The latest information on sexual medicine and psychology, plus analysis of sex in popular culture

The Real Reason 'Fifty Shades' Wins Hearts

Hint: It's not the kinky sex.




Here’s a question:

Does anyone have any idea why Fifty Shades of Grey has sold so many millions of books?

I’m asking because in all that I’ve read about this book, I haven’t seen one mention of what it’s really about.  And why it’s been such a runaway success.

Is it because of the explicit sex scenes? (No, I don’t think so.)

Is it because of the BDSM? (Not likely.)

No, the reason Fifty Shades has captivated so many American women is this:

It’s a book about impossible love – made possible by courage, persistence, and luck.


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Just like Twilight.

A young woman falls in love with a vampire.  Impossible.  But they make it work.

In Fifty Shades a young woman falls in love with a deeply damaged man who is a sexual dominant.   He needs a submissive woman, and he’s had many such women.   But he hasn’t been able to fall in love with any of them.  So he’s deeply lonely.

He meets the heroine, who of all the women he’s met, does not have a submissive bone in her body.  So it’s impossible.

She too has never been in love before.

But by the end of Volume 1, she has against her will fallen deeply in love with this tormented man.


In the first book . . .

At the very end . . .  in a moment of profound tenderness, she tells him she loves him.  His response is brief.  “Oh, no,” he says.

She leaves his place immediately, goes home, falls on her bed and is wracked with sobs.  She is broken.

Except she’s really not broken, and neither is he.  They try again. They are learning each other’s vulnerable places.   He has many more of these than she does.  But she’s a quick learner.

Like any new couple, they are like blind people walking through a shop, smashing into precious objects that can’t yet be seen.  Knocking things over and trying to figure out what in the world is going on.

But they pick themselves up and keep going.  And eventually they learn each other.

Eventually they make the impossible possible. 


Here’s a secret:

A secret that every woman reading FiftyShades secretly knows, though she might not be able to express it clearly in words:

Fifty Shades is about every relationship.

They all start with people blindly smashing into each other’s most cherished possessions.  They are all, every one of them,  in some way large or small, impossible.   But we make them work.

Every relationship (at least every good one) is about impossible love . . .

Made possible by courage, persistence, and luck.


Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD   2012 New York City

Follow Dr Snyder on Google+ and Twitter




Stephen Snyder, M.D., is a sex and couples therapist, psychiatrist, and writer in New York City. He is currently Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. more...

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