We men have been laughing about the wide popularity of the 50 Shades of Grey, E.L. James' trilogy of "mommy porn" books that explore the subject of sexual dominance. We have trouble understanding the allure of a male character named Christian who manipulates virgin antagonist Anastasia with BDSM (bondage & discipline and sadism & masochism)
Ana even signs a non-disclosure agreement stipulating she will accept his sexual predilections: namely that she be the submissive to his dominant. To many men the wild, favorable popularity of such "literary" content to vast numbers of women is puzzling, to say the least.
We have been told by some women that men are more sexually attracted to the visual -- preferring Playboy magazines and xxx-rated porn films -- while women are more turned-on to print and books with romantic plots. Women have even said their preference is because they are more intelligent and sensual than men, a gender that typically operates sexually by the "see it, fetch it, and do it" mindset.
Still, what is the deal about ladies and BDSM? We guys are a confused bunch of lovers because we have been taught, mainly by you women, to buy Valentines, send flowers, and always respect female gentility. We had little idea many of you wanted to be tied up, whipped with rulers, and pinched with steel clamps. This calls for some serious research.
I found out that in our male-dominated culture, women are socialized to enjoy being dominated sexually. It seems the cultural pressure placed on women messes with the feminine brain so much that many girls have no idea what their desires would be in a sex-equal society. Given this fact, what are we to make of the fact that some women enjoy fantasies of being dominated?
Radfem Hub, a radical feminist collective blog says this:
"The enjoyment these women feel is described by Dee Graham in her book Loving to Survive as Societal Stockholm Syndrome. Because women as a group cannot escape from men, we have found ways of dealing with their violent and destructive behavior. We eroticize it, and internalize the desire for it.
"As (blogger) Cherry Blossom Life says, “Perhaps when women talk about the empowerment of submissiveness, they are actually talking about the power of the double bluff: “You want to hurt me? Screw you; you’ll never hurt me more than I want to be hurt myself.”
"By 'choosing' to enjoy male-dominant sex, women are able to develop a sense of power, however limited.
"BDSM practitioners often engage in a classic patriarchal reversal. That is, they claim that they are actually an oppressed group in society who lose social power due to their kinky sex practices. They claim that non-practitioners, that is, those whose sexual practices do not involve explicit domination and submission, have “vanilla privilege," which means that non-BDSM practitioners oppress them."
("On 50 Shades of Grey and the Erotization of Male Domination,"
Now, guys, if that explanation doesn't blow your mind and make you wonder whether to buy her jewelry or a riding crop, I don't know what will. I think most men, except sick sexual deviants, don't want to hurt and oppress women. Instead, they want to understand how better to love and please them.
If we men are "vanilla," it is probably because our romantic actions typically fade as relationships age. True, we need to be more creative and sensually responsive. But, sometimes we don't do more "kinky" for fear of hurting lovers or overextending the bounds of our relationships. We mainly fumble along and take risks in very gradual degrees.
I think many men would love a woman to take a more dominant role in the nitty-gritty of love. After all, we love surprises and spice as much as females. Yet, to men, it's hard to request such changes because we are so used to being the "decider" as George W. used to say. And, there are some men who see highly sexual woman-initiated "kinkiness" as bad or indecent cheap behavior. Damn, every sentence I write seems to muddy the waters more. (See how desire and abuse can be fickle?)
Psychology Today reporter Patricia Hawley, Ph.D. says women love to read romantic fiction with characters like Christian because of his following traits:
"In essence, we have what is known as a man with ‘high mate value’; fine genes, rich, handsome, gentle, smart, dominant, monogamous, committed, generous, and… devoted to only you (a woman).
"... different female readers see different things in the protagonist of such submission fantasies: Dominant women see the ‘warrior lover’ and subordinate women envision a profile consistent with the ‘courtly knight’. Interestingly, like most successful romance writers, E.L. James has given us the raw material for both."
(Patricia Hawley, Ph.D., "50 Shades of Grey," Psychology Today, June 2 2012)
Hawley says, that 50 Shades speaks exquisitely to women’s mating mind by following a formula that wins billions of dollars a year on the consumer market.
She says observe the following in the books:
Enough psychological rambling. Let's see what one reference says are the main reasons so many women love 50 Shades of Grey.
What Women Say About 50 Shades
1. Women say despite the dominance, the books are essentially a romantic love story.
2. Women say the books are fascinating because in today's society many women have morphed into their masculine energy and men into more feminine energy. Yet so many women are dying for their lovers to take the lead in the bedroom and take them on an Erotic Adventure.
3. Women say the books have given them the freedom to talk about the sensual fantasies they think about. Evidently, for women, these fantasies play an important role in keeping sex exciting in long term relationships. Reading about fantasy play and bondage and submission games is encouraging them to move beyond their comfort zones. It encourages them to surrender to their partners, which requires a great degree of trust and vulnerability.
4. Women say many of them have been brought up with the "Good Girl Syndrome," conditioning that leads to negative thoughts and feelings about sex and the body, resulting in an inhibited sexual response. They enjoy reading books that dispel the "Good Girls Don’t” myth.
5. And finally, woman say the books are very sexy reads.
("Why Women Love 50 Shades of Grey,"http://savvyinspiredwomen.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/why-women-love-fifty-shades-of-grey/)
I am thinking that the real draw to 50 Shades of Grey depends upon word of mouth -- one female reads the "naughty" book and whispers to her best female friend how she should indulge. Like gossip, these "approved readings" spread like wildfire, and no woman wants to know that she may be missing something in her life. Staying current and sexy and informed is very important. But, will this fashion fade? Maybe, women are "catching up" with men in making public their secret fantasies.
As a young man I had many pleasant thoughts about booby bars, bordellos, and insatiable midnight ladies. Didn't all of us guys have a stash of nudey magazines? Didn't we all have a brush or two with some porn films? And, I remember reading the then-steamy Lolita. We were quickly finding that our brain was truly our biggest "sex" organ. And, in many cases, thank God for that revelation.
I see 50 Shades as a win-win. The ladies love reading the books, despite the level of literary excellence. The men get a laugh over the mania. And some lovers are going to find some new spice in their relationships. And so it goes.