THE BLOG

Ten Things You Need to Know Before You See the 'Fifty Shades' Movie

13/02/2015 17:33 GMT | Updated 15/04/2015 10:59 BST

1.The Fifty Shades phenomenon has prompted a flurry of psychological research.

2. Two years after the book's publication Professor Amy Bonomi at Michigan State University carried out a study which suggested that young adult women who read the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy were more likely to exhibit signs of eating disorders, to have had a verbally abusive partner, to binge drink and to have five or more sexual partners during their lifetime. Since 100million women have now read these books, I think we can safely disregard these findings on the basis that correlation is not causation.

3. In the same year, research by Marla Reese-Weber and Dawn M. McBride of Illinois State University demonstrated that women who had read the book reported higher levels of sexual desire than those who had not read it, and contrary to the expectations of the morality police, there was no associated increase in risky, or experimental, sexual behaviour.

4. Erotic novels such as Fifty Shades could have therapeutic implications for women suffering from decreased sexual desire. Research by Katherine Goldey and Sari Anders from the University of Michigan has shown that when women imagine themselves in sexual situations, they experience an increase in genital and psychological arousal, but more importantly, they also feel an increase in their desire to have sex. Goldey and Anders believe that fantasy helps women to move from thinking about sex, to wanting to have sex.

5. The forced sex element of the Fifty Shades plot has caused a lot of controversy, but it is, and always has been, a key ingredient in female sexual fantasy. A 1987 review carried out by Carol Thurston found that 54% of erotic romance novels included the rape of the lead female character.

6. And a review of thirty years of research into female rape fantasies which was carried out in 2008 by Joseph Critelli and Jenny Bivona at the University of North Texas found that up to 57% of women have fantasies in which they are forced into sex against their will.

7. Fantasies about forced sex are a paradox. Why are women aroused by acts of domination that they would find abhorrent in real life? The most widely known explanation for this conundrum was proposed back in 1944 by the psychoanalyst Helene Deutsch. She suggested that rape fantasies were a form of blame avoidance. A woman who was 'forced' into unwanted sex could not be accused of promiscuity, or held accountable for her sexual desires. It is a theory that probably sat very comfortably in the post Freud, pre-war era, but it is not a convincing explanation for the continuing popularity of domination fantasies in the twenty-first century.

8. The counterpoint to the 'forced' sex fantasy is the idea of a female being so attractive and desirable that the male loses all self-control and must break with core expectations of civil decency in order to have her.

9. The psychologist Dr Marta Meana suggests that all sexual fantasy is simply a narcissistic reflection of our "desire to be desired". In our fantasies we are the central pivot. Everyone wants us. All activity gravitates around us. Ultimately, however, we are in charge of what happens, when it happens and with whom.

10. And of course, even though the fantasy sex is supposedly 'non-consensual', fantasies are deliberate patterns of thought, so the female 'victim' always remains in complete control.