FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Fifty Shades of Deception

with Dannah Gresh, Juli Slattery | February 2, 2015
Play Pause

Why all the hype about Fifty Shades of Grey? With its dark overtones, why are so many Christian women being drawn to it? Here to answer those questions and more are Dannah Gresh, cofounder of Pure Freedom, and clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Why all the hype about Fifty Shades of Grey? With its dark overtones, why are so many Christian women being drawn to it? Here to answer those questions and more are Dannah Gresh, cofounder of Pure Freedom, and clinical psychologist Dr. Juli Slattery.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Why all the hype about Fifty Shades of Grey? With its dark overtones, why are so many Christian women being drawn to it? Here to answer those questions and more are Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery.

MP3 Download Transcript

Fifty Shades of Deception

With Dannah Gresh, Juli Slattery
February 02, 2015
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: You have probably heard the buzz about the movie that’s coming out next weekend—the movie that is an adaptation of the book, Fifty Shades of Grey—a book that presents a very distorted view of human sexuality and relationships. Dannah Gresh says there is a reason why so many women—including Christian women—are being seduced by a story like this.

Dannah: We live in a culture that is very fueled by feminist mentality and strong women. I’m not offended by strong women—I think I am one. Ask my husband—he’ll tell you. In a culture where you best not talk about biblical submission, when a counterfeit shows up—as vile as the character is in Fifty Shades of Grey / as messed up as he is—women, who are starved for men of strength, will fall for that counterfeit because they are thirsty.



Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 2nd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to pull back the curtain on the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon today. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You almost wish we didn’t have to talk about this; don’t you?


Dennis: Yes, I do. I was grieved, actually, as I was doing studio preparation. I was thinking, “What a tragedy in our culture—that we have to talk about what is the equivalent, for women, of pornography.”

Bob: I have to tell you—I will never forget a plane flight I was on. It was a Little Rock to Dallas leg of the flight. I was seated next to a woman, who was probably ten years younger than me.



Out of her purse came the book, Fifty Shades of Grey. For an hour, I sat next to a woman who was reading this book. It was just uncomfortable to sit there, going, “What’s going on in your head as you’re reading this book?” It was kind of creeping me out.

Dennis: The unfortunate thing is that book has now gone on to sell—or the books—over 70 million—is that right, ladies?

Dannah: Well, it’s up to over a 100 million now.

Bob: And with the movie about to come out, we can expect that it’s going to sell even more.

Dennis: Even more. We’re joined on the broadcast today by Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh. Dannah/Juli— welcome to the broadcast.

Dannah: It’s great to be here.

Juli: Yes.

Dennis: Yes, it’s good to have you. I’m glad—well, I’m not glad.

Dannah: Yes, we feel the same way. We’ve grieved our way through the writing of this book.



Dennis: Yes, but someone has to speak out about it. You guys have done a great job on a book called Pulling Back the Shades. Juli, you’re a mom—you have three. You and your husband, Mike, have been married for 18 years. Dannah, you have three children as well. You and Bob have a happy marriage. So, here you are as wives, being forced into a discussion and a dialogue around what is a trap. You ran across this trap when it first came out, Dannah.

Dannah: Yes, and I didn’t—I refused to actually write about it. My husband said: “Honey, there’s this book. Have you heard of it?—Fifty Shades of Grey.” I hadn’t. He said: “Well, there’s a viral Saturday Night Live spoof that’s all over Facebook®. I think you should see it.” I watched, and it was horrible. I snapped the laptop shut and said, “Christian women will never fall for that.”

And everywhere I went, Christian women were reading it.



Or my best friend’s mom had her name on a list at the library to take it out as a loan. I said, “Your mom is a godly woman.” She said: “I know. She has no idea what the book’s about. She’s just heard that everyone is reading it so she wants to read it too.” That’s when I knew I needed to speak up.

