French women say, “Enough with modernism!  Give us long baths with expensive body wash!”

French women say, “Enough with modernism! Give us long baths with expensive body wash!”

The New York Times reports today that Cinquante Nuances de Grey (that’s French for you-know-what) is now selling briskly in France — despite a hearty and unanimous condemnation by the French literary elite. According to the article “A Defiant Oui for ‘Fifty Shades” by Times columnist Elaine Sciolino, French critical opinion on the book has pointed out that its BDSM is not philosophical enough.  And that its characters are too obsessed with hygiene (translation:  too many scenes involving long baths). I was most struck by a quotation from the French publisher Franck Spengler — about whom the article states,  “eroticism is for him a ‘space of freedom and rebellion, liberated from moral criteria.’ ”   Sciolino notes that Spengler dislikes the book’s ” ‘American-style Puritanism’ in which sex acts can only be justified by love.” The justification of sex by love, though scorned by the French critical establishment, is apparently just the thing French women want these days. Who can blame them?   According to the New York Times article, in the traditional French erotic novel, “most of the time it’s sex without love and women are submissive to men.”   When the book first came out in English, American critics compared it unfavorably to established works of literary BDSM such as Pauline Reage’s Story of  O (in which, for those of you who haven’t read it recently, the heroine is branded with a hot iron, has her labia pierced, and finally becomes a faceless slave)   And the Marquis de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom (in which young women are ritualistically murdered and then ground to bits). Apparently Cinquante Nuances was...
When Should a Sex Therapist Recommend Fifty Shades of Grey to Couples?

When Should a Sex Therapist Recommend Fifty Shades of Grey to Couples?

Eighth in a series on Fifty Shades of Grey   Can Fifty Shades save your relationship? I’m hearing the same thing from sex therapists all over the country — If you recommend Fifty Shades of Grey to clients who are stuck in unhappy sexual relationships, some of them will come back reporting better sex. We sex therapists are practical folks.  We’ll use whatever works — as long as it’s ethical and legal.   But what is it about Fifty Shades that’s made it the latest gadget in the sex therapy toolkit?  Here’s my list of reasons– 1.   It’s respectable. Hey, it’s in the New York Times.   Still number 1, 2, and 3 on the New York Times best-seller list this week.   That gives a couple permission to read it without being labelled as perverts.    Permission-giving is a crucial part of sex therapy. 2.  It’s popular. You can discuss it with your friends.  As I wrote in “From Beatlemania to Fifty Shades of Grey,” ultimately Fifty Shades may be so popular simply because it’s popular.   So much of sexiness is power of suggestion anyway. 3.   It’s a romance novel. Romance novels are the most lucrative genre of literature in the publishing world.   The dashing but dangerous billionaire driven mad by his desire for a virtuous but irresistible young woman.   That story has been selling like hotcakes since 1740. 4.  It’s got BDSM. No, that’s not the latest hip-hop group.  For those few who still don’t know, BDSM stands for “Bondage, Domination, and Sado-Masochism.” According to my colleague Dr Wednesday Martin, the kinkiness in Fifty Shades is mere...
New York City Sex Therapy Diary:  Fifty Shades for Men

New York City Sex Therapy Diary: Fifty Shades for Men

OK, guys — By now you’ve probably noticed your wife or girlfriend has become more interested in sex since reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Have you thought of reading it yourself — to find out what all the fuss is about? I’m going to tell you a secret:  I read the whole thing.   All 3 volumes. It really isn’t so bad.  True, there are large sections devoted to clothes and shopping.  And the beginning of Volume 3 especially might make you feel like a prisoner at a crafts fair.  But there’s a lot a man can learn from Fifty Shades. Here are three lessons I think every man should absorb from this book.   1.   Be interested in sex. That doesn’t sound too hard, right?   Aren’t all guys interested in sex? Actually, no.   Not from a woman’s point of view.   You really have no idea what women go through to make themselves sexually appealing.    Women pay attention to every detail.   You take a woman out on a date, you can be sure that her hair, her skin, her outfit, even her shoes have all been studied very carefully. Christian Grey sweats the details in just that way.   He selects his clothes as a woman might — to highlight his best features.  And he makes sure he has great-smelling lotions and stuff in his (very clean) bathroom.   He’s interested in the whole sensory experience — the colors, the music — everything. Christian Grey is really interested in sex.   He has a whole room devoted to it.   OK, it’s full of implements of pain — whips and floggers and stuff.  ...
Why Fifty Shades Leaves Women Wanting More

Why Fifty Shades Leaves Women Wanting More

Can’t Fail Sex Recipe for Erotic Romance 5 cups Twilight 1 cup Marquis de Sade 3 cups raw sex — finely diced Yield:    Fifty Shades of Grey   Two virgins It’s well known that Fifty Shades of Grey began as a work of “Fan Fiction” published online, closely based on Twilight.    The resemblance between Twilight and Fifty Shades is indeed striking. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Fifty Shades is loaded with graphic sex, while the Twilight characters never saw each other naked until volume 4.   The romantic and erotic ingredients of Twilight are closely copied in Fifty Shades. Like Twilight’s Bella, Fifty Shades’ Ana Steele is a sexual and romantic tabula rasa — a virgin in the purest sense of the word.   Ana has never before felt sexual attraction, never been in love, never masturbated, and never had an orgasm. Like Bella, she comes from a silent, unexpressive father and a childlike, disorganized mother who have long since divorced — and from whom she can expect very little. In an interesting twist, given what’s usually assumed about the importance of women’s social networks, both heroines are fairly solitary.  They are bookish creatures, somewhat out of step with the popular crowd. The emotional solitude of the female lead has been a  staple of the romance genre since Pamela in 1740. Twilight and Fifty Shades are no exception.   As discussed earlier on these pages, there’s something compelling about virgins locked in towers.   (More on that later.)   Team Christian Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey is a near-clone of Twilight’s Edward.  Like Edward, Grey is uber-sophisticated, plays the piano...
Sex therapy NYC: What You Still Might Not Know About BDSM After Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Sex therapy NYC: What You Still Might Not Know About BDSM After Reading Fifty Shades of Grey

Reader Beware After reading Fifty Shades of Grey, you might think you’ve learned something about  men who wish to sexually dominate their partners. In particular, you might conclude that being a sexual Dominant probably means one had a very bad childhood, as Christian Grey did.  And that like Grey one has problems loving, being loved, and being touched. You’d be wrong on all counts. Those are common stereotypes.   And they’re common enough in such men who present for sex therapy.    But one can’t generalize from people presenting for treatment to people in general. Let’s look more closely.   Does BDSM Suggest Childhood Trauma? Patients in treatment often seem to have turned past tragedy into current triumph by re-packaging scary memories into sexy feelings. When one starts out as a beginning sex therapist, among one’s first hundred or so sex therapy patients there are often many who resemble the fictional Christian Grey of Fifty Shades — people with kinky sexual tastes who come from horrible early environments and have led lives of great torment. But if one is not blinded by always expecting to find trauma, one finds among one’s next several hundred patients many with unusual sexual tastes who don’t fit this mold. Some come from perfectly decent homes and have been loved every bit as a child ought to be loved, but nevertheless experience cravings to tie people up, to be whipped, or to make love to amputees. And what of the universe of sexual humans who never come for psychological help?   In the absence of more objective information, it’s important not to conclude that someone...