Fifty Shades of Erotic ~ Sex Lessons

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

15 Things I Love About You

Looking for something better than chocolates and roses to give your partner for Valentine’s Day? Dr. Jenn has an idea for you to really let your partner know they're loved.

I love Valentine’s Day. But I hate what we do with it. Since when does showing your love involve how much money you spend or buying culturally-prescribed, unimaginative gifts? And how much time do you spend trying to find just the right card when the words from Hallmark don’t quite fit your needs?

If you actually want this Valentine’s Day to be about experiencing and celebrating your love for your intimate partner, I suggest you share 15 things you love about them. You can do this over dinner, while enjoying a glass of wine or beer, or wherever you can both relax and engage in this beautiful conversation. Here’s how to get started.

How They Take Care of You

Does your partner take good care of you when you’re sick, or do you appreciate their nurturing and selflessness overall? Do they provide financial stability or contribute financially in a way that betters your life? Perhaps they creatively cook and make each meal an adventure, or wash your clothes in the particular way you prefer. Do they edit your blogs before you post them? Maybe they are open to sexual exploration and fulfill your desires for physical connection. Consider how they make you feel safe, grounded, and cared for so you can face the world.

Traits You Admire

Does your partner make you laugh? Or perhaps your partner has much more patience with your children than you, and you admire their strength. Does a specific physical trait turn you on, or their intelligence stimulate you? Maybe you’re grateful for their emotional vulnerability and understanding. Possibly you appreciate their social skills in any context, or that they volunteer once a month to assist disadvantaged youth? Consider both the traits you have in common and those you don’t possess yourself, but are damned glad your partner does.

Shared Hobbies

Are your weekends filled with activities together? Do you enjoy cheering on your football team, or reading and discussing your latest book? Perhaps you enjoy physical activities, such as hiking, yoga, or bike rides. Maybe home improvements create the context for the best of your mutual talents. In evenings after work, do you enjoy hashing out your political views, doing a crossword puzzle together, or watching your favorite drama series? Don’t just share the examples of the specific activities you jointly enjoy, but how it feels and what it means to you to be able to spend that time together.

Favorite Memories

Remember that time you hiked into a cave, got lost, and never thought you’d find your way out again, but now can laugh about that exhilarating experience? Did you share awe at the birth of your first child? Maybe there was a birthday party when you partied like rock stars or that time in church when you both couldn’t stop giggling. Was there a relaxing vacation that helped you reconnect and remember why you’re together? These are the best moments that have marked the passage of your relationship and your growing bond.

Big Picture Commonalities

Does your partner share your moral compass? Do you have similar spiritual beliefs, political opinions, or ideas about balancing finances? Perhaps you prioritize similar values in your parenting styles. Do you both fight fair, and believe respect and kindness should always be present? These may be reasons you got together in the first place, or commonalities which unfolded as your relationship evolved and made you love your partner even more.

How They Make You a Better Person

How does your partner challenge you to be the best version of you? Do they gently discuss your parenting style and help you break the patterns you’re unwittingly mimicking from childhood? Have you supported each other in eating healthier, drinking less, or exercising more? Do you feel affirmed in your dreams and passions, even if your partner has different goals? Ideally, intimate relationships create a synergy that elevates each individual to a higher level of themselves.


Be sure to give details and examples for all of your listed items. Your partner may not know the depth or meaning behind your appreciation if you don’t explain it. Love is appreciating your partner for the moments you enjoy together, who they are in the world, and how they make your life better. Brainstorming 15 things might have sounded daunting at first, but I hope all of your love items are freely flowing now. I’m reminded of that popular quote from Maya Angelou:  “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

I hope you and your partner will never forget this Valentine’s Day.

(This was originally posted in the Relationship, Love + Sex section of The Good Men Project.)

~Dr. Jenn Gunsaullus, San Diego, CA -- Sexologist, Sociologist, Sexuality Speaker