Fifty Shades of Grey

Well, a client walked into my consulting room this week with a copy under her arm. “Another one” I thought and decided that I needed to get a copy for myself. The erotic novel fifty shades of grey at the time of writing this blog has become the fastest adult paperback novel to sell one million print copies. The first time novel by E.L James dubbed “mummy porn” is currently the 32nd best selling book since records began in 1998.

Fifty Shades of Grey traces the erotic relationship between a recent college graduate and a billionaire businessman. Women I hear are reading it in hours and in some cases have read all three books in three days, amazing.

The hype has been on for weeks it is the wonder of the moment I know that I just have to join in and discover it all for my self. I consider buying a hard copy and realise that the time constraint will mean that it will take forever to read it so I opt for the audio book and download it to my iPhone and iPad.

If you have read any of my own work on Tantra, Sex, Orgasm and Meditation you will know that my work is about creating equality and mutual fulfilment between two people enjoying meaningful sex and love. The deal for me is that your body is the temple of your soul that needs to, and should, be treated with respect and love.

In Fifty Shades I got as far as the point where he was hitting her clitoris with a riding crop and decided it was time for a break. And have a think…………

It is not that long ago that women were the property of their husbands, I can remember my mother getting letters addressed to ‘Mrs George Orford’, sexist or what? Domestic violence was a civil offence and was not dealt with by criminal law. Many of the woman in my childhood had a rough time at the hands of their partners and husbands.

I watched women discover their sexual emancipation with the birth control pill and I supported many as the renegotiated their relationship with society through the ‘Women’s Liberation Movement’. Over many years I have watched women continue to take their rightful place in the workplace and in the home – then I read Fifty Shades.

The bit that I find most surprising is that the people that are raving about the book are the women. I have heard phrases like ‘it is good to read about a real man’ and I shudder. I am now aware of men buying the book for their wives and partners with an expectation of future sexual gymnastics.

I am not a prude or in anyway inhibited about sex, I think it is great and that we should all do it more, but I do have a concern about the type of sex described in the book and our apparent fascination in sadistic sex indicated by the level of sales. The thing about sex is always that what I do is normal. We all see our own behaviour as how it should be. In the consulting room I think I have become unshockable as people tell of their exploits that for them are normal and as it should be. The thing that is disturbing me about this book is women’s apparent acceptance of being sexually submissive to a dominant man through sadomasochism.

People reading this blog may be thinking ‘hey Sean, come on, it’s a bit of fun, it’s only a story’ but take away the young rich billionaire and it’s an abusive controlling man. There is an unspoken assumption in the way the book is written that because the man is successful with money he also has the right to have power over other people.

In my professional life I have dealt with enough pedophiles, rapists and people beaters to know the dark and dangerous side of dominance and submission. The line between eroticism and abuse is fine and easily stepped over. In that sense the sexual story that is played out in the book is one that, if taken up by many men would create hell for many women. The male character in the book is in need of therapy to resolve his own abused childhood.

I guess that anything that people want to do together by mutual consent is fair enough. The problems with sexual dysfunction begin when one person, in this case male, finding the pain and fear of their sexual partner erotic. And although some people, in this case a woman, may find being submissive to a dominant erotic, for many this is not the case. The need to sexually dominate a submissive person is the basis of abuse.

So, at the risk of sounding like a party pooper I am not sure that this book or the ideas that it suggests are really that helpful and may put the cause of women back a generation. I wouldn’t go as far as to say the book should be banned, as being suggested in America but for me making love will always be better than sex and tantra will always be better than S&M. The saving grace of the book is that in the end she leaves him but then the next book is ‘Fifty shades Darker” hey ho.

As I am about to embark on my second tantric sex book I would be really interested in your feedback, what is the attraction to fifty shades of grey? Add yours via my comment section below.

Make love not war, make peace not fear.

Take care

Sean x

By Sean

My name is Sean Orford. I am a therapist based in the UK, working for a variety of public and private organisations. I am also a speaker, writer and published author. I hope you enjoy my weekly blog. If you'd like to know more then please do get in touch.


  1. Here here Sean thank you for your musings!! My thoughts are:

    The main character, Christian Grey, is quite obviously deranged. This does not however, deter Ana, who for some inexplicable reason, has spent so long with her head in a book that she has never looked in a mirror and noticed that she is a “total babe”. A “total babe” who also happens to be a 21 year old virgin. No, Ana, in the space of 3 weeks, falls so crazily in love with “Mr Grey” that she manages to bypass the whole deranged thing and instead concentrates all her efforts on a) going from virgin to porn star faster than Hussain Bolt off the blocks and b) deciding whether to let him hit her with stuff. As you do.