Dennis: So, you ended up writing a piece for MomLife Today®, which is FamilyLife’s—well, it really keeps in touch with moms and current issues they are dealing with. What was the response to that blog?

Dannah: So furious and so supportive, all at the same time. The title was I’m Not Reading Fifty Shades of Grey.” I went on to outline the reasons I felt that I shouldn’t.

Dennis: We’re going to put a link on our website,, so listeners can take a look at that.

Juli, how did you run across this book, and what was your response?

Juli: Well, I had just started a new ministry for women, with Linda Dillow, on the issue of intimacy called Authentic Intimacy.



We were teaching women about sexuality, from God’s perspective, and helping them deal with all kinds of issues. So, this naturally came up on our radar when it started to hit the news.

I, like Dannah, thought, “Well, this is just one of those things that we grieve for a short period of time and then we move on”; but also realized, as Dannah did, that this is not going away. It’s not just a worldly phenomenon / we were hearing from women, as well, who were asking us questions about it: “A friend from church gave me this book. Is there anything wrong with it?”

We became more aware that this was a cultural movement that was impacting people—women from all walks and really all faiths. There really became this need to begin speaking out and teaching women about discernment when it comes to what they’re reading, and what they’re thinking about, and sexual things—just the same way as men need to be aware of that.

Bob: Dannah, you still have not read the Fifty Shades of Grey books; right?

Dannah: I have not.



Bob: Juli, you’ve read them.

Juli: I have.

Bob: And the decision to read them was in preparation for what you wanted to write about it?

Juli: Absolutely; yes. When we decided to write the book, we knew that one of us needed to know what was in the books. Dannah had made a very public stand and felt convicted that she shouldn’t read them. I prayed about it and felt that I needed to read them. So, I did so with fear and trembling.

Bob: Read all of them—cover to cover?

Juli: I did, yes.

Bob: Was there a point, in the middle of it, where you thought, “I should not be reading this stuff”?

Juli: Well, I really went into reading them, knowing what I was getting myself into, and had people praying for me—and asked the Lord, “Show me how to read these books in such a way that it’s not going to defile me.” The Lord showed me to read them on my knees because that’s the posture of prayer that I am frequently in when I’m seeking God. Reading them in that physical posture of prayer and also being quite uncomfortable—when you’re on your knees hour after hour—



—I think helped a lot to remind me, through the moments, why I was reading. I’m not going to say that it didn’t still impact me.

Dennis: You’re a clinical psychologist; right?

Juli: Yes.

Dennis: It’s not like you come at these without some kind of clinical experience—having seen the impact of pornography and erotica on women before and, perhaps, even some men in your counseling. Did that help you in terms of kind of giving a category for what you were wading off into?

Juli: It helped me a little bit, but I’m going to say—as my walk with the Lord has gotten deeper, I’m more a follower of Christ than a clinical psychologist. So, in approaching Fifty Shades of Grey in our book, Pulling Back the Shades, I was really more aware of the spiritual battle. The psychology is definitely there—what it does to our brain chemistry / how it impacts relationships—it’s there.



But the stronger argument and the stronger awareness for me was the spiritual battle of good and evil that is playing out in our world when it comes to sexuality.

Bob: What is the lure here?—because I’ve talked to people who have said, “These are not particularly well-written books.”

Dannah: No.

Bob: It’s not like anybody is reading this, going, “This is amazing literature!”

Dannah: “Great writing!”—yes.

Bob: Yes.

Dannah: Well, that was the first question Juli and I wanted to answer. We wanted to ask the Lord and these women, “What made you read it?” My job was to interview women who had read it—I interviewed deaconesses; I interviewed pastor’s wives; I interviewed children. The youngest girl that we worked with had started to read erotica when she was nine years old on the internet. The question was: “What is drawing them in?” So I went into the stories.



