A few weeks ago, I started reading a book that was recommended to me by some friends. These are friends who love Jesus and live to follow Him, and they were emphatically insistent that this book? Was amazing. Awesome. Quite possibly the finest piece of literature ever written.
I listened to them. And I trusted their opinion. So, I started reading the book, got hooked into the plot, and was really enjoying it… until the first sex scene. It wasn’t too graphic, though, so I counted it as just one of those things, thrown in to help the plot along, to draw in female readers, and to create some tension between characters. I’m not a prude, and I can differentiate between a tasteful description of reality given to make a point and a gratuitous display written to get everyone all worked up. This was the former, so I thought we were good.
We were not.
The plot was soon lost to the romance. And it wasn’t “romance” — it was graphic sex, each encounter more explicit than the last, written and described with the sole purpose of sexually arousing readers, particularly female readers.
I’m a firm believer that Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said that sin committed in the mind is just as serious as sin physically lived out, so I put the book aside, not wanting to defraud Wes by allowing these images and these fantasies into my heart, setting up expectations and comparisons that have no business in my marriage.
And that was that. Except it wasn’t. Because my mind kept going back to the people who had recommended this book to me. They had admitted to reading it with no shame or embarrassment. They’d confidently recommended it to another sister in Christ. They’d affirmed establishing the habit of fantasizing about other men (fictional men, but still men!) as something that was actually helpful in their marriages.
Could they not discern how harmful this could be to their minds and hearts? Were they not aware that this was crossing a line? I can’t be anyone’s judge and jury, but I can call eroticism in literature for what it is. Harmful. Deceitful. Destructive. We’re made to believe that because these are just stories, just pictures, just movies, just fictional renderings, that they can’t affect us negatively because they aren’t real.
But they do affect us. And we can’t let ourselves believe the lie that we won’t reap what we sow in reading these things, in allowing our minds to linger on these images, and in giving our time and our attention to perversions of what God has ordained for the sanctity of our marriages or the purity of our hearts.
This is something we don’t talk about. But as television gets worse, as our books get worse, and as the images we see on a daily basis get worse, I think we need to call it for what it is. Porn. And it’s not just a man’s issue anymore. The sexy book you’re reading may not be as blatant as a pornographic website that causes a man to stumble, but it still has the same destructive effect on you. If you find yourself reading a book or watching a movie that makes you long for your man to be more like that fictional character, it’s no different than your man checking out a copy of Playboy and wishing that you looked just a little bit more like the ladies in there. Would you particularly appreciate that? Would it do anything to foster intimacy in your marriage if you knew your husband was making comparisons like that? Would you feel cheated on?
It’s the same. And our emotions can lead us to lust just as much as our eyes can. (And I believe our emotions lead us more than our eyes do as women anyway.) And I know it’s a big leap from one steamy book to your marriage falling apart or complete moral failure… but it’s a start. These books aren’t harmless, y’all. As mainstream literature starts to get more and more questionable in these regards, we have to be on the alert, discerning what’s appropriate and what just might be a small opening for more sin to make its way into our hearts.
Be wise about what you watch, about what you read, and about what you expose yourself to. It’s not just a guy’s problem.