Saturday at the beauty salon where I get my hair done, everyone was buzzing about the bestselling erotic fantasy novel Fifty Shades of Grey. My stylist, eyes glowing, told me I just had to read it. It seems that some of the women in the shop were getting a little marital lift out of Fifty Shades.
One customer reportedly had "attacked her husband twice" the week that she read the book. So I gamely downloaded it and did my "research," and it is truly a page-turning erotic journey. Since the book seems to be such a phenomenon, I wondered about the impact on relationships. Why, I wondered, do we love this book so much? 50 Shades Of Grey: Do You Like It Rough?
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First, there's the obvious. He's hot, she's hot, and their wild sex life is so combustible it could light up a large city for at least 48 hours if we harnessed it. That said, I don't think too many men are reading this book. When I mentioned it to my husband, he gave me one of those deer-in-the-headlights looks. Not only had he not heard of it, he had no frame of reference for it and couldn't even begin to understand why anyone would waste time reading it. So the audience is clearly women — millions of them. But what is the allure for us?
Christian Grey, the main male character, represents women's top fantasy: he's drop-dead gorgeous, he's high testosterone (sex three times a day is nothing to him) and he's unbelievably wealthy (think assets with "b"). This guy drips power and he aims all of it at the object of his lust and, later, his love, Anastasia Steele. But that's not the real draw to this story. Do I Have To Settle For Subpar Sex?
The book begins with the typical romance novel formula — handsome, sexy, powerful guy meets beautiful, vulnerable woman; at first she resists, then she succumbs to him. Bada-bing, bada-boom! They fall in love and ride off into the sunset together. But E.L. James brilliantly takes the old formula one step further, painting a compelling psychological portrait of a deeply wounded guy — heavily into BD/S&M — who is transformed and healed by the love of a good woman.
Christian Grey is a predator, but one that we can imagine taming; just enough so he will be a mate, but not so much that he becomes boring. He's darkly erotic, powerfully sexy and ready to be "cured." What a fantasy! He is the quintessential "wounded guy". That's the real draw to this story and why it's topping the bestseller lists.
The wounded guy attracts the caretaking female like the moth to the flame. He's the guy whose childhood was so scarring, or whose divorce was so pulverizing, or for whatever reason is so emotionally damaged, that he cannot love in a normal way. Typically, sex is both his weapon and his only way to connect, so he's driven by the need to seduce and conquer. Women who fall in love with this type of wounded guy often say, "but the sex is fabulous!" That little word "but" comes after the long litany of all the damage he's doing in her life.
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