I peeked up from behind my novel, gazing at my husband across the room. He was quietly engrossed in a comic book, the corners of his mouth turned into a contented smile.
“Babe,” I whispered, “You’re not going to believe this book I’m reading!”
Peering at the steely bluish-grey cover, his eyes widened: “You’re reading ’50 Shades of Grey’?”
“Yes, it’s popular,” I said, my tone becoming slightly defensive. “Let me read you a passage.”
I recited fictional character Anastasia Steele’s tearful first time being beaten in Christian Grey’s torture chamber. My husband’s jaw dropped.
“That sounds awful,” he said, frowning. “I would never want to cause you any pain or make you cry.”
“I would never want you to,” I replied. And that was the absolute truth.
E.L. James’ wildly popular “50 Shades” trilogy — which includes “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “50 Shades Darker,” and “50 Shades Freed” — have topped the charts in the United States and United Kingdom. Selling over 65 million copies worldwide, “50 Shades” has become a cultural sensation.
The BDSM lifestyle tenets of Bondage, Discipline, Domination, Submission, Sadism and Masochism have taken the spotlight since the trilogy’s publication. Talk show hosts, bloggers, and even my friends swear that both women and men can use “50 Shades” to spice up their sex lives.
The “50 Shades” effect is rampant. My husband said a female employee at the hardware store recently winked at him as he purchased a fly swatter, saying, “I bet I know what you’ll be doing with that.”
I picked up “50 Shades” out of sheer curiosity, and I enjoyed reading it — but not because I secretly desire to be spanked or chained. I find the book intriguing because I am interested in the psychology behind the people who do.
My husband and I feel perfectly fulfilled without binding, spanking, whipping or chaining each other. We value the peaceful, quiet, respectful intimacy of being present together — or what some would call “vanilla” sex.
Don’t get me wrong: we don’t judge those who wish to incorporate BDSM activities into their sex lives. My husband and I simply wonder if the need for painful distractions and props in the bedroom reflects a lack of real intimacy in our society.
Are we afraid to wholeheartedly embrace our partners’ bodies, minds and souls — instead preferring to treat them as objects for sexual gratification? Does “50 Shades of Grey” encourage violence against women? Some mental health professionals, like Dr. Drew Pinsky, believe that the hype surrounding the trilogy is harmful for women, who may romanticize the potentially dangerous control of men.
I’m not saying I know all the answers, but I think it’s healthy to ask the questions. It’s vital to ensure that whatever you’re doing in the bedroom is truly satisfying you, not just some cultural phenomenon.