By the time I got around to reading this book it had sold 100 million copies in 52 languages. It was a hot best seller from the moment it burst on the scene selling 2 million copies during its first month out. The story is simple and somewhat repetitious with a thin plot. Anastasia Steele 21 year old attractive, virgin college girl with very limited sexual experience pinch-hits for her roommate who is on the college newspaper and interviews the scheduled graduation speaker. He is Christian Grey, an incredibly handsome and rich 27 year old, very successful businessman. He is obviously taken with her. He tracks her down and they begin to establish a relationship. She is very attracted to him and one might expect that we would have two people doing what comes naturally. The catch here is while he is very proficient in deflowering this girl and satisfying her sexually, he has special needs. These needs involve acting out his sadomasochistic fantasies where he is the Dominant and she is the Submissive. This involves restraining her, tying her, flogging her and much more. He has a great need to possess her. Where he differs from the individual with a sadomasochistic disorder is that he only wants to carry this out with a consenting woman and he even offers her a detailed contract where all the details and so called limits are spelled out. As they continue to interact sexually and as she contemplates if she will sign this contract, she falls in love with him and wants to please him. She hopes he will love her more than his perverse sexual needs dictate. Needless to say the book is rich in the detail of their sexual interaction. It is clearly written from a women’s point of view. Ana’s arousal is traced in great detail and her orgasms are vividly described in somewhat repetitive language. There can be no doubt that the mass appeal of this book which surely has to be mainly to women comes from the wishful identification with the experience of the main female character. It is not a stretch to understand how appealing it is for a woman to imagine a wealthy, extremely good-looking man who buys her expensive gifts and is immensely attracted to her. There can be multiple components to a woman’s sexual fantasies. One of them could be to be dominated by a desirable man. This storyline tests the limit of that fantasy. While I call this a woman’s book I am sure that I am not the only man who read it. It is part of the common male phantasy to want to dominate an extremely attractive girl, but the extent of Christian Grey’s needs could only have developed by special circumstances. (Remember Dustin Hoffman’s character in The Graduate and his relationship with Mrs. Robinson?) While the roots of these determining factors were clearly discussed in the book, they were not fully expounded upon. Perhaps these are being elaborated in more detail in the newer books of the now “trilogy” which the author has written. I will probably pass on the next two books but I have no doubt they will sell well and ultimately produce a movie which I might just take in.
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