Feeling Blue About 50 Shades of Gray and Erotica

romeo and julietMost of you know by now that I have created two new advice websites besides the Advice Sisters.   Leather and Lace Advice http://leatherandlaceadvice.com  is a general dating and relationships advice website and Leather and Lace SPICE is also a relationship advice web site, but focusing more on sex and love with mature topics http://leatherandlacespice.com  Recently, my co-author Tony and I have been discussing the very popular 50 Shades of Gray Trilogy  and we’ve created a couple of blog posts on the topic.  As someone who now writes quite a bit about sex and love I also have read a lot of romance and erotica.  It’s not a genre I really spent much time on previously, but after checking out what women are reading on their Kindle’s and in paperbacks on the subway and other modes of public transportation, I realize it’s very popular with plenty of people.  There is nothing wrong with erotic, per se. But could over-dosing on sex and romance, and especially the D/s lifestyle so eagerly portrayed now that “50 Shades” is such a blockbuster hit be bad for you?  

I’ve read a lot of “Mommy Porn’ in the last six months or so, including the entire Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy.  Not surprisingly, a lot of it centers around the BDSM theme, because Fifty Shades of Gray is such a blockbuster hit.  There’s a lot to like  –and dislike – about these books and probably, the upcoming 50 Shades movies.  But I can now see what the attraction has been for so many women. Who wouldn’t want a gorgeous and powerful billionaire to be besotted with you– an otherwise average woman.  Who wouldn’t want to become the center of his universe?  True, he might tie you up and demand a few kinky things from you,  but in return your life becomes more important than anything else he does. wants or possesses.  He will make demands, but he will also protect you,  and put you above all others.

The idea that someone finds you that fascinating and that important and wants to offer you his world, take care of you, and give you everything your heart desires, including his heart, is a heady fantasy for many women.
Fantasy is fun, but it is not reality.  Erotic books are written to produce certain physical and emotional responses, but they’re not necessarily grounded in real life scenarios.  I am concerned that some people do confuse the fantasy with real life.  In virtually every single book that I have read (and there have been many), the people involved are not living realistic lifestyles. They rarely have jobs. They never seem to deal with daily chores, and few interact with family issues or other types of important, serious concerns. Instead, the books portray only the insatiable sexual relationships between the doms and subs, with little else going on in their lives.  The plots and details aren’t the point, of course, it’s the sex and romance that are the focus, But I always wonder, as I close the cover of the book I’ve just finished, how that relationship will play out over time. I should think that with little else in common besides wild sex,  the couple would soon tire of each other and split up.

These books elevate expectations of what romance and especially BDSM is, to an unrealistic level. I’m concerned that some women will think that if the are submissive they will transform their own boyfriend or husband into that type of powerful fantasy that is the stuff of Christian Gray in 50 Shades of Gray, or that they will find someone just like him.   Christian Gray is a potent fantasy but you can’t simply “become” a submissive like his lady love ANA, if that’s not in your nature, and if it isn’t in your partner’s nature to become a “Don” that’s not going to work, either. True Dominants and Submissive have at some point discovered an innate desire to be that way.  The Dom knows he is someone who wants to be in control, the submissive, someone who wants to surrender control (*gender roles can be reversed as well).  You can “play” at this for fun in the bedroom, no harm done, but being in the lifestyle for real, is another matter entirely.

More troubling to me is the potential for women to believe that  a good looking man with plenty of disposable income  would agree to be their Dom and spend lavishly on  them, simply because they are willing to agree to whatever this man wants. In fact, these relationships  do exist in real life, with women such as trophy wives.   But women who are not young, particularly beautiful, and who are equal in intellect and wealth also find themselves attracted to the D/s lifestyle.  Many if not most women might have in the past found their way to this lifestyle in their earlier years, but today’s 40-50, 60 year olds and beyond are not the women of past generations,  and they are exploring new ways of living and loving that their mothers and grandmothers never even dreamed of.  They can not, and should not be discounted!

In a true D/s relationship, there is a power exchange, and the submissive does so willingly.  However, in the case of Christian and Ana in 50 Shades of Gray,  Christian “gives” Ana the opportunity to run her own company, but then controls everything she does behind her back, and puts so many obstacles in her path that she ultimately cannot make independent decisions (unless he has without her knowledge,  pre-approved them).  He has set it up so she cannot fail, but she also cannot succeed because she cannot learn from her mistakes. She is a stunted child. She cannot grow into an interesting woman, simply because Christian does not allow her to become one. As I understand it, a Dom wants his submissive to flourish as it is a reflection of him if she succeeds and is the best she can be. A true Dom doesn’t want a stunted, boring child.

Another issue that worries me about how the D/s lifestyle is portrayed in 50 Shades of Gray and similar books is how it might appeal to a certain type of man.  It is clear to me that there is a segment of the male population for whom being a Dominant is attractive not because he wants to be a genuine part of a caring and consensual relationship in that lifestyle, but because he sees it as a way to control women and worse, abuse them.  While those in the lifestyle may shun these men, they are out there, and unsuspecting women who don’t  know any better will be harmed. Additionally, there is another segment of the male population for whom this will always be just about sex. Swingers clubs have always existed, but the notion of a D/s relationship being about anonymous scenes with strangers, when the main idea is supposed to be about connecting, caring, communication and trust, is disturbing.  I wish more authors would write books in this genre about real life couples who also have erotic lifestyles,  instead of just erotic fantasy with nothing but the sex scenes. After a while, even hot sex, gets boring.

Have you read the 50 Shades of Gray books?  Share your thoughts.  If you would like to read more about erotica and 50 Shades of Gray, you can read both my thoughts on the topic, and Tony’s thoughts, in our unique “Double-Take” Q&A on Leather and Lace Spice.  Also visit Leather and Lace Advice. We welcome your question and your comments. 


Alison Blackman Dunham aka “Lace”

About Advicesisters

Alison Blackman Dunham aka. “Advice Sister Alison” and “The Advice Sisters” is a writer, photographer, online advisor, and lifestyles consultant. She has built her reputation offering readers a unique perspective on life, in print, in person and through the camera lens. Her focus is on advice, beauty, fashion, lifestyles, relationships and things that help make life easier, more successful and more fun. Please follow Alison on Twitter @advicesisters and check out her other web (advice-related) sites: leatherandlaceadvice.com & leatherandlacespice.com


  1. […] a lot of books in genres I never thought I’d ever consider:  romance and erotica.   I recently wrote a blog post about some of my personal issues concerning erotica, and how many of these books blur the lines […]

  2. […] recently wrote a blog post for my web site The Advice Sisters about some of my personal issues concerning erotica, and how […]

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