Appeal of Masochism in Fifty Shades of Grey

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
Jul 23, 2012

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Appeal of Masochism in Fifty Shades of Grey

The erotic theme in the celebrated novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, has a very sadistic narrative. It has nonetheless, a very powerful appeal. It is about the relationship between a college graduate Anastasia Steele, and Christian Grey, a successful young businessman. Despite the portrayal of BDSM, (i.e. bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) form of sex, readers can’t help but admit the irresistible appeal of the plot.

What attracts women to masochistic sex?


Although most people are discussing the erotic scenes depicted in the novel, a deep psychological question is missed. The most important question missed by most people is the motivations behind Ana’s actions. What is about the character of Grey that draws Ana close to him? This happens despite his candid confession about looking to have BSDM. Is Ana’s behaviour pathological or shall we consider her actions of little consequence, labelling it to be casual role playing?

Ana’s attraction to Grey can be studied on the basis of whether it can be classed as mental disorder or not. Sexual masochism is defined as behaviour which meets the following two criteria:

  1. Intense sexual desire which involves acts that cause suffering.
  2. Because of the first criterion, a person has to suffer a lot of distress, from impaired occupational functioning to social problems.

If we examine the character of Ana, the first of these criteria is fulfilled. If she happens to have a problem in her social, occupational, physical, and other identifiable areas, such as significant distress, her behaviour can be termed a disorder.

We find that Ana finds herself in a whirlpool of negative emotions, such as shame, anxiety, desire, and guilty pleasure. But these behaviours cannot be termed pathological yet as they are yet to become chronic and intense.

Is masochism agreeable?


The appeal of this book, which is quite in-your-face about the pleasure of masochism, has raised a few questions with regards to human behaviour. It actually makes the readers of the book question whether masochistic sex is bad at all, or to which extent can it be acceptable as a normal activity.

It is this aspect of the book that has come under sharp criticism from some quarters. The vivid description of BDSM is seen by many as a subtle attempt to justify sexual abuse of women. Although admirers of the book disagree to this view, stating that they actually revel in the emotional relationship depicted between Ana and Grey.

The book has certainly achieved in revealing the grey side to our psyche with its ability to make people enjoy a sadist narrative.


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