FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Longings of a Woman’s Heart

with Dannah Gresh, Juli Slattery | February 3, 2015
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Is Fifty Shades of Grey just an intriguing story, or something much more dangerous? Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery discuss the book, Fifty Shades of Grey, and tell why the themes and tone of this erotic tale is misleading the hearts and minds of those who read it.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Is Fifty Shades of Grey just an intriguing story, or something much more dangerous? Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery discuss the book, Fifty Shades of Grey, and tell why the themes and tone of this erotic tale is misleading the hearts and minds of those who read it.

  • 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.

Is Fifty Shades of Grey just an intriguing story, or something much more dangerous? Dannah Gresh and Dr. Juli Slattery tell why the themes and tone of this erotic tale misleads those who read it.

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Longings of a Woman’s Heart

With Dannah Gresh, Juli Slattery
February 03, 2015
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Bob: There is a reason why sexual perversion is what it is today. Our enemy knows there’s something very significant at stake when it comes to our understanding of human sexuality. Here’s Dannah Gresh.

Dannah: In the context of a one man/one woman passionate marriage relationship, we see a picture of the greatest spiritual truth there is—that there is a Savior who loves us passionately and wants to know us intimately. If Satan can wipe out the desire for that, he has wiped out the picture of the gospel. If we don’t rise up to address this, we’ll wake up one day to find ourselves, as Christians, marginalized and the gospel marginalized as well.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, February 3rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There is a reason why the controversy over Fifty Shades of Grey is what it is. It’s not just because we need something new to rant about. Stay tuned.


And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, if you look back on 2014, there were a lot of movies that came out in 2014 that had spiritual themes to them—a lot of movies about God / a lot of movies about spiritual stuff.


Dennis: And here we are, starting out 2015—

Bob: —and the first blockbuster, out of the gate, is Fifty Shades of Grey. You wonder, “What kind of year it’s going to be”; don’t you?

Dennis: And our guests, who are joining us on today’s broadcast, Bob, would say that it, too, is a spiritual movie.

Bob: Well, that’s a good point.

Dennis: Dr. Juli Slattery and Dannah Gresh join us again on FamilyLife Today. Dannah/ Juli—welcome back.

Juli: Thank you.

Dannah: Thank you.

Dennis: They have written a book in response to Fifty Shades of GreyPulling Back the Shades—subtitled: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart.



Now, you draw a distinction, very quickly in the book—that this is not merely a book about fiction / this is about fantasy. You draw a distinction between those two.

Juli: Yes; fiction is a story that could possibly be true, but it’s not true. Fantasy is a story that cannot be true. You know, for example, Star Wars, a famous fantasy—it starts by even telling you, “In a galaxy far, far away...”—“I want your imagination to go away from today’s reality and accept that there might be talking creatures, or aliens, or whatever.” It’s taking you out of the laws that we live with.

Sexual fantasy, like Fifty Shades of Grey, does that without telling you that it’s stepping into fantasy.



Bob: Well, when you told me that the hero in Fifty Shades of Grey makes $100,000 an hour, I knew it was fantasy, at that point! [Laughter]

Juli: And he’s 27 years old—yes! [Laughter]

Dannah: That was a clue for you!

Bob: There’s something here that is fantasy—right there!

Juli: Yes, but there are more dangerous fantasies that break laws of nature—of spiritual nature. For example, you know the whole story line of Fifty Shades of Grey is this woman falls in love with this man, whose name is Christian Grey, and he’s abusive. He brings her into a bondage-type relationship. Now, in normal life, that doesn’t end well—abusive relationships are destructive.

Bob: Yes.

Juli: In fantasy—like Fifty Shades of Grey—they end up falling in love. They end up healing each other’s wounds. They end up with this happy, beautiful marriage.

Dannah and I have talked to women who have fallen for the fantasy that: “Wow! There is a guy like that out there. He might be a little on the edge—a little dangerous—maybe doing some of this bondage and dominance type stuff.” It doesn’t end in a good place.

Bob: Yes.


Dannah: No. When the Fifty Shades of Grey series took off, here in the United States, Huffington Post ran an article outlining the fact that one match-making affair website—their activity had gone up dramatically—something like 42 percent—because women were reading the book and were wanting to try bondage, but didn’t feel like they could ask their husbands about that. They were willing to resort to an affair to do that. So, that’s how real life works—real life ends with sadness / real life ends with brokenness. But in this fantasy book, all the laws of nature are overridden.

