Thanks to Danielle Adams of Lifestar Therapy for this guest post, which explains from a therapist’s perspective how this popular book/movie series affects the larger society.
We’ve probably all heard of Fifty Shades of Grey by now, the popular erotica book series and its accompanying films. The story follows the two main characters, Ana and Christian, and their unhealthy relationship revolving around Christian’s obsession with BDSM. And so it goes.
People’s opinions swing back and forth between extremes: it’s trashy – it’s just dirty fun – it empowers women – it objectifies women. From a purely objective standpoint, the books are not great. The writing is sophomoric, the sex scenes are ridiculous, and the message is a fairly unhealthy one.
So why is it so popular? We could debate the question for hours and still not reach a consensus, but the fact of the matter remains: Ana and Christian’s abnormal relationship feeds into the idea that sexual addictions are easily overcome with merely the right motivation (i.e., the right partner), and millions of women are eating this up.
Sexual addictions are primarily thought to develop because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, much like depression or other mental disorders, and the fact that antidepressants make a difference for some sex addicts suggests that this is correct. Studies have shown that food, drugs, and sexual interests share a common location within the brain’s circuitry. So in the same way that food sounds good when we’re hungry, abnormal sexual activity sounds good to a sex addict when they feel that urge. The addicted brain tricks the body with powerful chemical rewards when the sexual urge is fulfilled. In this way, self-destructive behavior is rewarded and therefore continued, even though the rational mind knows that it’s a problem.
This brain chemistry explanation especially helps to make sense of why accomplished, successful, rational people, men and women, can be just as susceptible to sex addictions as anyone else. A chemical imbalance in your brain is every bit as real as a broken arm or a gash in your leg.
There are many negative consequences of sexual addictions, including greater risk of STDs, low self-esteem, lack of intimacy, inability to maintain healthy relationships, and sometimes even legal trouble. And the harm doesn’t stop with the addicted person; there is often collateral damage. Partners discover the affairs and feel betrayed, family members become aware of the lying and sneaking around and find themselves overwhelmingly disillusioned.
The Fifty Shades Effect
One of the problems with Fifty Shades of Grey is the happy ending. Sexual addictions take years of struggle to overcome. Much of the time they are never really cured; coping mechanisms are put in place and practiced, the behaviors may stop, and the person can resume normal life and pursue healthy relationships, but sometimes it’s a lifelong battle.
Christian and Ana are able to work through his issues and emerge stronger for it, but in the real world, addictions are not resolved so neatly.
Oftentimes, the addict will not get the help he or she needs, or the relationship cannot survive the effects of the betrayal.
If you have someone with a sexual addiction in your life, try to remember that it has nothing to do with you. There is nothing you did or could do to cause it, and it is not your responsibility to “cure” them. Be supportive and encouraging as they seek help, but don’t neglect to look after yourself. For spouses of sex addicts, it can be helpful to attend a support group. It takes immense commitment and consistent hard work every day, but with the right tools, relationships can be repaired and addictions can become a thing of the past.
About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with Lifestar Therapy. She is committed to helping people practice open communication and build healthy relationships.