And really, the book would have gained no attention from evangelicals, if it wasn't for this one small detail: Ana and Christian aren't married and yet they have sex. Lots of sex.
So, is this really about the abuse? If Ana and Christian were married, would there be such an outcry? Just think about it for a moment. Was Julie McMahon believed when she said she was abused by her husband (read the article here), and how about Mark Driscoll mandating married women to have oral sex with their husbands whether they like it or not?
She [the wife] says, “I’ve never performed oral sex on my husband. I’ve refused to.” I said, “You need to go home and tell your husband that you’ve met Jesus and you’ve been studying the Bible, and that you’re convicted of a terrible sin in your life. And then you need to drop his trousers, and you need to serve your husband. And when he asks why, say, ‘Because I’m a repentant woman. God has changed my heart and I’m supposed to be a biblical wife.’” She says, “Really?” I said, “Yeah. First Peter 3 says if your husband is an unbeliever to serve him with deeds of kindness.” [Laughter from audience] How many men would agree, that is a deed of kindness. He doesn’t want tracts. Those won’t do anything. What we’re talking about here could really help (Read the article here).
How is this any different from Christian asking Ana to perform acts she isn't comfortable with, other than that the women Driscoll is talking to are married and Ana isn't?
And why is Moody Press asking readers to "Trade their Shades" (If you send in your copy of 50 Shades of Grey, you'll get Pulling Back the Shades in return. Find the details here)? Why not send them, for example, a Bible instead of a manual that tells (married) women how to enjoy sex? Not all readers are Christians, but the assumption here seems to be that if women just knew how to have proper sex, they would automatically live righteous lives.
In the end we find that evangelicals aren't really decrying the degradation, or the abuse, for if they did, they wouldn't be telling married women to stay with their abusive husbands. They are decrying the sex, and the fact that a woman is consenting to sex before marriage. And even though the story ends with marriage, or so I've been told, the fact that the book is about pre-marital sex is the cause of all the alarm, for in evangelical circles, a woman has no right to consent to sex before marriage and no right not to consent to sex after marriage, and this is what makes the evangelical outrage so telling.
If we would remove the slippery "submission is liberation" off the surface, and really look at the evangelical doctrine of submission, we would find 50 shades of marriage and the expectation that women should reform men through submission - even the book Pulling Back the Shades talks about how a woman longs to "rescue a man" - regardless of what that submission looks like in individual cases. The degradation that goes on in the name of evangelical submission could not have more shades of grey than what goes on in the mind of the fictional Christian, and really, how fitting that he is named Christian. Freud was right about that one.