Rob Weiss and the staff at Sexual Recovery Institute (SRI) give thoughtful, succinct consideration to the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve likely heard about the new adult fiction trilogy that’s currently sweeping the nation, called “Fifty Shades” by E.L. James. Briefly, the series is about the relationship between a innocent recent college grad, Anastasia Steele, and billionaire playboy, Christian Grey. When Anastasia meets Christian she is a sheltered virgin. Christian not only takes her virginity, but introduces her to a world most of us have only heard rumors about — bondage and discipline.
Before Anastasia, Christian lived in his life believing sex was about possession and pain, not love. However, at least for Christian, it was always about pleasure. As the tale progresses and Anastasia becomes tormented between her love for Christian and her reluctance to adapt completely to his sexual proclivities, we watch Christian learn how to compromise his need for truly kinky sex in order to get his girl.
Like the “Sookie Stackhouse” and “Harry Potter” series before it, “Fifty Shades” has something to teach close-minded American adults about letting lose and truly thinking outside the box. But, what’s the message? Is E.L. James offering a glimpse into the life of someone suffering from a mental disorder, such as sex addiction, or is she, instead, teaching us that sex outside the missionary position can still be considered “normal”?
Let’s face it, if Sookie and Harry were real people and you ran into them on the street, you would likely give them both a wide berth. One of them thinks she has been blessed with the ability to read other people’s thoughts and spends her days cavorting with dead people. The other thinks he has a bit of immortality and is friendly with giants and trolls. Both exhibit signs of hallucinations and delusions of grander, bordering on schizophrenia. But, if Christian Grey lived next door to you would you think of him as mentally ill as well?
Between Tiger Woods, Anthony Weiner, and all the other cheating husbands who have made headlines in recent years, Americans now believe that any guy who likes sex, has multiple sex partners or engages in “deviant” behavior (such as tweeting a picture of his weenis), they must be a sex addict. This is just not true. Sex addiction is a very real and debilitating illness, don’t get me wrong. And both Tiger and Anthony may really be addicts — who knows? But in reality, very few people really have the disease and it takes more than a few weeks in rehab to recover from it.
Christian Grey isn’t a sex addict. He just likes a type of sex that is outside both the mainstream and the comfort level of the majority of Americans. That is not to say that he doesn’t have problems — he is seeing a therapist after all. But those problems have more to do with his childhood than his sexual appetites.
The problem with labels is that they are based on the thinking of beings who are still evolving, both intellectually and morally. Twenty or thirty years ago homosexuality was considered a deviant behavior. Now, most of us consider it just another type of “normal”. In most societies, “normal” is dictated by a mixture of culture, religion and law. “Abnormal” (including sex addiction) includes behavior that is not practiced by the majority of members but that also causes some sort of mental, physical or social problem. And this is how Christian Grey avoids the label sex addict and stays just-this-side of “normal”- his sexual appetites may be in the minority but he is healthy (both physically and, arguably, mentally), wildly successful in business, and can even quickly modulate his behavior to conform to the wishes of those most important to him. I think we all could use one or two of his “Fifty Shades” in our own lives.
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