This Valentine’s Day weekend, a lot of couples will be heading out for dinner and a movie—and for many of them, their film of choice is likely to be the big-screen adaptation of the popular book Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades tells the tale of Christian Grey, a successful and sexy businessman who introduces a young female college student, Anastasia Steele, to the world of bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). For some viewers of this film, it may very well be their first exposure to the topic of BDSM—and that’s rather unfortunate. Not only does Fifty Shades perpetuate false stereotypes about the people who are into BDSM, but it also presents an inaccurate portrayal of how BDSM plays out in the real world.Read More
There is a common perception that people who practice bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM) have major psychological issues. As some evidence of this, just take a look at how people who practice BDSM are portrayed in the popular media. For instance, consider the following excerpt from the bestselling erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey:
“Why don’t you like to be touched?” I whisper, staring up into soft gray eyes. “Because I’m fifty shades of f*cked up, Anastasia.” (page 369)
The title character, Christian Grey, is depicted as carrying a lot of emotional baggage. Not only did he have an abusive childhood, but he was introduced to sex at a relatively young age by one of his mother’s female friends. The book implies that these experiences helped shape Grey’s dominant persona and interest in BDSM. So is this an accurate reflection of reality? Do people who are into BDSM really have more issues? A new study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests not.Read More
“Why don’t you like to be touched?” I whisper, staring up into soft gray eyes. “Because I’m fifty shades of f*cked up, Anastasia.” – Excerpt from Fifty Shades of Grey (page 369)
It seems as though everyone and their mothers (and a fair number of grandmothers, from what I hear) has read E. L. James’ erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. The book describes the sexual exploits of Christian Grey, a successful and sexy businessman who introduces a young female college student (Anastasia Steele) to the world of bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). After hearing so much about Fifty Shades, I couldn’t help but wonder about the contents of this book. Is it an accurate depiction of the BDSM community, or is it pure fiction? As you'll see below, the answer to this question is somewhat of a grey area.
“Research has shown that men are more visually stimulated, while women are more literary; they’re turned on by words or erotic stories.” – Dr. Michael Krychman on Fifty Shades of Grey
I have seen variations of the above quote appear in many news articles and Human Sexuality textbooks as a basic “fact” about female sexuality. There seems to be a widely shared belief among both scholars and the general public that explicit visual depictions of sex are far less appealing to women than they are to men, and that women will choose a steamy romance novel of questionable literary value over a graphic porn video any day. In fact, many people believe this is one of the primary reasons why books like Fifty Shades of Grey attract so many female readers. However, I’m not fully convinced by this argument. My reading of the scientific literature on sexual arousal suggests another possibility: perhaps women gravitate toward these books not because they are less aroused by hardcore pornography, but because society tells women that they’re not supposed to enjoy more explicit sexual materials.