If you haven’t heard of the book and now movie “Fifty Shades of Grey,” here’s a very brief synopsis (spoiler alert!) : A young woman meets up with a young, wealthy businessman who engages her in a B*D S*M* relationship that he says will be without any emotional ties. He wants her to sign a contract to show consent and shows her a plethora of peculiar *bondage* toys. This sounds preposterous to the virginal Ana who finds this taboo arrangement oddly alluring but they press forward until she asks to be shown the “extremes” of the *bondage* world after which she decides that it isn't for her.
The book received mostly negative literary reviews for its poor writing but frankly, I'm disappointed mostly from the poor depiction of a true dominant/submissive relationship. There are, indeed, many “shades” of B*D S*M (I had to write it this way to get past the filters) from mild to extreme but the book’s characterization of this *sexual* niche neglected to share any true understanding of it. *Sex* toys and--gasp!—a spanking were brought out the way a frat boy might do so during pledge week. (The undercurrent that runs through a dominant or submissive mind calls him/her to go beyond what the rational self would normally allow. There is pleasure in the pain, honor in the humiliation, and that is so very hard for a “straight” to understand.)
In any case, why are average women breathless over this book? For the same reason why romance novel sales were over 1 billion dollars in 2013 alone. It’s no secret that women like romance. But if they swoon over romance, they absolutely pant over romantic *sex*. Fifty Shades of Grey has been called “mommy p-o-r-n” and most women would agree. Finally, they say, a story where there is raw and graphic *sex* cloaked in a way that a good girl still remains a good girl even when the *sex* acts are very, very bad.
Is this what women wanted all along? I am asked by perplexed husbands. The answer is not so simple. For one thing, the main characters in the book were not married. They didn't have to wake up next to each other in the morning, get the kids off to school, trudge to work and back, do the laundry or juggle the bills together along with the in-law issues. It was a passing relationship with a mysterious stranger, and in the end, Ana just decides she doesn't like what’s going on and walks out.
Married women don't have that option. They do like flirting with the taboo to amp up the excitement factor but only temporarily so and most definitely when they can say when it’s over. But in most ways, women have evolved. We can earn our own paychecks and hire contractors to fix things around the house. We’re engaged in world affairs, including politics and humanitarian movements. We don’t want to be left out of the boardrooms or banks or sports arenas. Anything a man can do, a woman can do…well, you the rest of that saying.
When it comes to *sex*, women are free to go after what they want, but there’s one little thing that no woman really wants to admit. There’s a tiny remnant of our primal biological make-up that still is very decidedly female and yes, that means (shhh!) enjoying a male being a male. As in, the weaker *sex*, the submissive partner, the “let-your-animal-instincts-take-over and come and get me” kind of girl.
The dominated female syndrome is rooted not only in our biology but also indoctrinated into most female minds by religion. A good girl isn't supposed to initiate let alone like *sex* so when a man takes over, it’s his fault that she feels so good. Most romance novel readers are probably good girls because other types of girls are out there doing what good girls wish they could. Fifty Shades of Grey allows good girls to read about a good girl who was, for a brief time, with a very naughty (and handsome and rich) man and wiser for it but then goes back to being a good girl once again. Ah, redemption!
If you’re a husband hoping to heat up your *sex* life with your wife, you might take her to see the movie and gauge her response. Then, open up dialogue about what she might enjoy, fantasy-wise. And when it’s all over, remember we’re equals again or we’ll likely adopt the biology of a Preying Mantis who after copulation will rip off the male’s head. So when the fantasy is over: Look out, Mr. Grey.