Beware Romantic Pornography

I recently watched the film Sleepless in Seattle with my teen and tween daughters. I hadn’t seen this particular romantic comedy since it was first a blockbuster in 1993. I suppose I found watching the film a little bit like riding a stomach-dropping roller coaster—I have to do it every so often to remind myself why I don’t do it more frequently.

Somehow I had forgotten that Sleepless is the archetype of the treacly “rom com” of the modern age. As soon as I saw Meg Ryan uttering the word “magic” to essentially describe what was missing from the relationship with her fiance, I thought Uh-oh, here we go. It was too late to pull my girls out of the film. But it’s never too late to talk to them about the downside of chick flicks.

As a Christian mom to four school-age children, I find myself often challenging the culture. Many times this means helping my children learn to engage wisely with it. As a single mom, helping my kids to think rightly about the God-given, necessary, and wonderful differences between the genders is a subject matter I pay special attention to.

So maybe it’s for my children’s sake most of all I use the term “romantic pornography” to describe most romantic comedies.

For the record, I can enjoy a good chick flick as much as anyone. Sleepless seems almost like a caricature. But Enchanted, for instance, is hilarious. And at least it’s obviously a fairy tale.

When you’ve seen one romantic comedy you’ve of course seen them all. There is some level of confusion involving a wonderful woman and an idiotic man. He doesn’t know how romantic he really is until the wonderful woman shows him the way and reveals his fabulous, sensitive, romantic side that was aching to get out all along we find. He so wants to talk about his feelings, just like her best girlfriends! Who knew? Romantic man finally realizes he cannot live without said woman, and pursues her in an ever-so-sensitive if bumbling way. There seems to typically be a fountain involved at some point.

If it’s all not quite “magic,” it sure is fantasy.

That’s where the pornography comes in. Just as sexual pornography twists an understanding for men about real women’s bodies and sexual appetites, so romantic pornography twists the perception for women about real men and how they “ought” to behave toward women, which tends to amount to, well, behaving like a woman. I have a dear friend who once didn’t like a fellow I was dating. Among other shortcomings, he didn’t arrange spa treatments for me, she explained. Seriously. No more chick flicks for that girl.

Ultimate Husband

The notion that the ideal fellow is sensitive and devoted to his woman didn’t start with Nora Ephron or even Jane Austen, of course. Our true husband, Christ himself, “wept.” And Scripture is clear that the ultimate bridegroom jealously pursues his bride, the church. In fact romantic pornography has a ring of truth to it, which is one reason it is powerful. A man in love with a woman is stubborn in his pursuit. Hence I’ve passed down to my children the maxim my mother shared with me: “Girls don’t want a boy they have to call themselves.”

But both kinds of pornography go wrong by portraying genders as unidimensional. And the unidimension of men in romantic porn gets magnified because our mainstream culture has a “man bad, woman good” view that opposes traditionally male qualities (unless they turn up in women, but that’s another column). In a symptom of what’s going on in the culture at large, “rom coms” and many television sitcoms denigrate such traits such as aggression, competitiveness, a certain amount of stoicism, and even the desire to protect and care for a woman.

As we value such men less, it seems we are getting fewer of them. In her book Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys, Kay Hymowitz presents the phenomenon of the disappearing man as a group suicide being committed by young men playing Xbox in their parents’ basements. Kathleen Parker, writing in Save the Males: Why Men Matter and Women Should Care, calls it a homicide by the American culture.

Insidious Tolerance

Mainstream culture tolerates this insidious expectation for men to act like women. Any doubts? A married couple goes to a counselor, Christian or otherwise. The husband is steeped in sexual porn and dissatisfied with his wife. Is there a chance the counselor is going to encourage the wife to act more like the women her husband finds attractive online? Of course not.

Now let’s say she’s steeped in romantic films and dissatisfied with her husband. There’s an almost 100 percent chance the counselor will encourage the fellow to be more romantic and sensitive. Which might be a fine thing, except that typically it will be “sensitive” according to his wife’s definition, even if that’s not what he is wired for.

One of the marvels of marriage is that God gives us someone so different from ourselves to love. It’s easy to love someone just like me. It’s hard to love someone so fundamentally “other.” What a gift it is to be able to stretch in such different ways as we seek to love, serve, and appreciate at the deepest level an “other” who is also an image bearer.

I admit that as a woman, I want to be wanted, pursued, protected, and cared for. I also have a desire to be “known,” which I know will not be fully met in this world. But I hope that I have an accurate picture of how men as image bearers are typically built, how it’s very different from me, and why that is quite wonderful.

C. S. Lewis addressed the issue so well in his essay on chivalry:

The medieval knight brought together two things which have no natural tendency to gravitate toward one another. It brought them together for that very reason. It taught humility and forbearance to the great warrior because everyone knew by experience how much he usually needed that lesson. It demanded valor of the urbane and modest man because everyone knew that he was as likely as not to be a milksop.

In other words boys and men may need to be civilized, but never feminized.

At Home

I can’t fix the culture at large, but I sure hope to affect it in my own home. So I tell my girls that I want them one day to look to marry a Christian man of faithful and strong character; whom they will respect and whose distinctly male characteristics they will appreciate; that I hope they will have a group of close women friends, and that they will never get them and their husbands confused.

And yes, I tell my girls if they want to enjoy some good romantic comedies along the way, go ahead. I just encourage them to remember where fantasy meets reality, and to never, ever judge a man by whether or not he makes spa appointments for them.

  • William Lynch

    Saw “Alex and Emma” last night. A Rob Reiner re-do of “Sleepless…”, I consider him to be a cross between Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, “A poor man’s Woody Allen” if you like, I recommend it, cute, funny, but something didn’t seem right…Thanks Betsy, and thanks (again) GC!

  • Tracie

    What advice would you give sons?

  • Bill

    I was talking to my wife about this very topic the other day, I called it emotional porn and related it to the way too many romantic novels a certain family member reads and her skewed view on relationships. There is definately a corrolation, and one that is widely either ignored or not recognised for what it is.

    I strongly believe that pornography for both men and women is very very dangerous, and maybe more so for women as it has no bad culture tags, in fact, it is encouraged and endorsed, just like you said in your hypothetical counselling scenario.

    Excellent post that I’ll be sharing via all means

    • Jennifer Akins

      I agree, media does influence society and therefore promotes a culture of divorce;also killing commitment, marriage, and famiy.

      These new movies where “Friends with benefits” are even redefining what frendships are. No boundaries equals freedom to the World, so unlike what the Bible tells us is truth.

      Keep blogging..that’s awesome. I do the same.
      I helps my Christian walk too, as I remember while I write, the things that are important at keeping myself grounded and pure in heart and mind.

      Liked your comment, Merritt..God bless!

  • Merritt

    I, too, recently watched Sleepless in Seattle again and was surprised by some of the same things you mentioned. It almost made me sick to my stomach.

    Despite my own better judgment and correction from friends, I lived in that romanticized world for most of my life, believing that the “right” man would and could meet my every need. It wasn’t until I was married for the first time at 39, to a real-life-man, that the fantasy came crashing down. I was angry and frustrated at what the culture told me marriage would be like. Truth be told, he was exactly what God made him to be, and I was living in a fantasy. I began to realize that unrealistic expectations about love and marriage likely have a lot to do with the divorce rate in this country. I can’t fix it, but I can be real about my experience, so I decided to start blogging about it. I’m grateful for reminders like this post that reinforce the reality that men and women, by design, are different and that those differences are worth celebrating rather than changing.

    Thanks so much for addressing this important topic.

  • Gaye Clark

    Amen and amen
    A wise woman will not turn her husband into another girlfriend.
    Great post!

    • Erik Reed

      Good word @Gaye. I love the quote and just tweeted it at @ErikReed

  • Janna

    Great post, thanks for your insights. Just wanted to point out one little thing. It is NEVER too late to pull your girls out of a film. You can still have the conversation without exposing them to the porn.

  • Kevin

    As a husband, i feel like I am in a battle many times after the wife watches one of these types of films. They really do cause discontentment in her. I also have to remember, however, that I can’t make an excuse out of these movies. Part of her discontent is accurate and should also be part of mine. I am not the husband that I want to be and, by God’s grace, the husband I will one day become.

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  • DebWa

    Thank you for talking about this.

    When I was a late teen/early college student, I realize that the romantic books (that were all “clean” christian novels) were doing damage to the way I perceived how ‘love’ worked.

    Calling the book (and chick flicks) as I began to see them, “emotional pornography,” had a tendency to stir up good conversation with myself, girlfriends, and even some of our college guy friends.

    Thank you for continuing to stir up conversation & point to truth.

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  • http://thetribulationtimesherald-exhorter.blogspot LD

    Interesting that you dismissed ‘Tangled’, as I watched that and couldn’t help but pick up on a very strong, noxious anti-homeschool vibe (the intelligent, “sheltered” girl freed by the romantic, free-spirited pagan). Then again, I’m conditioned to always look for the anti-family agenda of everything from Disney…

    • LK

      Wait, you mean the girl who was kidnapped as a baby, held against her will (unbeknownst to her) and confined to a single room (maybe two) for her entire life? I see nothing anti-homeschool here, but to decry her freedom (which lead to subsequent reunion with, you know, her actual parents) seems rather to support something far uglier.

    • ucftf

      My wife was home-schooled her entire life and she identifies with the stereotype about home-schooling parents which is portrayed in Tangled. There are things that Mother Gothel says in the movie that make her shiver because her parents (father specifically) manipulated and berated her in the same way.

      Maybe instead of dismissing the stereotype, we should take the opportunity to self-reflect. There are trends in the home-schooling movement that are unhealthy, and we would be wise to address them.

  • Megan

    I’ve never much cared for chick flicks, though I wouldn’t call them porn. Like other media, movies don’t create our preferences so much as they reflect the preferences we already have. Our parents and siblings play a much greater role in shaping how we perceive the opposite gender. I spent a lot of time with my father and brother growing up and I dislike “girly” things so much I’ve even sworn off women’s Bible studies. However, I rarely fight with my husband.

    I’ve never seen “Sleepless in Seattle” but “Wedding Crashers” had a similar message (complete with Bible verses, which may explain why people hated the ending.) The one chick flick I’ve considered lately is “Bridesmaids,” mainly because I like Kristen Wiig.

    • Jennifer S

      I disagree with you about movies reflecting our preferences. If someone grows up in a culture where these movies are held out as the ideal, they do create the preference for this type of rom com man.

