Audrey Ignatoff
Why Fifty Shades of Grey became a cultural phenomenon
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By Audrey Ignatoff
May 4, 2015

I have finally read the first book of Fifty Shades of Grey. It was number one on the New York Times bestseller list. The question that comes to my mind is, "Why has this book become such a cultural phenomenon? "

It seems that women want to meet a real man who has a take charge attitude. However, many men are afraid of being rejected, and of being accused of "stalking" if they appear too aggressive. At the same time, women were taught to hold back, not to be too eager to accept an invitation, and not to show definite signs that they are interested in a man. Thus, we have so many men who are confused about how to approach a woman, and how to treat her after that. We have created a neutrality of the sexes, and thus, woman have to fantasize about what a "real man" is like, even if he isn't perfect. Ironically, the most important thing to a woman is the fact that a man is capable of pursuing her, of which many man can't or won't.

When a man pursues a woman, he becomes attractive whether he is handsome like Christian Grey, or is older and balding if he has other attributes such as kindness and intelligence. Women are turned on by aggressive men who know what they want, yet say that they want equality in a relationship. However, for the most part, men aren't turned on by women hunting them down.

The pursuit of a man makes a woman feel special, even like a goddess. A woman will often overlook a man's faults for this feeling. After all, she feels that if he is so taken with her, she can change what she doesn't like about him. He can learn to dress better, be kinder, more generous, etc. However after all of these changes, the man is no longer the same, and the woman may no longer be taken with him. Thus, men have to learn how to be strong about their convictions in order to keep the woman that he has attracted in the first place, although some changes might be beneficial to both.

Women want men who are smitten with them because this gives them power over the man. The man's attraction causes the woman to be attracted to him. It is ironic but true because the woman feeds off this attraction in order To feel beautiful, alive, and important. Thus a woman so pursued often has a special glow of confidence and happiness. She will try to be her best in order to keep that feeling going. The fashion and beauty industry attest to this heavily. A woman wants a man to be struck by her like a train coming down the tracks; she wants him to be blown away by her at first sight. If this happens, she is often so taken, the man will have an unwavering power over her equal to her power over him. Often, these types of relationships can't be explained rationally, and are probably the result of chemistry between two people. They are usually not produced by computer match-ups or a dramatic makeover.

Fifty Shades of Grey indulges this fantasy of many women. Obviously, they want a man to be swept away with them and the results that follow. Until then, they can have it in some form with the main character in this book. Although, Christian Grey is not perfect, he is

totally taken with Anna, and immediately begins to pursue her. Their meeting was existential because Anna had to fill in to interview Grey as her roommate, Kate, was taken ill. She was tempted to overlook the fact that he had deep emotional problems and was into sadomasochism.

Don't we all hope that we will meet our Prince Charming simply by going about our daily chores? Perhaps he will be at work or a chance meeting. Women are tired of computer dating, blind dates, and the bar scene. Wouldn't it be nice if an electric current occurred between you and a man at his initiation and invitation?

Surely, this would be nirvana for many women. But, sometimes the cost is too much, and some men must be rejected no matter how charming they may be, and how flattering their attention is. Certainly, someone who wants complete control should be discarded immediately, as should a man who is already committed to someone else. There is no winning in either of these situations. However, the attraction to such a man can become an addiction that is hard to break.

Reading about Mr. Grey is much safer than actually meeting someone who would have such power over you, so it both fulfills this fantasy and basic female need without stepping into a minefield of possibilities. It provides a cheap thrill for a low price, compared to what might happen in a real life situation. Often what we crave can hurt us most. Women don't want the pain, but only the pleasure. In life, this can only be found in books. For instance, even if a man that is taken with you has no drastic faults, he may cool down over time, which would be a real let down to your ego and really hurt emotionally.

Once we have that feeling of pure adulation, we don't want to ever let it go. At the end of book one, Anna decided to leave Christian because he was too abusive and controlling, but her grief was still unbearable as she was also giving up his unconditional devotion to her. The fact that he was powerful, wealthy, extremely handsome, and sexy didn't make it any easier!

© Audrey Ignatoff

 

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Audrey Ignatoff

Audrey Ignatoff is the president of Senior Arts and Systems, a consulting company in health care and geriatrics... (more)

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