Fifty shades of debauchery
IF one were to judge by the sale of over 30 million copies of the book Fifty Shades of Grey, that women are fascinated with the idea of being dominated, bound and seduced into submission, then it would go against the new age post bra-burning theory that women want to be liberated, equal to their partners, and to be met halfway in the control department.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic novel by British author EL James, the first in a series labelled "mommy porn" for their sexual content and large, cult-like, mostly female following.
The romance between main characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey is surprising because of its unconventional nature, the Associated Press (AP) reported in April. Grey asks Steele to sign a contract, and she agrees to be his "submissive" and to partake in a range of erotic activities.
The ticker for many women is that Grey actually does what Steele wants — he takes charge, has power, and does everything she desires emotionally and sexually without being asked.
The stories were first published online, and as word of mouth spread, droves of people — many of them not traditional readers of romantic or erotic fiction — began downloading them on iPads and Kindles.
Women of all ages and backgrounds have turned up for each of the author's book signings and the author is at a loss to explain why the books have become so popular, so quickly. Fans who have written or spoken with her at events, she said, have had different reactions, including that their sex lives have improved.
Though public libraries in several states pulled the racy romance trilogy saying the books are too steamy, moms, students, housewives, conventional women are still fascinated.
Sex therapist Dr Sidney McGill says he is surprised at the type of women who are reportedly reading the novel.
"I would think that you would have more professional women who just want to submit to their men who would be reading — women who are normally in control and just want to be controlled in the bedroom," he said.
But this hasn't been the case as reported.
McGill said most women want to be able to submit to their partners, as long as that partner is trustworthy and they both have a good and loving relationship.
However, he said, he too is taken aback by the fact that these readers seem empowered by the type of dominance sold by the book.
"But what I realise is that it is more than just women giving men control or being in charge, it's about [enjoying] sadomasochism," he said.
He said in many cultures, getting pleasure form pain is something that is enjoyed by women.
"I can see how a women who has been playing the role of mother, wife, running the household, etc, would want to let down her hair and give control to the man," he said.
Ask any woman and she'll tell you that a whipping here, and hair pulling there, done by a powerful lover who attends to her every fantasy is many a dreary housewife's dream.
According to the AP report, in Florida in April at the launch of the US leg of the book tour, "a broad swath of mostly women, of all ages and backgrounds, showed up at the bookstore in Miami''s upscale Coral Gables neighbourhood... [and] exchanged giddy stories about their experiences reading the books.
"Emilia Diaz, a 57-year-old aesthetician, said it was a man who introduced her to the books. They had been talking online and over the phone for months and finally agreed to meet in person. On their first date, he suggested she read the books.
"Diaz came in a group of four women, the eldest being 87-year-old mother Cathy Perkins. Perkins, who was married for 60 years, said she usually reads Danielle Steele but wants to take up Fifty Shades of Grey and its two follow-up novels next. "Stephanie Madison, 59, a bioterrorism coordinator at Jackson Hospital, said her boss had recommended the books to her. She then approached her daughter, Chantele Cogdell about buying her a copy for Mother's Day.
"Cogdell, who works in medical billing and coding, went online to find out what the book was about. Cogdell usually buys her mother flowers, purses or gift cards.
'I said, 'You really want this?' Cogdell recalled.
"Yes!" her mother enthusiastically replied."
For local Cecelia Brown, 33, the book, recently bought for her by her boyfriend on a trip abroad, "gives me a chance to re-live that fantasy life promised by Mills and Boon in my teens".
"You know how you read these books in school and they promised that you'd feel fireworks, and that the earth would move... all my life I've been waiting for the earth to move.
"This books makes that possibility seem more realistic. I finally feel that I can chart my own destiny in the bedroom, with a little encouragement to my man about what I want, and what he can do."
For her part, 26-year-old Petra Barnes said the book "sells the art of teasing, of dominance in a way that draws the reader in, and makes everyone wants to experience what Steele does".
"It's what every woman dreams about," she said. "We all want that mind blowing experience, over and over, and this book is so real, so detailed, that it makes you believe again that you can achieve it, even if it means oiling up your broke down man."
And being the dominant partner is attractive to some men, who take pleasure in being obeyed.
"I like it when my woman obeys me in the bedroom," Carl said. "I like it when I order her around and she does exactly what I tell her."
"Not only is that sexy for me but the sound she makes during the whole dominant act is a real turn on," he added.
— Additional information from AP reports.