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50 Shades of Grey Fever: Why This Gynecologist Loves 50 Shades

Posted on 29 July 2012

This past week in my office I witnessed two extremes of behavior among my clients. The first woman told me that she announced in couple's therapy to her husband, "I'm never having sex again with you. I'm fat. I couldn't care less about sex any more, and I'm done." You could've heard a pin drop. I never blame a woman for how she feels--she's an adult and entitled to it (and women have been silenced and dismissed for far too long, especially for going against the prevailing opinion of what is "normal" in marriage). But I also feel troubled when a woman conflates hormonal imbalance with apathy or aversion to sex, and then potentially harms her marriage by refusing to engage in one of the best emotional regulators we have. The Sex Death Bed. This is the number one cause of relationship discord and affairs. But the other woman, also a new patient, offered a solution. She is 39, and brimming with excitement. In her hand is a copy of the book, 50 Shades of Grey. "Dr. Sara, have you read this book? I've had no sex drive for years, and now I'm staying up late every night devouring this book and feeling randy!" The second woman is not alone. She is joined by millions of women who are lit up by this curious book, part of a trilogy that has been on The New York Times bestseller list for so long that I've lost track. E. L. James, a working mom from London, wrote the trilogy, which is loosely based on the love affair between Edward and Bella in Twilight. And yes, there's a Hollywood movie in the works, starring Katie Holmes (who knows - this is from the celebrity gossip columns). I had my head stuck in the sand over my own book, and didn't realize the phenomenon the book was causing until a friend sent me a copy, with a note that said, "This is better mommy porn than the husband who cleans the house and picks up the kids." Members of my book club snickered--they hadn't picked up the book because it wasn't sufficiently literary. I dived in! And I have to agree with Patient #2! What’s the deal? Why are we so turned on by this book?

I can hypothesize several reasons, and I’d love to hear what you think.

1. Ana comes into her power. She doesn’t agree to Christian’s every weirdness. She finds her own path with him. 2. Christian Grey is hot, skilled, and he wants Ana in a very direct, cherishing way. Is anything more of a turn on? He’s not fickle. There’s no second guessing. There’s no “He’s Just Not That Into You.” There’s just pure desire, and that is highly erotic. 3. It’s not vanilla sex. For many women, it’s not that their sex drive is missing in action -- it’s just that the sex on the menu is no longer very interesting. More on that BDSM stuff in next blog -- and it’s not as kinky as you might think. That’s the author’s genius, I believe, she makes millions of women curious about a fringe sexual practice, probably because we identify with Ana’s initial reluctance and fear, and also see that Christian keeps her safe (and defines a middle path with her). Meanwhile, I would love to hear your comments! Are there other reasons that you think women are flocking to this material? My book club members are correct--it’s not a literary masterpiece--yet it’s captivated women of all ages for some very specific reasons. Why do you love or hate this book? What’s the need that is not getting fulfilled in you? [If the blog feels kind of public for sharing something so intimate, my private Get Vital Stay Vital Inner Circle is just the place to share and access cutting-edge, natural solutions to your most intimate questions.  Check it out!  /innercircle]  

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