in terms of everything we see in the culture—the physical manifestation, an obsession with the physical. Whereas, sexuality in the Scriptures is so much deeper.
It deals with the emotional and the spiritual craving for intimacy between a husband and a wife. And the physical is a piece of that, but it's not the end-all and that's a very critical difference. You can't get satisfied with just the physical.
And I think the big deal, the big idea and Tim Keller has written about this, is that when we see that marriage, that male and that female in a relationship where they have achieved intimacy, not sexual connection, but intimacy, which transcends the pleasure of the physical body, that the Bible teaches is a picture of the passionate love relationship that Christ wants to have with the church. It helps the world see the love of God for His people.
Jim: Well, and you said it last time, the great Scriptures that talk about God making us in His image, male and female. And the two shall become one. And that's what you're talking about, that scriptural reference of becoming one is the intimacy you're referring to.
Jim: Juli, for those that didn't catch last time, we've got to recast the Fifty Shades of Grey. Help us understand what is it? What is it and why are Christian women drawn to reading it?
Juli: Every now and then I will run into a man or a woman who's like, "I've never heard of Fifty Shades of Grey." And so, I'm sure some of you listening, that's the situation. But it is a series of three books and in the three years since it's been published, it has sold over 100 million copies.
Jim: Second only to the Bible, right?
Juli: Well, it's the fastest-selling book ever. The Bible has out sold it. But when you look at the books that have sold over 100 million copies, you're talking about A Tale of Two Cities and Lord of the Rings and classics. And then you have Fifty Shades of Grey and under three years, selling that amount and primarily selling them to women. Fifty Shades of Grey is without argument, it is pornography for women. Just because they're words, doesn't mean they aren't dangerous. They are exceptionally dangerous.
Juli: And women are getting pulled into this. And as we mentioned on the last program, Christian women are getting pulled into this and having trouble discerning why it's wrong. We've heard stories from Christian women who said people in their churches have recommended Fifty Shades of Grey. Their husbands are asking them to read it.
Dannah: There's just--
Jim: Why would you do that?
Dannah: --there's just a lack of shame. There's a lack of discernment, an unawareness of how wrong that this is. Juli and I were speaking at a major women's conference and one of the other speakers who's got a huge ministry, probably her name is better known than Juli or I, walked up to us and said, "We've gotta talk about this. We've gotta do something." One of the deaconesses in my church recommended to me that I read this book."
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Dannah: (Laughing) And--
John: She handed you Fifty Shades of Grey?
Juli: Like she was talking about it.
Dannah: --and she handed this speaker, this very prominent Christian Bible author, a pornographic book, suggesting that she read it. So, what's happened is, why are they doing it? They've lost their sense of discernment.
Dannah: They don't even know.
Jim: And that's again, the reason we want to have this discussion, is to lift up people's discernment. Last time we talked about a couple of the longings that create the environment for women to want to read this, like this deaconess that you just referenced, Dannah. Both of you touched on a couple things. I want to zero in on one of them, but to escape reality. That's one of the reasons a woman, a Christian woman will be drawn to this kind of erotica. To be cherished by a man, that seems completely natural. Another one you had in the five was to rescue a man. That one confused me. I'm not sure that I understand that.
Juli: Yeah, well, it's in the heart of a woman to make a difference in her husband and that's a wonderful longing that you don't just want your husband to be the same guy he was when he was 20-years-old.
Jim: You want to improve him.
Juli: Exactly. (Laughter)
Jim: Well, there's a part [that] sounds familiar.
Dannah: You understand. (Laughter)
John: We are just a project. (Laughter) That's what we are.
Jim: Okay. Now we're back on normal ground.
Juli: Now you can identify where maybe where that's been taken to the Nth degree, where it's like, I want to change my husband. I don't love him for who he is. And that's where it's distorted. But the healthy longing is that, I want after 20 years of marriage, my husband to say, I'm a better man because I was married to Juli.
And like every other longing, Fifty Shades of Grey takes that God-given natural longing and completely twists and distorts it to where the woman in the book becomes the man's savior. And it … he even uses that language, that you are my savior. You've rescued me from all my pain, from my past, from my abuse. And women resonate with that.
Juli: And again, it's a healthy, natural, God-given longing that is a wonderful thing when it's played out in the right way. But when it's twisted and distorted, it becomes a very unhealthy longing.
Jim: You know, as we talk about this, it becomes so obvious that everything that the Lord has put in us, His stamp, His DNA is us is being twisted by the enemy.
Dannah and Juli: Uh-hm.
