Can Jamie Dornan Deliver the Magic as Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey?

Can Jamie Dornan Deliver the Magic as Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey?

It’s That Time Again  July 16, 2014 In 2012 the world went temporarily crazy for Fifty Shades of Grey, which sold 100 million copies. It seemed every woman in America was reading E. L. James’ 3-volume erotic romance. We discussed the book at length on these pages, in articles such as “When Should a Sex Therapist Recommend Fifty Shades of Grey to Couples?,”  “Why Fifty Shades Leaves Women Wanting More,” and “Fifty Shades for Men.” After a few months, though, no one wanted to talk Fifty Shades anymore. Like a new dance craze, it lasted a single summer and then was gone. I felt a little embarrassed to have written about the book at all. But now the movie is coming out on Valentine’s Day 2015, and Grey fever is back. My twitter feed has been lighting up with fan sites discussing the movie trailer’s release on Thurs July 24 as if it were the Second Coming. Most of the interest in the movie seems focused on who’s playing the main characters. For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, Don Johnson’s daughter Dakota plays Anna Steele. And Calvin Klein model Jamie Dornan is Christian Grey. These casting decisions have been parsed with an intensity greater than the World Cup Final. I had trouble at first understanding all the excitement about something as mundane as casting. But now that the trailer is coming out soon, I’m starting to get a feel for it.   Heart of Many Rooms This week I was interviewed on a FiftyShades fan site, and I learned a new word: “book boyfriend.” A book boyfriend is...
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...
Before the last word is said about Fifty Shades

Before the last word is said about Fifty Shades

Here’s a question: Does anyone have any idea why Fifty Shades of Grey has sold so many millions of books? I’m asking because in all that I’ve read about this book, I haven’t seen one mention of what it’s really about.  And why it’s been such a runaway success. Is it because of the explicit sex scenes? (No, I don’t think so.) Is it because of the BDSM? (Not likely.) No, the reason Fifty Shades has captivated so many American women is this: It’s a book about impossible love – made possible by courage, persistence, and luck. Just like Twilight: A young woman falls in love with a vampire.  Impossible.  But they make it work. In Fifty Shades a young woman falls in love with a deeply damaged man who is a sexual dominant.   He needs a submissive woman, and he’s had many such women.   But he hasn’t been able to fall in love with any of them.  So he’s deeply lonely. He meets the heroine, who of all the women he’s met, does not have a submissive bone in her body.    So it’s impossible. She too has never been in love before. But by the end of Volume 1, she has against her will fallen deeply in love with this tormented man.   In the first book . . . At the very end . . .  in a moment of profound tenderness, she tells him she loves him.  His response is brief.  “Oh, no,” he says. She leaves his place immediately, goes home, falls on her bed and is wracked with sobs.  She is broken. Except...
Sexual Healing That Won’t Break Your Nose

Sexual Healing That Won’t Break Your Nose

  All things considered, the mental health profession comes off pretty well in this year’s new sex movie Hope Springs.  Marriage therapist and author Dr Bernard Feld, played by Steve Carell, is a fairly nice specimen by Hollywood standards. He’s likeable, intelligent, confident-but-not-a-shmuck, and commits no flagrant boundary violations.  You get the idea.   He’s an OK guy. He has one big problem, though — he’s a “destination therapist.”  Couples come to see him for a week of intensive marital work.  This has some obvious advantages, such as that the clients in his office aren’t too burdened by everyday concerns. The big disadvantage, though, of being a “destination therapist” is that you’re under time pressure.   This is a particular disadvantage when it comes to sex therapy. You see, the human sexual system doesn’t like working under pressure.   It’s naturally rebellious.  Put it under pressure, and it will be all too happy to disappoint.   In Hope Springs, Meryl Streep’s husband Arnold, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is a world-class passive-aggressive,  and hence is also happy to disappoint.  It would be hard to imagine a more reluctant therapy client. Dr Feld, trying to work quickly, chooses a forceful opening move.  He likens therapy to nasal surgery.   In order to open the breathing passages, one must first mobilize the bones of the nose by breaking them, then putting them back together. Surgical metaphors are rarely appropriate in psychotherapy.   And they’re virtually never appropriate in sex therapy.   Hit someone hard enough in such a sensitive place, and they’re not going to feel like making love. Feld’s forceful opening succeeds in knocking Arnold out...
Sexless in Nebraska:  Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs”

Sexless in Nebraska: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in “Hope Springs”

  A strange thing, mystifying In this new movie, Tommy Lee Jones plays an Omaha accountant named Arnold who won’t have sex with his wife — Kay, a sixty-something Everywoman played by a very likeable Meryl Streep. No sex, no physical attention, minimal eye contact, separate bedrooms.  The marital estrangement combination platter – with fries. True to life?  Absolutely.  It would be awfully nice if this were just a Hollywood dramatization.   But in fact it happens all the time in real life. Now what, one might ask, would cause Hope Springs’ Arnold to hang a “no trespassing” sign on himself, especially with such a nice woman as Kay for a wife?   The answer is surprisingly simple.  (Skip the following if you’re about to see the movie).   True to life Years ago, it turns out, Kay was feeling unhappy that Arnold wasn’t more fully involved during sex — that he seemed “ to want it, but not me.”   (True to life?   Absolutely.  It’s one of the more common complaints among married women in my sex therapy office.) Frustrated that Arnold wouldn’t listen when she tried to express how she felt, Kay briefly withheld sex, hoping to get his attention.  The plan backfired.  Feeling criticized and hurt, Arnold too went on strike.  Permanently. Before I became a sex therapist, I would have thought this incredible.  Now I find it utterly believable.  It’s the kind of emotional stalemate that often happens to individuals who can’t express themselves very well.   That includes a lot of folks. But notice something:  Even though the problem involves sex, it’s not really ABOUT sex. It’s...