Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review Essay Example

Fifty Shades of Grey is an interesting and yet controversial book that presents the case of human sexuality in a way that most consider as shocking. Depending on how open-minded one is, this book can be either enlightening or rather too revealing. It is about a young woman who falls in love with a rather ‘different’ man who seems to have issues with his sexuality. The book narrates a number of scenes in which the two lovebirds are at conflict with the concept of gender roles in the realm of sex and relationships. As a work of fiction, the book allows numerous considerations with respect to what people want or at least what they think they want as far as their sex lives are concerned. There may be a number of books that present an insight into the sexuality debate, but none of them can claim to be as thorough as Fifty Shades of Grey in the way it covers the subject as its secondary theme. Initially, with all the negative reviews that the book was getting, it could have been presumed that the book is all about sex. However, after reading the book, I realized there is more there than just sex.

The author may have subconsciously decided to address the subject of sexuality and gender roles, along with power and its manifestations in one’s life. I had previously considered significance of one’s sexuality as a channel that revealed one’s personality, but I have also learnt from this book that there is a very limited scope for determinism in one’s sexuality. Christian Grey may have been ‘damaged’ as a teenager, but he ends up ‘loosening up’ a bit when he falls in love with Anastasia Steele. The significance of this is that sexuality is influenced in its formation and redefinition in one’s personality. In this paper, I have discussed how various chapters in the textbook correlate with facts and ideas from the book Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Most Relevant Connection between the Book That I Chose and Our Course

Learning about human sexuality is all about developing an understanding of how the concept of sexuality works. This entails examining human needs, thoughts, values, fantasies, desires, and responses within sexual contexts and with relevance to their life as a whole. It is all about understanding influences and consequences of sexuality from a physical, biological, and psychological context (Yarber, Sayad, & Strong, 2012). The key factor here rests with uniqueness that each individual is considered to possess. As such, human sexuality as a course creates awareness of one’s individuality when it comes to understanding and acknowledging sexuality. In the book, Giddens and Sutton (2013) present a case of two people who were introduced to a new kind of sexuality with one having the strength to question it, while the other seems to have been willing to embrace it fully. The primary theme in this book is power or will.

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Christian Grey becomes engrossed in his BDSM lifestyle after being introduced to it by an older woman and at a younger age. He then introduces Anastasia Steele who at the time is much older than he had been when he was introduced. There are two ways of looking at this story. One may see Christian Grey as an abusive lover who uses his position of power and feelings that young Anastasia has for him to twist her and misuse her as a woman. The pain and pleasure combination that he is attracted to is not in any way acceptable from this viewpoint and can thus be construed as abusive and debasing for the woman in the picture. Another way of looking at this is as a context between two consenting adults. Anastasia Steele knows what she wants in a man and she is ready to get it except that it is not nearly half as painful as Christian is offering her. Throughout the story, there is an underlying battle of the sexes and those who believe in the inequality that is affirmative action will expect Anastasia to be the one conceding and fully embracing the BDSM lifestyle in order to be with Christian Grey. The truth is however not so simple. Women in this case are presented as stronger and more willful (Yarber et al., 2012). The author here allows a comparison between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele with regards to their response to BDSM. Whatever reasons the Christian Grey may have had for adapting to the lifestyle and only changing his role from a submissive to a dominant, Anastasia does not seem to have similar intentions. She tries to be his submissive, but in the end she bails out and leaves him despite how much she thinks she loves him. This relationship in its entirety is about power and that Christian Grey holds all the aces from the start may not really mean that he is the only one with the strong will.

After reading Fifty Shades of Grey, one may realize that sexuality and power are very much connected. This course is all about taking control of your sexuality, being able to determine what you want and what makes you uncomfortable, and understanding what a healthy relationship is all about. For most people, knowing what they want is perhaps the hardest part of being in a relationship. This book has helped me understand that while there may be room for making mistakes and learning from experience, knowing what you want implies that in the end you will make the right choice. In Fifty Shades of Grey, Anastasia Steele is able to make the right choice and leave when she feels uncomfortable.