Jim: And this one is just so graphically obvious--
Jim: --when you talk about those good longings. I'm thinking of the word "helpmate"--
Jim: --that's used in the Scripture over and over--
Jim: --again, that God has created woman to be that helpmate. And it's exactly that, where at the end of X amount of years of a marriage, the husband wants to feel that he's in a good spiritual leadership role and his wife feels good that she's contributed to his development that way. That's the right way it should work.
Let me ask perhaps the most difficult of all questions. Why? Why a person that writes a book like this that exploits and twists the very foundation of what God has created, why are we drawn to it?
Juli: It's a great question. Why are we always drawn to the counterfeit?
Juli: And I think a simplistic answer is, because it provides a shortcut, you know.
Juli: You are longing to escape reality. You're longing to have a romantic tryst. You want to be in love. You want intimacy. You want sexual excitement. All those things take hard work and patience and prayer and endurance and longsuffering, to get that in the real world.
But when you can just pick up a book or click on a computer and think you're gonna get that same fulfillment, we fall for that every time. The real thing takes character and takes hard work and takes the Spirit of God helping us. And the enemy says, "You don't have to go that long road. I can offer you the shortcut." And we're seeing men and women falling for it.
Jim: You know, Juli, what's painful about that honesty is what it says to me is, that we're lazy--
Jim: --spiritually. We're lazy. And we don't want to do the things in our marriages that do create the romantic environment that is healthy and honoring to the Lord, 'cause it is hard work. And you know, I'd rather avoid it. And it's so sad that we give up what's genuine for what is cheap--
Jim: --and really what eventually can destroy our soul.
Jim: But that's so tough.
John: Some provocative conversation on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. And I hope that as you're tracking along, that you're thinking, I need to get some help in this area. And of course, we would certainly commend to you the book, Pulling Back the Shades by our guests, Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. We'll have that list of the five longings that we're touching on here and that we mentioned last time, online, as well as information about a CD or a download of this conversation. And that's all gonna be at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
End of Program Note
Jim: Dannah and Juli, you also include in your book, Pulling Back the Shades, what to do to get back on the right path. I am hopeful that we have sufficiently painted the picture both last time and the first part of the program today.
Now we gotta talk about what do we do? Oh, my goodness, yeah. You're connecting with me. I bought the book. I read the book and I don't know what to do. Let's talk about that for the next few minutes
Juli: Yeah, I think one thing you can do right away is to be honest. You know, first of all, be honest about your longings. It's okay, whether you're a man or a woman, to say, "I'm unsatisfied. I'm longing for something. I'm longing for intimacy. I'm longing for a sexual outlet. Be honest. But also be honest about the struggle you have. Be honest with a friend or a mentor or a counselor and just say, "Nobody knows this about me, but I've got this secret life going on." Or "I've got this battle that I haven't told anyone about."
Jim: What happens and you've counseled people--that's what your doctorate's in--what happens when a person confesses that? What goes on emotionally?
Juli: I think it's so powerful, because nine times out of 10, 10 times out of 10, if you're discerning about who you share it with, you're gonna be met with either, "I'm right there with you. I struggle, too." Or "Thank you for telling me. Let's just pray." Or "How can I help you?" And the fear is and the lie that the enemy tells you is, that if anybody really knew what you were reading or looking at, no one would be there for ya. They would condemn you. They would shame you. They would judge you. But the fact is, that most of us are dealing with this kind of stuff and we resonate and connect with others who can just be honest.
Jim: What's another thing? We have honesty. Confess to someone, a trustworthy friend or a pastor, someone you can talk to. What's another thing we can do to get on the right path?
Juli: Well, I'll speak to married women specifically and then maybe Dannah, you could chime in with your ministry to singles. But one thing that I think is key for both men and women, is that we change our appetites when it comes to intimacy and sexuality.
And let me just use an example to help flesh this out. Not long ago, my husband went on a seven-day fast, like a medical fast. And he didn't have a bite of food for a week. He just had like this drink he was drinking. And the day he could have solid food, the doctor told me what to make. I made kale chips, which just sounds awful.
Dannah: And yeah, I'm even--
Jim: That's not the feast--
Dannah: --I'm not even on that bandwagon.
Jim: --I'm living.
John: I'd keep the fast going, I think.
Juli: -not even a good cook can make kale chips taste good, but I'm not a good cook. So, I make these kale chips and I'd give 'em to my husband apologetically. And you should have seen him eat these. I mean, he was like, "Oh, this is so good. Oh, these are delicious."
Juli: And you know, when someone's starving, anything tastes great.
Dannah: Well, kale's supposed to be one of the healthiest things on the planet--
Juli: But nobody--
Dannah: --for you.
Juli: --says it tastes good.
Dannah: It doesn't taste good.
Jim: Taste like a--
Juli: But it--
Jim: --fur ball.
Juli: --(Laughing) if you have eaten in seven days, it tastes great.
