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.  ...
Mass Erotic Choice as a Social Organizer —   from Beatlemania to Fifty Shades of Grey

Mass Erotic Choice as a Social Organizer — from Beatlemania to Fifty Shades of Grey

Photo credit:  Pedrosimoes7,  via Creative Commons.    The Questions Never Change Working as a sex therapist, I have more than a passing interest in what the culture happens to be serving up about eros. Part of it is simply curiosity about what my clients are reading.  But the greater part involves a search for conceptual tools with which to understand the erotic mind. Fact is, sexuality remains a mystery in many ways. Are humans inherently monogamous, or not? To what extent are men’s and women’s sexual natures the same or different? What’s the connection between sexuality and spirituality? What do women want? These questions forever haunt us. Last year, I endeavored to review a new book, written not by sex experts but  by computer scientists, that nonetheless purported to offer insights about human sexual nature based on such things as Google porn searches and word choice in online erotic fiction. The idea was and is a compelling one:  If you want to understand human sexuality, look at people’s actual choices.   On the internet, those choices are measurable. By year’s end, my review of A Billion Wicked Thoughts had stretched to eleven articles, with no end in sight.  Wary of tiring my readers, I put a stop to it.   Mass Erotic Decision-Making But now with Fifty Shades of Grey it seems we’re back in the territory of mass erotic choice. Can we learn anything about sexuality from the success of FiftyShades?   Yes, I think so. Since the book is erotic fantasy rather than actual sex, though, we have to be careful.   We shouldn’t, for example, after reading the book presume...
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...
Sex Therapy NYC: Fifty Shades of Grey

Sex Therapy NYC: Fifty Shades of Grey

 One Quiet Night   It is 22 year old Anastasia Steele’s first night alone with Seattle billionaire sex-god Christian Grey,  in his high-tech mansion in the sky. Page 85.  She is about to experience sexual climax, for the first time in her life.  Let’s hear her tell it — “Let go, baby,” he murmurs.  His teeth close around my nipple, and his thumb and finger pull hard, and I fall apart in his hands, my body convulsing and shattering into a thousand pieces.   He kisses me, deeply, his tongue in my mouth absorbing my cries. Oh my.  That was extraordinary.  Now I know what all the fuss is about. “You are very responsive,” he breathes.  You’re going to have to learn to control that . . .” Huh?  Learn to control WHAT?   Her responsiveness? Why?  It’s not his body — it’s hers.  Who made him the boss?   Of Human Bondage Welcome to the world of Fifty Shades of Grey Where the hero and heroine’s first kiss consists of his attacking her in an elevator, pinning her to the wall with her arms over her head. Where she falls in love with him despite his informing her that he can’t stand to be touched or to sleep in the same bed with her. The book’s hero, Christian Grey, is a Dominant.   He loves her, but he can’t be satisfied unless he’s forcing his will upon her. Doesn’t seem very appealing, does it?  So why are hundreds of thousands of women hurrying to read this book? Well, for one —  it’s sexy.  Very sexy.    Many American women are crediting the book...