Dennis: One of the things I got from your book, ladies, is the danger of this to the soul—that this movie is dangerous to our spiritual well-being.

Bob: Or, at least, the books are. There are dark spiritual themes in the book; right?



Dennis: Explain what you mean by that.

Juli: Well, just some of the spiritual themes I’ll mention—that there are Bible verses that are quoted throughout the books in different contexts. Christian Grey has what he calls The Red Room of Pain, which is where he would take women to flog them, basically, in a sexual way. In The Red Room of Pain, there is a wooden cross that is used for sexual reasons. Those are just a few examples of how—why would a woman, who’s writing a very erotic, pornographic book, intentionally pull in Biblical themes / Christian themes—a wooden cross—

Dannah: —the word, “holy,”—

Juli: Yes.

Dannah: —over, and over, and over again?

Juli: There are two words that are used in each of the three books over 100 times. One of those words is a very profane word / the other one is “holy.” Most often, the word “holy” is paired with a swear word. So, this just isn’t accidental.



Dannah: I think this is a good time to interject the reality that there is no statistical difference in the percentage of Christian—active, evangelical Christian women—versus the mainstream public who are reading this book.

Bob: You’re saying it’s as likely for a woman at your office to be reading this book as it is for a woman sitting next to you at church?

Dannah: Yes.

Juli: And we’ve talked to women who picked up Fifty Shades of Grey because someone at church recommended it.

Dannah: Yes. Quite frankly, this whole journey of Juli and me writing this book started because Priscilla Shirer stopped us at a conference we were all speaking at and said: “I’m concerned. I’m really concerned.” So, we flew to Nashville, within a few weeks, and taped some video with Priscilla—that’s online—to discuss this in a biblical manner. It was at that particular meeting that Juli and I said, “We have to put something in writing as well.”



Bob: We know, statistically, that men are engaging in pornography. I think the last statistic I saw said that, in an average month, 60 percent of American men will view pornography at least once.

Dannah: Yes.

Bob: How big’s that number for women and erotica; do you know?

Dannah: We don’t know yet because it would have been like asking the question about men at the advent of the internet.

Bob: Yes; nobody’s raised their hand.

Dannah: Right, but when you’re looking at a book like this—selling 100 million copies—you can consider the fact that she’s outsold Harry Potter. It’s been out here for a few decades. She’s selling at a pace that’s equal to only one author, and that would be God. You know, the only other book that you can compare sales of this to, now that she’s outpaced Harry Potter, would be the Bible.

Bob: What would be the strategy that the enemy is employing through a book like this? What does he want to do with Fifty Shades of Grey, Juli?



Juli: Well, I think he wants to get access to our hearts. You know, I think what it comes down to—if I say: “There’s a part of my life / there’s a part of my marriage / there’s a part of my sexuality that I willingly just say, ‘I’m going to just dabble in this a little bit,’”—whether it’s a man or a woman—you’re saying: “I’m taking myself outside of God’s protective covering. I’m taking my family and my marriage outside of that.”

When we give, willingly—we give Satan that access to our mind and our heart, there’s no telling what he’s going to do—the kind of foothold he’s going to get. We see this playing out, really, in all aspects of sexuality—with gender and gay marriage and co-habitation. Fifty Shades of Grey is just one piece of this—where Christians have completely lost the discernment of what it means to be set apart as holy.

Dannah: I think the enemy is trying to wipe out the gospel—



—simple as that. If you believe the Scriptures that teach, from Genesis to Revelation—beginning in Genesis—that male and female gender is in the image of God. Then, you read on to Genesis 4, where it says, “Adam lay with his wife Eve,” / “Adam yada his wife Eve.” The word means to know and to be known—transcending the physical into the emotional and into the spiritual.

That same word is used throughout the context of the Old Testament to describe the intimacy we can know with God: “Be still—yada—and know that I AM God.” He wants to have this knowing with us. Ephesians makes it so clear: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.” Then—almost like the Apostle Paul has ADD—he says, “This is a mystery, but I’m really talking about Christ and the church.”