Juli: But the analogy, the metaphor is that, God has designed sexuality between a husband and wife, to be very satisfying. But if you are feeding your mind and your heart and your spirit these things that are unreal, pornography, erotica, I will even throw in there some romantic literature that just gets a woman thinking that, boy, my life is very unsatisfying, our sexual relationship is really boring, you need to cut that off.
Juli: And you need to--
Jim: The thought process.
Juli: --all of it, whatever--
Juli: --is feeding it.
Dannah: Your access to the computer that feeds you porn, the books that you have in your room, all the stuff--
Dannah: --that …
Juli: --the conversations you have with your friends--
Juli: --that make you unsatisfied. But the other side of that is equally as important. We have to work on intimacy in marriage. We have to work on romance. We have to work on sexuality. Like anything else, it doesn't just happen. And you know, the fact that men are saying to their wives, "Would you please read Fifty Shades of Grey?" Why would a guy do that, you asked earlier. Because they want an exciting sex life with their wife. And they think this is what's gonna bring it.
But there's another book that is far more powerful and it's under the blessing of God and that's called the Song of Solomon. And that little tiny book in the Old Testament does more than just talk about sexuality. It gives a married couple permission to say, "This is an area of life that we are allowed to work on and enjoy and experience pleasure in." That's part of changing your appetite. It's not just what you're not taking in, but it's the healthy things that you're going after.
Dannah: And I think, too, we can look at just today's social science to affirm what this ancient book in Song of Solomon teaches us, because one of the most liberal sexual studies ever conducted in the United States of America, said that the most sexually satisfied women were middle-aged married women who'd never had any previous sexual partners and they were what the study called "religiously active."
Dannah: And I was like, I want to know what that means. What does that mean? These were Evangelical Protestant women. And I think it's so much more about our relationship with God and intimacy, than it is about the physical stuff of sex, is that, when we tend to that intimacy in our marriage and in our relationship with God, that the physical stuff is just this extra blessing that it's beautiful. And God celebrates it and He blesses it, because He loves to bless our sexuality.
Jim: Dannah, it's absolutely true and you know, again, John, I think we might want to post some of the "get back on the path" ideas, alongside the things that we talked about earlier, right there on the website.
John: A great idea.
Jim: You talked about being honest, Juli with someone that you can trust, limiting your access to the sources of temptation. I think that's great. Setting up accountability, again, these are things that are applicable to both men and women and there's several more, so we'll post those.
Let's turn for a moment. We've talked up to this point about the couple, the married couple and how to get functional in a God-centric sexual relationship in marriage. Let's talk about the single woman and either the single mom or just the single woman.
Jim: What are they facing in this regard? How do they meet those longings and those needs that you talked about?
Dannah: Well, one of them that I think is handled very differently as Juli mentioned, to feed the intimacy, the longing for intimacy has to be met. For a single person, that sometimes seems so much more challenging and it is more challenging. So, what I did when I was writing the book was, I asked different single women that I know, especially one, one single woman, she's in her 50's. She has a very prominent ministry. She is longing to be married still, but when we talk very intimately, she's not struggling with sex. She's not struggling with pornography or erotica. She's not asking the question that many singles are, "Well, what are my sexual outlets?"
And she said to me quite frankly, "Well, I used to have trouble with those things, but then I started feeding my need for intimacy." I said, "Well, how do you do that?" She said, "Well, right now we're having a really intimate conversation. I'm telling you things I don't really want you to know." And that somehow quiets the sexual desire.
Jim: Juli, any thoughts on that?
Juli: Well, I think this plays out for both married and single women. As Christians, sometimes we will just give that cliché answer of, "Well, just be intimate with God. Jesus is your husband." And--
Juli: --one of the things that Dannah and I in ministry, but also personally have really been exploring and pressing into is, what does it mean to have intimacy with God in such a way that it does quiet those desires, that it does meet the deepest longing of a woman's heart? I think we don't want to just throw a Band-Aid on there that sounds superficial. But there is an intimacy with the Lord that is exciting and inspiring and fulfilling and is real. And Dannah, I--
Juli: --you know, I know that's a big part of how you minister to singles. How do we flesh that out?
Dannah: Well, one of the things is just, if you're feeling like there must be more to this faith; there must be more to this Christian walk, there probably is. Because Juli and I both went through a crisis of belief. We were loving the Lord, serving Him fully, but came to a place where we're like, we want more of You, God. And we both found that. We write about each of our individual stories in Pulling Back the Shades, because we believe that finding that place, where you're sure this is what the Christian life is about, I do hear the voice of God. I know when the Spirit is speaking to me, that is a life changer. That is a total game changer. It was for both of us.
