Many modern feminists would have us believe that men and women are the same. Not just the same in regards to dignity, value and worth but the same in regards to nature and roles. The idea of female “submission” is considered offensive as is the idea of letting men lead when it comes to romance…

…and then an erotic novel about male dominance and female submission was published called ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ and became one of the bestselling books of all time. Isn’t it kind of surreal and ironic that in the very countries where ‘submission’ is most loudly preached as being evil, millions of women are secretly indulging in fantasies about being controlled by men?

Now before I go any further, I want to make it clear, I am not advocating you go read Fifty Shades of Grey or go watch the movie. I am a Christian and would suggest erotic, sexual literature is immoral and should be strongly avoided in the same way porn should be. Moreover, I would argue sadomasochism is perverted and wrong. However, I think the fact the book is so popular, may actually reveal some gospel truth.

A brief overview: Ana Steele, a naive virgin meets billionaire Christian Grey through being asked to interview him. He is charismatic, strong, manly, successful, powerful and good looking. In time, Christian informs Ana that he wants to be with her but she must sign an agreement that forbids her to discuss anything they do together. She agrees and finds out he is into erotic practices involving discipline, dominance, pain and control. Ana begins a relationship with him…

Why would such a book sell over 100 million copies? There have been countless other erotic novels written. Moreover, most critics say it was written badly. What was it about Fifty Shades of Grey that got to women?

Fifty Shades is not the first surprising sell in our apparently feminist age. A book called ‘The Rules’ was published in the 90s and became one of the most successful women’s dating books of all time. It’s premise? Men like to lead and chase. A woman who leads and chases takes away a man’s role and can put him off. If women want to be attractive to men and get happily married, they need to let men pursue and lead.

Then there was the best-selling book for men ‘The Game’. What did it teach? Women want a real man, an alpha male. Women actually don’t want to wear the trousers, even if they think they do. If a man wants to get the girl, he needs to step up and be the boss!

Let’s not forget another popular book that riled feminists: ‘The Surrendered Wife’. It’s message? Marriages are happiest when the wife surrenders to her husband’s leadership and stops trying to control him.

Again I want to reiterate, I’m not endorsing any of the above, but isn’t it interesting that all of these books became best sellers in a supposedly feminist society? Of course a book like Fifty Shades takes the idea of male leadership to a twisted, perverted, immoral extreme. None the less, I wonder if the book’s popularity is not partly based on a deep yearning within a woman to be lead by a man she admires? A yearning that has not been erased from a woman’s heart, even after decades of being told she is the same as a man.

If this is the case, it should be no surprise to a Christian. In Ephesians 5 the apostle Paul gives instructions for marriage and I believe offers a possible answer to why Fifty Shades has sold so well:

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  (Ephesians 5:22-23)

(Please note: the use of the word submit is not implying a wife should be a doormat or not speak her mind, but rather that she should lovingly and respectfully allow he husband to lead. Neither is the above suggesting that a woman should submit to a man she is not married to).

Paul then goes on to give a far harder, more challenging instruction to men:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25)

Christ self sacrificially died on the cross so that we can have the opportunity to have our sins forgiven. Men are called to love their wives as Christ loved His people which means stepping up and being the alpha male hero, in imitation of Christ! After speaking to husbands, Paul shares a key teaching that I think sheds light on the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey:

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:31-32)

The above verse shows us that marriage is but a dull reflection of a technicolour reality. The reality being that Christ wants to be one with us! If the very purpose of human romance is to mirror a far more glorious heavenly romance, it makes sense that men and women’s very design, wiring and unique natures would reflect that. My guess is that most women long to be lovingly led by a manly husband because they were designed to reflect the church’s submission to Christ – the manliest man to have ever walked the earth. Equally my suspicion is that most men don’t really want to be led by a wife but rather long to lovingly lead her. Why? Because they were designed to reflect Christ’s love for His church and authority over her. Of course sin has warped and corrupted those healthy yearnings in many of us. Fifty Shades simply capitalised on a perverted version of a God given desire.

Ephesians 5 ends with the following:

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:33)

Women, don’t you long to be loved, cherished and adored by a man you respect? Don’t men long to have someone they can love, cherish and adore who will respect them? And if so, does this not point to the fact that men and women were created differently, in God’s very image, to reflect Him on this earth?

With the movie coming out this valentines, I know some Christian women will be tempted to see it. If that’s you I would encourage you to seek the face of Jesus instead. Look to the strongest, most powerful and wonderful saviour who was willing to courageously die for you, rather than to a fictional man who wants to seduce, abuse, dominate and harm. [Rowina Seidler. Rowina is the editor of this free magazine, Ruby in the Rough. To read more of her articles do subscribe!]

Note: If you struggle with lust and fantasy, I would recommend the book Purity is Possible by Helen Thorne.