Here’s what is really going on—and why you needn’t worry if you’re getting into “Grey”…
Letting go of control can be a nice change of pace for today’s do-it-all woman. In the past, women were raised to be shy, fearful and uninformed about their bodies and about sex, so they had little choice but to let the man take over in bed. But modern women often assume dominant roles in their professional lives and their families, so it can be a relief to let someone else take charge in the bedroom at times. There is nothing weak, pathological or perverted about that.
Being swept away can bring greater sexual freedom. The subject matter of the Grey series is not new. Think back to Story of O, published in 1954…the 1970s collections of women’s sexual fantasies, My Secret Garden and Forbidden Flowers…and the 1986 erotic film 9½ Weeks. These had about the same theme as the Grey books. As women in previous generations found, fantasies about being overcome by passion without caution are normal, even beneficial, if they allow a woman to move past inhibitions that restrict her sexual pleasure.
Submission can be redefined in more positive terms. A daydream about lying back and letting the man have his way used to be called a “rape fantasy,” but this inaccurate term rightfully became unacceptable over time. Its replacement, “submission fantasy,” is better—but still has negative connotations. So rather than thinking in terms of “dominance and submission” or the more extreme “sadism and masochism,” it is appropriate to think of being “active and passive” or of “giving and receiving”—words that reflect the healthy range of experiences between consenting adult partners.
If you want to use the novels as inspiration for experimentation…
Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page. This kind of experimentation requires trust. You need to trust yourself, knowing that your sexual responses are natural and welcome…and you need to trust your partner, secure in the knowledge that he will not hurt or deceive you. Set guidelines about what is comfortable, desirable and acceptable to you both. Agree on “safe words” that will immediately put an end to any unacceptable behavior—for instance, in Fifty Shades of Grey, saying “yellow” was a warning and “red” meant stop.
Take turns being in charge. Traditional gender roles, which rigidly demanded that men dominate and women be dominated in all aspects of life, could be as exhausting for men as they were frustrating for women. Ask your partner how he feels about acting out fantasies in which you both have opportunities to call the shots in bed. Often, rather than feeling threatened, a man finds that his partner’s dominance can alleviate his performance anxiety and increase his sexual pleasure. You may both find that this type of turnabout is a turn-on that brings an exciting new level of intimacy to your relationship.
Source: Judy Kuriansky, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and sex therapist on the adjunct faculty of Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City. She is the author of five books, including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to a Healthy Relationship (Alpha), and is a columnist and advisory board member for HealthyWoman from Bottom Line. www.DrJudy.com