The book “50 Shades of Grey” is creating lots of chatter, from women’s book clubs to Newsweek and the Today Show. The plot tracks a romance between a recent college grad and a manipulative billionaire and includes moments of bondage, domination and sadism.
Although I’m still reading the book, here’s what I know as a certified sex therapist: Women can become confused and frustrated trying to navigate their sexuality through relationship demands and social judgements.
The book’s controversy adds to a continued delimma women face: feeling comfortable with their sexuality without feeling shameful or that they’re being judged.
First, let’s give women permission to enjoy their sexuality and have sexual fantasies.
Humans are sexual beings. It’s both common and healthy for people to have sexual fantasies based on past events, dreamy Hollywood stars or exciting, made-up storylines. It’s also healthy to fantasize about people and events that a person would never want to actually experience in real life.
Some controversy surrounding the book suggests that women fantasizing about submission or being dominated is wrong and promotes violence against women.
Laura Berman, famous certified sex therapist, was interviewed on the Today Show regarding the book. She says there is nothing wrong with women fantasizing about submission and being dominated. In fact, she claims it’s one of the top fantasies women have.
A recent Newsweek article on the topic outlined an analysis of 20 studies published in Psychology Today which estimates that between 31 and 57 percent of women entertain fantasies about being forced to have sex.
For women to healthfully “own” their sexuality, we must let go of sexual relationship demands, social stigmas and old messages that promote sex as wrong, shameful or embarrassing.
The majority of people who attend sex therapy admit to believing in at least one negative or shameful message about sex. This can include childhood messages from school or church, negative family role modeling or experiencing or witnessing sexual inappropriateness.
In therapy, I often help people explore these messages and take ownership over what they choose to believe about sex and sexuality.
It is possible to redefine your sexuality with a healthy, accepting and positive twist.