By now you have probably heard of the book Fifty Shades of Grey. You know that BDSM romance novel a.k.a Twilight fan fiction a.k.a mommy porn? I figured you were probably aware of it, even if you haven’t read it yet. It has been on covers of magazines, TV shows, and of course all over the internet. Hence, people ask me, and ask me, and ask me, what I think about the book. Others seem very interested in my evaluation, so here it goes:
Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James is a book that needed to happen for this generation. I know this is really not what you want me to talk about… you really want to know what I think about the sex scenes. Do I think it is an abusive relationship? Do I find it believable? Is this really what BDSM is like? Why would people be into this. Is it wrong if I was turned on by it? The list of questions (that no one ever seems to directly ask me but are always just right below the surface) goes on and on. Still, I gotta tell you… Fifty Shades of Grey matters because every so often a new work has to come along to push boundaries (yet again).
It is like we, as a society, kind of forget what intense sexuality can be like between people. Sure, it is there floating around in the back of our minds, but as a general concept; not something that one can identify with in fact or fiction. Fifty Shades of Grey taps into that sweet spot of sexy romantic tension packaged in innocence and exploration. I think this is important and there are some other works that also can fall into this category including: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Story of O, Forever, The Beauty Series, The Kushels Series, and The Marketplace.
So, time to dive into a few of the questions (mentioned above) that seem to be coming up for people about Fifty Shade of Grey:
- The sex scenes in Shades are to be expected for fiction of this kind. Like most things, some people will think they are over-the-top, boring, not a turn on, or love the scenes and want to read more. This is pretty common for most people and this book will probably stir up some reaction in either direction for you. This is a good thing! It gets you thinking about yourself and what you like and don’t. The dialogue of interests within the sexual realm is wonderful as an individual and with others.
- I don’t find the relationship between Ana & Christian abusive. Abuse is NOT consent. Those involved in a power dynamic relationship at any and all times are able to have boundaries, say no when they are crossed, and have those boundaries respected by the other person. Abuse does not involve consent. Many people find role-playing in the bedroom or outside as a way to express themselves. Consenting adults choosing to live in a way that makes them happy and healthy is a positive for any relationship.
- The relationship isn’t really supposed to be believable, right? I mean it is fiction. It hits all the parts of our brain with archetypes and such. He is a bazillionaire and she is the innocent girl. It is a trope but that is okay, we want stories like this. They help take us away from the mundane parts of our lives, like doing laundry, and instead we can think about how it would be to live another’s life. The writing style fits for the Twilight 18-and-over fans. It strikes perfectly for what those readers are after. I don’t think that fan base is looking for reality in every detail, as fantasy is a creative outlet for many and taking pleasure in reading is beneficial on many levels for the mind and body.
- Maybe what people are really asking is does this book represent what BDSM/power dynamics relationships are like? Well–yes and no. It is fiction after all, people tend to use very different words and pacing for their real life interactions with one another. Yet, Shades does capture a sense of the emotions that can range within any relationship. The elements of ”rough sex” and how the couple interacts with a more dominant and submissive approach could be what some BDSM relationships look like. I caution anyone within these relationships or looking to get into them, to not make a novel the end-all-be-all answer of sexual expression. I have heard many-a-story from people who read something about power dynamics and they thought it was the only way to express their sexuality. They felt bad about themselves and didn’t relate to others because they were certain they had some feelings about wanting to experiment but not the way it was in books. Hence, they missed out on years of exploration and only later came to realize when talking with others that they were not alone.
A book is one moment in time, those relationships, those characters, their expression, and that story. So while many elements of the power dynamic relationship can be considered part of what people “do in BDSM” it isn’t the only version of such. If you like certain sex scenes in the book but not others, do not worry, you are normal. We all have preferences!
- People are into all sorts of things and a dominance or submissive relationship dynamic is just one of many. The bigger question of why it turns you on or why it doesn’t is something to look at more closely. You are welcome to find the sex scenes something that you like or dislike, but remember that judging others harshly for something that interests them feels bad. You remember what it feels like when others think of you negatively for something you enjoy. People are made in many different ways and if everyone is adult, of sound mind, consenting, and enjoy themselves then being into BDSM or even just liking the sex scenes in Shades is positive.
- This is part that it moves from being fiction to reality. What does it mean and what do you do if you liked the sex scenes? Well, in some ways it means that you just liked reading the book, in other ways it could mean that you want to explore these are any version of power dynamics. It doesn’t mean you are crazy, sick, or a bad person. It could mean that you like the fantasy and you want to read more. It might mean that you are turned on by the characters and not so much the sex scenes per say. Maybe it means that you want to read other books and or learn more about the topic in other forms. It also could mean that you want to possibly look into exploring elements with yourself or someone else. It all depends on you and your comfort level.It doesn’t mean you have to go out and find a partner to dominant or submit to right away. Nor does it mean that you have to lock yourself away for fear that you will hurt someone or let someone else hurt you. It just means the book stirred up thoughts and feelings within you and that it is a good thing to look at what they mean for you.
Many books of an erotic nature, along with Shades, have all had their detractors and supporters. People enjoy being titillated and challenged with fiction. It is a safe way for us to explore all kinds of ideas and even fantasies. The real problem starts if you judge yourself negatively for having these thoughts and feelings.
Remember that if you have questions or concerns, please do contact a sex-positive therapist to help you.
Learning how to accept yourself and your expression is one of the most positive things you can do to help yourself.