09/12/2012 08:01 EDT | Updated 11/12/2012 05:12 EST

What Men Can Learn From 50 Shades of Grey


There's been a steady parade of disgruntled men marching through my office lately, all hating on Christian Grey, the sexy but screwed up leading man in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. "I'm not him," they complain. "He's filthy rich and powerful. He has a perfect body and he's great in bed. He's exciting. How can my wife expect me to compete with a total fantasy man?"

This widespread resentment toward Christian Grey -- kink version of the Alpha male -- has sparked a furor among men. Some men admit to feeling inadequate when held against his looks, physique, money, sex appeal and lip-biting talents. Other men get downright mean. Instead of wondering what is drawing women to this series in droves, they insult its female readership -- their middle-age, appearance, weight, intelligence and so on -- to the point of misogyny. Hence the marginalizing term "mommy porn" and the nasty comments about women on 50 Shades online message boards.

But men are missing the point. It isn't Mr. Grey's bank account or bondage gear that makes him Mr. Right. The real reason women lust after him is because he makes them feel lusted after. In the books, he desires Ana -- the female lead -- to a degree that not enough women in the real world have ever enjoyed. When she walks in the room, he is mesmerized by her. Other women fade away. To him, she is loveliest, sexiest, most bewitching women he has ever seen and he will do absolutely anything to make her happy. Spanking is beside the point.

So when a man comes in my office and laments the 50 Shades series as total fantasy, I agree. I also give him a dose of reality from his wife's perspective. In the real world, everything from billboards to beer commercials tells her that she's too old, too fat, too ugly, too unsexy. The 50 Shades series offers a much-needed respite.

It also turns the tables because, while women are accustomed to being compared to thinner, prettier, "barely legal" fantasy women, men are less accustomed to the experience of being so blatantly compared to younger, hotter, richer fantasy men like Christian Grey, Magic Mike and the entire cast of 300. Hence, the nasty message boards. Come on, boys. If you're going to dish it out, at least be a good sport when you have to take it.

Of course, it's as cruel for a wife to compare her blue-collar, middle-aged, overweight and overworked husband to Christian Grey as it is for a husband to compare his 40-something, chubby, exhausted wife and mother-of-three to a co-ed cheerleader. Most couples aren't this deliberately awful to each other. The entertainment and advertising worlds are that awful, though. In fact, they thrive on such awfulness. Which begs the question: How do you, as a husband, make your wife feel like the most beautiful woman in the world?

Christian Grey, for all his whips and dirty talk, does that for many women. Instead of hating him, try learning from him. It's like that '80's Pantene commercial -- don't hate me because I'm beautiful, just use my shampoo! Men don't need a private jet, six-pack abs or handcuffs to steal Grey's thunder. All they need is a desire to make their woman feel desired. Here are some do's and don'ts:

Do put your wife or girlfriend on a pedestal by complimenting her appearance and abilities. Do prioritize her pleasure in bed by learning a few new skills. If you want to surprise her with a few Christian-esque moves, check out my book 50 Ways to Play: BDSM for Nice People. Do look and smell your best for her, by dressing nicely and wearing cologne. Do act like you're lucky to be with her, not the other way around, and sweep her off her feet every now and then. Remember romance? Chivalry? Do resurrect them. Put on a tie and take her to dinner. Do man up.

Do not text your female co-worker during dinner, just for a thrill or to feel like you've still got it. Do not chat up the hostess. Do not stare at the waitress's butt as she walks away. Do not scroll through Maxim Hot 100 on your iPhone while you're waiting for your meal. If you think I'm making these kinds of things up, you need to job shadow me for a week. These cases may be extreme, but they're not uncommon. It is no small wonder that female infidelity rates continue to rise as women look outside their marriages to feel loved and lusted after.

The hoopla around the 50 Shades series thus presents an opportunity for loving couples to cut through the pop-culture bullshit, and to think about how they are shielding each other from the "You're Not Good Enough" message that both sexes now hear, loud and clear. Husbands should ask themselves, "How am I building my wife up, when the rest of the world seems hell bent on tearing her down? How can I make her feel better about herself, me and our marriage? How can I make her feel sexy, adored and attractive, even when she's packing a load of laundry up the stairs or cleaning the kids' vomit off the floor?"

If you can ask and answer these questions in your marriage, you might be surprised to find your wife's copy of 50 Shades of Grey lying in ashes in the fireplace. Who needs a fantasy man when you've got the real thing? It's also likely that your efforts will be reciprocated and that she will treat you to a much-needed ego boost, both inside and outside the bedroom. After all, women have a knack of returning a favor in the most wonderful of ways.