For example, one of the deaconesses—her husband was an elder in the church. He was a very successful businessman. Suddenly, she—formerly, a very successful business woman—found herself at home with babies. She was lonely. The reality of diapers, and dinner, and grocery shopping, and all the things that encompass everyday living, when you’re a stay-at-home mom, had overtaken her. Her desire was two-fold—to escape the reality of mundane living and to wake up her sex life because she just felt dead—that was her breaking point.

Dennis: You all list out what you call “Five Longings that Women Have.” I think those are helpful to understand what it is that is the lure—back to your question, Bob: “Why are women taking the bait?”



Juli: Yes. I think it’s really important to highlight these longings because there is nothing wrong in the longings. The longings that women have are God-given longings; but Satan comes along and presents a shortcut and says, “You can get what you need this way instead of the holy way.” So we did identify—individually, Dannah and I just stumbled upon these five longings—as she was interviewing women and as I was reading the books.

Dannah: They just happened to match. [Laughter]

Juli: Yes.

Bob: So the five are?

Juli: The first is to escape reality. Women want some kind of fantasy to take them out of just dull life. The second one is to be cherished by a man. The third one is to be protected by a strong man. The fourth—to rescue a man; and the fifth is to be sexually alive.

Dannah: The story I just shared—that women had two of those factors in her life. Juli was seeing that this book made the promise of those things. So, we brought those two things together—what I was hearing from women and what Juli was sensing in the book. We realized that these are the five things that are drawing them in.



Bob: So, Juli, as you’re reading through these books, are you finding yourself attracted to the stories? Are you being seduced by what’s in the books as you read it?

Juli: For sure; yes. There is sugar in it—there’s something that draws us. I’m a woman—I’m not just a psychologist. I have longings. Some of these longings—I would say that the church hasn’t done a great job of talking about, and validating, and fleshing out for people how you actually get those needs met. The world is doing a better job of painting the picture. So, for sure, I thought, “Even though the books were not greatly written, they were masterfully manipulating women in terms of what their heart longs for.”

Dennis: Let’s talk about that for a moment. I don’t want to talk so much about the building of the church; but I want to break it down to the smallest component of the church, which is a family.



How should a mom and dad, who are raising daughters today, be thinking about a young lady, who is growing up in this culture, who has these longings? How should they be equipping their daughters to know how to identify, first of all, and then, secondly, deal with those longings, biblically, the way God would have them do it?

Juli: That’s the million dollar question—so we’ll take a while to unpack that. Some of it, I think, starts with viewing sexuality as something much greater than sex. In our culture, we’ve taken one aspect of sexuality, which is sexually acting out—

Dannah: The physical—just the physical.

Juli: Yes, and separated it completely from who God is, and what His design is, and what a woman longs for—how she wants to be cherished and protected. We’ve let the world just talk about the physical part. We’ve kind of cut it off from all other forms of discipleship that we do with our kids. We haven’t integrated it.



I know you, at FamilyLife, have done a great job with some of the resources—like Passport2Purity®—to help integrate it. And Dannah, your ministry does a wonderful job, as well, of teaching parents. This is kind of a new term I’ve been thinking about: “What does sexual discipleship look like? How do we integrate sexuality into the discipleship of our kids?” So that’s the broader picture. And then there’s a lot when it comes to unpacking that and walking it out.

Dennis: It’s no mistake that the book of beginnings, the Book of Genesis—the first book in the Bible—among the first verses of the book describe God creating man in His own image—Genesis 1:27. It says “In the image of God He created them, male and female, He created them.” Human sexuality was a part of the imprint of who God was from the very beginning, and He didn’t stutter. He made it real clear—there are two sexes: male and female.



As parents, we have to make sure we embrace the obvious and engage our children around these issues.

Dannah: Don’t you think it’s interesting that—when He says “In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them,”—that those two sentences encapsulate the fact that we look like God. All of the proficiencies that we have—our language proficiencies, our creative proficiencies to write sonnets and create works of beautiful art, the ability to defy gravity and fly to the moon—that God doesn’t speak to those proficiencies. He speaks to gender when He says “This is what makes you in My image.” That’s cataclysmic—that’s huge!