In the context of a one man/one woman passionate marriage relationship, we see a picture of the greatest spiritual truth there is—that there is a Savior who loves us passionately and wants to know us intimately. If Satan can wipe out the desire for that, he has wiped out the picture of the gospel. If we don’t rise up to address this, we’ll wake up one day to find ourselves, as Christians, marginalized and the gospel marginalized as well.

Dennis: I agree with you. I agree with you, and I think this has a way of numbing the conscience. This, I think, is going to cause people to grow farther from God rather than closer to Him.

One other loss, I think, or one other thing that the enemy is up to, I think—that’s with husbands. I think husbands are going to become more passive rather than more aggressive in their love and their care for their wives. Their wives are going to go get their needs met somewhere else—so the husband’s going to sense that. He may not know what it is / he may not know what he’s missing. So, rather than having to woo his wife / to win his wife—to cherish, nourish, and love his wife—



—instead, he lets her go off to this fantasy. He’s going to miss a real relationship with a real woman as well.

Bob: But aren’t there some husbands, who would say: “Hey, my wife read those books. Things got a little—they got spicy after that! I liked it! I hope she keeps reading that stuff!”

Juli: Yes, we’ve heard from husbands who’ve said that. As a matter of fact, we’ve heard from pastors—men’s pastors—who don’t know what to do because the men in their church are saying: “We love Fifty Shades of Grey! It’s turning on our wives. What’s wrong with that?”

Dennis, what you said is so key—is that it’s the easy way out. You, as men, know that loving your wife / understanding her, sexually—wooing her takes work / it takes effort. There are times of frustration. What husbands are doing now—are saying: “I don’t want to do that work of understanding my wife—of caring for her; of knowing her needs, and meeting them. I want Fifty Shades of Grey to do that for me so that I can just have a moment of fulfillment with her.”



But, as Dannah said earlier, at the end of the day, that doesn’t lead to intimacy. It will tear you apart. At the end of the day, you’re not going to get what you want. In the moment, you might; but you are letting your wife be led to fantasies that will pull her away from you.

Bob: You may have a month where your marital sexual relationship is different than it’s been; but that’s not going to be a lasting phenomenon over a 20-/30-year period, fueled by erotica; right?

Dannah: No.

Juli: She’s not falling in love with you—

Bob: Right.

Juli: —she’s not aroused by you.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: Well, it would be the same thing you’d say for a husband who would bring pornography—

Bob: Yes.

Dennis: —watching video or internet pornography with his wife in their marriage bed.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: I mean—that does not fuel intimacy with a real person in a real relationship for a lifetime.

Dannah: That’s right.



And my heart is just beating within me because I just want women and men, listening right now, to be part of the solution. I know it’s a scary, difficult thing because the verse that comes to my mind is in Galatians 6:1: “If anyone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him.” That’s our call, right now—God is saying: “Listen! This is happening to the women in the church. You are called to restore them in a spirit of gentleness, but keep watch over yourself lest you should be tempted too.” That’s the thing—this is thin ice we’re skating on, as we address it.

Bob: Yes.

Dannah: We have to find—each of us—our own sensitivities. Juli read the book, Fifty Shades of Grey; I didn’t.

Dennis: Let me stop you there—

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: —because you decided, early on, you weren’t going to read it. Let’s say that, on a ten-point scale, you were a “seven” in terms of your conviction about not reading it.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: Now?

Dannah: Now it’s more like a “ten” in my conviction of not reading it. [Laughter]

Dennis: So you—

Dannah: I wasn’t going to read it!



Dennis: Yes, you’ve grown in your conviction that you’re going nowhere near it.

Dannah: No, never.

Dennis: Why?

Dannah: Well, because I’ve seen the damage that it can do. I want women and men to understand that we do not have to experience sinful things to know they are sinful. But, when God burdens my heart and lets me see those who have had their lives ruined by it and He puts a call on my life to move forward—as some people are receiving, right now, a call on their life to help somebody that they know has been reading this or been caught up in it—we must move forward!

You have to sometimes do things that are uncomfortable. Juli and I looked at how Jesus approached the woman at the well. We decided: “Wow! He overrode so many—never Scriptural mandates—but religious traditions of the day to reach that woman’s thirsty heart.” He spoke to her—that was not okay. He walked out of His way to find her.