      I was the kind of person who thought women’s Bible studies were watered down and lacked deep theology. Then I sat in on a good one. Not only can it be a place to dig deeper into our faith, but it also gives us a chance to build upon our spiritual relationships with our girlfriends. And that is never a bad thing.

  • Kim

    It’s too bad that Hollywood turns the works of Jane Austen into “chick flicks.” There is so much more in them. Peter Leithart wrote an excellent volume called “Miniatures and Morals” which takes the reader beyond the romance of her novels. There are many things that tempt women into being dissatisfied with their husband and with their lives. It starts in the heart.

    • Laura

      Kim, I feel the same! The only sentence to which I took exception in this entire (wonderful) article was this one: “The notion that the ideal fellow is sensitive and devoted to his woman didn’t start with Nora Ephron or even Jane Austen.” It’s a shame that so many people think of Austen’s novels as fluffy chick-lit, when they’re actually biting social satire!

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  • Sam

    No mention of “Twilight,” the “Playboy” of romantic pornography?

  • Megan

    The concept of chivalry during medieval times is somewhat mythical. Though chivalry was highly regarded, it didn’t exactly follow through in real life. Indeed, one of the reasons Pope Urban started the Crusades was to get the young hooligans off the streets of Europe. The reason marriage became a sacrament of the Church is that men were promising to marry women just so they’d agree to have sex with them, and then dumping the women once they became pregnant.

    As Ecclesiastes says, there’s nothing new under the sun.

  • carl

    Not trying to be difficult and I do beleive in differences between men and women but I never really know what “Making men women” or the “Feminization of men” really means. This article gives some information but still it seems to speak in generalities. As a somewhat “emotional man” by nature this type of talk has often puzzled me. Sometimes also I see Christians view manhood as the stereotypical man from older culture that has recently gone out of fancy. It seems that a Biblical man is much different and also does not come in one flavor (so to speak). Just my thoughts.

    • Laura

      Well said, Carl.

    • Colin

      I agree with your concern Carl. I agree there are biblical gender distinctions but think we often get them confused with cultural norms. I am very concerned about the fine line between biblical truth, which is often vague to readers/hearers, and cultural norms which are all too often thought to be biblical truth. We should be careful how we talk about this issue, and I think John Piper is an excellent example for us in the introduction of Reclaiming Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. If we are not careful though its only a matter of time before we start talking about manhood in superficial terms, saying things like ‘real men dont wear skinny jeans’, rather than in internal ways, such as ‘real men need to lead their wives and parent their children rather than watch NFL games 10 hours a day every Sunday’.

      • carl

        Thank you Laura and Colin.

        Colin I agree and like your post. I have GAD or generalized anxiety disorder. This makes me question many things about how I act vs. what is right. So the generalized speech about what a Biblical man concerns me often. I think the best thing for me to do is to just know that I am a biblical man and not stress out about it so much. I care about my wife and 3 boys. I love God and love others. I fail often but I want to want to try. And that is where God’s grace comes in and why the fact that I am unified with Christ is such a blessing.

        I would not tell all to not think about it so much but for some like me it is often a good idea. I think it is what Luther did in some respects when he converted to the truth of the gospel. He stopped worrying so much about his performance because Christ ahd already performed for him. It is not so much about us as it is about Christ and the fact that we are unified with him. So I am a son of God because Christ is His Son not because I have merited my adoption into God’s family.

        Okay long post but I think it might help some who might be like me.

    • J.

      I agree… I think the idea of being a ‘Godly Man’ is the same as being a ‘Godly Woman’. The things that matter go both ways, there aren’t ‘male’ fruits of the spirit and ‘female’ fruits of the spirit. Much like the fruits of the spirit-character, integrity, Love, (etc…) go for both genders. Loving your family, submission, being good with finances goes both ways. I think reducing it to male/female almost always misses the point and is pretty silly to be quite honest…

  • Looselycult

    Sam: No mention of “Twilight,” the “Playboy” of romantic pornography?

    Playboy? More like the “Hustler” of romantic pornography. Or is it “The Book Of Mormon’? I can’t recall.

    • leesa


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  • Soph Russell

    Thanks for this post, Betsy. As someone who spent a lot of my single years watching rom coms, I related to the struggle of desiring ‘the ideal man’ rather than appreciating someone for who God made him to be.

    Interestingly, I’ve noticed the recent influx of romantic movies/books aimed at teens (Twilight, the Fallen book series, etc) have reverted back to traditional male and female qualities. The male characters in Twilight exhibit stoicism, aggression and competitiveness, but what makes them most appealing to teens (apart from their brooding good looks) is their desire to protect and care for the female protagonist, Bella.

    There’s a lot to like about this: the favourable portrayal of manhood, women being cared for by men. But there are some danger points, such as the idea that love has to be ‘dramatic’ and ‘dangerous’ to be appealing, the female’s fragility which at times, borders on unhelpful passivity rather than the biblical concept of godly submission.

    Most concerning is the idea that romantic love consumes all other types of love. In Twilight, Bella abandons her family and friends for her ‘true love’, giving the idea that nothing compares to the passion and intensity of romantic love. I wonder if this is a balanced message to send to young girls?

    • Jennifer S

      When I read Twilight, I walked away knowing why so many middle-aged women were putting Team Edward or Team Jacob bumper stickers on their car. They identified with Bella and her need to be protected and then, they fell in love with the men who stepped up to protect her. I believe the desire to be protected is inherent in women and the Twilight series was an opportunity to indulge in the fantasy of what it would be like if someone else was completely consumed by you.

    • Jennifer Lea Akins

      NO one but God needs to Consume you…even to the middle age woman.
      You proved this article. It feeds the fantasy.

      • Jennifer S

        That was my goal.

  • tricia

    Great post,and timely comment, our whole culture is steeped in this sort of thinking, ever watched the fantasy played out between Barbie and Ken!

  • Karen Green

    I fully agree with you. It also disturbs me that many of the romantic comedies involve sex outside of marriage but for some reason the “romance” of the actual situation seems to create a blind spot for many women as though there is a loophole to that command for purity before marriage. And this is entertainment for many women who say they want to live for Christ. There is nothing more engaging to me than a man who lives fully for the Lord. Men are not women. But the emotions of women are not “unnecesary drama” either. It is a treasure that is to be protected. There is a reason we are able to feel deeply the things we, as women, feel that men sometimes discount as though we should feel less of what God has made us able to feel. We are not men. We do not understand how men think. We act as though men are withholding connection we crave. We are not trusting men to be wonderful as they were uniquely created and find a way to step up where we are concerned. Words are helpful. As men and women, we are gifts to each other. We are complements of different natures. Our need to constantly connect can be overwhelming to men, who seem to need separateness and respect. Wisdom would be found in reasonable expectations and an intimate-separateness that requires sensitivity and a balance of trust. It is not a mistake that we are different.

  • Lou

    Overall, very good post. However, this quote stuck out to me as being offensive:
    “Is there a chance the counselor is going to encourage the wife to act more like the women her husband finds attractive online? Of course not.”

    I should hope not. Any counselor who would do such a thing is irresponsible and unbiblical. This is the exact kind of thing that keeps men from being the spiritual leaders they are called to be. Plus, it leads to abuse.

    Otherwise, I really appreciated the article. Good insight.

    • Collin Hansen

      Actually, Lou, that’s exactly the point Betsy was making. We wouldn’t tell a wife to act like the women in pornography, so why should we counsel a husband to act like the equally fake characters she sees in romantic comedies? The first scenario doesn’t happen (thankfully). But the second is entirely plausible.

      • Lou

        Thanks Collin! When I re-read it, I did pick up on what you are saying and what the author was doing. When I first read it, I guess I mistook her meaning.

  • Brian

    Thanks so much for posting this.

    I met the girl i wanted to marry, a strong Christian, we shared the bible and our journey with Jesus together, and after she told me I was everything she ever prayed for, i did things for her that no one ever has, etc… she ended up dumping me because she didn’t feel that “magic” with me in the end. She said if it meant she had to wait til she’s 55 then she would. At 35yrs old, i’d never met someone that I thought i’d feel i wanted to marry and have kids with as much as her. My heart broke like she was my first love.

    And guess what her fav movies were? Nora Ephron movies… :(

    • Leesa

      Just because her favourite movies were Nora Ephron movies doesn’t mean they were the reason she didn’t want to be with you any more.

      Sometimes, no matter how compatible, if that spark- that magic, even- isn’t there, it isn’t there. Isn’t it kinder to end the relationship than to pretend until you’ve both wasted a lifetime hoping something would change?

  • Jennifer Akins

    Hi, I agree with the article. These chick flicks are very damaging, they are emotional pornography, and they do negatively affect how the women-sex view relationships.

    My life as a single Christian woman has been affected by them, as has fantasy done significant damage to my mind and relationships.
    They make me fall in love with an idea, is what they do.

    The idea is false truth, in that it does provide our female hearts with what we “want”, but not necessarily what we need. But, I would explain it as warping of what we crave naturally, into something that is not a truth…we are being fed: Lies.

    For sure the roles are tainted in these stories of passion, but mostly the men ARE the strong, silent type a la MR. Darcy (who of course, I am in love with;), and not a feminized view of a man at all. They DO ride in with what glory they have, and speak some soft words, and bring flowers, and do some kind of pursuit, and We…get a rush from it, just like men do with their porn.

    I’m not down-playing the theory that men are feminized and scoffed at in culture/media, as roles on both sides of the spectrum have been clouded, redefined, and sometimes demonized…because they have been. period.

    But, I did get lost as to why the feminization of men, was the main focus of the article, when I thought it was to explain how the movies/fantasy affects the women who watch these films??

    I have had to make it a point to be very aware now, by setting strict boundaries with what I am able to watch, as I am aware of the temptations, fall-out/depression, and/or comparisons to my life state that 99% of the time may occur. Yet, I still see that romance is a piece of life to hope for. Still, movies like “Twilight” that are catering to a younger mindset, are intentional in their target, and you see how effective they are to that demographic.

    The relationship between Bella and the vampire, Edward, is one of enticement. The girl is drawn and compelled by love to latch onto him for dear life. And, while the undertone is an abstinence message, the emotional life of the romance is not. They burn with passion and raging hormones, as the audience with them. So, it feeds our desire to see them play out their longings or even withhold them. We women saturate and soak in the lust of wanting Edward.

    This is what those films feel like and how they do pornographic damage to our minds. The pictures and ideas go in, and the mind processes them and dwells on them, even if we are conscious of them doing so or not.

