Why I AM Reading “Fifty Shades of Grey”

By Charity Hagains MA, LPC-S

The Fifty Shades phenomena has been sweeping the country for months, to say the least. Numerous people suggested it as a “must read” long before I added it to my list. Once I did, I’ll admit that I didn’t put it down until the words “THE END” appeared. Thus, I can say I too have been carried away by EL James’ Christian Grey.

In case you have yet to be drawn into the series, I will give you a sort synopsis (no worries – I wouldn’t dream of dropping a spoiler on you). Essentially, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a romance/erotica novel. Classic boy meets girl, boy falls for girl, boy spanks girl. Wait…what?!

When I said erotica, I wasn’t kidding. To describe this book as merely a romance novel would be inaccurate (don’t go in thinking your getting “The Notebook” style romance). There are plenty of hot and heavy sex scenes throughout all three novels including, yep you guessed it, quite a bit of BDSM. It’s this last part that I believe has everyones attention.

Some in the mental health community took the stance that the dominance and submission that theme the characters is pathological. I however do not share their view point, but rather agree with good Doctor Flynn.

So what is it about this series that keeps us up late reading? Is it the sex? Is it the romance (which believe me, there is plenty of that too). Is it the unconventionality of it all? I’ve asked a lot of women who read the book what they loved most about it and got back a solid two word answer: “Christian. Grey.”

A good leading man is essential for any novel. We all know that. But what is it about this character that is so different? When pressed with that question, most respondents said it is his ability to completely take control. (A good answer, in my opinion.) However, being a therapist and not just a fiction book junkie, I wanted to know why that was so attractive to modern women.

Keep in mind that women have been striving for equality with the male gender for decades. We have protested others making our decisions for us, been horrified at men telling us what to do, and have out right screamed “we can take care of ourselves!” So how is it that millions of women are head over heals with a domineering control freak character?

Being a women in 2012, I wear a great many hats. I am a mother, a daughter, a friend, a therapist, a business partner, and a woman. Each of these roles carries with it a tremendous amounts of responsibility and a never-ending to do list. I, like most women, feel as though we are constantly taking care of someone else. We are often stretched so thin that physical and mental exhaustion is a very real threat. Yet, even with all we do there is that feeling of not doing enough.

Be it media or society there is always a message of, “You need to do more.” Be an amazing and involved mother, be an attentive daughter, be a dependable friend, be responsible, be smart, be educated, be financially independent, be successful. Stay family focused, stay career focused, stay health focused. It is impossible to be all of these things at the same time, yet we expect that and so much more of ourselves.

We have set an unattainable goal for ourselves to be perfect, all the while saying, “I know I’m not perfect.” Given this mindset, it is easy to see how a character such as Christian Grey would be appealing no matter what our inner feminist says.

All the women I talked to about this book said they feel so responsible for everything and everyone that the idea of someone else stepping in and taking that away, even for a short time (or maybe only for a short time), sounded fantastic. They loved the thought that someone else wanted to take on their burdens while not seeing them as weak or incapable. The women I spoke to want someone to take care of them, no matter how 1950s it sounds.

Now before protesters arrive at the Noyau offices, let me explain. As women, we tend to hold on to enormous amounts responsibilities and often refuse to share. We feel bad if someone else cleans our house, cares for our kids, or completes one of our projects. We have a tendency to not let go, and when we do let go, we don’t feel good about it. This has to change if we are to ever enjoy a romance such as Christian and Anastasia’s.

When I started asking about the series more than once I heard, “I wish my husband were Christian Grey.” Well, maybe he already is. You may already have that person in your life whom you laugh with and look up to – someone who adores you the way Christian does Anastasia. Someone who wants to take away your stress and be in control, who wants you to simply feel and be happy. Most likely, however, you aren’t about to let them. You see childcare, homemaking, career success, social calendars…as the reasons you are loved, and thus, you have no intention of giving them up and becoming…less.

These aren’t the reasons you are loved. These are not the things that make you unique and special. They are simply the things that make you busy. Your laugh, your sense of humor, your passions, values and dreams…that is why you are loved. So go ahead and let your eight year old make his own cereal, let your coworker help you out, ask your husband to take over Christmas card duty, and feel good about it. And while your asking for stuff, go ahead and ask for the brown riding crop…look how well it worked out for Anastasia. ;)