According to Amazon, the best selling book and Kindle ebook of 2012 was E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey. There are currently three books in the series. The series is touted by James as a “passionate love story.” Critics, however, have labeled the series “mommy porn.” What are Christians to make of this so-called “passionate love story” that celebrates Bondage, Discipline, Submission, and Masochism (pleasure from pain) (BDSM). Christians must begin by answering the question, “What does the Bible say about the value of humanity?”
In Genesis 1:26-27, we read,
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Humans are set apart from the rest of creation, and the various tools of man. We are more valuable than plants, animals, and machines. Thus, a human being does not determine his or her value or the value of other human beings. The value of all human beings is determined by our Creator. How does this truth affect the sexual relationship between a husband and wife? Francis Schaeffer answers this question briefly in Pollution and the Death of Man,
What is man’s attitude towards the girl? It is possible, and common in the modern setting, to have a “playboy” attitude, or rather a “plaything” attitude, where the “playmate” becomes the “plaything.” Here, the girl is no more than a sex object.
But what is the Christian view? Somebody may offer at this point the rather romantic notion, “You shouldn’t look for any pleasure for yourself; you should just look for the other person’s pleasure.” But that is not what the Bible says. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have a right to pleasure too. But what we do not have a right to do is to forget that the girl is a person and not an animal, or a plant, or a machine. We have the right to have our pleasure in a sexual relationship, but we have no right whatsoever to exploit a partner as a sex object.
There should be a conscious limitation upon our pleasure. We impose a limit–a self-imposed limit–in order to treat the wife fairly as a person. So although a husband could do more, he does not do everything he could do, because he must treat her also as a person and not just as a thing with no value. And if he does so treat her, eventually he loses, because love is gone, and all that is left is just a mechanical, chemical sexuality; humanity is lost as he treats her as less than human. Eventually, not only her humanity is diminished, but his as well. In contrast, if he does less than he could do, eventually he has more, for he has a human relationship; he has love and not just a physical act. It is like the principle of the boomerang–it can come full circle and destroy the destroyer (pg. 86-87). (Emphasis mine)
Just because a man or a woman can dominate one another or just because one fantasizes about domination in the sexual relationship (an evil fantasy) does not mean that one should dominate or fulfill such a fantasy. A person who inflicts pain on another human being in a dehumanizing manner denies his or her Maker (implied in Genesis 9:6) and a person who wants to be dehumanized denies his or her Maker as well. To concede to such evil desires reveals the destroyer of human value (men and women) and in turn destroys the destroyer (men and women). Women are not objects to be dominated, even if they request such domination. In turn, men are not objects to request enslavement to, if even for a moment. In a consensual bdsm sexual relationship, no humans exist, for human value has been traded for mere mechanical, chemical sexual release.
Perhaps a better title for James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is Fifty Shades of Devaluing Women and Men?
A woman who requests such domination devalues her husband, and a husband who fulfills such requests devalues his wife; and vice versa. If you have such fantasies, repent and believe God. You and your spouse are more valuable than mere tools for sexual release. You are God’s image-bearers. Spread forth His image by enjoying your own personhood and the personhood of your spouse. Although sin has marred the image of God in mankind, His image is still present in humanity, and is being further restored by Christ in all who believe. Run to Christ and be regenerated (reborn), justified (declared righteous), sanctified (set apart from sin to God), and eventually glorified (perfected in Christ).