The Guy’s Guide to Fifty Shades of Grey

What every man needs to know about the kinky sex book that every woman in the world seems to be reading at the moment. By Alvin Booth

There is no doubt that Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James is the biggest literary phenomena of the moment. Since it was released just over a year ago, it has come to dominate bestseller lists and become the fastest selling paperback novel in the history of publishing. While the first audience to embrace the novel was primarily made up of middle-aged women – leading some people to dub it “mommy porn” – by now its popularity has spread to women of all ages, making it a genuine mainstream success. This means there is a fairly good chance that your significant other has or is reading the book. It’s a little hard to explain the novel’s appeal. The vast majority of book reviewers derided it as poorly written (it originally started off as Twilight fan fiction, with characters named Bella and Edward cast as the leads before being rewritten slightly for publication). The phrases “Holy cow!” and “Laters, baby” are used multiple times throughout the prose, un-ironically. But its fans would argue that it is a quick, gripping read and, clearly, there’s something about the story that has struck a chord with a lot of women.

So guys, this is a book that we need to take notice of, and, if possible, take advantage of. This is the first time in a long time that erotic reading material has become socially acceptable for women to read out in the open. Women being able to more openly indulge in sexual fantasy has got to be a good thing, right? Already there have been plenty of anecdotal stories posted on the Internet from men who say that having their wife and/or girlfriend read Fifty Shades was the best thing that had ever happened for their sex lives. Of course, even if your lover has read the book, you need to know something about it yourself if you’re going to be able to reap the rewards of her newfound interest in erotica. Ideally, you should read the novel alongside your significant other, but if you simply can’t be bothered, here’s a quick summary.

The protagonist in Fifty Shades is Anastasia “Ana” Steele, a 22-year-old university student who meets the mysterious, incredibly wealthy and ridiculously handsome (a point which is mentioned several times – he is supposed to look like Robert Pattinson, after all) Christian Grey . Although initially attracted to the 27- year-old millionaire, Anna is also intimidated by him and believes she is unworthy of his affections. But after drunk dialing him one night, Grey comes to Ana’s rescue before revealing his his desire to make love to her — after he reveals his penchant for sadomasochistic sex and she agrees signs a nondisclosure agreement regarding their relationship. Ana is initially repelled by Grey’s requests, but his constant attention eventually causes her to fall for him and take up a dominant/submissive relationship with him. There’s some more romantic handwringing, personal revelations and lots of tawdry sex scenes in between all this, but you get the idea. In the end, things between the two turn sour and Ana decides that they are fundamentally incompatible, so the book ends with them breaking up (however, there are two more books in the Shades of Grey trilogy).

So what is it in the story that women are responding to? Certainly the sex scenes in the book are explicit and, if you’re into that sort of thing, titillating. But there are plenty of “bodice-ripper” romance novels out there for women that have those kinds of love scenes as well. So is it the kinkiness of the sex in Fifty Shades, which involves ropes, belts and handcuffs, that is getting the ladies so hot and bothered? A survey done for a British website showed that 80% of women who had read the book found the idea of submitting to a dominant male like Christian Grey a turn on, while 43% said they were now more likely to use handcuffs in sexual role play. So one thing guys can consider doing is using the book as a starting point for a discussion of you and your partner’s sexual desires and fantasies.

In most societies, even liberal Western ones, it is still considered somewhat taboo for women to talk about her own sexual fantasies, especially if they involve anything out of the ordinary. This book certainly gives you an excuse for bringing up the subject. And since Fifty Shades has entered the mainstream, they can feel more comfortable discussing their desires with you. However, I think the answer is a little more specific to the character of Christian Grey, who is more than just pretty rich boy that likes to play with whips. When he is with Ana, he doesn’t simply order her around. As her “master,” he also tries to take care of all of her needs – doing everything from sending her lavish presents and gifts to gently washing her hair. And while he asks her to do what he wants in the bedroom, he always tries to meet her sexual needs as well.

Some of the women I have talked to who have read the book say that it is that aspect of Grey’s personality that makes him so irresistible. It is not simply that he is strong and possessive; it is that he is so in tune with his lover that he is able to anticipate her needs and desires without her having to say anything. It’s quite easy to understand why this might appeal greatly to women, such as your average mom, who are constantly having to anticipate the needs of others. If you suspect your partner is into Grey in particular, there are plenty of things you can do to push those same buttons (even if you might not be able to push the rich and/or handsome buttons the way he can). All you need to do is think of ways you can make your lover’s life a little bit easier or know she is  appreciated.

Of course, there are old-fashioned romantic gestures such as sending her flowers, but many of Grey’s good deeds have a sexual edge about them as well. You could, for example, try sending her some sexy and expensive underwear — if you are brave enough to enter the lingerie store and buy it for her yourself. Practical stuff is good too – try paying off one of her bills without even telling her. When she finds out, you’ll get plenty of appreciation. Whichever route you choose, there’s no doubt this book presents us with a golden opportunity to get our mate’s motor running and into a higher gear. Just tap into your inner Christian Grey and show her that you’re the man most deserving of her submission.