The best-kept secret behind “50 Shades”

We used to blush about it. It was the kind of thing that women kept quiet about—and not at all “ladylike.” Perhaps we’d laugh at a reference to it on shows like “Sex in the City.” But for the most part, it stayed tucked away in the recesses of our inner world—or at least in a dresser drawer away from view. But last summer all of that changed: The “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy became an international phenomenon, selling more than 40 million copies and surpassing the last “Harry Potter” book in the U.K.

The author’s novice attempt at erotic fiction became an overnight bestseller. The blogosphere blew up with responses and observations on the book and whether Christian women ought to toss it in their beach bags or toss it in the trash. But the “Fifty Shades” craze indicates an issue much deeper than the book itself: Women are dissatisfied. And they still haven’t found what they’re looking for.
Today, women are the fastest-growing consumers of pornography.

One out of every three visitors to adult websites is a woman. Twenty percent of women say they’re addicted to pornography and 60 percent of Christian women in a recent survey said they have a significant struggle with lust. How have women spiraled into this addiction? Because the hidden things went unchecked. The private fantasies were not confronted.

The same way that visual pornography is a distortion of God’s design for male sexuality, mental pornography (i.e., fantasizing) is a distortion of God’s design for female sexuality. Taking a mental vacation from your husband, casting yourself as the leading lady in a steamy movie scene, and nurturing an intimate or sexual relationship in your imagination are all examples of what God calls lust. Enter online pornography, personal pleasure tools, and books like “Fifty Shades of Grey.” Women thought it would spice up their marriages, ease the ache of chronic loneliness, fill the void of lost intimacy, mask resentment toward God over their singleness, or just relieve their stress. Eventually, the temporary high of escaping into the forbidden wears off. In time, women will be searching for more. It’s the book’s best-kept secret—it will never be enough. Women will still be dissatisfied. They still won’t find what they’re looking for.

In the book “Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is),” Joshua Harris explains why this is: “Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. Its goal is the very act of desiring. The result is that lust cannot be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more. Even when you indulge in every kind of impurity, you’re still filled with a continual lust. You won’t be able to fantasize enough to quench lust.”

No matter how it’s expressed, lust will not be satisfied until it has absolutely destroyed you—your life, your relationships, your family.

That’s why Paul describes those who have indulged in impurity as having “a continual lust for more.” (Ephesians 4:19) No matter how small, insignificant, or innocent it may seem, lust will not—cannot—be contained.  Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” It’s pretty black and white: If Christ is not controlling your passions, your passions will control you. First Peter 2:11 says that our fleshly lusts actually “wage war against the soul.” The result? Women have been given over to their own lust, worshipping the creation of their sexuality rather than its Creator. (Romans 1:24-25)

Tragically, millions of women—many of them genuine daughters of God—are enslaved to their own desires, craving the very poison that’s killing them, caught in a downward spiral of shame and addiction. And it’s never enough. They’re still dissatisfied. They still haven’t found what they’re looking for.

Does any of this describe you? Are you stuck in the self-destructive, self-perpetuated cycle of lust, gluttonizing yourself on the very things that are ruining you? You need to know, it will never be enough. It will always leave you feeling hungry for more and only leave you empty.

Here’s the simple truth that lust doesn’t want you to know: Only Jesus satisfies. He is the One you’re looking for.

We need an identity check
If you’re a follower of Jesus, you don’t belong in the cycle of lust. Romans 6 says it this way: “How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (vv. 2-3) Our identity empowers our obedience: “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (vv. 11-13)

We live this out by believing God’s Word over sin’s deceptive lies. The next time you feel lured by lust, start changing the internal dialogue: “How can I stay here when I am dead to sin and alive to Christ?” (Romans 6:2, 11); “What will this temptation ever bring me but shame?” (Romans 6:21); “I was set free to be free and by God’s Spirit will not be enslaved again!” (Galatians 5:1); “Jesus is the One my soul thirsts for!” (Psalm 143:6).

Identity check: Do you belong to Christ? Then you’re called to walk by the Spirit of truth and put to death the deeds of the body, including lust. (Romans 8:12-13) We can’t willpower internal change. We can only depend on the Spirit of Christ as we choose to believe him over everything else. (Philemon 2:13) He is faithful. And no matter how far you’ve stumbled he wants you back. (Jeremiah 3:6-7)
We need a reality check
Everyone woman has trigger points—circumstances that make her vulnerable to stumbling. They’re different for different women. Sometimes it’s a time of day, a season of the year, or an overwhelming emotion like loneliness or frustration. Know your triggers. Ask the Lord to reveal them. Then set up boundaries and barriers to keep yourself from veering off the path of holiness and over the cliff of impurity. This requires serious self-discipline and life-long vigilance. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

Reality check: What are your triggers? Are you ready to take drastic measures to overcome them? Here’s a few suggestions (Please comment and add your own!):

—Set up filters on your computer. Software like Covenant Eyes tracks your online activity and emails a detailed report to another person. Ask a trusted friend to keep you accountable. Move the computer out of your room and into an open space where others can see the screen.

—Cut out the noise. I love chick flicks, but can we just own up to it and say that they leave us dissatisfied with our love lives (or lack thereof)? Discontent is Emotional Enemy No. 1 in the fight for authentic, soul-satisfying purity. Consider cutting out any and all secular media for 30 days. That includes movies and TV, music, magazines, all of it! Listen to music and read things that keep your mind directed toward Christ. I know it sounds “Polly Puritan” now, but that’s because you’ve been wading on the shoreline of an ocean of God’s presence. I dare you to get lost in him!

—Don’t be alone for too long. If you’re a single girl, consider finding a solid Christian roommate. Coming home to an empty apartment can be downright depressing (trigger!) and makes the temptation to escape into lust all the more appealing. You were created for meaningful relationships … with real people. Go cultivate them!

—Replace, Refuel, Renew. We can’t just stop meditating on something wrong. We have to replace it with something right. Start with a few verses on note cards, like Psalm 84:11, 1 Peter 2:11, Romans 6:21, 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, and Galatians 5:16-17. Tape them to your bathroom mirror, your car dashboard, your computer, and your TV. Carry them in your purse. Let God’s Word sink into and refuel your soul. Read and recite them several times a day. Don’t let up. We have to constantly fill our minds with Scripture if we want to renew them.

—Burn the books. No, really. Burn them … OK, so you don’t have to burn them, but get rid of them. If they are on your Kindle, delete them. If they lead you to stumble, remove them from your home. And please don’t give or sell them to others. Throw them away.

—Get connected with a counselor. If you need help, please contact our friends at Hope for the Heart to get connected with a Christian counselor and helpful resources. You don’t have to go on this journey alone. Perhaps you’re pursuing the temporary fill of lust to masking a deeper wound or outrun a plaguing pain. Maybe you’re realizing that you can’t ignore the problem anymore. Would you let today be the day when you come out of the prison and turn to Jesus as healer of your heart? Don’t let the fear of vulnerability keep you shackled to a defeated enemy.

You can be free from the never-ending cycle of lust. Only Jesus can satisfy your soul! He is the One you’re looking for!
Katie McCoy is the editor of She is pursuing a Ph.D. in systematic theology at Southwestern Seminary. Follow her on Twitter: @Katie_McCoy

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