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Fifty Shades of Fanciful Misinformation on Sex

Everybody is reading about it and most folks are loving the idea of breaking  taboos about sexuality. However. in case you missed it, here is my review of the book Fifty Shades of Grey.

I found this book to be misleading and, in a sexually ignorant culture, this is a problem. For example, it is an incredible fantasy to assume that a sexually inexperienced virgin is going to have mind-blowing orgasms from penile penetration from the get-go. Most women have orgasms via oral sex but the male protagonist doesn't get around to that until chapter 25! (I admit I did skip some middle chapters out of sheer boredom.) And there is the strong intimation that people who are into kink are psychologically scarred from childhood trauma, a stereotype not supported by any research that I know of.

But besides misinformation the book has a heroine who acquiesces to sexual behaviors she finds abhorrent because of the flimsiness of his gorgeous looks, a hotness factor that justifies overriding her misgivings and instincts he is untrustworthy. Being turned on is never a good reason to take personal risks and this fantasy does not model good sexual decision-making.

But at a meta-level this book duplicates patriarchal gender roles. Glorifying female submission to male domination is not new but this book suggests that, if combined with pain (for the woman!), the result will be sexual ecstasy. Ask a battered wife how much sense that makes! People who explore this aspect of power dynamics in sexual relations must be strongly grounded in strict rules about respect, consensual sex, and safety. This requires both experience and maturity neither of which the female protagonist possesses.

Being a best seller is less about the book and more about our hunger for permission to explore and take sexuality to deeper levels, to ask for or demand from our partners something that moves us beyond the safe, boring vanilla sex sanctioned by the western Church, i.e. missionary position, for male pleasure, to enhance procreative possibilities. So, if the book empowers lovers to try something new or if women begin to listen to their inner sex goddess, then it will have served a good purpose. On the other hand, you don't need to accept submission or pain or acquiesce to relationship inequality in order to spice up a love life.


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