    So, what I do commend is the wrap up of the article of how Christ is to the Church. It was conveyed well how pure, righteous, and unwavering his love is. He is committed to giving us his whole self, and has done so at the cross. This is exactly the thing our minds should be on. We should be saturated with complete love of the Father before all, and I fail so deeply at this. I just hope I keep my mind away from things that will tempt and descend me away from my first love.

    For women/girls I recommend “Passion and Purity” by Elizabeth Elliot. For the boys I recommend “Wild at Heart”.
    Really, boys should stay away from culture that takes him away from being strong in the Lord mentally and physically; a bold leader. Having self control over oneself is one of the sexiest traits in the world, because it shows others who’s the boss of you. Our society has made men insecure.
    It shouldn’t be shocking that it does, because this is what the World will do..tear down anything that God said is good.

    And, women, need to stay away from anything that feeds the sincere longing in their hearts for someone to love them. If we really do look towards God as the sole craving of our souls, we wouldn’t eat so much from the wrong buffet.

    • Jennifer S

      “Wild at Heart” is actually full of poor exegesis and written by a open-theist. If you want young men to have a proper view of their role, then really, they ought to read “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” edited by John Piper & Wayne Grudem.

      Your recommendation for Passion & Purity by Elizabeth Elliot is spot on. And if you are raising younger children, then I highly recommend The Princess & The Kiss and The Squire & The Scroll.

  • Jeff Schultz

    I agree with and appreciate the article. I’ve often thought of romance novels as a kind of emotional porn for women.

    The example of the couple in the counselor’s office is helpful, but I’m now also rethinking the comparison of romance novels and chick flicks to sex porn. Of course we would never ask the wife to act more like women in porn movies because porn is inherently degrading and dehumanizing. But would we really say the same about the portrayal of men in chick flicks? Impossibly sensitive and understanding, yes; but ugly and degrading? No. Frankly, I would like to be more like a Tom Hanks character in how I express affection and thoughtfulness to my wife. And I don’t think a counselor would automatically be wrong in challenging an uncaring and selfish husband to be more thoughtful and affectionate.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m bothered by the chick flicks and the impossible expectation they set for men (and the resulting pride and disappointment they create in women). The damage of chick flicks is expecting men to live up to an impossible and unrealistic ideal — but it’s not an inherently ugly, degrading, and dehumanizing ideal, like that of women in sex porn. Chick lit does make it harder for women to love real men (as opposed to idealized ones), but in a different way.

    So while I see the real dangers in chick flicks, I’m not ready to condemn the ideal man depicted in them as being on the same level as the “ideal” woman depicted in porn flicks.

    • ACSK

      While both are equally wrong before God, I would say that this ‘feminine pornography’ can often be a bigger problem for two reasons.

      Partially because it sneaks it’s way into being acceptable, but mostly because the girls are forming real, genuine (if not one-sided) emotional relationships with an illusion – not their husbands.

  • ACSK

    “I tell my girls if they want to enjoy some good romantic comedies along the way, go ahead. I just encourage them to remember where fantasy meets reality…”

    That’s tantamount to telling your sons it’s okay to enjoy porn as long as they remember it isn’t realistic. That’s ridiculous! Porn for women always sneaks under the radar into acceptance. I don’t think society grasps just how bad the average movie/television show is… I’m not saying that the kid won’t grow up to be fine and/or Godly, just that it’s not right acceptable from a Christian standpoint.

    Why do teen pop idols and actors get so popular? Although some are extremely talented, it’s usually less to do with talent, and more to do with the fact that millions of young girls have formed damaging emotional relationships with them. It’s also the reason for the joke about Brad Pitt being the most damaging thing for a computer. Never underestimate the destructive power of a girl who clicks anything they see promising to lead them to news/pics/music of their favourite hottie.

  • Kim Hamlin

    I am a Christian parent and there is a reason this movie is rated PG, it means Parental Guidance. “Chick Flicks” shouldn’t be watched by children at all unless they are mature enough to understand that most of television is fantasy. However, there isn’t really a “normal” in reality either, is there? It’s a shame that some of the comments on here are from grown people that didn’t realize the damage of our culture in the form of unrealistic expectations until after failed relationships. Just more proof that the real truth of expectations should be taken from God’s word and not from our culture. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic Betsy, great article!

    • Jennifer Akins

      It is not that a child or a grown up has never been told or know that films/tv are fantasy, but that they can have a significant impact and influence over a persons thinking and worldview regardless of them “knowing”.

      What we watch, eat, drink, hear..affects us.

      That’s why the Word pointedly asks us to “guard our hearts and minds” to the extreme of demanding of us to “circumcize them” and/or “cut them away from things of this world”.

      Duet10:16 So circumcise the foreskin of your [minds and] hearts; be no longer stubborn and hardened.For the Lord your God, takes no bribes”

      Deuteronomy 4:9
      Only take heed, and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen and lest they depart from your [mind and] heart all the days of your life. Teach them to your children and your children’s children–.

      2 Peter 3:17
      Let me warn you therefore, beloved, that knowing these things beforehand, you should be on your guard, lest you be carried away by the error of lawless and wicked [persons and] fall from your own [present] firm condition [your own steadfastness of mind].

      Constant feeding of these movies/music into our lives without the feeding of the gospel, or the applied filter of the Word, is where the problem lies and addictions start/continue.

      What is a shame is that chick flicks/media/female porn/porn IS a reality that does affect our mindsets and culture, whether the real world is “messed up” already…
      And the main take-home we need to be aware of is this: to censor what comes into our homes, hearts, actions, and minds and always test what’s out there in light of scripture.

      What needs to happen is less condemnation of the broken persons ( the sinner; you and me), and more emphasis on the sin and how to help point people away from it towards Christ redemption, restoration, and forgiveness, as I believe Besty aimed at doing by this article.

      Thank you, Betsy.

      • Merritt

        Amen Betsy. Especially loved your last paragraph. What we all need is Christ not more behavior modification.

  • nhe

    I appreciate the article, and agree that romantic pornography is a real thing, but I think that Sleepless in Seattle is not an accurate example. A woman looking for “magic” is not a bad or misguided thing. A lot of good books and films (Harry Potter for example) have been way to quickly dismissed by Christians because of “sorcery” or “magic”. C.S. Lewis warned of this very thing in Chronicles of Narnia in the character – Susan. She grew up and dismissed the notion of Narnia because she “didn’t believe in fantasy anymore”……the desire to pursue what is magical comes from the image bearer in each of us, whether it is regenerate or not. Us guys could stand to seek to be a tad more “magical” – and that comes through gospel affirmation to our brides, not trips to the spa. Our job as men is to point our wives to the gospel as the source of what is truly magical, our job is not to squelch that desire in our spouse.

    A better example of romantic porn (as has been mentioned in some of the responses here) is found in Soap Operas and Romance Novels, where unhealthy drama is the context for fabricating romance.

    • Jennifer Akins

      Hi, nhe.
      I agree that romance novels and Soap Operas are the worst for the romantic porn set. A lot of luring goes on there into fantasy through them….They really have a way to justify guilty pleasure of experencing an emotional/mental relationship with a character, rather than your own spouce. And a way to vicariously enjoy the hook-ups of adulterous or forbidden relationships.

      But you said:
      “C.S. Lewis warned of this very thing in Chronicles of Narnia in the character – Susan. She grew up and dismissed the notion of Narnia because she “didn’t believe in fantasy anymore”……the desire to pursue what is magical comes from the image bearer in each of us, whether it is regenerate or not.”

      Narnia is full of narritive and fantasy, true…but it is steeped in biblical figurative characters and meaning, as was C.S.Lewis intent.

      Aslan is God…So,if I am not mistaken, Susan is to not forget Narnia, because that is where she learned to war against those things that would otherwise harm her.

      That is why I would agree with your last statement:

      “Our job as men is to point our wives to the gospel as the source of what is truly magical, our job is not to squelch that desire in our spouse.”

      Aslan always pointed Susan back to the truth.

      This is the kind of stuff to feed the soul.

      • nhe

        Jennifer – I’m not seeing where we disagree.

  • Jennifer Akins

    I guess we don’t. ;)

    I guess the “magic” and wonder, and fantasy…the life of the unknown (as God is both magical and mysterious), is innate in all of us.

    But, I personally see the sorcery/vampire/superpower movies (the fantastical) on the rise as well, and I am just sayin’ (as you have), that it is to me put through our Biblical flters and brought back to: “Is this going to take me from the Word or the truth?”.

    or “Will it damage my walk and my relatioships, and my view of the world, if I see it?”. “Why am I going to this movie?”. “What am I getting out of it?”

    “What’s the pay off?”

    “What/how do I feel when I watch this/these film(s)?”.

    • nhe

      Jennifer I agree that most of the sorcery/vampire dramas are unredemptive, but if you’re lumping in Harry Potter and the Super Hero movies, I would disagree……I see a lot of virture and redemptive content in the latter – I think its a mistake to ever discount an entire genre just because the films are made by non-Christians………image bearers can produce redemptive content that (at least) reveal the God-shaped longing in their souls….sometimes unregenerate image bearers can bear witness to what is “good”.

      • Jimmy Non-Christian

        Do you guys ever wonder why Christianity is so unappealing to outsiders? Have you ever thought that just maybe it’s because Christians talk about us amongst themselves as if we are clueless idiots, or maybe animals? Yes, the problem with popular entertainment must be that the people who make the romantic comedies are not Christians! Although even those smelly animals can accidentally stumble across Christian values sometimes!

        • Jennifer Akins

          Hi Jimmy,
          I don’t recall anyone on this thread to have labeled or named the ones who make these films, except for you.

          And, interesting to, as you referred them as “smelly animals”, because we are all slim. We are all (all of us) filthy pond scum, compared to God’s holiness.

          Were it not for Christ’s blood shed for our sins, we’d never be clean…so, we are no greater than the next person.
          A Christian following Christ’s principles would do well to understand that, as that is the nature of Grace.

          We are given Mercy through Christ’s sacrifice, even though we all deserve worst, as we are worst than the lowest.

          I don’t want to preach a sermon at you, so I will stop…but want to add: Christianity does call Christians out to stand apart from the World (culture;sinful influences) so as to be a witness of the other (Heaven;godly influences).

          The truth is: All truth is God’s truth.

          What that means is, like you mentioned, that we can find traces of him and values, everywhere…also, in films.

          I agree with this, but not everything is benefitiary nor permissible, and as Christians we have to make choices and distinctions and excercise discernment about the nature of these things; if it will hinder our walk of life/faith, or destroy it.

          It isn’t enough to know that God’s imprint is out there on all things, when the secular influence of something may tempt someone, causing them to stumble, and/or overide the values and light you “may” recieve when experiencing that thing.

