Fifty Shades Darker and Abuse In Christian Marriages

Warning: Adult subject matter, may be disturbing to abuse victims.

Adrienne* shook with heavy, harsh sobs. Then her eyes flashed with anger, “I couldn’t believe he would do that to me!” She described haltingly how her husband had forced her into a sexual act that she was ashamed to even talk about. Then she began to cry softly like a little girl, “He wanted to do it again and again. I told him it felt like a serrated knife! I told him I hurt so badly I could barely walk, that I was injured.” She wailed like a lost soul, “He didn’t care! He’s supposed to love me. He’s supposed to protect me. He doesn’t care! ”

“You should go to the elders of church. Talk to your pastor. Maybe they can talk some sense into him. You need help,” we told her.

The ugly sobs started again, “I did! They told me I had to agree to it or be under church discipline for not submitting to my husband! They don’t care if I’m damaged! They don’t care if I’m hurt!” She laid her head down on the table and wept in despair.

Is your blood boiling? Ours was. This is a true story. In fact, we keep hearing stories like this. Women who are being asked to submit to humiliation, restraint, pain. They are horrified, disgusted, even wounded with lasting damage, but find little sympathy in the men who promised to cherish them. Some of them have even come to accept this as normal and defend it.

What on earth is happening here?

For the most part, it seems to be an outgrowth of porn in the culture. Porn is addictive in much the same way as drugs or alcohol. It causes a huge dopamine release in the brain. Dopamine is a reward hormone that is released when we have marital relations, among other things. It helps in bonding a couple together. Internet porn, where you can see much more than is possible to experience in real life, causes such a large release that the brain’s response to it dials back and you have to watch more porn or more intense porn the next time to get the same thrill.

That means normal intercourse soon gives way to perversion. Nearly 40% of teenage boys have seen sexual violence online. Purveyors of porn use pain, perversion, humiliation, and violence to give viewers that extra thrill they need to get a fix.

Now that kind of sexuality is going mainstream. If enough people fall into the same sin, pretty soon it starts to look normal.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, the time our culture sets apart to celebrate love, Fifty Shades Darker, the sequel to Fifty Shades of Gray, was released. This is the story of rich playboy Christian Gray and his domination and physical abuse of Anastasia Steele, a vulnerable younger woman. In Darker, Anastasia goes back to the abuser she left at the end of the first movie, which, though it might be realistic, is not a good message for battered women.

That’s this year’s “romantic” movie for Valentine’s Day and we see women talking on social media about going to see it. Christian women.

But is sexual bondage, pain, and humiliation appropriate for a Christian to pursue — even in marriage? Some argue that any sexuality is fine for a married couple, but when we look at what God expects of us, we can’t agree.

Ephesians 5 tells us that marriage is meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church. Does Jesus entertain Himself by taking the church prisoner, abusing her, and degrading her? Does He brutalize His bride for His own excitement? No, He doesn’t.

Ephesians 5:25 says that husbands should love their wives “just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” Christ’s example is one of gentleness, service, and most of all, willingness to give up His life for His bride. He denied Himself. Christ doesn’t rape His church, and He doesn’t fantasize and pretend that, either.

Galatians 5:22-23 describes the life which Christians should pursue and experience. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-23

The fruits of the Spirit should be seen in our marriage. Even our sexuality should be subject to the Holy Spirit.

Hal and Melanie Young
Hal and Melanie Young
Hal & Melanie Young are the award-winning authors of Raising Real Men and My Beloved and My Friend: How to Be Married to Your Best Friend Without Changing Spouses. They are publishers, writers, bloggers, and popular conference speakers internationally, known for their Christ-centered focus and practical, real-life stories. They are the parents of six real boys (four grown!) and two real girls and live in noisy, messy happiness in North Carolina. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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