What are the lasting effects of ’50 Shades of Grey?’
As part of Metro’s annual sex issue, we explore today’s hottest sex trends both locally and nationally. For more of this year’s theme — kink — check out our 2012 sex poll and an interview with E.L. James herself.
With its bedroom banter, bondage scenarios and detailed explanations of what goes where, “50 Shades of Grey” has gone from a cultural must-read to the book your mother-in-law brought on vacation. With the initial hype dying down, what will be the long-lasting impact?
Expect an era where women can be more open than ever about what they enjoy in the bedroom — often taking charge of the fantasies themselves — according to experts. Sarah Forbes, a curator with the Museum of Sex in New York, says that she has observed more women writing erotic fan fiction online (which is how “Fifty Shades” began, as a “Twilight” spinoff). She chalked it up to women, more than men, needing to be stimulated mentally as much as physically. Writing about sexual daydreams or drawing sensual fan art can be an erotic experience. The success of “Fifty Shades” legitimized the form.
“It can just be fun and playful,” Forbes says of using erotica as a creative outlet. “It lets people create a relationship with these icons of our popular culture.”
Sex therapist Wendy Maltz points out that society has been “very repressed and uncomfortable” about the topic of sexuality, so fan fiction is a way to lighten the mood. It can open up discussion about people’s
real-life likes and dislikes, but this is only the starting point.
“There is a lack of healthy direct discussion about sexual issues,” Maltz says. “There is a difference between what are the real needs sexually for men in the general population and the more sensational extreme presentations that come out and are put into the mainstream pop culture and are not representative of real satisfaction to people in the long run.”
You now have ‘permission’
The experts we spoke to recommended defining yourself against these forms of media, rather than being defined by them.
Dr. Stephen Snyder, a sex specialist and sex therapist, has seen an increased openness among women to explore their sexual sides. “Fifty Shades of Grey” has given women “permission” to explore explicit sexual fantasies, he says. The book might even improve your relationship, with a catch: “We’d probably need the men to read it too,” Snyder says. “There’s much that men can learn from Christian Grey about what women need, such as [expressing] his desire for his partner in words.”