Chances are you have read the hugely popular novel by British author E.L. James, Fifty Shades of Grey. If you have, you are one of the millions and millions of people worldwide who have become immersed in this erotic trilogy that explores the relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young billionaire, Christian Grey. Now these books have been made into three movies. Because of their explicit eroticism and detailed scenes of bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism (BDSM), their biggest fan base has been married women over thirty; with the books and movies dubbed, “Mommy Porn.”
Despite mixed reviews and claims the books are badly written and degrade women, some insist that all are simply harmless, fantasy-driven books about love, sex and romance. But is it?
As a dating coach, I read the trilogy because I was curious to find out why millions of women are fascinated with Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey. I also wanted to see what could be learned from their relationship.
Let’s look at what this trilogy is about, why it appeals to women, and what we can learn about the Christian Greys of the world.
Why are women drawn to these books?
One reason is that the story appeals to some women’s daydreams of being swept off their feet. For other women, it may resonate with their fantasies of fixing someone who is broken; we all want to believe that our love will be the magic that heals a wounded soul.
But fantasy is the key word here. All these books are pure fantasy! If Christian and Anastasia were real people I wouldn’t even know where to begin on coaching them. Wow, their relationship has issues! And women: this is not a relationship built to last!
What We Can Learn
As I have written before, to enjoy a healthy relationship between equals, you have to know yourself first, and be okay with who you are and where you are in your life.
Let’s look at Anastasia, who lacks self-worth, independent thinking skills, self-knowledge, and understanding of what she wants in a relationship. She is a 22-year old college student with a distant family and no sexual experience. She is swooped up by a young billionaire who wants her to be his submissive. And she agrees, with a few minor concessions that Christian still controls. He shows her a life of wealth, pleasure, pain and mind control, and she is helpless against his power over her. When you put it like that, it’s not such a pleasant fantasy!
I know that you know that this is a work of fiction. But for the sake of argument, let’s say you met a “Christian Grey” online: would you recognize the red flags?
The first thing you might notice is his tendency to control. Initially, it might not be noticeable. Maybe at first he always selects dinner spots. You may notice that he likes to order from the menu for you, and always chooses your wine. In the beginning, this might seem like chivalrous behavior; he’s a gentleman, after all. But soon he may be suggesting what attire is appropriate for the evening, and eventually graduate to calling to ask who you are with, where are you going, when you will return, etc. It’s unlikely you will be asked to be sexually submissive, but the intention is the same: to control you.
A man like Christian Grey has a completely uncompromising attitude and a tremendous ego. It is “all about him,” and everything he does or says is to suit his needs, with no thought given to what you want and need in the relationship. If you are involved with a Christian Grey you will notice that there is no dialogue that seeks to answer the question: “What do you want?” And, of course, sexually, his focus is likely on fulfilling his intimate needs with no consideration for yours.
But at first you may think he does want to please you. Why? He lavishes gifts upon you—excessive, expensive gifts. Initially, you are delighted and feel, like the fantasy, swept off your feet. But what is he doing? He is trying to buy your affection rather than earn it.
Your friends and family have noticed negative changes in your behavior since you’ve been dating. They see you less often, and if you do spend time with them, they notice that you have to check in with him throughout the evening. He would prefer your alienation from your friends, so he can have even more control over you.
Let’s say you do realize there are red flags at this point. You are concerned or uneasy about the way the relationship is going. In your attempts to clear the air, communicate honestly and express your concerns and wishes, you are shut down. He is unwilling to deal with his personal issues through any means, talking about them with you or in therapy. He may even blame others for any problems in his life or your relationship. And though he tries to control you, or even mold you, as in the novel, you are expected to accept him just as he is.
The next step may well be his urgency to marry. Though he demands that you accept him as he is, somewhere inside he worries that as you get to know him, you may slip away. Marrying you quickly lets him make sure of you before there is time to change your mind. My advice, no matter what the circumstances, is to take things slow and watch, listen, communicate and learn everything you can about any new potential partner.
Despite the fantasy that so many women have, that they can “fix” a damaged man. It is not possible! You cannot love a Christian Grey or any man with “unmet potential,” enough to change the essence of his being. Remember the rule of thumb: the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.
While fantasy in the pages of a book can be entertaining it is what happens in your real world that matters most. Know and love yourself inside out first then look for a relationship that complements you.
As always I’m available to help you find your true love and build a relationship that lasts. Here is my personal online scheduler to get your 30 minute Free “Getting It Right” strategy session.