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In case you missed it, there is another degrading pop-culture phenomenon thrusting itself upon the masses. The best selling novel, 50 Shades of Grey has sparked a new genre known as “mommy porn.”  The success of 50 Shades of Grey cannot be ignored.  Thirty-one million copies of the book have been sold and it has recently surpassed Harry Potter as the fastest selling paperback of all time.  The book is noted for its explicit sex scene and, more disturbingly, its use of bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism (BDSM).

The plot, described by wikipedia, since I won’t be reading the book myself, is about the twisted “relationship” between “college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey.”  The description disturbingly states how,

Ana later goes on a date with Grey where he takes her out in his helicopter Charlie Tango to his apartment. Once there, Grey insists that she sign a non-disclosure agreement forbidding her to discuss anything that they do together, which Ana agrees to sign. He also mentions other paperwork, but first takes her to a room full of BDSM toys and gear. There Grey informs her that the second contract will be one of Dominance and submission and that there will be no romantic relationship, only a sexual one. The contract even forbids Ana from touching Grey or making eye contact with him.

Doug Wilson rightly notes, “If literature encouraging the abuse of women were the drug, Twilight was like pot, and 50 Shades is the crack cocaine.”

So when Jared Wilson wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition criticizing 50 Shades, he quoted from Doug Wilson’s book, Fidelity, and opened up upon himself a floodgate of criticism from several popular religious bloggers. Strangely, the criticism was not about 50 Shades, but against both Wilsons and TGC for a paragraph in the book Fidelity that rebukes egalitarianism. The offending paragraph states,

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

Quick to pounce was egalitarian advocate Rachel Held Evans.  Evans claim that the curse in the Garden of Eden where God says to Eve, “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you” was overcome by Jesus.  As expected Evans takes a swipe at the Complementarian position when she writes,

For egalitarians, the teachings and example of Jesus point to a new way of healing, equality, and mutual submission within male and female relationships. There is to be no more power struggle, no more “ruling over” one another. But, as we have discussed at length over the past year, for modern-day Christian patriarchalists (sometimes called complementarians), hierarchal gender relationships are God-ordained, so the essence of masculinity is authority, and essence of femininity is submission. Men always lead and women always follow. There is no sphere unaffected by this hierarchy—not even, it seems, sex.

So offended by Jared Wilson’s post that Evans demanded the Gospel Coalition take down the blog. Blogger Scot McKnight also joined in the rebuke,

I am calling on The Gospel Coalition to remove its post by Jared Wilson. It’s mostly a quotation from Douglas Wilson, but the offending paragraph is woefully ignorant of the mutual sexual language of Song of Solomon (a book sadly neglected too often by complementarians) and flat-out contradicts the gospel-reshaping denial of authority in the marriage bed in 1 Cor 7.

Neither Evans nor McKnight have offered a rebuke of 50 Shades of Grey, but seem quick to call out Doug Wilson for a being offensive to their egalitarian dispositions.  Adding to the debate, Doug Wilson brilliantly showed the inconsistencies of Rachel Held Evans outrage,

Just a few interactions though. Rachel Held Evans says this:

“Note: I get that some folks enjoy getting ‘conquered’ to some degree in bed. That’s fine. Do what you both enjoy. But this should be a mutual decision, pleasurable to both parties, and it is certainly not required by God-ordained gender roles.”

So the problem is not the language I used about penetration or conquest, but rather who is in charge of the whole thing. The objectors have wanted to slander me by pretending that I put the man in charge of it, but I most emphatically do not. What I actually do (as she accidentally acknowledges here) is to say that God is in charge of it.

This means that there are limits, even within marriage, established by God (1 Thess. 4:4). This is a theme that I explored at some length in my interaction with Mark Driscoll’s book Real Marriage. You can follow that thread, starting here.

It also means that I believe that mutually-agreed-upon rape games in marriage are out. Mutual consent is necessary in godly marital sex (1 Cor. 7:4), but mutual consent is not the final authority. Mutual consent is required by God, but mutual consent is not God. God is the final authority, and He says that the marriage bed should be honored by all, the bed undefiled (Heb. 13:4).

If mutual consent were the final authority, then there is no reason why a married couple could not decide to read 50 Shades together. But I believe that if a man and a woman both vote for degrading the woman, the decision to do so is still evil.”

So real issue for Rachel Held Evans and Scot McKnight is not the pop-culture phenomenon of 50 Shade of Grey, but that a Complementarian rebuked it and connected it to the Egalitarian position.

Whether you are a Complementarian or Egalitarian, the tragedy is that on an issue where Christians of all persuasions should be united–voluntary sexual degradation is evil–we are sadly distracted by what the word, “conquest” means and whether is can be used euphemistically.