Bob: And yet, Dannah, we have, for a lot of years, said to young people: “Sex—bad. Sex—stay away from this. Sex is going to hurt you. It’s going to harm you. Just say, ‘No,’ to all of these things.”

Dannah: Yes. It’s such an incomplete message.



Bob: It is. What you’re saying, “Even with these longings,”—you’re saying—“these are good longings. These are God-given longings.” It’s just, when you go after a counterfeit solution to try to achieve the longings, that’s when you’re headed into a dangerous spot.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: Yes, and let’s go to one other one real quickly here. Let’s talk about a woman’s desire to be cherished by a man. What have you ladies tried to teach your daughters about how she should be cherished?

Juli: Well, I have to say, right out of the gate, I have three sons. So, I haven’t had the privilege of walking with a daughter through this. I’m teaching my boys, on the other end of it. Dannah, you have two girls.

Dannah: Yes. I think the thing that comes to my mind immediately is just that my children have seen Bob cherish me. They have seen him set aside his life to love me, and serve me, and spoil me. I don’t think there has been a night in 25 years of marriage that he hasn’t said, in front of the kids, “Your mom is a good cook!” [Laughter]



Just these little things; you know? I think that what we can’t forget is that what they see at home is what they catch. If we love Jesus, and they see that that is real, they want Jesus. If we love our spouse, and they see that that’s real, they want to model that in the future.

Bob: Back to the Fifty Shades of Grey book—because there are a lot of people who say, “That’s why I liked it—because I saw a man cherishing a woman.” I presume that’s in there—I don’t know. “I saw these things—that are the longings being fulfilled—so what’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with it?

Dannah: If I might just interject, before I answer that question—my pet peeve or my soapbox in these longings is to be protected by a strong man. We live in a culture that is very fueled by feminist mentality and strong women. I’m not offended by strong women—I think I am one. Ask my husband—he’ll tell you.



Barbara Walters read the book. On The View, she said to the panel, “You know, I think that we’re reading it because we’re so tired of being strong women all day that, at night, we just want the man to be in charge.” Suddenly, words like “submission” and “master” and “obedience” are sexy in a culture where you best not talk about biblical submission.

Why?—because we have slaughtered the strong man in our society. We are women who are starved for men of strength. So, when a counterfeit shows up—as vile as the character is in Fifty Shades of Grey / as messed up as he is—his whips and chains makes him strong—and women will fall for that counterfeit because they are thirsty.

Bob: And you would say, I presume, Dannah, that somebody—who is not interested in the book / not going to go see the movie—do they need to read your book? Because I’d be a little bit concerned they’d read your book and that might make them curious for what’s in Fifty Shades.

Dannah: Well, I hope that is not the case.



I hope that we have shown them where they can get those realities met in Christ. One of the things that we prayed very fervently for is that women—who have read Fifty Shades of Grey and women who have not read it—will choose to pick up our book. The real culmination in that prayer was—we were in Colorado Springs—Juli and I had gotten together to work on the book in her home. That morning, we sat down to start our time together in prayer.

I began to just pray some passages that I had read in Nehemiah that day, which was outside of my reading plan, but it’s where God led me. And Juli just stopped me. She said: “No way; no way; no way! You’re reading Nehemiah? Who reads that?!” because the Lord had directed her to Nehemiah.

The story of Nehemiah is that he wasn’t in the crisis of it—he was called to it. He could have stayed in his cushy place of safety, so many miles away from the crisis.



Instead, he prayed: “Lord, break my heart. Let my heart break until I want to be a part of the solution.” We need men and women in the church—who are not enticed by pornography / who are not enticed by erotica—to have their heart broken with how it is ripping the soul out of the intimacy of marriage so that we can be a part of rebuilding that wall of integrity in the church.