Jim: Hm. Let me ask this question, because I think it has merit. And that is, with a mom, someone who's been married maybe 15 years, 20 years, they have kids. Kids may be in their mid-teens, maybe late teens.
Juli: You're describing me.
Jim: There we have it. (Laughter) And in that context, you've poured into your children.
Jim: I think The Wall Street Journal had an article about the graying of divorce and a lot of Evangelical women are actually filing for divorce when kids leave the home.
Jim: And I think we're touching on the why of that maybe, because they have found their intimacy in serving their children and being there for their kids and sometimes to an unhealthy level—the helicopter mom we talk about, the one that hovers and does everything, that calls the college professor to find out what the grades are which is inappropriate. Talk about that couple and what's going on there. When the kids leave, are a lot of women then looking for the replacement to find that intimacy that they had with their children?
Juli: I think that's a real insightful comment, Jim, because that is what happens in a lot of the lives of strong Christian women who love their kids. They don't even realize it's happening. But to some extent, your kids are easier to establish intimacy with than your husband is. They're less threatening. You can kind of control the environment to some extent, at least until they're teenagers. It's not as threatening as it is to approach a man who's completely different from you, you have conflict with, maybe you have a past with that has involved some wounds and betrayals. And it's just easier to go the route of being mom.
And then when those kids are gone, as you mentioned, there's a huge hole there. And a lot of people feel like it's too late. We can never build a thriving marriage. And that's just not true. I've met with many women who are in their 40's or 50's, who realize, man, I've wasted so much time. My husband and I are so far apart. Sexual intimacy doesn't even happen for years.
And when you're intentional about bringing that before God and just saying, "Would You do a new thing between us? Would you show us what intimacy on all levels look[s] like, even though we haven't experienced it in 15 or 20 years, God can do that. And it's not just the woman who's longing for intimacy. Your husband is, too. You just don't know how to get there. And the first step is to be honest and to ask God to help you put those pieces together.
Jim: Well, you two have really brought some amazing conversation to the table, both last time and this time, your book, Pulling Back the Shades, Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery. It's been really informative for me and I hope our listeners, as well. I feel again, John, hat we're right at a point where we have kind of ripped open a wound. Some people are feeling it and if you're in that spot, if what we've talked about is touching you in a deep way, whether you're a woman or a man, call us here at Focus on the Family. Let us be that trusted friend that you can talk to. And we will do everything we can do to put resources in your hands to help you through this time. We have counselors, caring counselors that are here specifically for that.
And you know what? If you're in a good place, that is great and perhaps you can step in the gap for these folks and help us meet the need in this way and support us financially. If that's a role you can play, we'd love to hear from you, too. So, let me say thank you to both Juli and Dannah. Thanks for bein' with us.
Dannah: My pleasure.
Juli: Yeah, thanks for having us.
John: Our conversation was pretty eye-opening and I've got three daughters and this is the kind of information I want to have for discussion with them, to help them make some wise choices about the books they're reading and the movies they're watching. There's so much swirling around in this culture. And I trust that you found this to be a very helpful broadcast.
We've been talking about Pulling Back the Shades, a book by Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh. And as you can tell, it's gonna be pretty powerful. And they go beyond drawing attention to the dangers and posting some warning signs; they also give you some real tools for deciding what's right and healthy when it comes to sexuality and also some guidance on breaking the chains of addiction, either to books or to movies like Fifty Shades of Grey.
And let me just say, that your generous financial support of Focus on the Family makes it possible for us to bring this kind of information to you. We'll invite your partnership with us. Make a donation today please so we can continue to bring biblically based, trusted advice to help families literally around the world. And when you make a contribution today to Focus on the Family of any amount, we'll send a thank-you gift, a copy of Pulling Back the Shades, written by our guests. You'll find details about donating at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we'll tell you more. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening in. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll wrap up the week, talking with life coach, author and speaker, Valerie Burton, as we once again, offer trusted advice and encouragement to help you thrive.
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Juli SlatteryView Bio
Dr. Juli Slattery is clinical psychologist, author, speaker and broadcast media professional. She is also president of Authentic Intimacy, a non-profit ministry aimed at helping women have better marriages. Dr. Slattery's books include Finding the Hero in Your Husband, No More Headaches and Guilt Free Motherhood. She and her husband, Mike, have three sons.
Dannah GreshView Bio
Dannah Gresh is a best-selling author of numerous books and a popular public speaker who is especially passionate about helping parents build strong relationships with their children and encouraging tweens and teens to pursue sexual purity. Dannah's recent books include It's Great to Be a Girl, Raising Body-Confident Daughters and A Girl's Guide to Understanding Boys. Dannah and her husband, Bob, reside in State College, Pa., and have three grown children. Learn more about Dannah and her work by visiting the website for her organization, Pure Freedom.