Fans defend the film as providing fun, pure fantasy and a community, but as a couples counselor, sex therapist, and teen advisor for decades, I worry about take-away messages from the movie. Here are my warnings.
1. Don't mistake being a "sex slave" for "love." A clever PR ploy released the film on Valentine's Day, touted as a date movie and romance story. Even worse, Vermont Teddy Bear armed a cuddly Valentine's version with a mask and handcuffs. Valentine's Day- and real love - is about intimacy, one of the seven qualities of a healthy relationship I outline in The Complete Idiots Guide to A Healthy Relationship, along with communication and commitment. In stark contrast, main character Christian Grey warns naive Anastasia Steele, "I'm not into romance," "I don't make love, I f---" and "Hearts and flowers is not something I know." Being owned and ordered in sex and otherwise is about dominance, control and power, not intimacy, equality and real love.
2. Learn to love a Nice Guy. Too many young girls today are regressing to past decades of crushing on the Christian Grey stereotypic bad boy type who has cold feet. Penthouses apartments, an Audi Spyder and private helicopter can take a girl's breath away, as it did Ana, but not feed her heart. When a guy tells you, as Christian tells Ana, "I'm not the man for you," believe him.
Don't stay for his good looks. Two friends of my friend's 17-year-old's daughter saw the movie twice. Why? "They thought the actor was really hot," she told me.
Ten steps I outline in my book How to Love A Nice Guy include: build your self-esteem so you deserve respect and equality, re-define a true "dream lover," and don't be desperate for a man's attention.
3. Play games -- carefully. Play-acting "Who's the boss?" can be constructive when couples have a control conflict where one excessively rules the roost. In homework in sex therapy, each partner takes turns being "on top" (in sex and otherwise), with emphasis on "taking turns" to achieve balance.
Fantasies are fine, but don't always have to be acted upon. Talking them through can suffice. If couples want to experiment with ties and blindfolds, sex therapists advise them to be make sure they are also able to really "make love" with open hearts and without games.
Setting boundaries in sex is crucial when stretching them in bondage activities with ropes and restraints, and punishments with spanking, whips and floggers. Fortunately, the film shows the real-life requirement to make agreements and have safe words for when to stop.
Going too far is dangerous. Wrapping belts or ropes around your neck too tight - purposefully to stop breathing and then release to "pop" oxygen into your head for a high - has led to death in some cases.
4. What's "normal" in sex? People often want to know. Sensory stimulation - including being tantalized by ice cubes or feathers (exotic peacock plumes are used in the film) - is basic to pleasure enhancement in sex therapy, but best in the quest for intimacy.
Hot and heavy breathing (as Ana displays extensively in the film) is also key, but not when teasing to achieve control, but to link energies to reach high states of ecstasy as in practices outlined in my Complete Idiots Guide to Tantric Sex .
5. Be wary of your kids seeing the film. Intended to capture Twilight Saga fans, it's not surprising that about 42% of the audience was younger than 25. Especially alarming is that the main character Anastasia Steele is a virgin. Famed Olympic medalist and avowed virgin Lolo Jones agrees with me, in her tweet to ban the film. A first sexual experience locks in mental and physical patterns that last a lifetime. So, the experience should be loving and intimate, not confuse pain as pleasure.
Also alarming: Fifty Shades of Grey scored an R rating in the U.S. and an 18 in the U.K. (equivalent to an NC-17) but France gave it a 12 rating, meaning anyone age 12 and over can see the erotic film in theaters.
One moviegoer mother told me that she doesn't want her 21-year-old daughter to see the film, "These kids already do too much bad stuff; I want her to be into other stuff."
Savannah told me she won't go to the movie, and didn't read the book, because her mother wouldn't like it. "We know about all that anyway," she added. "People are doing worse things."
She's right. Kids today know about raw sexual behavior at a too-early age. I've heard it all even 20 years ago from young callers to my LovePhones radio show, recorded in my book Generation Sex, but I wish that in this day and age, kids would learn more about real love and intimacy.
The Fifty shades of Grey story replays an old script, when surveys in the 1970s showed that the submissive fantasy was women's favorite - where she lies back and lets the man please her and show her what to do. By the 90s, the tables turned, with the woman on top - literally and figuratively - as they became more financially emotionally independent.
In the current backward swing, young girls are still desperate to please a man to keep him. Instead, they need to respect themselves and expect to be treated well and equally.
Don't fall for those old tricks that "Men use love to get sex, and women use sex to get love."
6. Male moviegoers need to beware of getting ideas from the film about what women want. Admittedly, good looks and a Gold Card are seductive, and being unavailable and unattainable is a challenge, but surveys show top qualities women find attractive in a man include caring, intelligence, and a sense of humor. Nice guys with hearts and flowers can finish first.
My movie viewing advice: Rent the film When Harry Met Sally where the Meg Ryan character trades her bad boy obsession for the nice guy/best friend played by Billy Crystal who talks to her and is really capable of loving her.