          Bottom line, for the Christian or non-Christian it would be smart and prudent to be cautious about what truth we are believing, so that the lies aren’t the thing that persists under and over the guise of/a truth, and that it is “Ok”.

  • Jennifer Akins

    No. It isn’t discounting or lumping at all, when a simple warning towards content, character, and purpose is being issued.

    I’m not hijacking a movie genre, I am blanketing the whole scope of cinema and the particular bent of our present society towards the supernatural.

    I like a good Ironman movie, or Superman.
    But, some of these movies (since we did mention sorcery and fantasy) while some are tamer than others on the wizardry, some are deep into witchcraft and new age mysticism. My point is that we should make sure what we are walking into and be aware of some of the suggestive undertones to a film.

    For some, a movie like “Harry Potter” is witchcraft central…this has been debated in many circles…

    I tend to stay away from the sorcery films, and the vampire set, because of my own experience and knowledge firsthand of demonic activity and the affects of the supernatural world as being tangible as you and me.

    Because I have had experience with the demonic, it is not out of fear or ignorance that I abstain from these influences.

    That’s why “guarding our mind and heart and bodies” from evil is very important…so, as to why I sound a call to others to avoid that which may not convey LIFE to them.

    Be careful with what you entertain yourself with, is the point of the matter.
    Is it “deadly”…for real, is it??

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  • Dominic

    First mistake is even thinking of letting your daughters watch an ungodly movie like that and than actually doing it and think it would benefit them spiritually. Second mistake is quoting C.S. Lewis. From Christianity Today od C.S. Lewis: “Clive Staples Lewis was anything but a classic evangelical, socially or theologically. He smoked cigarettes and a pipe, and he regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends. Though he shared basic Christian beliefs with evangelicals, he didn’t subscribe to biblical inerrancy or penal substitution. He believed in purgatory and baptismal regeneration” (“C.S. Lewis Superstar,” Christianity Today, Dec. 2005).

    Hopefully your daughters are not in public shcool and you are homeschooling them.

    • bigbird

      Err, if you think someone who “regularly visited pubs to drink beer with friends” can’t be an evangelical, you’ve just disqualified half the evangelical Christians in England!

      Your culture isn’t the measuring stick for what’s Christian and what isn’t, the world is a big place …

      • Jennifer Akins

        I agree, bigbird.
        What should be the measuring stick, is the Bible…it always spoke to the language of the culture of the day, place, and time.
        Also, Jesus covered his bases well, while evangelizing in the pits…sometimes even, those places wreaked of hell.

  • Jennifer Akins

    Dominic, there is art AND a difference between being reactionary and giving constructive critique. You were successful in accomplishing the first.

    There are many secondary issues Christian’s have such as if one can drink or not, than the ones that are essential for the faith: Christ is Lord and died for our sins…

    And so, I’m sorry to say: C.S. Lewis is a great resource of knowledge and faith in our Lord.

    And, I do wonder why it matters to you where her kids go to school?? Them watching a chick flick has nothing to do with where they are taught.

    And, why would homeschooling be your preference for them than public? What’s your reasoning??

    I am most confused by your comments.

    • nhe

      Good points Jennifer, I would also ask Dominic why he would frequent a website like this, which regularly quotes and esteems C.S. Lewis?

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  • Roger Ball

    Betsy gooood!

  • Chuck Johnson

    As a man who has been said to have “more than his share of feminine qualities,” I can see where our society has made some grave mistakes in raising our boys over the past couple of generations.
    My son-in-law, though he has left his family, is an avid x-boxer and spent most of his time in front of his video games, or doing anything other than spend time with his family. This is not unusual in our society today. And, what a shame for the next generation. While he may not have much in feminine qualities, he never learned what being a real man is about.
    Many of us men, for various reasons, have problems with being a Godly man. For some of us, it is almost too late, at least as far as our families go. Three of our four daughters have already chosen a “man” who they want to spend their life with. None of the three young men exhibit qualities you would expect in a Godly man, even though the girls were raised in the church. This is a sad commentary on my abilities as the Godly leader of my home. Your article is a timely one, but I wish I was about twenty years younger; maybe it would have meant more to me at that time.

  • Braxton

    Wait, so you compare these movies to porn, but then say if your girls want to watch them its ok so long as they realize that it’s not reality?
    So I can watch porn if I realize that it in no way reflects real women’s sexual behavior? Is that what you are getting at.

    Let’s actually have some standards here. Either porn is porn or it’s not. There’s no in-between.

    • Jennifer Akins

      Yep..You’re right.

  • steve cavallaro

    Sadly some over-literalization here. It is the woman’s equivalent of porn (though the movies often imply or show fornication). Rom coms, as Betsy mentions, have an erroneous view of relationships. This is found in the term ‘magic’. The context is not mysterious arts, but the emotional response to a man’s presence. When we look for a heightened emotional response to a person, we don’t really understand love.
    True porn conveys it’s message thru depictions of sex acts. We should not allow our kids to see that. But helping them wrestle with erroneous ideas is something completely different.
    I think Betsy makes those distinctions, but some people here can’t seem to and miss the point.

  • Nate

    “And yes, I tell my girls if they want to enjoy some good romantic comedies along the way, go ahead. I just encourage them to remember where fantasy meets reality, and to never, ever judge a man by whether or not he makes spa appointments for them.”

    Oh really? So if I want to watch pornography, then go for it? As long as I remember where fantasy meets reality. In order for this article to remain logically consistent we must say no to rom coms.

    • Jennifer Akins

      Wow, Nate. You’re so right!!!!!!!!!!!!!
      Seriously…Truly. convicting.

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  • Dolly

    I liked this a lot. And I do get your point, I don’t disagree about that. Just, the word pornography literally means the writing of prostitutes. So I understand totally the connection you are making but it might be better to not use the word so loosely. Your article sounds like “You can romanticize a prostitute”

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  • Steve

    I think you need to give children more credit. Once they’re at an age where it’s appropriate to be watching chick flicks they should also have developed the ability to differentiate between fiction and reality. Kids are impressionable, yes, but romantic love does exist, and it’s up to us, as parents, to teach our children to navigate that, as well as a million other events in life they will (sooner or later) be subject to.

  • Rebecca

    Hi Betsy,

    Like any other addiction (which is what Porn is- an impulsive behavior that feeds some craving deep within) it can be used to medicate loneliness, fear,and simply provide an escape from the difficulties of everyday life.

    Thankfully God is into redeeming our hearts and setting us free if we are willing to trust him and let go of our other affections that seek to distract us from loving the creator of the universe.
    overall I really appreciated seeing someone else out there writing about this topic.

    As a Counseling student receiving my MA in Biblical Counseling to be a liscenced counselor (hopefully soon!) I would like to shed some light on what you said about marriage counseling. When talking about how a counselor would deal with a husband you said, “100 percent chance the counselor will encourage the fellow to be more romantic and sensitive. Which might be a fine thing, except that typically it will be “sensitive” according to his wife’s definition, even if that’s not what he is wired for.” Although I see your point, and feel your frustration with our culture, I think that this is a pretty bold statement that instantly takes away any credit that could have been given to the field of counseling. If a counselor (secular or Christian) saw that there was an unhealthy addiction on the woman’s part to romantic novels as well as a loose grip on reality, most counselors would see it as their duty to expose such problems within the marriage. The counselor would not simply expose them, but collaborate along with the client on how they could move past these things to live a more healthy and “down to earth” life. On the other hand, if a counselor was addressing the husband, the counselor is never going to expect the husband to “become a woman”, although he or she may encourage him to work on his emotional communication. Men have feelings, but are not as aware of them as women are and often need help in learning to identify them and communicate them. A man’s ability to communicate his feelings does not immediately mean that he is “the romantic movie character”, but most likely will me even more real hard work in the marriage when bitterness, fears, and insecurities are brought to the surface that the wife has never heard her husband talk about before.

    All this to say, I really appreciate what you wrote about, but I think it would be wise to be careful when making blanket statements including 100% especially when it has to do with a field of study being redeemed by your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Thanks so much Betsy!!!

  • Rachel

    Thank you for these words! I’m getting married in 3 weeks and this was a great reality check for what a Godly relationship looks like compared to what the world shows us! God bless.

  • Taber’s Truths Christian Blog

    Great article. I so agree with you. You don’t know how many times as a single Christian and a pastor that I have run into women and their concepts of what the perfect Christian man is supposed to be like and how I just have not fit the bill because I was not Hollywood enough. I stopped chasing fickle women a long time ago.

    Blessings to you and for being so honest about a real problem!

    Pastor Duke

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  • RH

    I agree the “magic” is fantasy, but it’s hardly pornography. And there are many couples who do find something akin to “magic.” Even Christian couples.

    Now they need more than that to make a marriage work — being as you’re a single mom — surely you must know that.

    Anything out of Hollywood is worldly and carnal. It’s amazing to me that so many believers even try to get Christian values out of movies or tv.

    But don’t kill the idea that romance, even our relationship with Christ, has some “magical” moments. Those times when you feel and know love and joy!

    Christian woman who have a warped view of romance do not get it from Hollywood. Not any more than a non Christian woman.

    As a pastor’s wife, who met her husband when he was a single pastor, I know how hyper spiritual Christian woman can be. NO less than five women felt God tell them they were to marry the single pastor.

    Christian woman can have a lot of fantasy about romance from desiring a godly husband — one that is like Christ — and they use “God told me” to live in a fantasy.

    I’ve heard Christian woman claim God told them a man was their husband — even though he’d recently married someone else. Another one heard a man was her husband while she was married to someone else. That’s NOT God. But those women lived in the fantasy of God told them. Even when we told them, “Oh no He didn’t.”

    Christian woman often put aside obvious struggles in a relationship because they believe the man to be Godly or their only chance to find a Christian man. They think God will just “fix” him, or her.

    So don’t think Christian woman get their ideas from Hollywood Pastor Duke. They get it from their own hearts or what they think they see in Christian couples or in the men themselves.

    A Pastor’s Wife.

    • Jennifer Akins

      I disagree with you that these women, Christian or not, were not influenced somewhere as to what a man should be or not.

      It is rampant in the Church that we all don’t know our roles anymore. The culture/society that we have been brought up on has lied to us greatly and we have absorbed everything we know, by and through those influences.

      We are children of Divorce, of porn culture, of broken lives due to our beliefs as sinful people first, but we can not conclude that even the Christian girl or woman would not have the same tendencies or bents because we are saved.

