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Love it or hate it, there is no denying that “Fifty Shades of Grey” has stirred an unprecedented response across the world.
Since it was first published in 2011, the book has:
- sold over 5.3 million copies in the UK alone;
- outsold both Harry Potter and the Da Vinci code;
- sold over 65 million copies worldwide; and
- become the fastest selling adult paperback of all time.
Times Magazine has named the author, EL James, as one of the world’s 100 most influential people; and the movie (to be released on Valentine’s Day 2015) is predicted to rake in over $45 million at the box office on the opening weekend alone.
It has been a great boost to the sex toy industry, with The Independent reporting a 15% increase in the sale of whips; 60% in blindfolds, and over 200% in jiggle balls.
There is even a “50 Shades of Bacon” burger available at one American restaurant!
At the same time, the book has not only been the target of literary critics, but also feminist organisations for promoting violence and abuse in intimate relationships. The graphic nature of the book has seen it banned from libraries in the United States.
For all the hype and criticism, as a sex therapist I can see some positives to the whole “Fifty Shades of Grey” sensation.
Couples are talking about Sex
According to Dr Debby Herbenick, researcher and author of “Sex Made Easy”, “Fifty Shades” is getting a lot of people thinking and talking more openly about sex, sexuality, desire and interest.
Couples are actually talking about their sexual desires and their fantasies. “It’s helping many women to feel comfortable … Not only is it okay to fantasize, not only is it okay to read really explicit info about sex, but right now, it’s the cool thing to do.”
Why not read “Fifty Shades” with your partner, or at least at the same time, to use as a conversation starter?
In her book “Vagina: A New Biography”, Naomi Wolf explains that our culture still has problems discussing women’s sexuality in a positive and empowering way; but “Fifty Shades” is helping to change that.
Over the years, women have been plagued by mis-information, embarrassment and sexual frustration. Women’s sexuality has been stifled – not only because of the risk of unwanted pregnancy, but according to a 1966 study by Chevron, the sex drive of females is naturally and often stronger than that of the male and was thought to pose a threat to social order!
Removing the Shame and Stigma
For too long, our society has been guilty of double standards regarding sexual morality; with women discouraged from expressing sexual feelings or enjoying sex.
The flip side is that men suffer indirectly – they are deprived the pleasure of a partner that enjoys sex.
Helping Women to Enjoy Sex!
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is often described as “mummy porn”, because the fan base largely consists of married women over the age of 30 – a demographic which traditionally has a waning interest in sex, largely due to the demands of raising children and perhaps boredom in a long term relationship.
“What we know … is that women are far more prone to distractions than men are, and that’s a problem,” says Herbenick. Erotic literature can help women focus more on sex, and revitalise their interest.
Improving Overall Health and Wellness
A healthy sex life is important, becasue we know that better relations in the bedroom can enhance the qulaity of your life in general. “There is good data showing that sexual health and wellness leads to overall health and wellness,” says gynecologist Michael Krychman, executive director of the Southern California Centre for Sexual Health and Survivorship Medicine.
Yes, “Fifty Shades of Grey” includes lots of over the top details about bondage and sexual play, and it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea.
However, if we widen our focus from the specific behaviours in the book and instead use it to put the spotlight on individual couples discussing their own sexual feelings, desires and fantasies, then we can harness the power for good – not evil.