The 50 Shades Of Grey Effect

May 21,2012

Over the last few weeks I have fielded quite a few phone calls from prospective clients whose interests in sex therapy and sex education have been piqued by the novel 50 Shades of Grey. For those not yet familiar with the book, 50 Shades of Grey is the first in a trilogy of erotic fiction novels written by E.L. James. In six weeks, the series sold well over 10 million copies. The novel follows recent college graduate – and virgin – Anastasia Steele, who meets billionaire playboy – and BDSM enthusiast – Christian Grey. Despite her lack of sexual experience, Anastasia agrees to become a Submissive to Christian’s Dominant.

50 Shades of Grey is intriguing for a number of reasons. It’s one of the best- and fastest-selling erotic fiction novels of all time. It’s being read and discussed out in the open instead of hidden behind closed doors. And of course, it’s about BDSM. It’s rare that BDSM makes it into mainstream pop culture, but thanks to this book, people who never even knew what the acronym stood for are now talking openly about some of the intricacies of dominant-submissive relationships. While the book is by no means an exhaustive or wholly representative exploration of BDSM, the fact that it is getting people talking about a more niche and stereotypically taboo form of sexual expression is exciting to me given my line of work.

Amusingly, the novel itself is actually quite bad! It’s trite, shallow, and poorly-written. However, I do believe that it is worth a read. 50 Shades of Grey can be seen as an invitation to experiment with your sexuality in a number of ways ranging from very basic to very complex. Perhaps you’ve never read any sort of erotic fiction before, but are feeling curious about this book that everyone keeps talking about. You could try reading it with a partner (either separately, or out loud to each other), and discussing which parts are arousing to you, and which parts are uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking. If you found yourself particularly turned on by any of the language used in the book, you could try using those phrases with a partner. You could experiment with some of the sexual acts depicted in the book, like spanking or role-playing. You could visit a local sex shop to purchase a new toy, like a feather tickler or the silver balls. You could even duplicate using a men’s tie as a restraint, as Christian infamously does in the book. Regardless of how appealing or appalling the book is to you, there are many possibilities for exploration.

If you are curious about other ways to bring 50 Shades of Grey into your sex life, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to set up a consultation.


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I'm Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist and writer specializing in helping you have more fun in the bedroom.

I have bachelor’s degrees in human sexuality and sociology from Brown University, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. I’m also a licensed psychotherapist. I’ve been working in the sex therapy field since 2002 and have been featured by The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple, and many more.

If you’re interested in improving your sex life, you can work with me via my online courses or personal coaching sessions. I look forward to supporting you in creating the sex life you’ve always wanted!