A couple of years ago a client was gushing over a new book. It was the first time I heard about 50 Shades of Grey. When my client told me about what it was about I thought “Oh Dear, this is not good” (and certainly not for my client).
It’s not so much the sexual exploration, the “soft porn” , that bothered me. If anything, spicing up your sex life, trying new things (safely!) can be really good for you. What bothered me was the overall storyline, the overall narrative. Rich, successful, good-looking guy becomes besotted with a young poor girl-next-door virgin and whisks her off her feet. They fall deeply in love. A modern day Mills and Boone. Fairy tale stuff. Which, don’t get me wrong, when read in the right mindset is fine, as a little light entertainment perhaps. However more often than not, I find people take it far more seriously than they should.
Firstly, it’s a highly improbable story. Good healthy relationships rarely happen that way, but our minds can’t stop thinking that it might be a probable story and we risk believing strongly that this is how it should be. In psychology we call it the availability heuristic, the tendency to overestimate the likelihood of events happening simply because we have had an impression ‘available’ to us a few times. For example, we might have read a novel about a plane crash, then see a story in the news about one and a few days later overhear a story of a plane crash. We begin to (erroneously) think that plane crashes are an often occurring phenomenon. When in fact it’s simply our minds tricking us. Plane crashes are quite rare, but our minds think otherwise. It happens all the time to us and often without knowing it.
So reading ‘50 Shades’ risks adding to a storyline that ‘this is how relationships are meant to be’. Somehow, the ideal relationship has become grounded in some sort of love-at-first sight beginning which always lead to married-happily-ever-after. It is a beautiful thought for sure, and perhaps there is something alluring about it, but more often than not, reality is far from that and we are in danger of being blindsided with utopian notions of what ‘real love’ is and how ‘proper’ relationships are formed.
There is a danger that people begin to think if a relationship does not unfold like the stories they have read, then they are somehow not real, good enough or even desirable. There is a huge risk that people shun perfectly good relationships simply because they have faulty image of how things are meant to be. A faulty image that comes from reading books like 50 Shades of Grey.