The Next Most Relevant Connection between the Book That I Chose and Our Course

Contrary to a popular belief, gender roles and gender equality are secondary themes in this book. The author does not really dwell on gender roles and gender equality as much as she does on power and sexuality. This means that the reader is expected to understand that gender and equality are a part of their sexuality, but they are not really as significant as individuality and their ability to make their own choices. This is what makes gender equality and gender roles secondary themes in Fifty Shades of Grey. Gender roles are basically expectations placed on people by the society based on their gender or more specifically their sex. In most cases, women are expected to be nurturing, generally tender, and caring, while men are domineering and basically in control at all times (Yarber et al., 2012). The basic perception with the increasing cultural shift and consuming feminist mindset is that women can also be domineering and in control and that they actually enjoy this more than being submissive. This is however a rather misguided perception that is fully embedded in limited ideologies of ‘feminism’ that is devoid of femininity. Within Human Sexuality as a course, there is an emphasis on the need to embrace individuality over feminism and in her own rather ‘sick’ way E. L. James is able to bring this forth in a satirical way.

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Most people would argue that Fifty Shades of Grey is just a book about sex or power as I would put it. However, the kind of debate that this book starts in the readers’ mind or even that it did in the media soon after its release states otherwise. The big question here is whether under ordinary circumstances Anastasia Steele would have even contemplated getting into the relationship knowing that there were so many rules and so many dangers all in the name of Christian Grey’s sexual gratification. The ideal argument here would be that agreeing to submit to his perversions, she was actually taking control of her own sexuality. She found his demands rather outrageous, but she was willing to try them out and see if she actually enjoyed herself in the process. The preset concept of gender roles here would limit the young woman from even attempting to engage in Christian Grey’s lifestyle. She would be very restricted in her role as a woman and anything that seemingly went beyond the societal definition of a norm would strike her as unfathomable. Here, however, she is past these restrictions and, thus, she is able to try out new and ‘unthinkable’ things in search of her own sexual freedom. This book is not really about who gives in to whom, but rather who is able to understand their sexuality and thus take control of it. Anastasia Steele is portrayed as a strong woman with full understanding of her body and her needs and this explains why she ends up leaving an otherwise perfect ‘gentleman’ when she feels exceedingly violated.

There is also some relevance to gender equality when learning about human sexuality. The top debate when looking at the themes in the Fifty Shades of Grey book includes superiority that Christian Grey seems to have over Anastasia Steele. It may be appreciated that right from the start the young woman is seemingly under his spell and, thus, he holds some unfair advantage over her. In the course of the book, however, it becomes clear that Anastasia Steele is also fully aware of her own needs and is thus trying to negotiate her spot in the relationship. She is able to cross so many of Christian Grey’s ‘lines’ in terms of making him do things that she wants instead of consistently ‘aiming to please’ him.

Here, I learn that sexuality is mainly about what I am comfortable about as an individual. Both people in this story were trying to accommodate each other’s needs, while also being honest about what they wanted. Christian Grey, with all his twisted ideas on sex and satisfaction, was only able to ask for that kind of relationship because he felt confident in his position as a man. It is not because he felt like he deserved it, but rather because he was comfortable enough to ask that Anastasia was willing to try with him. Gender equality within this book and thence within the course on human sexuality is thus a concept that requires either party to be confident in their stating needs and asking to be sated provided they do not endanger one’s life (Yarber et al., 2012). It can be noted that Christian was at all times careful not to put Ana’s life at risk, physically or otherwise, as was Ana in terms of Christian’s feelings. The mutual concern that these two had for each other is a justifying leverage for their experiments in the relationship.

The Science behind the Primary Themes in the Book That I Chose

Sociology by Anthony Giddens and Philip Sutton presents the connection between sexuality and power very vividly. The authors here argue that, as a social construct, gender often affects one’s perception of their sexuality (Giddens & Sutton, 2013). Most women are thus mould to become passive and rather submissive in the context of their sexuality, not to ask questions or examine their own needs and desires, but rather to do what they are ‘needed’ to do by their partners. In a patriarchal society, this is largely acceptable as a norm and it can be expected that feminists of this world would come up in arms if this expectation is to be spoken aloud. The greatest problem with feminism is the reductionist basis with which it approaches such sensitive matters (Giddens & Sutton, 2013). If one looks at the women’s submissiveness from a modern day perspective with the media reviews on how many women read this text and actually enjoyed it, one may notice that the concept of letting the man take charge is rather pleasing to modern day women. The only appealing and rather erotic factor in this book is the way Christian Grey commits himself and is willing to take care of Anastasia Steele for as long as she is ‘his’. Power here has two definitions. Christian Grey is powerful because, as the dominant in the BDSM context, he holds all the aces and thus controls the direction of the relationship.