I think we need to break through some of our discomfort because of traditions to reach these lost and sexually-thirsty women.

Dennis: We’re talking to some women at the well, right now.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: They’ve read it.

Dannah: Yes.

Dennis: They may have—or have not—come to the conclusion that they shouldn’t have. Juli, to that woman, who’s dealing with maybe shame—maybe not—what would you say to her because, undoubtedly, if 100 million copies or more have been sold, we’ve got a ton of our listeners who have read it; and they have kind of smirked as they’ve listened to us talk about this.

Juli: Well, I would say a few things. First of all, there’s a big difference between shame and conviction. We would hate for a woman to walk away from this program, just feeling shame. Shame does nothing but lead you back to the pit of depression and helplessness; whereas conviction is God saying, “My daughter, I’ve got a better plan for you! 


“I know you have longings. I know what brought you to this well. I know what your thirst is, but you’re not going to be satisfied through Fifty Shades of Grey. You’re not going to be satisfied through living with this guy. You’re not going to be satisfied through leaving your marriage for someone else. Would you trust My plan?” So that’s the first thing—is saying: “Please don’t leave with shame. If God is convicting you, it is because He loves you and He has a better plan for you.”

You know, the other thing that we want women to hear is— we understand and God understands your thirst. God knows what it’s like to live in this world, where you’re surrounded by sexual things. You’re lonely. You don’t know how to have intimacy with your husband. You’re in an unsatisfied or lonely marriage. You’re single—you’re longing. He understands those longings. It takes work to say, “Okay, Lord, help me with this.



“Bring companionship into my life / bring truth into my life in a way that will satisfy.” But there is satisfaction at the end of that road.

Dennis: And I would just add—kind of hitch-hiking off what you just said—to that woman, who is longing for a relationship with her husband and may not really understand what God’s blueprints are for intimacy / how to get there—that’s why we host the biblically-centered Weekend to Remember®. It lays out how two imperfect people—two selfish people / two broken people—can go the distance in their marriage and not merely exist but truly begin to experience intimacy and oneness over a lifetime. We talk about communication, conflict resolution, how a husband and a wife relate to each other. I would say a part of the healing process—to a woman who may be coming to the realization that: “You know what? I think maybe I’ve drunk from the poison that’s coming from the stream.”



Bob: And I want to point our listeners to our website, where they can get more information about the Weekend to Remember but, I also—I’m going to take a huge risk before we’re done on today’s program. Let me first tell our listeners—if you are interested in a copy of Dannah Gresh and Juli Slattery’s book, Pulling Back the Shades: Erotica, Intimacy, and the Longings of a Woman’s Heart, go to That’s our website— Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll see information about Dannah and Juli’s book there.

There’s also information about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaways that you’ll find there. Again, those kick off—not this weekend—but next weekend. You’re going to be in Hershey, Pennsylvania, for Valentine’s weekend; and I’m going to be in Colorado Springs. We’ve got events going on in other cities next weekend as well. Then, throughout the spring, we’ve got a full slate of about 60 of these events happening.



So, if you’d like to find out more about the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, go to Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” The info is right there. Again, you can order the book, Pulling Back the Shades, online, from our website; or you can call 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”

I also want to mention that next week is National Marriage Week. We’ve got a lot of things going on during the week—most of it going on through social media and online. So, if you are not a Facebook® friend or a Twitter® follower of FamilyLife Today, go to our Facebook page or go to Twitter and sign up to follow us because we’ve got some fun things happening next week; and we think our listeners might be interested in some of what’s going to go on.

I also want to mention that this month—we are hoping that some of our listeners will consider taking the next step by becoming Legacy Partners in support of this ministry.



You’ll hear more about that throughout the month; but we’d just ask you to consider becoming a monthly contributor to help keep FamilyLife Today on the air on this station and on our network of stations, all across the country. You can find out more about being a Legacy Partner when you go to and click the link that says, “I CARE.” The information will be available there. Or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and say, “I want to know what’s involved in being a Legacy Partner.”

Now, I mentioned I was going to take a huge risk.

Dennis: Yes, you don’t do that often, here on FamilyLife Today. Usually, I’m the one who’s throwing out the tough assignments.