      These movies, fairy tales, and bad theology have influenced the Christian woman. They have taken their place as strongholds in our minds, so, I guess, in a way, I would agree with you when you stated “it comes from them”…because it does. But, it didn’t come from them, out of nowhere.

      There has to be deeper reasons that a women falls for a married man, for example. Maybe a pattern of her’s is to fall for the impossible, dangerous, or forbidden relationship, as a way to self protect herself from one that IS possible. She’s running, she’s fantasizing…

      We all have our sins, we all have scars, and whatever we think (even as some make no sense to us or others), it comes out in our lives,in relationships, in actions, etc…even the “Christian” woman.

      I would encourage you, as the pastor’s wife, to pray for them and provide something for the women in question to build them up and out of these strongholds.

      It is so easy to be frustrated with something ugly staring you in the face and/or gossip about it, but if it is out of passionate righteous anger and injustice, we are told not to stand by and do nothing about it.

  • marcus gonzaez

    While I understand where you are coming from. I, being an early 20’s guy, must say that some guys are like that, and some are not. It may be frightning to now be told this, but a husband should be a wifes best friend. While im sure lots of guys have been trust into the “friend zone”, usually for lack of a “physical/personality” attraction by the woman to the man. It is what it is. I, am one of those guys, the kind that get along better with women, then with other men. It is not b/c I am gay, b/c I am not, regardless of what others want to beleive. I was, however, raised very close to my mother, and always found it easy to understand views from a womens perspective. I could be wired differently, but….It is how God made me. Have I had crushes on lots of women, only to be said: “I like you as a friend, but not like that(relationship-wise)”. I am not a lustful man, and that is where I differ from my peers, I want the whole 100 yards, a loving wife, a child, a happy job, and a friendship with God,wife,child,life to last forever. I am considered by many, to be sensitive, but this does not give me an advantage over the men you are trying to defend(the ones not portrayed in the “romantic pornography”). We are who God made us, and all have different taste. I also, do not like your term “romantic pornography”, whats next “religious pornography”? Just b/c something does not portray the view you wish to be perceived, does not mean puting “pornography” next to it, become acceptable. Pornography is on a whole nother level of filth in this world.

    • carl


      First I want to thank you for your post and its honesty. Second I am my wife’s best friend but not in the way her girl friends are. Really not like any other humans are. I am closer to her than anyone else (God excluded of course). I think it is fine to get a long better with women than men. My dad is that way and he is not unmanly to say the least. I think I am that way in a lot of respects also but not all.

      Finally I think you are right about putting the label “pornography” on all of these movies and or romance novels. Some are not. I might not like them but they are not. Some very much are though. Blanket statements are good for articles and polemics but in reality they do not hold up. My suggestion would be to take the polemical article for what it is. Do not let the fact that all romantic comedies or novels are this way. I think you will find that most authors are very polemical and not always accurate when they describe genres and groups, etc. There are always exceptions and “yes but . . . “

    • J.

      Well said, I too VERY MUCH dislike it when being close to women is viewed as ‘un-manly’ or unusual (or not struggling with porn, or being able to articulate my feelings, etc…). There are more people like us out there and this is good stuff to be honest about. Porn is NOT “every man’s battle” just like body image issues, eating disorders and codependancy aren’t “every woman’s battle”… I think eventually people will understand that people are individuals and treating and expecting all men or all women to be a certain way is just as stupid as expecting all people of a certain race to be a certain way… It’s just ignorant and makes Christianity look like a joke to many people…

      • Jennifer Akins

        Lust is a sin and all people issue
        So, I agree with you in that both men and women have bought into the lie that is porn…totally.
        But, the primary reason of our beings ARE that we are different, and if that makes Christianity look crazy or bad, then so be it.

        Truth is, it will look other worldly, because it is. God clearly made our sexes different, even as we are all human.

        The way in which we all are the same is that we are drawn to the sin nature, whether it is in the same manner or not.

        • J.

          Jennifer-I agree with some of what you are saying my friend-but if (and only if) you are suggesting that because the genders are physically different-those physical differences impact other areas without exception or variance-I just can’t agree with that. We are all different-no two men are alike, no two women are alike-so to try to imply that all men are like *fill in the blank* and all women are like *fill in the blank* is just not accurate (again, I’m not saying that you are saying this). In our history we have falsely attributed so many things to gender that have absolutely nothing to do with gender (intelligence, learning potential, professional potential, relational potential, roles etc….and even characteristics like nurturing, caring, emotional depth, capacity for Love, etc…). The world will find us strange as believers indeed but not because of the way we choose to attribute things to gender that have nothing to do with gender-the Bible says that they (the world) will know that we are believers by our great Love for one another (I think we would rather them find us strange-and hopefully intrigued-for that reason).

          • Jennifer Akins

            I disagree with you J.

            The Bible is also clear about the differences of women and men(even while use of the physical), in that it outlines emotional, mental, intellectual, vocational, historical differences of the sexes and the important of the whole person(s) characteristics, gifts, and roles, in relation to the body of Christ.

            For instance, a woman should possess a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4).
            A man is to be as the Christ is to his church. Christ makes the church clean. He consoles, he councils, he is the strong anchor, he is the leader. A man, leads her.

            I encourage you to read this:

            So, to define these characteristics biblicly is acceptable and necessary. There are many more differences than we can imagine between the sexes. That’s the intention, mystery, and beauty of our existence…and of the Creator.

            The purpose of which is to glorify the Father, in the beauty of those differences; in the differing of those relationships.

            • J.

              Jennifer, we may have to agree to disagree in the end on this one…

              1 Peter 3:4 was quoted with accuracy but the interpretation was less than exhaustive. Just because it says, “a woman should possess a gentle and quiet spirit” does not mean that a man should possess a brash and unsettled spirit. The Bible also says that we are ALL to be gentle (it’s one of the fruits of the spirit).

              To say that 1 Peter 3:4 means that women should be gentle so men should be brash would be like a parent saying to 2 children, “Hey Tommy-stop hitting Eli, and Eli, stop biting Tommy” and they take that statement to mean, “it’s okay for Tommy to bite, and for Eli to hit then”. The parents meant for them BOTH to avoid biting and hitting.

              As a Pastor and a counselor I have seen my share of people who read something in the Bible and take it to mean something it doesn’t and they can get into a whole lot of trouble in the process. When we look at the Bible we have to understand that there is a culture and a context that needs to be considered. Sometimes we have to discern what is descriptive and what is prescriptive (it sounds like a silly ‘pun’ but there is still truth even if it does sound like a ‘pun’). Just because the Bible refers to cultural limitations and social mores that were active at the time doesn’t mean that we are to carry them out as if they were designed by God. Galatians 3:28 clearly tells us, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”. That scripture clearly speaks to the over inflated emphasis that people of their day were placing on secondary physical, social, and racial attributes that in the end meant nothing when compared to being united in Christ.

              We may never agree on this issue but it is good to be able to peacefully dialogue. Blessings to you…

            • Jennifer Akins

              J. You are right, we will not agree on this.
              I was surprised and saddened(although not shocked) that you say you are a pastor….that you would lead people away from these biblical truths, because you are blind to them.

              The Bible is contextually (in every aspect) clear about both the differences and similarities of the sexes. And it is sure, strong, vivid, intentional, and insistent in them for the purpose and roles of which we are to play here on earth, and in relationship with one another, wife and husband, etc. etc…

              There is nothing in the bible to scoff at (like you have done), at mocking the text that a woman should be of a gentle and quiet spirit.

              This is the beauty of a prized woman indeed, the bible says, one who “does a man good all the days of her life by doing so”. What it means, is not that she is a dumb mute in a corner, nor that she is not strong. No, not at all. It means that she is feminine, that she is captivating, that she exhibits self control in her tongue, manner, and life.

              This is what should attract a man of God to her.

              So far as the man, it is clear that although Christ is the perfect model for all of us to follow equally (as no jew, nor gentile, as you stated), it is clear that he calls the men out to be fierce (not a caveman) and to be leaders.

              I am very distraught that a pastor would not believe, recognize, acknowledge, or know these distinctions of the sexes to be the gospel truth and support them.

              No wonder we all are suffering (Christians and non-Christians alike), when we are not heeding to be identified by what The Word of Life has defined us to be.

            • J.


              This response was intended to go after your August 3rd response but I didn’t see a ‘reply’ button.

              I regret that what I am saying is being misunderstood to the degree that you think I am scoffing, mocking, and leading people away from Biblical truths (I don’t think anything could be further from the truth so please breathe easy in knowing that). I truly hope to clear things up with this post. The Bible CLEARLY says that one of the fruits of the spirit is gentleness-that is not misleading, that is not scoffing-that is not mocking-that is the truth. I re-read what I wrote and I can’t find anything close to scoffing, mocking, or misleading in the least in any of the other examples either. I believe that it is imperative that we understand the culture and the context when we read the Bible. For example-the Bible documents and refers to several people that have multiple wives (because that was culturally acceptable-again, that’s not my opinion that it was culturally acceptable-I’m not scoffing by saying this-I’m not intentionally misleading anyone-the Bible CLEARLY talks about people that had multiple wives)-we have to look at that and understand that just because the Bible documents that people did engage in polygamy, that doesn’t mean that the Bible condones it (and you will see that polygamy never really worked out that well for anyone). We may not agree on this and it’s not a salvation issue (and there is great freedom in understanding this). For as long as people have read and interpreted and tried to apply scripture-people have disagreed on many things in regards to scripture while BOTH sides of the argument LOVE GOD and BOTH sides feel they are living by Biblical truths. I can’t attribute how I have understood scripture to a lack of exegetical study-I’m not some uneducated/unrefined/rebellious person that calls themselves a pastor. I have gone through a great deal of strenuous schooling and much post-grad work and there has been a LOT of field study and I could honestly go on…while these things are true of me I also don’t think it makes me superior in any way to those who haven’t so please don’t think that’s what I am saying-I am only saying this in hopes that you understand that these are not opinions that I have arrived at lightly from a lack of truth and a lack of continued refinement-it’s quite the opposite. I am not trying to argue you into understanding because I would hope that your opinions come from study as well. We just don’t agree and I don’t think this can be dismissed by charging the other with being blind to the truth. Just because we’ve looked at the same scriptures, done our due diligence, and arrived at a slightly different conclusion, doesn’t mean that either of us Love God any less or are trying to lead anyone away. To say that I am misleading people from Biblical truths because I don’t agree with you is about as far-fetched as it can get. Anyone could very easily say the same thing about you but that would be missing the point as well and I would not agree with labeling you as such.

