If you thought the Fifty Shades of Grey book series was Fifty Shades of HOT, then you’re likely excited about the movie version release Valentine’s weekend. The trilogy created a stir a few years ago with its sexually explicit content and portrayal of BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, sadism/masochism). While kink caused the controversy and media coverage, I contend the main appeal of these books for women is something much more mainstream and traditional. Anyone who wants to sexually please a woman can learn a thing or two from author E. L. James.
Anastasia Steele is a 21-year-old virgin at the start of the story. She is the shy girl next door. This character seems to resonate with American women of all ages because her sexual awakening gives us all permission to be sexual without shame or embarrassment. In her role as a sexual submissive, Ana allows Christian Grey to control and pleasure her body in ways she didn’t know were possible. Through surrendering to Christian, Ana can still be a “good girl” yet also sexually adventurous.
At the most basic level, Christian makes Ana feel desired. Although Ana is insecure about her appearance, Christian is overwhelmed with desire for her. For many of us, feeling desired by someone we admire makes us feel more worthy and attractive. The reader can embody the raw, insatiable desire, and perhaps recall their own experiences with this prior to other priorities and life stresses getting in the way, or the newness of their relationship wearing off.
All of this makes Ana feel special. With Christian’s good looks, fortune, and power, he could woo many women… yet he chose to seduce Ana. This must mean that she’s special in some way. Then, despite his desire for a non-emotional sexual relationship, he falls for her and begins to change and open up. This further indicates how extraordinary she must be and the female reader feels this excitement and power through Ana.
In spite of the sexual kinks, this is a traditional romance story in many ways, which makes it familiar and safe. This also means that anyone who wants to sexually please a woman can glean some sexual insights. The first take-home message is that women like confident lovers. Sure, it’s unlikely you are a fantasy man who is attractive, sexy, wealthy, powerful, philanthropic, and aged 27, like Christian Grey. Deal with it and own what you’ve got. Fake it until you make it when it comes to confidence. Channel Christian Grey if you have to.
The next lesson, if your partner is game, is to introduce new aspects of power play and sensual play in the bedroom. You can practice dominance by removing your partner’s senses, such as tying her up with a scarf, using a blindfold, or putting in ear buds with carefully chosen music. Be slow, teasing and in charge. Let her experience how much you desire her.
Finally, make the object of your desire feel special. Let her know through words, actions, time, and attention that you think she is amazing. Never stop courting her, so she always knows she is a top priority. This may sound cliché, but what would it take to actually prioritize this every day?
There are warranted critiques of this story, like the poor writing, imprecise depiction of BDSM, and portrayal of an unhealthy relationship. But Fifty Shades unexpectedly pushed the right buttons for many women. If you found yourself stirred by the steamy scenes, think about what this indicates about your sexual interests. And consider if 2015 is your year of sexual awakening.
(This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of Pacific San Diego Magazine.)
~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego Sexologist, Sociologist, Sex Speaker