Sex, Hunger, and 50 Shades Of Grey
Editor’s Note: Today, Jonalyn Fincher has graciously allowed us to republish this piece. She blogs at rubyslippers.com and has also written a second review of 50 Shades of Grey and her thoughts on BDSM here. You can follow Jonalyn at @jonalynfincher. – Lauren
A man walks past your office, he’s eating a sandwich that smells like heaven. You notice it’s past lunch. You want your own. You don’t steal this man’s sandwich, instead you go out looking for your own. You eat. You are satisfied.
A hot man walks past your office. You notice him and you notice your own desire. Not for him, but for your husband. You recognize the rhythm, it’s time. After work (or lunch break?) you go home. You make love. You are satisfied.
But what if this man is a co-worker. What if he greets you regularly and you start to notice that he has become the fire behind your love making with your husband? Is this good?
It all depends.
Our appetite for sex, like our appetite for food, reveals how similar and different we are from each other.
When eating, we each prefer different portions, different times, different table manners. We all have unique cravings.
We each have different triggers of our sexual appetite, different amounts of sex we want, different ways we want to do it. We all have things (a scent, a song, a photo) unrelated to sex that turn us on.
Despite our different appetites, we all have lines we don’t want to cross. We all know some sex, like some food, is not good for us.
With E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy topping the New York Times’ bestseller list, it’s rather obvious to me that women are sexually hungry. If you haven’t had good sex in years, you will do a happy swan dive into Fifty Shades of Gray. Thirty to fifty-year-old women are recommending the series as the jump start to mommy libido.
The male lead, Christian Grey, is reminiscent of Mr. Rochester (Jane Eyre). Despite the more than adequate proof that Grey is good in bed, I found myself uninterested in finishing the book. Grey’s fetish for sadomasochism, while erotic, is also troubling. Punishment turns him on in a way reminiscent of sexual and physical abusers. Even the compassionate female protagonist, Anastasia Steel reaches her limit and (spoiler alert) leaves at the end of the first book.
Still it’s easy to relate to Ana and her hope to save Grey from his darker side. I could relate to her fixer-upper hopes and yet, Fifty Shades of Gray felt both boring, a somewhat predictable S&M Cinderella story.
So why are so many women intrigued?
Christian cares about knowing Ana. If the man you’re with no longer wants to know you, Christian Grey is a very handsome substitute.
Whenever a man studies you to bring out your pleasure, from the herbal tea to the music to the brown leather whip… do you really care what he’s doing, so long as you tumble into another orgasm?
Sexual boredom can make S&M look like a fairyland. How?
Nothing feels so good (to woman or man) as intentional service for your pleasure. But Christian Gray isn’t serving me, he’s serving Anastasia Steele.
And I’m watching.
What Makes Sex Good?
Most marriages are like a hot bath. They’re great when you first get in, but after awhile they’re not so hot anymore (The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What it Really Takes to Stay Married).
The key ingredient to keeping marriage hot is desire.
Fifty Shades of Gray works, for some, because Gray was written as desirable. E. L. James explained on The Today Show, “I put all my fantasies out there.” You read enough sex scenes, you imagine that being done to your body and you put the book down and go hunting for your husband. No wonder husbands love the book.
So what can be wrong with a book that’s helping couples do it?
It all depends. Once you’ve found your husband, who are you really making love to? Him or Gray?
It turns out you cannot judge your sex life simply by how easily or how often you get turned on. You gauge your sex life by how much you desire your spouse.
The goal is to be turned on by the person you have married. To cultivate a taste for him.
Sex and Knowledge
As followers of the God of Israel, we want more than tittilation in bed. We want what Adam had with Eve.
We want knowledge, vulnerability, safety… and sex.” And Adam knew his wife” (Gen. 4:1).
Good sex is about wanting and feeling known. Even Ana craves that with Christian Gray: “Do I know Christian intimately? I know him sexually, I figure there’s a lot more to discover.”
I have little doubt the next two books will find Ana discovering. But if the first book is any indication, it will be through co-dependently offering her body for more beatings so she can unlock Christian’s fear of being known. Then, they’ll live happily ever after.
Personally, if I need a jumpstart to my desire I’ll read Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man or Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Relationships. Or I’ll recall how the man I married makes love to me.
He knows me better than Christian Grey.
Fifty Shades of Grey is easy arousal because it doesn’t ask anything. You simply consume.
But I want my sexual cravings met with the real thing.
A husband with his body and soul in my bed.
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