Bob: Well, here’s what I’m risking—I’m putting at risk a friendship—a friendship with a co-worker that has gone on for more than 20 years; okay? But I had this thought, as we were talking with Juli Slattery and with Dannah Gresh about the book, Pulling Back the Shades. I thought, “I want to talk to a woman who read this book.” So I’m going to ask Tonda Nations, our researcher, to step into the studio if she would.



See? I’m putting us at risk; aren’t I? Tonda is looking at me, saying: “No. Don’t make me do this.” Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what you’re saying? Yes. Come on in here. I’m going to ask Tonda to step in here.

Dennis: You’re speaking, of course, the book that Dannah and Juli wrote.

Bob: They wrote the book, Pulling Back the Shades. Tonda Nations, who has been here at FamilyLife—in fact, Juli, I’m going to have you stand up and let Tonda take your chair. Sit down, here—hi, Tonda. How are you doing?

Tonda: I’m doing good.

Bob: Yes; sure you are!

Dennis: How many times have you been on the radio show in the studio?

Tonda: Twice.

Bob: Twice?

Tonda: I was on the singles program, way back in the ‘80s.

Bob: I remember it!

Tonda: Or ‘90s. Wow! You do?

Dennis: We didn’t have a show in the ‘80s! [Laughter]

Tonda: That’s right.

Dennis: I think she’s shaken up, Bob. You’ve officially—

Tonda: You’ve rattled my chains.

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: Tonda, how many books have you read over the last twenty years about marriage and family?

Tonda: I’ve probably read about 500.

Bob: Because Tonda reads—

Dennis: Yes.

Bob: —every book—every interview we do, you read their book; don’t you?


Tonda: I read every book; that’s right.

Bob: So, when I came to you and said, “I want you to read Pulling Back the Shades because we’re going to be interviewing Dannah and Juli,” what did you think?

Dennis: And Tonda’s single. That’s right—Tonda’s single—so this is a different slant at it as well.

Tonda: I didn’t know—I didn’t know anything about the book, and I didn’t really know what their book was until I started reading it. I was a little stunned because I knew there was a fiction book—Fifty Shades of Grey—but I had no friends who read it / I had no family who did. I had heard nothing about it.

Bob: And you don’t have time to read it because you’re reading all of these books for FamilyLife!

Tonda: You’re right! And I don’t read a lot of fiction. I read all non-fiction for FamilyLife.

Bob: So, when you started reading Pulling Back the Shades by Dannah and Juli—

Tonda: I was a little—I was like: “Wow! This is going to be an interesting read. This is a lot different from what I’m normally reading.”



Bob: Did it make you curious to want to go read Fifty Shades of Grey?

Tonda: No, it did not. It absolutely was kind of disgusting, really.

Dannah: Yes.

Tonda: I couldn’t believe some of the things they referred to in it. In fact, I told Christy, your assistant—it was like: “Oh, my gosh, Christy! Listen to this!” I told Christy a few things—about the red room mentioned in the book. She even said: “Don’t tell me that. I don’t want that image in my head.”

Bob: Yes.

Tonda: So, they don’t go too far into the description; but just a little basic description was enough to make me go: “No way! I’m not reading that at all.”

Dennis: You feel sufficiently warned by the book—

Tonda: Yes!

Dennis: —about the trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey?

Tonda: Yes, I don’t want those images in my head—anything about the whole bondage thing—I totally—no! I don’t want to read anything on that.

Bob: Who would you recommend Dannah and Juli’s book to?



Tonda: Well, anybody who has even a question of whether or not they would want to read it, or have friends who might read it or want to read it, I would say: “If you read this first, you can make an informed decision. If you’re solidly Christian, I don’t know why you would want to read it. After reading their book, I really don’t know why you would even want to go there,”—I don’t get it.

Dennis: And their book is Pulling Back the Shades.

Tonda: Right; right.

Bob: Right. Okay; are we still friends—you and me?

Tonda: Possibly. I work for you—so we have to be friends. [Laughter]

Dennis: There are a thousand ways you can get back at him, Tonda!

Tonda: Oh, I will. I’ll come up with something! [Laughter]

Bob: Thank you, Tonda.

Tonda: Thank you.

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