The runaway bestseller 50 Shades of Grey written by an Australian woman named E.L. James, clearly has captured the hearts and hormones of women across America -- the question is why? Is it possible that so many women dream of becoming the submissive partner of a dominant male partner which, after all, is the central plot of the book?
The novel's protagonist, Christian Grey, has a dungeon with all the extras and asks his partner to sign a non-disclosure agreement that spells out on the written page that she will do what he tells her, no questions asked. He tells Anastasia -- who doesn't know what to make of the situation except that she really, really likes it -- straight out that he'll never ever spend the night with her -- that basically, he's all about the sex, NOT the cuddling.
Having been married nearly 30 years, I'm no expert on the current state of a dating woman's psyche so I turned to a few people who have been "out there" for an explanation. Nearly everyone, including women, told me that yes, domination is a highly sought after male trait, though maybe not to the extent practiced by Christian Grey. Spanking, hair pulling and requests to be bitten are all the rage.
It's a subject that a lot of people are not comfortable with but one friend -- let's call him "Damian" -- said he'd talk about it if I'd keep his identity a secret. Done.
Damian listened patiently while I explained 50 Shades of Grey and said he wasn't surprised in the least by the book's popularity with the fairer sex. "Look," he said, "men have had all the power throughout history and the sexual dynamic between men and women is not unlike rape except that it's consensual -- women like to be taken and told what to do in the bedroom."
Damian compared the relations to men and women to what goes on between gays during sex. "When gays become intimate, they have to figure out who is the top and who is the bottom and that's true of men and women too," he said.
Many people agree (read this article in The Atlantic called "All The Single Ladies") that the male-female dynamic these days is skewed. A lot of women have seized powerful roles in the job market, more women than men attend college, and more than ever men are becoming "feminized" (a word I heard a lot) by assuming traditional female tasks in the home. One woman told me that she felt sorry for all the men pushing strollers because "they're so whipped."
"Men have become more and more soft and are behaving less like men," Damian said. "I have tons of women who complain to me that men want to share pleasure instead of take pleasure -- I don't share pleasure, I take it. I would never ask a woman what turns her on in bed."
I have known this guy for a decade and he's tall, good-looking and has had tons of girlfriends. His secret, he says, is that he's a nice guy socially but a total bad boy in the sack... not unlike Christian Grey.
He said the hard core approach favored by Mr. Grey and seemingly given the stamp of approval by the hordes of women who sing the book's praises, is one that women are nearly desperate to find -- even when they don't know it. "Some women get offended the first time I slap them on the ass," Damian says. "Cut to a week later and it's like, 'Hey smack me on the ass again.'"
He said his present girlfriend went out with a host of "sensitive, hipster guys" and never had an orgasm. "It's not that my wedding tackle is all that special," he said. "It's just that I'm forceful and tell her what to do. She said she's never met anyone like me and thought there was something wrong with her."
Cue the girlfriend, who I'll call "Jenny." She's 32, beautiful, and has been dating since she was 16. "I've always dated hipster-type guys who were educated and cultured and attractive," she said. "You know, all the things that women say they want, a guy who treats them nice. Well, (Damian) is all of that but he's super-dominating in the bedroom.
"The first time we had sex in his apartment, he told me to stand up, do this, do that and I had no idea what was going on. I was nervous but you know what they say about training a dog -- you need a firm hand," she said. "It was exhilarating and I was totally into it and had an orgasm for the first time from sex. I really allowed myself to just let go and it was such a relief, it was amazing."
Jenny describes herself as an Alpha girl who is controlling and bossy. "It was nice to let go," she said but has not talked to many people about what goes on behind closed doors because "it's so not PC. It's a primitive thing."
Jenny says that "primitive thing" is, she believes, the same reason that a show like Mad Men is so popular. "It's because Don Draper is a real man, the quintessential man and that's so hard to find these days -- there's been a real emasculation of men."
She suggests that her sisters having trouble finding men give up the idea of finding and marrying a man who does the dishes or helps with the kids. "That's all bullshit," she says. "When it comes to getting it on in the bedroom, women are depriving themselves if they're wearing the pants in the relationship. It's time to take off your pants."
"This whole thing has been mind-blowing." Jenny, clearly giddy from the experience.
Now, I can just hear the howls of complaints about this blog post. So what if the whole domination thing works for Jenny? You can't generalize blah, blah, blah. And that's all true, except that I point to "Exhibit A" in the Male-Female dynamic: 50 Shades of Grey. There's something in that book that is sparking women all across America and, if it's not the return of the real man -- the dominant man -- then I ask you what is it?