How a book made 8 million women sneak off with their Kindles.
The recent social phenomenon surrounding 'Fifty Shades of Grey', by E. L. James has confused men and caused a few million women to sneak away with their Kindles. Behavior experts have been secretly watching the progress of this trend and the behavior of women reacting to the book on social media. Meanwhile, men have been wondering how such a strange book could create such a stir.
While women around the world reacted to this book, they too might have been confused as to why this book seemed to pull so many strings in their hearts.
The book centers around a woman named Anastasia and a man named Christian. Anastasia, referred to as Ana, has all of the qualities that could easily make most women readers identify with her. She's charming, timid, quiet and slightly doubts her own self worth at times. Christian is a handsome billionaire businessman with incredible self discipline who carries scars of childhood trauma and abuse.
To get to the secret of what's happening deep within the female brain, let's go back in time for a moment. About a hundred thousand years ago, most groups of humans on earth were small, nomadic communities. In these groups of only a few hundred people, women had limited choice of men and were frequently ‘traded’ amongst men who had no concern for their well being, and the health of their children. By forming relationships with a ‘tribal leader’, the women would pretty much guarantee their own survival and the protection of their children. Women who weren’t able to mate with the leaders of tribes would suffer, and their children were often disregarded or killed. Hundreds of thousands of years of this scenario have wired the human brain to have a few automatic ‘features’.
Men mostly respond to visual stimulus. Women have a different ‘mental shopping list’ programmed into their internal attraction circuits. They respond sexually to the traits of the NATURAL leader more than the traits of the supermodel man.
What’s the recipe that makes women love this book?
Christian Grey has many flaws, but they are the kind that pull the emotional strings of a certain type of woman. Mr. Grey exhibits traits of natural dominance without having a domineering demeanor. His self discipline makes him a strong and attractive character who appeals to Anastasia. Authority and social status plays the biggest role in her initial attraction.
Christian’s social status is a natural and compelling trait that initially lures young Ana. She becomes intimidated by his dominance and status and is then set up for the third factor of his appeal: He’s broken. Ana is timid and self-conscious. Her compassion and loving side make her doubt her own self worth, so her desire to repair and heal Christian is a byproduct of who she is.
Christian exhibits many behaviors that cause Ana’s brain to trigger mating responses in this book. These mating responses in the female brain are also associated with safety, happiness and fulfillment. He exhibits leadership, self discipline, social status, self control and mystery…a very powerful cocktail for this type of woman.
He. Chooses. Her.
Mr. Grey chose Ana. This ability to choose your partners is hard wired as a trait of tribal leaders as well. Grey’s choice was likely due to the fact that she was someone who’d be willing to participate in his semi-abusive desires without ever asking for a ‘turn holding the whip’. Her character attributes also speak secretly to the hidden insecurities reported by most women; she was shy at times and grew up watching popular kids explore and have fun. She grew up craving excitement. As Christian decides to make her ‘his’, she becomes aware of his fascination with her. There’s an implied guarantee of monogamy that makes her feel special, loved and prized. His social authority however, makes her feel special to have been the chosen one.
When the tension increases between them and the dam eventually breaks, Ana finds herself alternating between fear-filled, borderline abuse and deep penetrating love. In the behavior engineering world, this is known as fractionation. In the psychotherapy world, this is called trauma bonding. There is such a fast-shifting range of emotional experiences that each one becomes more powerful as it rebounds off the previous.
Dozens of studies have shown that even a first date that involves danger and excitement exponentially improves the chances of two people feeling higher levels of strong physical and sexual chemistry.
To this young, self conscious girl, the thought of losing this man becomes a real fear. This makes Ana more compliant and she relishes in her ability to hold onto Christian. For a more socially developed woman with high self esteem, Christian might be just an attractive, sexy man; but to young Ana, he’s nearly a god. Most women harbor a fear of abandonment and a loss of love interest. This is believed to be the reason most women stay in abusive relationships. Bondage actually shuts down the executive function in the brain due to the chemicals it releases. Executive function controls things like self-monitoring, impulse control and problem solving. While women read these situations in the book, similar chemical cocktails are brewing in their brains, making them feel needed, special, loved, excited and fearful.
Ana has a chance to use her nurturing and caring tendencies to heal Christian, appealing to women on a level that is only semi-conscious most times. The ending brings women the ultimate form of emotional dessert; she has taken a broken man, fixed him, and now has a loving husband with beautiful, safe, healthy children.
Overall, the book is written (perhaps on accident) to secretly illuminate all of the dark unconscious desires that a few hundred thousand years have given us. In reality, they aren’t real partners and his disgusting abuse isn’t healthy or even desirable in the real world for most women, but the book pulled the right strings. Some researchers and concerned mental health professionals believe the book tends to normalize this kind of behavior, wherein young, impressionable women will adapt to it in the same way they seek out body types and behaviors they see in media. While it may have caused a temporary surge in whip sales, the book seems to be harmless on a large scale.
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