Dennis: I would make three quick comments to that. One, if you are a woman, who does pick this up and read it—I would make sure your husband knows or another woman knows that you’re reading this, and that you’re talking about it, and you have the ability to let somebody into your soul as you go through this because this is not—we’re not talking about reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

Bob: You’re talking about reading Dannah and Juli’s book.

Dennis: I am. I’m talking about reading that so that person has—

Bob: —some accountability.

Dennis: Yes. Number two—I would say to any teenager: “I wouldn’t read this book without your mom.”



Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: I’d want to make sure you’re connected.

Dannah: I haven’t allowed my 20-year-old girls to read it yet.

Dennis: Yes. I just caution—I just caution there.

And then—the third group I want to speak to are the men. I hope you have heard a clarion call for the need for strong, courageous men of God, who know how to love, protect, nourish, cherish, care for, lead, guide, love their wives and the women in their lives. Ephesians, Chapter 5, lays it on the line: “Husbands, love your wives…”—how?

Dannah: “…as Christ loved the church.”

Dennis: “…as Christ loved the church.” It’s going to cost you your life; but if you’re not doing that, you may be leaving your wife in a vulnerable position to go looking for some of these longings to be met in the wrong place.

Bob: I would think, with regard to the book you ladies have written, called Pulling Back the Shades



—if there are women, who are listening, who have—they have read the Fifty Shades books and they’re thinking, “Maybe, I should go see that movie. I’m kind of curious. I think I’d like to see it,”—or maybe they know somebody who has either read these books or is involved in pornography and erotica—I’d encourage them: “Get a copy of Dannah and Juli’s book because it really does help you understand why this is the dangerous subject that it is—why it is not just a momentary escape and, as long as you keep your marriage vows and don’t take your sexuality outside of marriage, everything is going to be okay and God doesn’t really care. There is a lot more at stake here.”

We have copies of the book, Pulling Back the Shades in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at Click the link in the upper left-hand corner that says “GO DEEPER.” The information about the book is available right there. You can order from us, online.



Again, the website:; or call if you’d like to order. If you have any questions about the book, the number to call: 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”

I don’t know how many of you realize this, but next week is actually National Marriage Week. Throughout social media, we’re going to have some fun activities. We’re going to be suggesting some articles that we want to recommend to you—some ways to build into your marriage. I mention all of that because I know some of you are not friends of ours on Facebook®. So, if you’re on Facebook and you have never friended FamilyLife Today, you might want to do that this week because we have a lot coming up next week.



If you’re on Twitter®, and you’re not following FamilyLife Today on Twitter, you might go over and follow us today. Then keep an eye open for some of the tweets that come out next week as we celebrate National Marriage Week. I also want to let you know that the month of February is a month in which we are going to be asking many of our FamilyLife Today listeners to consider taking the next step and becoming regular contributors to this ministry by becoming Legacy Partners.

We have a small, loyal, faithful group of folks who help underwrite this radio program, month in and month out, with regular contributions to support FamilyLife Today. We’d like you to think about joining that group. We’ll tell you more about it later on in the month. I’d just like you to start thinking now about whether you should join us and become a Legacy Partner.

If you’d like to find out more about what’s involved, go to Click the link at the top right-hand corner of the page that says, “I CARE.” The information about becoming a Legacy Partner is available right there.



Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I’d like to know more about becoming a Legacy Partner.” We’ll answer any questions you might have and tell you a little bit more about what’s involved.

And we hope you can join us back tomorrow when Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery will be here again as we continue to look at this subject of intimacy, and erotica, and the Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon. We’ll talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here.


I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.


We are so happy to provide these transcripts to you. However, there is a cost to produce them for our website. If you’ve benefited from the broadcast transcripts, would you consider donating today to help defray the costs? 

Copyright © 2015 FamilyLife. All rights reserved.