    As for Mr Grey, obviously, readers can’t be allowed to see him as simply a deranged, manipulative psycho so let’s give him smouldering good looks, a few zillion quid to throw around and hey, and this is the clincher, the ability to love art and music (y’know, like Nazi’s do in the war films). (Note – the bit where he plays the “haunting” piano piece, semi naked, with his eyes closed actually made me laugh so much that I almost wet myself – in a non-orgasmic way. Check it out….enjoy! ). As if that wasn’t enough he also has a personal and financial interest in saving the world from famine. Just that old world peace and cancer to sort out and then hey, job’s a good `un. I mean really, how did the world ever shamble along without him? So what made this beautiful, charismatic and talented man so brutal? Could it be a traumatic childhood perhaps? Why, yes I think it could…yaaaaawn….

  2. An excellent and thought provoking review/analysis here, of a book that has took several nations by storm. Quite amazing how many women seem to have caught ‘grey’ fever, i for one have had my Facebook page bombarded by these woman who it seems are clearly not sexually satisfied in their own relationship and have turned to this cheap thrills with a hint of disturbia sex book. I for one am certainly in agreement with you Sean when you say making love will always be better than sex and tantra will always be better than S&M. If only there was a book that expressed this…oh wait!

  3. There is no such thing as an immoral book, merely badly writen, so goes the saying, but with respect to this offering this adage is tested severely. Mr Wilde would surely revise his opinion if he ever picked up a copy of Fifty Shades and conclude that it is eminantely possible for a book to both be immoral AND badly written. On a superficial level this is fifty shades of sh*te from beginning to end – trite garbage without the editorial quality control very little to recommended it unless you are into the more risque neighbourhoods of Treacletown. Yet it seems folks are, and the damn thing is selling, so here’s my review.

    In short, fabulously wealthy Seattle-based businessman Mr Grey seduces poor Southern student Ms Steele. He invites her to become number 16 in a long line of BDSM submissives. What a catch eh? He initiates her into a BDSM lifestyle, she tries to cure his troubled past with a big ol’ helping of vanilla pudding.

    The message ain’t great. Actually, it’s bloody awful. Insecure body-conscious virginal poor girl falls for controlling psychotic one-step-from Himmler quasinazi businessman who makes her get rid of her beloved classic car, manipulates her family, taps her phone, has her followed, forbids her from speaking to any male friends and ties her up every which way from Sunday, and within three weeks making HIMSELF the centre of her universe, and provokes a serious case of perforated personality in the heroine with inner voices and different personalities warring with each other. She spends most of the book in an insecure puddle of tears arguing with voices in her head. Then there’s the “No no Mr Gazillionaire, don’t shower me with expensive clothes, cars, and gadgetry! I’m not a whore! Oh go on then! Maybe just a LITTLE bit! Oh MY.” To be honest, I think possibly I would find a more realistic and definitely healthier story if I did reach for a MillsnBoon, and not just for bottom-beating purposes.

    Some of the folks writing here say the book is so bad it’s funny. I don’t think it is. It WOULD be funny if Mr Grey was the stuff of pure fiction. Ironically he is the most well developed and psychologically accurate character in the book, even though I am sure this was done unintentionally, given that he is supposed to be the hero. I feel slightly sick that the only accurate or believable thing portrayed in the book (hidden behind a lot of rubbish about helicopters, fast cars and penthouses and art/music criticism) is how a power-crazed coercive controller – an Abuser – gains psychological, financial and physical control over a vulnerable victim, making sure he controls not just her, but her family and friends as well. The mercurial Mr Grey is the stuff of nightmares, not fantasy. A Jack the Ripper, Blue Beard, Ted Bundy, Fred West type of nightmare. Ironically, Mr Grey is as real – unfortunately – as the heroine is a silly pastiche plucked from a dozen cheap 1980s romances. Out side of this genre, however, Mr Grey has bodies in the back yard and a sawzall in his pantry. And his inner art critic would quickly whip up liver-n-onions and fava beans for supper.

    Does it merit the fuss? Yes and no. I want my money back and the day of my life it took to read it. I won’t be reading the others in the trilogy, unless by some miracle a cute FBI agent appears to rescue Ms Steele from the obvious serial rapist and killer Mr Grey is, saving her from the grisly fate the fifteen bodies of Mr Grey’s former lovers lying in an unmarked grave in the forests of the Pacific NorthWest.

    This book deserves to be discussed, not because it is well or badly written, (it’s bad) nor moral or immoral (I’m plumping for the latter), but because its inexplicable commercial success raises the question: if these are our fantasies, how do we live?

  4. _____

    This review appeared recently on Amazon. I have to say the reason why I think the book is immoral is not the sex scenes but the fact that it conditions women to accept the unacceptable. I’m not surprised your clients are seeking help after reading it!

  5. Sad to say that although much of our society has moved on in terms of the view of women, I don’t believe this is the case in terms of sex. Women are still portrayed as temptresses and there to make men sin. Mary Magdelaine being a case in point… still listed as a prostitute although there is some doubt about this. When you grow up as a female you still are conditioned to believe that to be strong (except in the workplace) is threatening and when you are putting it in a sexual context it is just wrong: ‘Only certain types of women are like that!’. Until we can change this, fantasies will often be about submission … the guilt goes and it’s not the womans fault that the dirty things are happening. It is out of her control. It’s a sad fact that this gives a sense of permission to commit these acts. It would be great if we could stop this belief, but sadly it is still reinforced in society and many religions. Contentious viewpoint?

