Fifty Shades of Grey: How it’s… | Counseling | Therapy

Fifty Shades of Grey: How it’s Positive

Fifty Shades of Grey: How it’s positive for sexuality: Sex Therapy

In 2012 the first book of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy hit the shelves and fell into the hands of women and men (but mostly women) everywhere. Fifty Shades of Grey has sparked tons of controversy among readers, book critics, psychologists, and lay people. The overall feedback of the book is mixed. Many argue that the book has a positive influence on intimate relationships while others focus on the negative, concerning messages about intimacy. Therapists at the Center for Growth /Sex Therapy in Philadelphia took on the challenge of exploring the positive and negative aspects of the content of this book from a therapeutic perspective. This article is focused on exploring how the book could expand one’s sense of sexuality in a healthy way, thereby deepening intimacy.

To make this book completely sex positive, there are a few details regarding the personalities, and backgrounds of the characters that I would change, as well as the details of the sexual arrangement. For example, that Christian Grey had emotional and sexual trauma in his childhood. While this situation exists, its worrisome that many newcomers to the BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Sadomasochism and Masochism) culture might assume that only the emotionally and sexually traumatized would be attracted to BDSM. As well as having the virgin female character in the role of the submissive. For Anastasia to have no sexual experience and jump into a BDSM relationship as her first sexual experience is like someone who just received their drivers license to take on the sport of race car driving. There is a concern for any impressionable reader taking aspects of this book too literally, and not as pure fiction and fantasy, and misinterpreting what healthy BDSM truly looks like. However, if you simply have a curiosity about the popularity of this book, or about non-vanilla sex in general and want to know more, there are many ways this book is positive for sexuality and sexual health.

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is making sex less of a taboo topic.

The fact that this book has struck a nerve in society and sky rocketed to popularity has people talking more openly about sex than ever before. Under the pretext of discussing this book, people can legitimately discuss SM in public, an area previously taboo. Through a discussion of the characters and plot; discussing sex, the different sexual styles, and what’s really happening in the bedroom has become more permissible. Asking the question out loud, “Do people really do this?” is a welcomed part of the discussion. Once the sexual behavior is recognized as positive, at least for the characters in the book, the reader is then in a better position to ask the question “Do I want to do this?” or “What about this am I drawn to?” "What does this mean for me?" Whether it’s about people’s curiosities and questions about BDSM, or people’s reactions to the sexual details in the book, the storyline has people talking. Just the meaning of the acronym “BDSM” is mainstreamed at this point; not many people knew what the letters BDSM stood for prior to this book. It’s serving as a platform to get people less embarrassed to discuss sex, which has the potential to lead into other conversations about sex beyond the book, from questions about sexual styles, to discussions about desires, sexual boundaries, and more.

The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey is so popular reflects that “normal” is shifting.

Fifty Shades of Grey has become socially acceptable erotica, which in turn has helped BDSM seem less scary, less underground and more normal to say “I have sex.” The fact that this book is out there and read by millions just confirms how popular and appealing sex is, and how appealing fantasy is. The response to this book is confirming that sexual fantasy is exciting, and that millions of people respond to erotica and sexual fantasy. The book is mainstreaming non-vanilla sex and showing that it’s not just for a certain demographic or population. There is quite a range of people that would like to be dominated, or incorporate power play, handcuffs, etc. This book is empowering people, especially women to really assess and take ownership of their sexuality and what turns them on. Any shame that used to be there is shifting into empowerment. This book and the fact that millions of people are reading it sends the message that it’s okay to have a variety of sexual curiosities, because obviously you do if you're reading this book!

The popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey is Sparking Curiosity.

The popularity of this book has caused people who normally wouldn’t read an erotica novel to read it. Whether it’s the more reserved reader who finds the storyline shocking and enticing, or the curious reader who wants to know what all of the commotion is about. Once the reader has opened and read the book, it’s then causing the more reserved audience to ask themselves new and significant questions about their sexuality, questions that many women out there probably never asked themselves. For example, “If I'm getting turned on by this book, what does that mean? What else would I be turned on by that I don’t know about yet?” This book is opening up the fantasy gates for readers, its unpacking ideas and desires for many that they were unaware of. It has provided a space for women to think and talk about sex in a way that most didn't before. Also referred to as “mommy porn,” Fifty Shades of Grey is redirecting women back to the topic and appeal of sex. It’s an escape from the daily routine of kids, house, work, etc., and bringing the focus back into the bedroom. Fifty Shades of Grey has not just shocked and entertained millions of readers, it has left many asking themselves one of the most essential questions: “What do I enjoy about sex?”

Fifty Shades of Grey is the first step to openly talking about BDSM and making it mainstream. This book has merely loosened the lid of a tightly closed concept. Fifty Shades of Grey is helping the normalization of power play in sexual/intimate relationships. This book and the reaction to this book is a symbol that our culture is beginning to acknowledge a wider range of sexuality, as well as a wider range of intimacy between couples.

Fifty Shades of Grey will continue to challenge many on how they view and feel about the concept of sex, which is probably the best outcome of this book. It’s healthy and essential to your own sexuality to know how you feel about sex, and to be challenged on what you like, or what you may be curious about regarding your own sex life. Sex, fantasy, desires are slowly becoming normalized and viewed as a healthy and common part of sex. The more mainstream books like this become, the less shame will be connected to discussing and wanting sex.


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