While the erotic trilogy 50 Shades of Grey continues to make modern headlines, the sexual theme of these books is anything but new. BDSM -- bondage, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism -- have been kinky sexual practices since the Kama Sutra hit ancient shelves over two thousand years ago.
The world's first sex manual, the Kama Sutra encouraged its readers to enjoy all manner of high-sensory sex, including biting, scratching, rough-and-tumble sex, and even erotic mind-games to keep a lover guessing and coming back for more. It also played with aspects of domination and submission, a delicious erotic theme that 50 Shades female readers have lapped up like thirsty sex kittens.
And who can blame them? Modern sex books, magazines, advertisements, movies and more are often presented with an unequal focus on male pleasure. It's nice -- if not novel -- for women to feel that their pleasure is front and center. If the line-ups for the 50 Shades trilogy and Magic Mike movie tell us anything, it is that women have felt sidelined when it comes to sexual stimulation, but they're fantastic sports when thrown the ball.
As a couples' mediator and intimacy author-expert, I've seen countless women in my practice who complain about a lack of sexual stimulation. That means they find it difficult to become both mentally and physically aroused enough to initiate sex with a partner or to respond in kind to his sexual advances.
These women are the same demographic as 50 Shades readers -- 30 to 50 years old, married or in a long-term relationship with children still living at home, and struggling to balance career, kids, housework, partner, bills and so on. They are in love with their partner but no longer drawn to him in an erotic way, leaving scores of men feeling rejected, frustrated and unloved, and chipping away at otherwise solid marriages and families.
There has been a lot of talk about why women love the 50 Shades series. It's liberating, allows women to explore their sexuality, fulfills a desire to be served, has captivating characters and so on. My take is that women find this trilogy to be pure erotic escapism that helps them forget about their work problems, money worries, body image issues, kids' soccer schedule and the sink of dirty dishes, and instead focus on how fun sexual thoughts and feelings can be. Not only does this stir something long forgotten in many women, it can recharge a couple's sex life.
Since the publication of the 50 Shades trilogy, sex shops have enjoyed better sales, as has written erotica in general, although some books that have followed in the wake of this trilogy have merely tried to out-shock and out-smut their predecessor, a purposeless trend that was bound to happen.
When Penguin Books asked me to write a book for this demographic -- 50 Ways to Play: BDSM for Nice People -- I envisioned the parade of sexually apathetic women who regularly march through my office. I wrote for them and their husbands, striking a balance between mental arousal and physical arousal, the two essential components of lasting sexual attraction between partners. It's smut with soul, the best of both worlds.
According to a recent survey in the UK's Daily Mail, almost 80 per cent of women and 90 per cent of men were excited by the domination and submission theme of the 50 Shades trilogy. Why? Well, if you've been having sex with the same person, in the same place and positions for years, it is incredibly exciting to have that person behave in a way that is unfamiliar and unexpected.
That newness, combined with erotic impact of sexual power-plays, brings a tantalizingly taboo element to sex. I have that old Eurythmics tune in my head: "Some of them want to use you, Some of them want to get used by you." It is that type of eroticism that I exploited in 50 Ways to Play, while simultaneously including "how to" instructions and ideas to get the BDSM ball rolling. Most couples need practical tips to help a kinky sexual experience live up to their expectations.
As for the sexual expectations that women have, I hope they continue to increase and that popular culture keeps up, albeit with a better balance between the mental and physical aspects of sexuality. It isn't just good for book and movie sales, it's good for marriages, too. Sexual disconnection is a leading cause of divorce, so anything that keeps Mommy and Daddy in bed is a good thing -- even if they're tied to the bed-posts.