You don't need to read the whole thing.
No, I'm not kidding. Why not? Reading some juicy bits may be the best decision you make all day. In fact, I'm sure of it. Not only is the sexy series by British mum E.L. James on fire, it's just plain fun. It'll get all pistons firing in the biggest sexual organ of all: Your brain.
Don't be fooled all the hubbub about it setting the feminist movement back 50 years (we have the Republican party for that!). It's quite the opposite.
If you immediately jump to the conclusion that any situation in which a woman gets tied up and spanked is a "bad" one, then you haven't done any real thinking about this, and you certainly haven't read it (is my guess). I invite you to do both now.
As soon as I saw the stir happening back in March, I knew I wanted to dive in (um, who wouldn't?), and was more excited about reading it than the novel I was currently reading (sorry, Wind-Up Bird Chronicles--I'll be back). I just had to toss that quiet novel aside the minute this sexy bitch rolled in.
Why are we so uptight?
What really threw me was how up in arms everyone got over this thing (witness the ridiculousness on this clip on the Today Show--especially when there's untold volumes of erotica collecting dust on shelves and no one's talking about it really. But of course--this was just soft enough to gain widespread appeal, and yet risque enough that it would titillate and disturb polite company.
Our culture is so incredibly screwy about sex that even talking about a fictional fantasy makes us fear that something's wrong with us. Anyone who thinks a bodice-ripper is going to singlehandedly create a cultural crisis is high.
Why does Dr. Drew suck so bad?
Dr. Drew, whom I like less and less, was featured in that Today Show clip. And he hadn't even read the book. Enough said. He works himself into a tizzy about what a symptom this is of a troubled culture...and then, in an attempt to find some explanation of how this is acceptable (um, aside from it being a free country and the book being entertainment?) is its use as "female Viagra." He essentially says, "yeah well, if you're perimenopausal and need something to kickstart your libido, then sure."
Gee, thanks Drew. THAT is one of the most insulting things I've heard. It makes it "her" problem. Like she has glaucoma and the book is an excusable instance of marijuana (not a good idea for everyone, but oh sure, let them use it). In fact, while we can argue about the quality of the writing in Fifty Shades (eh) and whether it deserves to make history as a work of literature--I won't. I don't care. That's not why I read it, and probably not why you will, either.
Couples all over the country, especially those with sex drives that are pretty much in park, are waking up from their 100-year naps and getting down and dirty again and WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE ABOUT THAT? With all the fears around the 'crisis of marriage,' divorce rates, and low libido, etc, you'd think that ANYTHING that inspires and feeds a passionate connection between two people, especially two married people (though of course that's not a prerequisite) would be applauded.
No--because Americans freak out about sex.
A Voice of Reason
Also featured in the Today show segment was sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff, who injects some sanity (thank God) to the inane discussion being fueled by Dr. Drew and Savannah Guthrie (who seems so seriously troubled by the book, and yet why can I imagine it tucked into her nightstand?). She tries, but fails, to push back against the other two who are trying to make this about what sick f*cks we are.
In Levkoff's blog on HuffPo on Fifty Shades of Grey, she makes this key point:
"...We don't control how and if we turn on to something or someone. We may not desire to have fantasies about losing control, but many of us do. It doesn't make us bad women or bad people. It doesn't even say anything about our psyche or whether or not we want to "lose control" in our own lives...And in the case of "Fifty Shades," if it got you hot and bothered, it got you hot and bothered. That's about it; there's no underlying psychological issue here. This is not about feminism or the demise of the women's movement." (Read more of her blog)
Why BDSM is not about violence against women
The desire to give up control during sex, to be dominated (which is one of the most common fantasies for women) is NOT to give into a life of domestic violence (I'm looking at you, Dr. Oz audience member who said this dopey thing on the show).
You don't have to dig too far into the BDSM literature to understand that it's not just about "I hurt you and you'll love it." It's about negotiating boundaries. A submissive, in fact, has all the power--that's how she (or he) is able to GIVE IT UP. Are we missing that?
The disturbed but undeniably hot Christian Grey isn't trying to force Anastasia, the book's protagonist, into doing what he wants; he's begging her! He gives her the paperwork so they can discuss it and amend it how she wishes. He basically follows her around on his hands and knees begging for her submission. And even if and when she chooses to surrender her power, he knows it's hers to begin with.
Does that sound like an abusive relationship to you?
What Dr. Oz has to say about it
Dr. Oz devoted not one segment, not two, but AN ENTIRE SHOW to Fifty Shades, interviewing couples and experts about why they love it, and why it works. It's all about the human brain: As we read about Anastasia Steele and her naughty adventures with the stunning billionaire, our mirror neurons fire, he says, sending electrical signals, sending them thru the spinal column down to the pelvis. Blood flow increases and engorgement occurs, and the glands kick into gear. Physical signs of arousal reinforce our desire to have sex. And sex begets more sex.
Is Fifty Shades Really JUST Fantasy?
Levkoff and others keep coming back to the point that it's not the bondage--it's the imagination. OK fine. But even that seems to be sidestepping the fact that this doesn't just stay a fantasy. I would hazard a guess that stores like The Pleasure Chest are seeing a pretty big spike in sales. I met a woman recently who teaches workshops to women on EXACTLY how to do what's in the book. And her attendance rates are way up. I'm pretty sure people don't just want to read about it. They want to try it.
I'm just waiting for someone to accidentally asphyxiate themselves so that the media can fly into a frenzy about how Fifty Shades is killing people. (Please be careful when trying at home, people!)
Why you haven't seen the end of BDSM
With more and more women earning their degrees, making more money, building careers of influence and power, and realizing that they have quite a bit of say in their lives, it makes total sense to me why giving up control is a dreamy and desirable fantasy: because what would be more amazing than finding a man who is in fact man ENOUGH to take over for a while? Especially in the bedroom.
In fact, I imagine that the more power women have in our culture, the more this fantasy will grow. I also find some humor in the idea that the book fetishizes a man being in control. (Does anyone else find that funny?)
I for one am thrilled that ANY book would get such attention. Millions of Americans are doing two things that previously, they might not have done for months, or years, at a stretch:
Reading books and having sex. Maybe even simultaneously. Multitasking just got a lot more interesting.