              I implore you to resist reducing my words to mean something they don’t. If we don’t agree that’s fine-we don’t have to reduce it to saying that the other is mocking, scoffing, or misleading when in reality we just don’t agree with the conclusion in which the other has arrived… You just might be right in how you feel about the gender issues we’ve discussed and if you are, that’s great-just as you might be right, you might be wrong too. If you are right or wrong about these issues that would still change nothing about God’s greatness and the gospel. The gospel stands strong even while we discuss these issues. I sincerely pray that I have made myself clearer than I appear to have made myself in the last post…

            • Jennifer Akins

              J. I will use your words to show as to why I believe that you do not show favor to the proper meaning of the texts.

              Example: To say that 1 Peter 3:4 means that women should be gentle so men should be brash would be like a parent saying to 2 children, “Hey Tommy-stop hitting Eli, and Eli, stop biting Tommy” and they take that statement to mean, “it’s okay for Tommy to bite, and for Eli to hit then”. The parents meant for them BOTH to avoid biting and hitting.

              I am shocked that you, as a counselor, for one, would even see a link between these two things. There is no link to be found here, towards that word picture. A woman being gentle, is a wise woman. A non foolish woman. A woman being gentle, as I hope that I am, does not mean that I wish men to be brash (as per your comment above), nor does the Bible wish that to be true, nor has said it.

              This is what sounded very mocking to me.
              And I am sorry to say that you do sound very mocking still, when you use examples like polygamy, to discuss at what we are supposed to be focused on here.

              I don’t believe schooling has much to do with what Wisdom can be accrued from the Word (even the bible points out that fact). True wisdom is not found in all the knowledge of the books or brightest minds of the world (although all truth is God’s truth) even as it is prized, but Wisdom, true Wisdom is derived from the word of God.

              One may have a MD, PHD, or whateverD title and still be the most clueless person as to what real Wisdom could offer them. No matter how many research papers they’ve written, or credentials, degrees, or titles they have, it still could leave them without what they most need: Wisdom.

              I have personally not been properly schooled myself, as it were, but have had a father who was both pastor, seminary student, professor,and missionary (with titles and credentials to boot) that was heavily schooled,and highly capable, intelligent fellow, but unwise as it came to his own spiritual intellect; at feeding upon what is most important: scripture and prayer.

              What I have learned from him has served me well, such as theology, apologetics, etc…but, the Wisdom that I’ve come to help me the most, comes from the word.
              It easily trumps all these things. hand’s down.

              I don’t have to be right, no way. And, maybe I am wrong…
              I pray, however, that I am right as I examine myself and look for scripture (and less opinion or my own rebellious nature) as to what is true and holy. I pray that I am.

              I can tell from your heart that you do wish this as well. I don’t believe that I am wrong about this, as I’ve gleaned from the passion you’ve used in your responses.

              You and I both want to be wise, and follow Christ. And you are right that many things have been disagreed upon, sure.

              I do want to add that I would not take any more time to write back on this thread if I did not care, I want to make THAT very clear.
              Because, I most definitely do.

              It just pains me to know that we aren’t seeing things eye to eye on this. But, I just now have to put it into prayer, as I ask that you do the same.

              Let’s pray for God to show us both,and give us wisdom as to where we may be wrong on this, and that he shows us the truth of this subject in and through his word, so that we both may be able to speak to all people and direct them to be who Christ would desire them to be.

            • J.

              It appears that we agree more than we disagree. As I pointed out in my last response I also don’t believe that PHD’s (or higher education) trumps Biblical wisdom-but it can help when they go together and I would consider it a waste of my time if I pursued higher education without coupling it with concentrated Biblical wisdom. As I stated in my last post, I only mentioned a few credentials to share that I am not someone that has arrived at these conclusions lightly or on a whim-but rather quite the opposite. I have never forsaken Biblical wisdom in lieu of higher education-they have always gone together. Truth is truth no matter if you studied for decades or if you haven’t-and all truth is God’s truth. I have said it many times and you have said it in your last post as well. I am happy that we can clearly agree on that and stand united.

              I regret that despite my best efforts (and a few of my colleagues reading my response to make sure it was clear and didn’t sound mocking, condescending or anything of that sort) you still find some of my words to sound mocking. I will make one more attempt at clarifying. I was saying that if anyone says that gentleness is an exclusive female trait and they try to use the scripture 1 Peter 3:4 to back that assertion up-they would be missing the point that gentleness is not just a female trait but also a fruit of the spirit for everyone (again, I think we probably agree on that and I am not saying that you are saying gentleness is just supposed to be an exclusively ‘female’ trait). Again, gentleness is to be prized in everyone-the Bible says it, we’ve said it, many before us have said it. We stand united in this. Men and Women were not being compared to children or anything of the sort-although the illustration still holds quite a bit of water in reference to how the children misunderstood the words of their parent in the illustration. You may not see the parallel and that’s okay-just because someone may not understand it (or it isn’t clear enough through no fault of your own) doesn’t mean that our first response should be to assume anyone is mocking or anything negative like that.

              Again, the polygamy parallel holds true when we are talking about people that think the Bible condones something (like the polygamy that King David engaged in along with many others) just because the Bible described something that was acceptable in that specific culture. I sincerely pray that this might be made clearer with this post. I hope that if something is still not understood by either of us (or anyone else here) that we can refrain from automatically jumping to assume that anyone is mocking anything.

              I am struggling with how to make the two examples clearer and I hope that I have-but if I haven’t, you will just have to either choose to assume the worst despite all the evidence that points the other direction or you’ll just have to trust that no one was mocking anything even if you think it might sound like that might be a possibility. I’m choosing to assume the best about you and give you the benefit of the doubt-I would appreciate the same in return but I understand that no matter what, it’s a choice to assume the best or the worst…

              We are united in our belief that we “examine ourselves and look for scripture (and less opinion or our own rebellious natures) as to what is true and holy” as well as “You and I both want to be wise, and follow Christ.”

              We are united in several other things you’ve shared and we are certainly united in the last statement of your post: “Let’s pray for God to show us both,and give us wisdom as to where we may be wrong on this, and that he shows us the truth of this subject in and through his word, so that we both may be able to speak to all people and direct them to be who Christ would desire them to be.”

              God bless you and I wish you the best…

            • Jennifer Lea Akins

              J. I have one question to ask of you: Are you of the belief that the Bible is inerrant?

            • J.

              That is a good question in a bit of a different direction (I hope the readers don’t mind us going off topic). I will warn you that I may have a few more run-on sentences in this response than either of us will be comfortable with… ;-)

              Biblical inerrancy has definitely become a bit of a hot button issue for some in recent years. As you probably know, the idea of the Bible being inerrant wasn’t even a topic that was given much thought until about 200 years ago. Some prefer and embrace the doctrine of infallibility while denouncing the doctrine of inerrancy; and of course some fully embrace the doctrine of inerrancy. I feel like (as with most questions like this) we can’t give it a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer because Biblical inerrancy clearly implies different things to different people because we are still left to interpret what this ‘inerrant’ text is saying. I may say, ‘yes’ to your initial question and that might imply something completely different to you than it does to me. I personally believe that the Bible is true in all that it asserts (and yes, even that lends itself to a bit of the same issue). The Bible is revelatory and ‘salvilic’ in nature (as so many believers before us have said). That line of thinking may result in statements like “the Bible does not claim to be a science book so if there happens to be something that some might consider to be a scientific ‘error’ in the Bible-that takes nothing away from what the Bible is asserting”. This also comes down to what you believe on an individual level about how the Bible was written. Some believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God in that God inspired the humans that had their hands on the writing implement. Some believe that God Himself told the writers what to write ‘word-for-word’ (plenary inspiration) in that God was not just overseeing (so to speak) but that every single word was deliberately chosen by God as He told the writer what to write and some believe something else all together… From here we can go to the subject of translation which is a whole other potential ‘can of worms’ (for some) that is still very important too… (for example, there are certain Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic words that have no actual English equivalent so some thought has to go into how to appropriately and most closely translate) (the same consideration has to be given to Greek and Hebrew cultural concepts that people groups outside of that specific culture have no understanding of)

              The awesome thing is that while these secondary concepts and doctrines can get a little complicated-the simplicity of the gospel rings true and is worth our primary focus (not that discussing these things has no merit-only that discussing these things to the point where we are neglecting other things can be detrimental). If discussing things like this turn into arguments then I seriously have to look at what is going on. Like Jesus said when he was asked what the greatest commandment was, “Love the lord your God will all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself”. If that’s the greatest commandment then that clues me into where I should be placing my focus.

              What are your thoughts and opinions on the doctrine of inerrancy?

            • Jennifer Lea Akins

              Well, I asked this particular question because what one believes about God And/OR about the word of God, is how they believe about the world.

              It affects many things once you believe that the Bible is capable of having error.

              You said that answering “yes” to my question may mean something different to me, and that may be true. I’ll then, just explain that what it tells me is that you have problems, or doubts as to the entire text being accurate, since there have been many questions as to its origin or translations. And, so, what this says to me is that you don’t fully trust it to be truth, or to accurately tell us, as it is written (translating or origin aside), what is real or to make of absolute sense…as in, it may say something but may not be right in saying it, because maybe it was written or translated wrong.

              We can be free to be critical, as we all have minds and free will to do so, also doubt some, but we don’t have any right to question the authority of the Word. God’s in the business of bringing truth to us, so that we can understand it. I don’t believe that he would do so WITHOUT being accurate.

              He is mysterious, and so many many things may not add up mathematically, or socially, or scientifically, or logically, because he is truly outside and higher than all of those things, and it is not above making himself that we wouldn’t try and seek him out.

              Although, mysterious and out of our limited wisdom, he made the work of the Bible possible for us to be able to understand a little of his magnitude…so, although I have my own doubts and criticisms, I do not feel the Bible is inerrant.

              I feel it tells it like it is, was, and will be.
              The Word IS Jesus after all, from beginning to end.

            • J.

              Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, convictions, and line of thought… May we all continue to submit ourselves to God and let ‘iron sharpen iron’ (so to speak)… God Bless you…

  • Wesley Mcgranor

    Those that are coached by such romantic pornography — will be insincere in their copulation.

    • Jennifer Akins

      I think you mean: insecure.

  • Wendy

    I disagree with equating pornography with romantic media. It lets pornography off easy. I do agree that romantic media have dangerous qualities and can be harmful for the soul if mistaken for reality. In any case, I have a question for the author. I am curious about the feminizing characteristics that women end up wishing their men had. Which of our girlfriends’ qualities are we trying to transfer onto our men? I like this idea of the “other.” It is exciting to be with someone that is not like us. However, aren’t some qualities just decently human…or Christian human at the very least? I guess I’m wondering what is unrealistic to expect from a man. When are we asking too much?