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Anastasia Steele is however also powerful here because she is able to break the rules every now and then to get Christian Grey to go out of his way, do things that he never considered himself capable of doing, and to generally love her enough to want to change his intensity as a masochist of some sort. The authors of this study argue about sexuality and power from the viewpoint of feminism and their many disparities in terms of how they perceive sex (Giddens & Sutton, 2013). Feminists mostly focus on the exclusion of women from positions of wealth and power, but they fail to recognize that a woman’s sexuality could also be a point of exclusion. When people were busy criticizing E. L. James for writing a book in which a woman submits to a man, real feminists should have been busy lauding her for breaking the stereotype idea and allowing the woman to just let go and be loved. The truth here is that while the man feels powerful when he is in control, the woman is likely to feel more powerful when she lets go of that control and is able to trust someone else to take the lead. This is probably because of the feminist waves that got women so bent on taking the reins that they forgot how to actually sit back and relax.

Social Psychology and Human Sexuality: Essential Readings by Roy F. Baumeister argues that the need for a man to feel more powerful than a woman may drive them to get physically violent during a sexual intercourse (Baumeister, 2001). This means that they find their sexuality to be a tool with which they can validate their position as men in a society that may have otherwise ripped them off other masculinity. It may be appreciated that men who use physical force in sexual relations are usually deprived in one way or another. Either they were abused as children or they watched someone that they loved being abused, or they are simply living with some form of deficiency or inadequacy (Baumeister, 2001). In this book, I have learnt that circumstances that one is exposed to at a young age may have an impact on sexuality, but if one intends to change, one will find a reason to do so.

Christian Grey is in this story able to let go of some of his demands on Anastasia Steele because he considers her as a reason to change, albeit gradually. The fact that he is only able to feel powerful and in control when she is his submissive implies that he at some point had no control over his life. It can also be noted that perhaps the sub/dom situation is therapeutic as a channel for him to release his control issues as opposed to being violent in his interactions with physically or psychologically weaker people. The holding argument here is that one’s sexuality is a great channel for their power needs in terms of their personality. For Anastasia, the power was in trusting Christian despite her trust issues, while for Grey being Ana’s ‘dom’ was enough to keep him sane.

Conclusion and My Thoughts and Feelings about the Book

When I first read about Fifty Shades of Grey, I imagined that the book was simply a twisted shocker that was not only boring, but also too graphic for anyone’s liking. With some knowledge in sex education, however, I was able to read the book and actually enjoy it. The writing, as often stated in reviews, is rather amateur, but the content is simply enlightening. At first, I was unsure about Anastasia Steele as the protagonist since she seemed so engrossed in the Christian Grey’s world. Nevertheless, as she got to know him and started questioning his actions and desires, she suddenly became very interesting. Initially, I would have considered her a cliché for falling in love with a rich and powerful man at the first sight. With my understanding of sexuality and its manifestations of one’s personality, I think I can forgive this young woman for wanting what she wanted and respect her for her efforts in trying to remain on the right path. In the end, she leaves the relationship, being hurt, but not broken, considering that she does not end up becoming like Christian Grey. With my understanding of human sexuality, I was also able to read the book and find that it was more about power and gender roles than it was about sex. While the author uses the characters’ sexuality to explore these themes, she is simply trying to express the concept of ‘Fifty Shades of Fucked Up’ as used to describe Christian Grey in the book.

Having read the book and studied this course, I believe that all the choices that an individual makes with regards to their sexuality are their own. Determinists may argue against this by stating that Christian Grey was a BDSM enthusiast because of his exposure to the lifestyle at a young age. It can however be noted that, despite numerous years of experience and practice, he is willing and able to let go of all the factors in his lifestyle that make his woman uncomfortable. While he is seen trying to get her to appreciate these pleasures as he does, he is also very sensitive to her situation as a ‘norm’ who is not likely to enjoy processes that take place in the ‘Red Room of Pain’. This book has gotten me thinking of feminism in a new light. Rather than focusing on what women are restricted from doing and experiencing within their respective societies, it may be beneficial to consider things that women are actually allowed or even expected to do and, yet, they do not. In this case, I believe Anastasia Steele was expected to refuse Christian Grey’s proposal of the BDSM situation and the fact that she actually allows herself to try it out, if anything to satisfy her own curiosity, is a triumph. Unlike ‘feminists’ out there who contend that the book is demeaning and that it teaches women that being submissive is the right thing to do within a sexual relationship, I believe that this book teaches women to make their own mistakes and learn from them. To me, this is what power is all about: finding what you are comfortable with and embracing it, while discarding whatever you do not enjoy. After all, sexuality is all about personal needs, wants, and expectations with some consideration for the other party as well.