I must admit I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve heard enough from the media, friends, and patients that I feel confident writing about it. 50 Shades of Grey is attracting attention everywhere you turn. This sultry trilogy combines many politically incorrect elements into one super-sexy erotic drama that seems to repel as many people as it attracts.
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Why are these erotic fiction books creating such a stir? I believe it is because E. L. James writes about issues that women are evolutionarily programmed to desire – that is, in spite of our conscious logic and our modern day ideals, women still instinctively respond to certain aspects of masculinity as they would have thousands of years ago. We can take the woman out of the forest, but we can’t totally take the forest out of the woman.
Let me explain.
I am about to over-simplify an extremely complex narrative. But here it goes…
There are basic differences between men and women that have led us to enact very different roles in our evolutionary history. Because women give birth, they have historically depended on men for some very important functions. In the past, a woman needed a man to care for her while pregnant, and to feed and protect her and her baby for at least several years after giving birth. As a result, the women who partnered with the strongest, most dominant men gave their babies the best chances of survival. Not only that, we know that dominance in men is linked to better genetics –specifically, a stronger immune system. Choosing a partner with the best genetics could in fact be the single most important gift a woman can give her baby. In these very basic ways, it is clear why women have historically been attracted to dominant men.
In our world today, dominance is expressed in a variety of ways. Women perceive dominance by how a man walks, the sound of his voice, his access to desirable resources like money or protection, his level of self-confidence, and his intelligence – among many other possibilities In contrast, men who are perceived as needy of a woman’s attention are definitely not experienced as dominant. Nor are men who avoid taking control of situations, or who are considered emotionally sensitive. I could go on, but you get the picture.
So even as women today verbalize the desire for a sensitive man who is a fabulous father and good communicator, her innate attraction to an alpha male is not banished from her make-up. And from the perspective of this sex therapist, nowhere is this more obvious than in the bedroom.
Repeatedly in my office I hear women say that they want a stronger man in bed – a man who will take control, lovingly open their hearts and bodies, and take them to their sexual edge. Women want this, and women are afraid of it at the same time. Being with a dominant man in bed requires her submission – a bad word in our culture. Sadly, many couples are unable to even articulate these conflicts, let alone work them out. Men say their woman won’t relax and let go. Women say they need a better man than them in bed. These conflicts are common in my therapy room. Thus, in spite of our post-modern culture and ideals, we still struggle with very basic historical desires.
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So this is, in essence, why women are enamored with 50 Shades. Women have an innate tendency to respond sexually to an alpha male.
But it is much safer to read about another woman surrendering to an alpha than to do so oneself. This level of vulnerability frightens women. But ladies, this does not mean that your deepest sexual longings are destined to be gratified only through fiction novels. You can, if you like, learn how to make love in ways that engage these age-old dynamics of dominance and surrender. Making love this way requires developing skills just as you would need to learn how to paint or dance in a certain tradition. Practice surrendering to your man (or woman) in little ways throughout the day. See what it feels like to be receptive and open, rather than assertive and controlling. If your partner truly is trustworthy, allow yourself to be more vulnerable and feel the sweetness inherent in that dynamic.
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Ask your man to experiment with tenderly taking charge during intimacy. In this way, you and your partner can build the skills to create extraordinarily erotic moments that feed female’s innate desires to be taken and ravished by a strong yet gentle lover. Making love in this way is an extremely emotionally intimate experience, let alone very a passionate one. No longer will you be relegated to reading about it to experience it!
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