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  • Earlgreygirl

    While I agree with your assessment that romantic films give an unrealistic view of men and romantic relationships (I have seen this with some younger women who put tremendous expectation on their partners as to how they “should be”), “Sleepless in Seattle” really does not fit your own description of what makes a romantic comedy: it is the female in this film who pursues, and the male is not an idiot. Meg Ryan’s character acts not only idiotically but deceptively–she is after all engaged to another man. Jilting one’s partner actually is a common theme in romantic comedies, one that bears more discussion since it reveals character flaw, poor choices, weakness and SIN. The same thing occurred in “You’ve Got Mail”–the female and male protagonists are both in relationships with other people, pursuing an unreal relationship online. The deception continues when F-O-X discovers that Kathleen Kelley is his chatroom buddy, but does not reveal this to Kathleen until she has been “tweaked” enough as his “Love Project.” The concepts of honesty and commitment seem to be missing from this article’s description of “real” men and women and relationships.

  • Scott Anderson

    If the point that Betsy Hart makes in this post is true–if her comparison is even close to legit (and I think it could be)–then the following comments that Betsy makes throughout the article are mystifying and seem logically inconsistent:

    “I have to [watch rom coms] every so often to remind myself why I don’t do it more frequently.”

    “It was too late to pull my girls out of the film.”

    “For the record, I can enjoy a good chick flick as much as anyone.”

    “And yes, I tell my girls if they want to enjoy some good romantic comedies along the way, go ahead.”

    Maybe I’ve missed the nuance of her argument.

  • Rob

    Very Good.

    Thanks for writing this!

  • Lauren Shook

    I definitely agree with the fact that women can objectify men and use romcoms/romantic novels/daydreams as a place to build their fantasy husband.
    Something bothered me about this article though was the assertion that men in romantic comedies have been feminized just because they’re not stoic or aggressive. I don’t know what men you’re around, but many of my godly brothers in Christ are warm and friendly to people around them. They don’t all hunt or wrestle and eat steak (although… now that I think about it, they do enjoy that when they get to).
    MY point, I guess, is that we shouldn’t allow the world (and by extension, romantic comedies) to define what men should be like. We also, though, don’t need to let Chuck Norris be our standard of Christian masculinity either. My roommate and I were just talking about this (as I work on this), and we have several close friends who are incredibly solid men in Christ but who don’t fit traditional pictures of masculinity.

  • albert

    you guys really censored my post? really? even when i said i agree with distinctions between male and female? even for making a very relevant argument about how i think an article like this doesn’t make sense for an organization that proclaims they’re centered on the Gospel?

    that was not intended to cause strife amongst the writers and readers in here. with the volume we have of preachers these days who constantly hammer people about gender distinctions, i am not questioning whether or not this is a battle people should focus on. it’s almost as if they’re just as passionate about this as they are with soteriological issues. especially with an organization that claims to center itself on the Gospel, this is not the right environment in which this issue should be argued.

    • Jennifer Akins

      Albert, the point you are trying to make is not clear.

      Please explain why you don’t think talking about gender distinctions on a gospel site (which takes everything back to the Word for guidance for us on how we distinctly should live our godly walks as women and men) should happen???

      • albert

        It is based on the fact that this entire coalition has been willing to overlook each other’s many (important) theological differences in order to create this entity that is based on what they would claim to be most important point of agreement; the true Gospel as expressed through the Reformation. Now whether or not a person thinks this is a wise and sustainable model in order to create this official union is truly up for debate. However, regardless of the debate, what the TGC has done to convince us why this was formed in the first place is also why it is called the GOSPEL coalition. There are major and important disagreements on Church Polity, Sacraments, Covenant, Dispensationalism, etc, of which all persons involved in this organization would claim they have the biblical view. Therefore, TGC has already at that point chosen to only interpret Scripture in light of what they are calling themselves to be accountable for; the GOSPEL.

        TGC would not only run into problems of those theological differences, but also the problem that when the GOSPEL coalition begins hammering on Gender issues like this post here, where the writer tries to equate Chick Flicks with Pornography, it has in a sense overstepped their bounds of interpretation that they have set for themselves already. Why is it not called the Gospel & Gender-Correct Coalition? Or any other name attached after Gospel? It is ironic that such an organization will choose to not focus on a whole host of other things and yet will erase that limitation and use this forum to bring in other issues for which they have not set forth for us from the beginning.

        • Jennifer Akins

          What should Gospel Coalition do to be credible to speak into the lives of women and men? Would you be more in favor of them narrowing down gospel doctrine and then tackling the issue of our roles? Is this what you are trying to say??

          • albert

            No, what I’m saying is that TGC is an entity of people that are already on significant interpretative disagreement of Scripture when it comes to many other important issues. They made it clear to us that they wanted to form this group based on purely Gospel. As a result, since they are willing to ignore major interpretative issues amongst themselves, it is rather arbitrary for them to pick a whole host of other issues (like Gender Distinctions) outside of the Gospel (Since it is called the GOSPEL Coaltion) as a banner in which they want to wave. This is the inherent problem with ecumenism in my judgment. In a sociological sense, generally discouraging ecumenical movements and maintaining within the bounds of denominational distinctives, would in fact avoid this disadvantage that TGC has.

        • Collin Hansen

          Are you familiar, Albert, with The Gospel Coalition’s Foundation Documents? Based on your description of TGC, it doesn’t appear that you are. So if you’d like to know how we have for years described our commitment to the gospel and how it works out in all of life, please read the Confessional Statement and Theological Vision for Ministry. Also, this forum does not claim and never will claim that every article will represent the unanimous consensus on the entire TGC Council. Indeed, we see this forum as a place where sometimes we’ll address the many areas of disagreement that you cited with the hopes of modeling how the gospel maintains a central unified core.

          • albert

            Collin, yes I have read in the past the Confessional Statement and Theological Vision for Ministry. So my question is this; What IS the Gospel Coalition? Is it a Church? Is it a Para-Church Ministry? Ecumenical Council?

            I have read all the documents and yet still maintain the same position. The basic unifying core of interpretative credibility remains; Triune God and Gospel.

            In addition, what use is an editorial when the whole council does not agree on what is being published? Especially when what is being published does not directly relate with the basic unifying issue of the entity? Everyone will assume (regardless of what is written in a document since most people won’t read it) that what a thing publishes reflects the standards and viewpoints of the thing.

            • Collin Hansen

              Perhaps you might read the documents again, Albert, if you’re confused about whether TGC is a church. When you look them over, you’ll find that the documents address a whole host of issues that flow out of our common concern for the gospel and God’s Word. You may choose not to fellowship with any Christians outside your denomination, in which case I’m puzzled why you bother commenting on this website. But others will continue to look for meaningful ways to collaborate for the common good of our local churches and the world in the name of Jesus Christ. And I’m thankful for readers who wisely understand this site’s commitment to standing firm on our many areas of agreement while allowing diversity of belief and expression where common confession does not bind us.

            • albert

              Collin, those questions were at best half serious because I believe there is no adequate answer to the question “What is the Gospel Coalition?” My questions about this entity has more to do with supporters involved to ask themselves that question. The confusion does not lie with me but rather with this entity itself. The document does not help to establish at all what this entity is except for the fact that everyone only agrees on simply a couple basic tenets of Christian belief.

              Do not however at the same time misunderstand me. Most of my friends are either nonchristian or christians of other denominations. What I’m talking about in this website is a separate issue. You say that this is a place where there’s commonality and diversity of belief. Yet TGC consists of people who have said that Paedobaptism is a sin and have said some pretty bad and disparaging remarks about homosexuality and gender issues without apology. There have been people in TGC that have also stated in public that certain calamities have been brought upon certain groups of people because of some sort of sin that they attribute to such groups. All of these things are attributed to a very different Theology that I ascribe to and therefore would almost no reason to associate myself publicly with such people.

              Again, don’t get me wrong. Though I have some deep criticism of TGC, I also don’t believe it’s necessarily all bad either. I am without a doubt a huge advocate of Keller and Carson. And I thought the subject of the recent conference is probably one of the most pertinent topics to ever be dealt with in a christian conference.

              Originally this discussion was about the absurdity of this entity posting about an issue (gender distinctions) for which it has no grounds of actually making. It is a very odd and weird thing for a lot of people to see a headline “Chicks Flicks = Porn” being published by the GOSPEL Coalition. I’m sorry but it’s blatantly absurd.

              You say this whole endeavor is meaningful. I would say, in some areas yes. But not when you have certain deep problems in view along with irrelevant and doesn’t-belong-here editorials like this one.

            • Collin Hansen

              You continue to associate with “such people” by posting on this site, Albert. The scary thing is that the moment we fellowship with other Christians, whether in our local church or through a group like TGC, we run into people who hold views we do not share or even approve on a wide range of issues, some more important than others. Even in your local church, however small, you must know that fellow members probably don’t agree with you on absolutely everything. And we can be sure that some of these fellow Christians in our churches view you and me as “such people” they sometimes do not like to associate with publicly.

              In short, what you regard as “a couple basic tenets of Christian belief” represents the drawing line every Christian and every local church must determine. It’s merely a matter of where you choose to draw it: with the simplest of professions that “Jesus is Lord,” an extensive confessional statement and theological vision of ministry, or the WCF, to identify three points on a spectrum. And wherever you choose to draw the line, teachers will reserve their responsibility to explore other areas according to their understanding and experience with the hope that fellow Christians (even those who vehemently disagree) might somehow be edified.

  • albert

    oops, i meant to say, “I am NOW questioning….”

  • Chrystie

    Love this post. I made a decision some time ago that romantic comedies were not good for me because they made me pine for those qualities in my husband. I enjoy watching them and my decision to stop was not out of any legalistic reasoning. It was merely the way I felt led to protect my heart and mind, as well as my marriage. Most people seem to think that was drastic or unnecessary but I am completely okay with the decision. I truly don’t feel like I am missing anything. Like you said, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Since then, I have come to understand (and am still learning) that men are not to be feminized; they were created uniquely masculine in the image of God, just as women were created uniquely feminine in the image of God – equal but different. I am learning that these differences are to be celebrated and appreciated, not despised.

    • Jennifer Akins

      Chrystie, I commend you for your obedience to stop watching them. I hope I can do the same, and stop completely.

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  • Scott

    I read the line about still watching them occasionally and thought “huh?!”

    If romantic comedies have this strong of an effect, then little different than a guy watching porn for a few hours every few weeks. Just because a rating system says it’s PG or PG-13 doesn’t mean someone should watch it.

