Why Anastasia Steele Is A Great Role Model

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12:  Dakota Johnson attends the UK Premiere of 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' at Odeon Leicester Square on
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 12: Dakota Johnson attends the UK Premiere of 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' at Odeon Leicester Square on February 12, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/WireImage)

I am not a film critic, not by any stretch of the imagination. Nor am I an expert on BDSM. Although after seeing Fifty Shades of Grey, I kinda want to be...

And I haven't read the book, so any comparisons, for better or worse, are lost on me. Sorry, but any book review that starts with "The writing was awful but..." not only turns me off, it pisses me off. We writers work WAY too hard to get published.

True, it wasn't the greatest movie I've ever seen -- no Oscar buzz for this one, I'm afraid. But honestly, you could say that about most beloved movies. I don't remember Wedding Crashers threatening an Academy Awards appearance, but I love that movie. "Make me a bicycle, clown!" Still makes me laugh. Every time.

And whether you liked the sex scenes or felt cheated by the build up, it's gotten people talking and thinking about sex in unconventional ways. Which, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing. Anything that happens between two consenting adults is between those two adults. We need more sex, love and passion in the world -- and less judgment about it.

Truthfully, I thought the story was intriguing and the sex scenes were hot. I only wish I'd seen it with a date instead of the room full of giddy, slightly tipsy middle-aged women who rented out the theater for a private showing. That seemed a bit counterintuitive to me, knowing as I did only the film's subject matter.

"When should I show up?" joked a single guy I know.

"If you're smart, you and about 50 of your friends should be there when it's over," I suggested.

But what I loved the most about the movie was Dakota Johnson's Anastasia. She kicked ass.

She may have been the "sub" to Christian's "dom," but there was no doubt that Anastasia (Ana) was running the show from the moment Christian set eyes on her.

Even though her mutual attraction to him was apparent, she didn't turn into a weak, sit-by-the-phone-and-hope-he-calls kind of girl. She lived her life and let him pursue her, which is so rare in today's Hollywood movies and "Bachelor"-chasing reality television.

Public service announcement: Please stop watching that drivel. A house full of women competing for one man's attention has seriously set us back to the Victorian age. It's embarrassing. Find a better guilty pleasure.

As young and innocent as Ana was, she also had some pretty healthy boundaries:

She owned her feelings and her body.

She never allowed anything that made her feel 'less than.'

She made him earn her -- on her terms.

And, the moment she felt mistreated, she walked away.


As far as I'm concerned, we need more role models like Ana for our daughters and nieces to emulate. And fewer damsels in distress.

As a single woman who writes about dating and sex, I talk to a lot of men about their thoughts and methods of dating. And as different as they all are (young, divorced, widowed), they all have one thing in common: They are all totally confused about what women want.

"I'd love to take you out sometime," said Ken, a romantic and handsome widower I recently met. "So... why don't you think about it and get back to me, let me know when you're free..." he asked.

I sighed, and was immediately turned off.

"Please don't do that," I said. "I know you know better. If you want to see me, pick a day and ask me out. If I'm busy or not interested, I'll let you know. But don't put that ball in my court."

"Thank you, so much!" his response surprised me. "I've been trying to adjust to today's dating game, and I never know what to do," he admitted.

How sad is that? Here is a perfect gentleman, who is quite the catch for the right woman, and he is doubting himself as a man because of the mixed messages in today's media and society.

As disappointed as I was, I wasn't surprised. I fell in love with the now-defunct Showtime series "Sleeper Cell" last year, and have slowly been rationing the last few DVDs. Michael Ealy is seriously one of the most underrated actors out there. But I was kinda shocked by the two female love interests in the first season. Both made all of the first moves, and coerced their soon-to-be boyfriends into sex and a relationship. Which really made me think: Is it possible that Hollywood has ruined dating? Think about it for a second. If every modern movie and TV show out there shows aggressive women taking all the risks and boldly doing the asking out, my smiling at a guy I find attractive across the bar will no longer be enough. Unless I approach him, stuff my number in his crotch and suggest a night he'll never forget, he doesn't think I'm interested. And that's really sad. Because I am.

Most of my single girlfriends feel the same as I do: They want to be pursued. Not that we CAN'T be in charge; we just don't want to be. We do it all day long, with our careers and kids. We want, we NEED, to be "the girl" in our romantic life. And yes, some of us (the strongest of us, probably) love the idea of being dominated. Not hurt, but taken by someone we desire.

The sexual revolution wasn't intended to reverse the roles men and women play, or to make women be more like men. It was intended to give us more options. To allow us to work, stay home, and have sex if and when we want to.

"This is the emotional journey of someone who doesn't seem as strong as she becomes."
~ "Fifty Shades of Grey" Director, Sam Taylor Johnson
Time Magazine "The Grey Area"

It takes a truly strong woman to let go, on her terms. And that's exactly what Anastasia does. But regardless of their contract (which she edits and never signs), Ana is still the one in control. And not just in the 'stripper in a club' way. When she's bothered that Christian won't sleep in the same bed with her, she questions it. When he texts her that he is on his way to meet a woman from his past, she pulls back and doesn't answer his phone call. Yes, it's still Hollywood, and a bit unrealistic that a guy would fly his private helicopter to find out why you didn't answer the phone. But I loved it. And I definitely didn't find it stalkerish. The point was made: she was in control.

Once she knew what she was dealing with, she seemed to have no problem letting Christian know what her boundaries were, and what she wanted in return: love and romance. Quite frankly, they seemed to have better communication than I had in my last relationship.

And I totally disagree with the suggestions that the film glorifies rape. She never says no. In fact, I thought the screenwriter, Kelly Marcel, did an excellent job making it clear that Christian respected Ana's comfort zone and boundaries.

Up until she ASKS him to show her how bad it gets, the way he "hits" her seemed erotic, not violent. Once it crosses that line, she leaves. And she's sober the entire time with Christian, unlike much of today's college coeds who leave themselves way too vulnerable for my comfort zone. Again - totally healthy behavior.

As Richard Brody writes in The New Yorker, Fifty Shades of Grey "isn't a joke, and it isn't complete junk. The movie is far from a masterwork, but the glossy fantasies of Fifty Shades deliver something altogether significant, substantial, and welcome."

Yeah - a strong, self-respecting woman who isn't afraid to use her power to find love, ask for what she wants, and walk away when it goes wrong. Long live Anastasia.