With the premiere of Fifty Shades the movie widely anticipated this Valentine's Day, I think it's important to look at what heterosexual men can learn about what women are seeking in the fantasy that is Christian Grey. I would say that for 99% of my clients and those of my colleagues, their male heterosexual partnered/married clients did not read Fifty Shades of Grey. Even when their wives and girlfriends became more turned on and initiated more frequently they didn't read the book. While I could surmise that one of the main reasons for avoiding the book may have been that it wasn't going to turn them on, I would add that perhaps they didn't think a fantasy story of a billionaire sweeping a virginal young woman off her feet had much to teach them about sex. However, I feel it's time men perk up and pay attention this Valentine's day to what more than 100 million readers (mostly women I'm assuming) the world over have discovered about their sexuality and what they erotically respond to in a lover.
I will start off by saying that the character of Christian Grey is one who has been traumatized early on, and has a lot to learn about healthy attachment and boundaries. I also want to reiterate that he is a fantasy character and I think women were responding to the more erotic elements of his demeanor. Lastly, this book was not meant as a how-to guide for BDSM.
With that caveat out there here are 6 things women want men to learn from Christian Grey.
1. He's extremely attentive to her moods and needs. After the first two years of most romantic relationships, couples can take one another for granted and decrease the amount of attention to what they're talking about. One of the most common complaints I hear about from women in my private therapy practice is: "He's constantly checking his phone, he'll tell me he can listen to me and check his email, Instagram, Facebook but I know he's just half-listening to me. It makes me feel like he really doesn't know what's going on with me emotionally". Christian picks up in an change in Anastasia's moods and wants to know why she's feeling a certain way. Women want to feel their inner thoughts and emotions are meaningful to their partner.
2. He's fiercely and demonstratively monogamous. While some men may have a roving eye which causes them to unconsciously and/or consciously check out other women while they're out with their girlfriend or wife, Christian only has eyes for Ana. She describes her awareness of women flirting, smiling, and coming on to Christian when they go out in public but he is polite but clear that his attentions and intentions are focused entirely on Ana.
3. He is thoughtful about his gifts. While some men might ignore this aspect of his because Christian is so unbelievably rich that his gifts include a Blackberry, a laptop and a car, I noted more that his first gift was a first edition of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Ubervilles. Ana was an English major and wrote her final paper on Hardy's work. Christian was attentive to what she was intellectually into and bought her what he knew she would appreciate. So on Valentine's Day men might listen and think about what their partners would love based on their interests not just on the price. A gift that is DIY and shows a lot of thought and planning goes a longer way than the present bought the night before at a neighborhood store.
4. He's very clear that he's attracted to her and is open about what it is exactly he finds erotic. While many men might just blurt out: "You're hot" or something that's less articulate, Christian lets her know that he loves when she bites her lip, that her sarcastic nature turns him on, etc. He tells her the specific parts of her body or mannerisms that are turn-ons for him which brings more awareness to Ana's own sexual discovery. For most couples who have been together for over a year or two they tend to forget to tell each other when they're erotically turned on by their partner and give one another the juicy details. In the 2009 NY Times article titled What Do Women Want,the sex researcher Marta Meana described women's "wish to be the object of erotic admiration and sexual need" in the article. My clients express that even though they know their partner loves them, their libido increases when they hear they are lusted after by their partner. As part of an exercise in session, I'll ask clients to think about moments in the day when they found themselves erotically attracted to their mate and then share that moment with them.
5. He is disciplined about achieving his goals. As in Twilight the book upon which Fifty Shades was based has a hero who is from a fantastically rich family, Christian is self-made and is very disciplined in following up on his goals (whether it's making business deals, funding charities, or keeping fit physically). Power is not always about how much money you have but about your work ethic and your strength to follow through. It shows focus, commitment and drive even in the face of adversity which can be very sexy. For example, a man who decides to work out more frequently and lose weight to lower his blood pressure and become more toned in the new year will be a lot more appealing to his partner if he keeps to his schedule and achieves his goal.
6. He is willing to be vulnerable. Although Christian is into being a Dom in his erotic life, he is discovering his emotional romantic life with Ana and feels open to let her know about his past. Following up on those 36 questions discussed a few weeks back in the New York Times, Christian eventually lets Ana know that he's afraid of integrating love into a sexual relationship because he was traumatized as a child. He lets her know that he's afraid of failing in a love relationship because he's never been in love before. He tells her how he was first initiated into the world of BDSM and with whom. What draws Ana to him is his vulnerability and her hope that she can teach him about love as much as he has opened up a new world of sexuality to her.