    Even if these sorts of films only have the same effect on women as a bunch of photos of women in bikinis has on men, it’s still unwise for women to see. I’m not a woman, so I don’t know how strong an effect this stuff has on y’all, but if the term “pornography” is not exaggeration to describe these sorts of films’ effects on women, then don’t subject yourself or your daughters to it. Other than being totally culturally acceptable, it would be no different than handing a Playboy to a 15 year old and telling him its ok in small doses.

  • Betsy Hart

    Hi friends – thanks for all the thoughtful and kind comments, and the constructive (and kind!) criticism. You all have helped my own thought process on this, especially as I seek to further themes for my book.

    I will seek to answer/clarify a few of the critiques here:

    First and most recently, about watching “rom coms” to begin with, under any circumstances, if I really consider them a type of pornography; the “roller coaster” comment for instance; or the thought that I couldn’t pull my girls out of the movie.

    Much of this comes down to a style of writing in which, particularly in my weekly column, I tend to use (overuse!) humor and a tongue-in-cheek delivery. I also like to poke a lot of fun at myself. And, I tend to write in a very conversational style. But, if one doesn’t know all that, as my regular readers might, it’s not so clear where I am coming from. The comments here are a call to me to be more precise, and I appreciate them.

    In particular, I do not view what I call romantic pornography as necessarily inciting sin as sexual pornography typically does. Even though I think there are the similar orientations of both in presenting a fantastic and unidimensional characterization of the other gender, and hence I chose to use that provocative comparison.

    For the record, and because it may be helpful to the discussion at hand, it seems to me it is possible to look at explicit sexual pornography and be sinless in it. But this statement is not so provocative when you think about it. A vice detective who is helping to prosecute a pornographer, or for that matter a parent who is tracking the on-line activities of his teenage son, might both necessarily look at sexual pornography. But as long as they view it with disgust, not lust, it seems they would yet remain sinless in the necessary act of viewing itself.

    As is so often the case, the sin even here is about the orientation of the heart.

    I think when it comes to “rom coms” the same principles apply, though I do think under the right circumstances and heart orientation there can be an innocence in watching at least some “chick flicks” that I can’t imagine could be replicated in sexual pornography. For instance, I enjoyed “Enchanted” with my girls. It was funny, clever, non cynical, non sexual, and I I so appreciated that the lead characters broke up BEFORE they were engaged. And, it was clearly fantasy. There were things I didn’t like about it (she “saves” him at the end.) But in the main – with the right understanding that most men don’t act like Patrick Dempsey or the prince, and that’s just fine – it was enjoyable and allowed my girls and me to bond a little, have things to discuss later and so on.

    By the way, of course I could actually pull my girls out of a film, any film. A little hyperbole there! I simply chose not to when it came to “Sleepless” because the film did not have explicit sexual activity or language, and I actually thought it would serve as a good object lesson. And yes, I think it is a good example of a “rom com.” Tom Hanks says the dopiest things – lines a man would only utter if written/directed by a woman. Interesting, my girls in the end found it quite boring and “silly” in their words.

    In any event, orientation is paramount. And so I am trying to instill the right orientation in my girls so that they can, for instance enjoy the creativity and terrific humor and acting in a movie like “Enchanted,” without feeling they have to buy the fantastic romantic lesson it portrays.

    Now, speaking of the latter, more than a few commentors here have mentioned the “magic” of C.S. Lewis, for instance. I don’t entirely discount that, not least of all when it comes to romantic love – which is incredible if not magical. It has just been my experience that our culture increasingly tends to think “magic” can only be defined one way – as a woman defines it (well planned outings and romantic dinners) whereas for men it might be defined another (being faithful, working hard to provide for his family.) The latter tends to be increasingly discounted, and I think that’s a shame.

    At the same time, I think that it’s a fine thing in a marriage to stretch to be more other oriented. It may be great for a husband to create a romantic dinner though that’s not his thing, or for a woman to be more sexually available to her husband to better meet his needs. (Though to another commenter, when I said a Christian counselor would surely not encourage a wife to become more like the women her husband found attractive on-line, I certainly meant to imply he “ought not.”)

    In any event, the problem is that the “stretching” our culture asks for tends to go in only one direction: I am woman hear me roar.

    On another note, the comment regarding Jane Austen novels, most of which I have recently reread: I did not intend to suggest that her work should equate with Ephron’s, but I do believe they are a form of romance novel and it is appropriate to recognized as such. The excellence of them comes from the social satire, yes, but also the richly drawn characters. Neither the men nor the women leading characters portrayed in her work are unidimensional.

    Please feel free to point out anything else I have not spoken to, and again thank you for all the helpful and encouraging comments. Please feel free to visit me on my public facebook page as well, “From The Hart.”

    blessings – Betsy Hart

  • J.

    I think there might be some merit to what is being mentioned here but I think there is more to it (as a counselor, researcher, and pastor I feel that men and women are not different at all based on gender but more on their life experiences and how they have assimilated them into an orderly worldview). Back to your point about ‘chick flicks’ being like porn to women: we first have to understand that ‘men’ don’t struggle with pornography-PEOPLE struggle with pornography…as in men AND women. Like any sin, there is no gender preference… In the Church it’s like we want to be the last to finally admit the actual way certain sins impact people. It is almost as if we only talk about porn and men because it is thought of as ‘safer’ to talk about it that way as opposed to talking about it realistically-when we don’t talk about sin and the actual scope of it’s effects it can make people feel alone in their struggle and that is dangerous. Sin is already isolating for many-so we don’t have to make it worse by only telling half of the story… (I know this is a bit of a tangent on the metaphor used and more of a commentary and wake up call for the Church at large). The ‘chick flick’ idea has some merit but only in the same way as the above was stated. It can give warped ideas to everyone (not just ‘women’).

    So to sum up: chick-flicks aren’t ‘like’ porn for women-because the last pole I knew about said that around 65% of women already struggle with porn so that spot is already being occupied by actual porn. Like you said, chick-flicks may not help but if they can be appreciated through the lens of reality then they can just be ridiculous and funny (occasionally) movies…I don’t know if we need to sound the alarm yet and boycott every movie deemed to be a ‘chick flick’… :-)

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  • Leigh

    I whole heartedly agree that romantic comedies should be viewed objectively. When I was growing up I knew that TV was not real and that these relationships were fiction. This is definitely in part because my mother always was sure to discuss these themes with me. So I know these types of conversations go a long way to establishing truth in young girls’ hearts. My romanticized view of what men should be like came not from secular media but from several Christian non-fiction books aimed at helping girls stay pure for their husbands. One in particular encouraged the reader to write a list of everything she wanted in husband, all the way down to a “cute butt”. The author then discussed how when she married her husband she gave him the list and told him he filled every desire. I spent my entire freshman year of college turning down any guy that didn’t meet my criteria. I was convinced after reading this book that God wanted me to have my “perfect man” and I would wait for him. Thankfully my husband was not easily deterred and kept asking. He was not what I ever imagined but thankfully God got through to me. I still struggle with what I think my husband should be like, especially spiritually, but with God’s grace I am learning. My point is that secular media can be bad – but we also need to be very aware of what types of Christian media our daughters are consuming because it can be damaging as well.

    • J.

      “…but we also need to be very aware of what types of Christian media our daughters are consuming because it can be damaging as well.”-AMEN to that… That can be more dangerous in some ways because sometimes we can have a false sense of security when we see that something is deemed ‘Christian’ and we forget (or feel no need to) filter it as something that may be sincere-but it can still be sincerely wrong. It’s like the article I read about a certain chain of ‘Christian’ bookstores that started putting a sticker that said “read with discernment” on certain books, I was SHOCKED because I couldn’t for the life of me think of a book that you shouldn’t read with discernment…

  • albert

    Collin, I think you’re focusing too much on a couple of words or phrases I say without looking at the whole context of what I’m actually saying as a whole. When I say that I have many friends who are people outside my beliefs, especially with nonchristians, how is it that I could affirm that I cannot associate at all with christians with differing beliefs? Granted when I said “associate publicly” may not have been the best phrase but I used that in the context of being a part of an official Confessional Institutional/Official/Corporate/Public/Organizational Entity. I associate with atheists but I won’t join their cause. The same principle is being applied here.

    In addition, it is a oxymoron to call a Confession non-binding. If that is what TGC is about, then on that issue, it has almost no meaning.

    • Collin Hansen

      Where did I say TGC’s confession is nonbinding?

  • albert

    Can you clarify your statement here?

    “And I’m thankful for readers who wisely understand this site’s commitment to standing firm on our many areas of agreement while allowing diversity of belief and expression where common confession does not bind us.”

    • Collin Hansen

      No confession, including TGC’s, is exhaustive. We do not require agreement on issues not covered by the confession. In fact, we welcome respectful dialogue on these matters, such as polity and baptism. To neglect these areas, whether in our Council discussion or on this site, would be to ignore what the Bible teaches and fall into the trap of gospel minimalism. The gospel bring us together. It’s our only hope for salvation. But it’s not the only thing we want to talk about, because it’s not the only thing God’s Word talks about.

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  • Steve Cavallaro

    Interesting to see people condemn instead of caution about rom coms. As a pastor, should I now recommend people who continue to see rom coms after admonishment & rebuke for church discipline? Am I to pursue charges as I would for someone who uses pornography?

  • Brent Martin


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  • Veronica

    I agree with the majority of this article that many of these movies set up unrealistic expectations for women, on how their future (or current) husband should act.

    But I am concerned with two issues that many Christian couples face that I think are in part due to the extreme differentiation the Christian culture places on the genders from a young age. These are stereotypical and I understand that every couple is different; I’ve just seen these issues come up again and again in my friends’ marriages.

    Ms. Hart writes “A man in love with a woman is stubborn in his pursuit. Hence I’ve passed down to my children the maxim my mother shared with me: “Girls don’t want a boy they have to call themselves.””

    When parents raise their girls to never make the first move, here are the two problems these girls bring into their marriages as adults: she does not feel comfortable sharing her feelings with her husband because she’ll then feel negatively if he doesn’t feel the same way (yet because of the romantic comedy culture, she’ll expect him to read her mind). So she doesn’t feel loved / understood / known.

    And because men are supposed to act like men, she rarely, if ever, initiates sexual intimacy, because that’s her husband’s job. So now he doesn’t feel loved / understood / known.

    Just my two cents on the problems of never letting the female take the lead.

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  • Josh Bryan

    WOW!Reading all these comments was ‘porn’, mental S&M lol.

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