All my colleagues are reading Fifty Shades of Grey and are saying it is renewing their sex lives with their husbands. Is it alright for me as a Christian to read it?

I cannot police Christendom with what is good for each of us to read. It is a secular novel and as such there are many things about it that I could not hold up as ‘ideal’ from a biblical angle. The story involves erotic descriptions of the two main characters’ (Anastasia and Christian) developing relationship and sex life.

Some of this includes him tying up her hands or feet (bondage), him needing to dominate (the D in BDSM) and control, and inflicting pain (sadomasochism). Some of the sex scenes have none of this and are purely erotic without any BDSM, which is how Anastasia prefers it. The storyline presents his need for BDSM as an unhealthy consequence of the damage in his early years. At points in the book, Anastasia expresses wanting ‘more’ than the BDSM-style sex: ‘Deep down I would just like more, more affection, more playful Christian,’. She goes on to say, ‘This man, whom I once thought of as a romantic hero...he’s not a hero; he’s a man with serious, deep emotional flaws, and he’s dragging me into the dark. Can I not guide him into the light?’

I haven’t read the second and third books so I can only comment on the first, but I wouldn’t see it as porn – it is clearly fiction. The characters are not real people, whereas porn models are. In more than ten years as a psychosexual therapist, I have never found a woman who always wants sex, is never tired or ‘not in the mood’, and who can have sex as frequently as ‘Ana’ without getting cystitis! It’s fantasy, and for those who can keep that clear in their translation processes into real life, like we do with most other novels we read, it has made a positive contribution to many people’s sex drive.

Most healthy people know what their own tastes and sexual boundaries are, and will find the BDSM sickening and sad, filtering that out. Of course, there is a risk that if people read Fifty Shades they will have their own boundaries blurred, and experiment with things that I would not consider to be healthy psychologically or emotionally, let alone physically.

From a biblical, a psychological and an emotional standpoint, I would see any dynamics in a relationship where one person dominates and controls another as damaging and dangerous. Deliberately inflicting pain on another human being is completely anathema to Christian values, which teach us gentleness and kindness in so many different ways.

If a person is vulnerable to absorbing elements of bondage, domination or using pain in sex, then they shouldn’t read it, as it will pollute their mind and relationships. If such material triggers past trauma for you, then also don’t read it, because God is fighting for your healing and freedom (Isaiah 61:1).

Where people can have mature filters knowing their own values and sexual boundaries, the book does have the potential to awaken your sex drive. If this is applied into people’s marriages in a healthy and personalised way, it can be a helpful stirring of the libido that smoulders at different heats over the years.

Each of us is accountable for, and responsible for, our own purity of mind. We should know our limits and not put them under pressure. Innocence and purity are beautiful things, not something to be ashamed of (Matthew 10:16 ‘be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’).

To be honest, if I had not been continuously asked about this book for my work, I would have chosen at a personal level not to read it. I did enjoy the eroticism and chemistry of the book as well as the friction of their developing relationship. I am more confirmed than ever that anything involving domination deserves a tirade of feminist awareness. Anything that involves hurting another precious being, particularly sickeningly in the name of love, made me want to throw up and broke my it did the heroine of the novel.

You will have to take responsibility for yourself as in all things, whether this is good for you to read or not.