50 Shades- feminist success or gender role fragmentation?

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Hey Guys Dr. Max here for our third installment of Grey Mondays, where we discuss elements of the book/film, Fifty Shades of Grey.    In the book, Christian Grey is obsessed with control and wants to dominate Ana. He is deep in to the BDSM lifestyle equipped with dungeon and all!  Ana being a virgin and obviously inexperienced is thrown into this world ill prepared for the intense nature of it.  So why is she enticed to go along with it? What it is about Christian and his deviant ways that have made the character Ana swoon and women around the world buy this book?  100 million of them BTW!

Domination and submission have been in the matrix of male/ female relationships for a long time.  Darwinists who prescribe to the standard narrative would say women secretly want to be dominated. The females of any mammalian species succumb and mate with the “Alpha”,  Since he is the strongest and most virile.  Her attraction to him belays the hope of strong gene dissemination.

Is Ana drawn to Christian because he is the modern “Alpha”?  In this version, being in a controlled provider is beneficial. It’s romantic for a man to take care of everything.   Christian does control more than the bedroom.  He is financially dominant and buys Ana lots of nice things like expensive books, a computer and a car.  He also shows up just in time, like a super hero to save her from a perilous bike crash and unwanted advances from a drunk man.  I think everyone could use a lover or friend like Christian.  So, in the beginning what draws Ana and women readers to Christian is probably romance.  But to really understand why this book is so popular we must look deeper.

Our instinctual bio-sexual origins could give us more insight. We have evolved from our hunter/gather, pre-agrarian societies and commoditized everything. Goods, services and sex are produced and sold as commodities  Marriage became “ownership” and a way to track land inheritance. Sex becomes big business and our relationships now are based on money.  Sex also becomes a way for a woman to access male resources.  Now add in the sexual revolution of the 1960s. include the feminist movement demanding equality and you can see how our gender roles get blurry.  Confusion breeds indecision which causes many to become insecure and submissive.  We know that Ana is confused about her feelings toward Christian and her attraction/ repulsion to the BDSM lifestyle.  She also is desperately insecure- she feels less desirable than her roommate Kate and is lacking stable father figures.  Maybe Ana is the embodiment of the modern American woman.

Soraya Chemaly from the Huffington post argues that the success of the EL James Fifty series is the “proliferation of the romance- erotica genre.”  More importantly that the books are not notable for women’s interest in trangressive sex but how women are using technology to subvert gendered shame by exploring sexual content privately on-line. She says that instead of submission fantasies representing a discomfort with power and free will, women’s consumption and sharing of this content is a feminist success.  I disagree. The modern woman is fascinated by the Fifty series because like Ana they don’t know what they want.  They are exploring their inner thoughts as Ana explores Christian’s dungeon. The feminine repulsion/attraction of sex, boredom with lustless marriages and the battle for sexual control will form the boundaries of the next sexual revolution.


Key Discussion points

 Do women like being submissive?

-Women want to feel feminine whereas men want to feel masculine – this stems from gender roles (letting the man handle things and being submissive)

-Some women find it romantic when a man takes care of her

-Submission is about trust and allowing a man to work his magic

-Psychological nature vs nurture

-Women in ancient history were dominated and taken: survival of the fittest, alpha male

-Now we have moved away from ancient history, men and women’s sexual roles are confused now, feminism

-insecurity and low self esteem drives submissive behavior

-If woman has no Father figure, the new man in her life takes over that role

Author: drmaxmccullen

When Max McCullen first read Alfred Kinsey’s landmark book, Sexual Behavior In the Human Male, he began contemplating why so little is known about human sexuality. Since its publication in 1948 that body of knowledge has grown marginally. Why do we think about sex all the time? How much does sex really influence our behavior? And why do we still know so little about it? He completed undergraduate studies at University of the Pacific and The University of London and then his research led him to the Institute for the Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco. IASHS was founded by Kinsey’s research assistant, Wardell Pomeroy. His initial curiosity soon evolved into a passion, which drove him to acquire his Doctorate of Education in Human Sexuality and Gender Studies. In 2004 Dr. Max began working for GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals (GSK), one of the largest pharmaceutical companies worldwide. This experience contributed to his understanding of medical treatments for male sexual dysfunction. He became familiar with how Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis function on a biological level and their social implications. His expertise naturally transitioned into him working with some of the most prestigious Urology offices in Southern California. These doctors and passionate medical personal, illustrated firsthand the impact treatment of male sexual dysfunction can have on patient care and their overall well being. This experience made him yearn for more direct contact with patients in a clinical setting. So after GSK he worked with Boston Medical Group (BMG), an international, clinic based organization, comprised of board certified Urologists and other specialties. BMG focuses on low libido, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and testosterone replacement therapy. With BMG, Dr. Max was not only their spokesperson doing radio interviews and lecturing but worked as the physician liaison connecting patients with doctors for treatment. He also worked as a consultant for University Specialty Urologicals, based in San Diego, meeting with Urologists all over the west coast to train them on various treatments for men and women's sexual health issues, including hormone replacement therapy. During this time he also hosted online webinars for patients with questions; he also has a written and video blog series and does private consultation for patients. Dr. Max McCullen brings a historical knowledge of the human sexuality field together with the reailties of living in a digital age. “The issues that confronted our elders in the 50’s and 60’s are different today - but no more impactful. Where they were learning about their sexuality and beginning to embark into the sexual revolution we are over exposed to the commodification of sex. This makes the navigation of sex and emotional intimacy difficult” Dr. Max McCullen

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