"Everything in the world is about sex except sex. Sex is about power."
-- Oscar Wilde
It's rare for a man to appear on the cover of a woman's magazine. But in advance of the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie this month, British actor and Calvin Klein model Jamie Dornan made it onto the cover of February's Elle UK.
I don't think it's his best picture, really. He looks tired and distracted. But my fellow Fifty Shades fans on Twitter profess to like it anyway.
"C'mon, really?" I tweet. "What's the attraction?"
"Are you serious?"
"Definitely. They're strong and powerful."
"I don't hear women talking about guys' arms that way in real life."
"Maybe not to you."
Still, I'm skeptical. In the book Fifty Shades of Grey, the heroine Anastasia Steele often goes on at length about Christian Grey's physical beauty—his magnificent hair and sculpted body. I found it unconvincing.
Maybe I'm just jealous. But I had a feeling his body wouldn't have counted for quite as much if he wasn't a billionaire and didn't have a high-end stainless steel designer kitchen overlooking downtown Seattle.
Since Elizabeth Bennett first began to warm to Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice after getting a look at his country estate at Pemberley, many a literary heroine's feelings for a man have been influenced by a setting that suggests wealth, power and good taste.
For most men, a beautiful woman's body is an immediate turn-on. For most women, the response to a man's body isn't quite so automatic. But if in addition to having nice arms, he also has that aforementioned high-end stainless steel kitchen with a view of downtown Seattle, then things might get interesting.
I return to Jamie Dornan on the cover of Elle UK and notice that he's hugging himself. My Twitter colleague notices this, too.
"Women like that, you know. Strong arms to hold you and protect you. That's appealing."
OK. But I have to use my imagination there, because the idea that protection might be erotic is totally foreign to me as a man.
"OMG I just figured it out!" my Twitter companion exclaims. "It's all about power. Ana walks into Grey Enterprises and thinks, "He has power over all these people, and I have power over HIM!"
Now that makes more sense. And maybe it explains Jamie Dornan's image on the cover of Elle UK. His arms look strong, and his hands do seem to yearn to hold someone. But he looks a bit off his game—a little vulnerable, perhaps.
I'm reminded that it's Christian Grey's love for Ana that makes him so vulnerable. Indeed, there are many places in the book where she might well think, "He has power over the whole world, and I have power over him."
Christian Grey is just fantasy, of course. He's a rich Häagen-Dazs flavor of delicious ingredients whipped up in just the right combination to excite. His looks, his wealth and power, his passion for the woman he loves, his urge to protect her and (as we discussed in "Fifty Shades and the Tests of Love") his willingness to endure suffering on her behalf.
But the most exciting flavor of all may be the power of the heroine who has him helpless with desire.
He has all this power, and I have power over him. What could be more erotic?
It's the biggest turn-on in the whole book. Hey, even a man can understand that.
© Stephen Snyder MD 2015
New York City