Is '50 Shades of Grey' Submission Fantasy Really What Women Want?

Love & Learn 22

fifty shades of greyThere's a lot of criticism about E. L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey. Some women feel it spanks feminism in the ass and that the book condones a woman giving up complete control of her life and becoming a submissive. Anyone who reads it must want a guy who does all the thinking, tells you what to do -- and you know your role is to cook, clean, and let him do what he wants to you sexually.

At first, after reading many convincing arguments on the topic, I was on board with disliking the book and not wanting to read it. How dare the author, a woman, write this kind of smut? Why isn't the erotica that shows women who aren't repressed in the bedroom becoming bestsellers?

But the truth is, Shades of Grey is a brilliant fantasy. It taps into what so many women want whether you are single, in a relationship, a working mom, or a stay-at-home mom.

First we have to note that there are two kinds of fantasies. The ones you want to come true and the ones that need to stay just a fantasy because there is no chance you really want to wear a strap-on and have a threesome with your man and another woman, but the thought of it does turn you on. The basic element of Shades of Grey -- sexual submission -- is what many women want, a fantasy that many want to come true, of course if you set aside the mind-game of a man totally taking control of all aspects of your life.

That man is Christian Grey. He is powerful. He's rich. He's dominant. He's sexy as hell and is a total pervert. Anastasia Steele loves to be spanked. They end up falling into a twisted crazy love full of kink and bondage. If you break it down, that's what this book is about.

When I was talking to my friend Leila about it, she quickly said how it is every woman's fantasy to have a man who takes care of everything at home. Think about it: You work hard all day (at the office or wrangling the kids) and when it comes to sex, what is so wrong with wanting a guy to taking charge? What's so wrong with fantasizing about a man who has money and likes to spank you when you love to be spanked? It's like fantasizing about being with a George Clooney-type who wants to ravage your body, takes you to the brink of pleasure, has you begging for more before he fulfills your desire, leaving you in the most amazing post-orgasm glow. And you never have to worry about where you're getting the money to pay your bills. I don't see anything anti-feminist in that. Women have worked hard to be forces in the workplace. We shouldn't always have to work hard when it comes to sex, too.

More from The Stir: Ellen DeGeneres Reads '50 Shades of Grey' Aloud & It's Hilarious (VIDEO)

Remember Maggie Gyllenhaal's submissive character in Secretary? Great movie. Sexy movie. Interestingly the dominant character's name is also Grey (though first name Edward). I don't remember anyone taking issue with that plot. Besides, it's not like submissives don't have any control. In fact, there is a lot of power in having someone else do everything for you sexually.

I saw an interview the author did and many have her called out for what she said -- she didn't think she was a good writer. Critics ran with this, but doesn't every writer think they aren't very good? Even when a writer thinks they wrote something good, once they re-read it, they start to have doubts. Would it have been better if she said she was the best writer ever? This is erotica. The fact that it is a bestseller with women is a great sign we are in control of our sex lives, whether or not we like to be in control sexually or not.

Of course, there are other sex fantasies besides being submissive. We shouldn't be repressed in the bedroom. But if we want to be spanked, to be dominated, then denying ourselves of that is a form of repression. Why not indulge in that fantasy? Plus, it's a book. It takes us somewhere -- it gets our mind going. And we're reading. And getting turned on. And there's nothing wrong with that.

If you want to argue the feminist point and what really sets women back, watch just about any porno flick and see how women really get degraded. At least Shades of Grey is porn with a plot. And apparently porn that speaks to many women. Which in itself is a breakthrough.

Do you think Shades of Grey sets women back? Is the submission fantasy what some really want?


Image via Barnes & Noble

erotica, sex, sexuality, fifty shades of grey


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nonmember avatar devon

Submission fantasies are all about man knowing what you want without us having to explain. which is why it's much better in the realm of fantasy than reality.

Water... Water_geM

sub dom thing doesnt bother there are men who liked to be dommed..they are both adults and its consensual..

there are other things about the book that bother me..for instnace in tthe first bookt he complete lack of personality that steele has.that her over use of oh my,omy god,and holy moses...

i also i speed read through the sex because i find most of the sex parts dull..

nonmember avatar Brittany

I don't see that it sets women back at all to be submissive to their husbands in any aspect. I enjoy taking care of our home and our children, and I enjoy taking care of my husband. I don't understand how it sets back the women's rights movement just because some of us enjoy fulfilling our gender roles.

kebates kebates

I haven't read it yet (though its downloaded and ready when I am) but I think, like you said, for some women, it can just be an erotic fantasy that they don't necessarily want in their own lives, but turns them on to read about. 

Wendy Bowers

I cannot judge at all because I haven't read it.  And anyone else who hasn't read it shouldn't judge either.  

I did like the movie Secrertary, though~ 

vanes... vanessa5470

It's just a book, I too, found myself skipping the sex parts towards the end of the second and third book because it got old.

Why enticed me to keep reading, was wanting to find out why he was so messed up and seeing how Ana reacted and grew as well.

There are far worse entities in this world setting women back than a book.

nursemc nursemc

I think the submission in this book is a little more than most women want, but I think a lot of women do want men to take charge with regards to sex. When my hubby complains about me not initiating sex and whatever else comes with those complaints I roll my inner eyes and think "do I have to do everything around here?" and it turns sex into a chore. Having a man be dominant in the bedroom has nothing to do with being dominated outside the bedroom. All that aside, I know the author admits that these books are not well written and she couldn't be more right. A different subject written the same way would be perfect for say a third grader. If Ana says "oh my" one more time.... Anyway, not really sure why this is such a big seller and such a huge phenom. I've read much sexier and well written books. I can only recommend reading them if you want to know what everyone's carrying on about.

alibr... alibrezzy154

So going to read this just to know what all the commotion is about. Lol

AndeL... AndeLyons

Great post Michele!

I think it's very feminist to explore your sexual desires... find out what you like... and go for it. It's all about equal rights... and that includes spanking or getting spanked.

As Chief Passion Curator for, I'm an expert on romantic erotic literature. It's wonderful so many women have opened their minds (and hearts) to the BDSM world via 50 Shades. However, I agree with Nursemc's comment...  there are SO MANY better written and oh so delicious 'Who's the Boss' stories out there (i.e. Roni Loren's Crash Into You or Sasha White's Wicked). I'm hoping 50 Shades doesn't turn women off to reading erotica!

The good news is 50 Shades has provided a much needed dialogue around women's sexual desires... from the woman's point of view. In my work, I see it every day ... so much shame around sex... and not willing to speak about what turns a woman on... and that's if she isn't too exhausted to talk about what can often be seen as "one more chore." We're bombarded with men's sexual desires and the pills they can take, but look at the uproar over a woman wishing to surrender in the bedroom.

Thanks for keeping the conversation going!




nonmember avatar MC

"Porn with a plot." That's a phrase you don' hear every day.

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