  6. I think you will find that most religions which are about human dignity will not support the idea of anyone using 50 Shades as manual for a healthy relationship.( As an aside, Magdalen is portrayed as a prostitute in popular culture but not in the Bible nor in official Church teaching). However, as usual, we are hearing plenty about the “filth” and “pornography” from religious quarters and hardly anything about the fact this is a story about abuse the abuse of women and is a metaphor for the abuse of children. I find it especially disturbing the way a child-like character being groomed by a sexual predator is held up for our entertainment. I did go on to read the rest of the books in the trilogy and as predicted found that the stages of grooming are followed. I’ve analysed this in my recent blog article if anyone is interested. ) if anyone is interested.

    I think Sean will be particularly horrified that, in the second book, Ana Steele is encouraged by Christian Grey’s psychotherapist to continue in the relationship because she is “fixing” Mr Grey’s pathological personality. Victims of coercive control frequently believe that they can “fix” their abuser, and this misplaced romantic ideal is one of the reasons why the average domestic violence victim returns to her abuser 8 times before she finally leaves for good. Quite a few don’t survive that long. Romance ain’t dead; but it just might kill ya!

  7. I’m afraid to say I fell in to the catagory of reading the trilogy in 10 days becoming completely enveloped by the whole story . Your opinion , however, brought me swiftly back to reality.

  8. Normally I don’t get involved in online debates, but I have had just about enough of all the negativity of the Grey trilogy. Firstly Sean, I have read your book on trantra, sex, orgasim and meditation, and read it in the intention in which it was written – to begin to expand my self development and begin to grow sexually and sensually. How about we try reading the Grey trilogy in the way it was intended – as a fantasy to escape from the humdrum of the daily grind. I don’t know about all of you, but I am a woman who has to work to pay the bills, and sometimes it does get a bit dull and repetitive. Sometimes a bit of fantasy is called for. As the book was, I believe, intended. Remember also, that fantasy can remain just that – fantasy! Just because it turns me on to read about it, doesn’t mean I would want anyof it to happen to me in reality.

    Or would I? If you read the book without being so scandalized (although trantra is about letting go of the self to join with the other and the universe, to experience unconditional love… So how about we let go of all these preconceived ideas about submission being wrong), you might be able to see something else about the story… Which is three books long, and in which the characters change and grow.

    The story for me, is about liberation of self. Anna is very repressed sexually. By ‘being forced’ to submit to Grey, she is able to give up control of her ego/self for long enough to begin to enjoy her body. In learning this, she becomes empowered enough to move them through to the next stage of their relationship.

    In today’s society, where women are ‘encouraged’ to be the strong ones and have a career and a family, to do this and do that, to keep up with the jones’s, to be everyone’s everything, where being able to take time out of the day for ones self is frowned upon because everyone else ‘needs’ something from them, is it any wonder we want to escape somewhere someone will just let us rest and be sexual beings??

    That’s my vent and my opinion. I look forward to your next book Sean 🙂


    1. Hi thank you for your eloquent response that I accept and appreciate whole heartedly. When I posted the blog your type of response is the very thing I was seeking to gain, an understanding of, what is the attraction for women.

      My main issue with Shades of Grey is with the male response to the apparent approval of the collective female consciousness in the massive female purchasing and engrandising of the book.

      I have worked a lot with male perpetrators of abuse and one of the things that bothers me is the idea that can be assumed by the collective female response to the book that the behaviours described are both normal and acceptable. If they are between two responsible adults who buy into, accept and enjoy them that is ok, my concern is with those that do not.

      My first encounter with the book was when women were coming into the consulting room and talking about it or even with a copy of the book under their arm. At that time I was working with a couple whose relationship was coming to a close beacuase of his bruising bedroom habits, not dissimilar to those in the book. He had bought his wife a copy of the book, demanding that she should read it as it showed that his demands were normal and that she should comply with them. It was this that got me thinking about the affect that the book could be having on the attitude of men to woman and of women about themselves.

      I hear that the conclusion of the trilogy is that the damaged soul that is Grey is restored to a balanced self. That point is only understood by those that read all three volumes. The first book can leave some people with the assumption that the behaviour is ok. Accepting that she did leave him at the end of he book. Though this point was not understood by my clients husband.

      As you have read my first Tantra book you will know my take on sexuality in the equality, at all levels of those involved. So my take is to acknowledge the power of fifty shades and the female erotic fascination with it, at the same time feeling a concern for the potential victims of dominating partners who may suffer from a developing attitude that this is ok.

      Thanks for your comments

      Take care

      Sean x

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *