Sexual Realities Behind the Shades

The movie Fifty Shades of Grey, based on an erotica novel by the same title, will be released here tomorrow, just 2 days before Valentine’s Day. In the story, Anastasia Steele, a university graduate, and Christian Grey, a very wealthy businessman, enter into contractual sex that has bondage, dominance, and sadism/masochism (BDSM) elements. The movie has been rated [R] in the U.S. and banned in Malaysia.

A study published in Journal of Women’s Health last year concluded that there are strong correlations between health risks in women’s lives (including violence victimisation) and the consumption of Fifty Shades. Female readers were more likely than non-readers to have had a partner who verbally abused them, and to report fasting, binge-drinking, using diet aids, and five or more intercourse partners.

In spite of this, the novel and the film’s trailer have been highly popular since their release.

This is understandable in view of the fact that humans have a deep longing for intimacy. However, sexual intimacy is not the same as relational intimacy. A person’s felt need for sexual gratification may not meet his/her real need for authentic connection and lasting love. Relational intimacy transcends sexual experiences and is best sought out in wholesome ways for it to be truly fulfilling.

Ironically, focusing on the person’s body rather than the person leads to both a lessened emotional connection and decreased sexual appetite. Authors Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh in their new book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, explain that “erotica and porn teach you to be sexually aroused by looking away from your partner, not toward him. You may be engaging your body with him, but your imagination is with some fictional character. That’s not intimacy.” In addition, “erotica and porn impact your brain in a manner that breeds tolerance. What was sexually arousing a few months ago will no longer be enough to produce the same sexual high. This is how men and women get drawn into increasingly hardcore porn and/or sexually acting out what they have seen or read.”

The untold story behind the “Shades” is that engaging in erotica and pornography serves to drive a deep wedge in marital relationships and often impedes the building of true intimacy that many couples long for. This has been recounted in many of the marital counselling cases we’ve seen.

Instead of focusing on sexual techniques, we would do better to build on the fundamentals of a loving relationship with our spouse. This includes communicating our sexual and emotional needs with each other instead of unwittingly seeking fulfilment and attempting to fill emotional voids through erotica and pornography.


  • Bonomi Amy E., Nemeth Julianna M., Altenburger Lauren E., Anderson Melissa L., Snyder Anastasia, and Dotto Irma. Journal of Women’s Health. September 2014, 23(9): 720-728. doi:10.1089/jwh.2014.4782. <>
  • Gresh, D., & Slattery, J. (n.d.). Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart

Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Voices Today on February 11 (pending to be published).


Tell us what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s