So perhaps you’ve heard of this new book triology by E.L James, Fifty Shades of Grey. This series has created quite the stir of steamy conversations in neighborhood book clubs, TV interviews, blogs and radio talk shows. To be completely honest, my initial response was to ignore the entire thing — assuming it would blow over in a week or two. Boy was I wrong.

Just the other day, I was in my car, thumbing through radio stations, when a radio talk show host mentioned something how teenagers were wanting to “weigh in” on the erotic discussions of Fifty Shades of Grey.

What?!?

Teenagers?!!

I realized there was only one thing to do — especially if our teenagers are reading these books and wanting to be apart of the conversation — I marched home and downloaded a sample of the book on my favorite electronic device.

It didn’t take me long to get a good preview of the book. In it I began learning the story of a female college student distracted by an attraction to a man, who happened to be seven years her senior. Ok. Nothing erotic in that story line at all, right? But what I did notice, was the language in the book was filled with hints of desire, longing and obvious differences in sexual awareness.

So what exactly is erotic literature? And what does it mean? And how is it impacting our teens?

Webster’s defines erotic as “…devoted to, or tending to arouse sexual love or desire.

Now, don’t be too surprised, but erotic literature is nothing new. It’s been around for centuries! You might even blush when you realize many carry their own erotic literature every week to church! After all, Song of Songs, in the Bible is considered erotic poetry. Rabbinical teachers of the text, called as Rabbis, knew this and how the stirring of desire would impact young boys who were studying the scriptures. The Rabbis would actually limit access to this erotic book until the school boys reached a certain age and were properly equipped to carry these images.

If we believe that God is against desire and sexual arousal — it will impact how we invite our teens to notice and experience their own sexual longings.  Culturally, teens are thrust into the arena of consuming images rather than learning how to be connected to the Creator who designed this desire and their natural longings of exploring their sexuality.

I’ll admit that when I reached the end of the sample text of the download, I completely toyed with the idea of downloading the rest of this book. I very much felt that desire to experience this erotic desire that someone else created and designed…

Want to know why?

It is work to engage with our own imagination and desire, to risk being honest before God about sexual longing. Genesis speaks of being naked and unashamed as a part of our original design and how we are purposefully made by God.

God never intended us to be separated from our desire, but our desire was created to be rooted in our Creator, not what we have created. To let our imaginations run wild in the arena of sexuality at too early an age can be dangerous. Having the intentional conversations with our teens about the truest nature of desire could also be a powerful tool for equipping them for engaging with another human being someday. And ultimately releasing their erotic love within the bounds of marriage.

What if these books are revealing a deep desire to reconnect with our own imaginations?

I am grateful for this opportunity to look closer at this topic. I am more convinced than ever though that this is not how I want teens to be introduced to the wild wonder of their sexuality…!! I think there is more we can teach them, but only if we dare to be honest and encounter risky conversations…

~ b

PS I realize that there might be many different opinions and thoughts about this type of literature. As always, I welcome and look forward to your respectful and insightful comments, questions and wonderings. Thanks friends.

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