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Do We Like Being Dominated?

Fifty Shades of Grey has now sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. In this book trilogy, an innocent college grad named Anastasia comes under the sway of a brilliant, handsome billionaire named Christian. Christian wants to dominate Anastasia and she slowly becomes his sexual slave. (If he’d been named “Jewish,” I wonder…).

Debate about this dominant/submissive relationship is de rigueur in book clubs, health clubs, and back tables at Bar Mitzvahs, where women ask, “Do you secretly want to get handcuffed and smacked upside the tush with a leather crop?”

I would like to address this question from the viewpoint of a woman in mid-life.

My response is: Yes, we do like being dominated. After a nap.

Talk Shades of Grey to a woman my age, and she thinks: hair. Sure, back in the day we were innocent girls, easily swayed by strong, charismatic men with eyes that drilled into our kishke. Now, we are seasoned women with busy schedules and ankles that don’t look that great in cuffs. Can we find a man who still dances without checking his heart monitor? That is a more pressing question than: Can he ride into the bedroom on a stallion?

Moreover, many men our age have trouble with the male function that rhymes with correction. They need to take a blue pill that rhymes with Niagara, and if you don’t know what I mean by now, you are probably not well enough to use a whip.

Then there are the names. Irving, Bernie, Larry, Herbert and Harvey do not conjure images of sexual conquering. Have you ever tried yelling “Herb! Herb!” during sex? I personally can never remember whether to say the “H.” This can lead to a stampede of oregano and dill between the sheets.

And, finally, there is the entire question of being hardy enough for rough athletic sex. Being bent into crazy positions is not so thrilling when you have arthritis. Being chained to the wall is not so exciting when you need to go to the bathroom. Making the whole bedroom shake is not so stimulating when you’re worried about your front teeth staying put.

Christian, to us, would probably be anathema. We prefer a more sensuous, tender embrace, which is not to say we don’t like strong. At this age, we know our stuff, and our stuffing. We are more superb in bed now than ever. And to answer that question that all you guys are asking: No, it’s not grey.

Diana Amsterdam is a published and produced playwright, screenwriter, writer-for-hire, and consultant to writers and writing careers. She is the mother of two brilliant sons and five exceptional grandchildren. Friend Diana on Facebook!
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  • Charlie says:

    My heart monitor was beeping off the charts, D. Always a treat to read your blog.
    xx, Charlie

  • @Paula and Karin, thanks sweethearts, xoxo @ldubious: No, my column pic was taken three years ago and my comment pic is just a few months old. You may call me “Marilyn.”

  • Idubious says:

    Speaking of shades of gray: Does your column picture match your comment picture?

  • V. clever and funny, Diana. Haven’t read FSOG, and may well never get around to it. But thoroughly enjoyed your critique! xo

  • Paula says:

    Absolutely hilarious!!!

  • Scott says:

    When I play tennis, I like to play with someone who is a better (dominant) tennis player than I am. That way, I get better by the end of the match, so that I become the dominant tennis player… Technique is important. Practice makes perfect.

  • @Patricia–thanks for your knowledge and terrifically sage reasoning. Love it. @Steve, perfect. @Doogie, OK, I’m a humorist, ever hear of humor? I’m actually laughing because I could write a whole essay on your name…Thanks @ everyone for reading my column, Tuesday morning a new subject will be presented, and I hope you will all get just as fired up, philosophical, incensed, buzzed and most of all, entertained with a few of those famous lol’s. And if any of you would like to write, or has a dream of writing, serious or humorous, check out Nyad’s comment today while swimming from Cuba to Miami, about making our dreams come true at any age! and get in touch with me.

  • Miguel says:

    The fact that the book is so popular tells me that is is probably a poorly written book that has nothing to do with art. By the way, the most visited sites are pornography sites; draw your own conclusions…

  • bob says:

    I think it is all about just letting go, letting yourself experience an unexpected surprise. As long as there is no real pain or going beyond what your partner can handle.

  • Natalie says:


    This is my first time visiting your page. Although I have never read 50SOG I will now after reading your article and some of the wacky comments contained herein!

    Susie is mean, critical, bullying, and may have started the Occupy movement. Like that movement, it’s all about being very angry!
    I’m surprised that an intelligent woman like Tara defends the venomous tone of that post which was downright cruel.

    I’m a staunch feminist and I don’t see any attack on women. What we do
    In our bedrooms I’d our business and if we do or don’t want to be dominatedits all OUR choice OUR
    bodies! To say thats not the DEFINITION of feminism -Susie needs a shrink!

  • Steve says:

    I was once given this sage advice, on the subject of keeping a relationship working after so many years: “Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty.” Seems pretty straightforward to me…

  • Doogie says:

    Ridiculous treatment of the issue. Why even bring it up if you’re just going to ridicule it? The “bottom” line is that role playing is one way to keep a relationship fresh and interesting – especially important as partners are with each other for a long time. If you need to attract readers, write something useful instead of using a misleading headline.

  • Robi says:

    A women, we are the antithesis of the Jewish stereotype-we like to fix things, the more damaged, the better. Ana’s name could have been Wendy, and Christian, well in fill in the name of messed up boyfriends throughout the ages. We don’t get any smarter.

  • Patricia says:

    I haven’t yet read “50 Shades…”. but I do intend to. A few friends have been absolutely enthralled by it. It’s not a plagiarized version of the Story of O, though it has similarities, of course. For more information about the Story of O, a classic of it’s time, check out this documentary about the female author: “Writer of O” by Pola Rapaport — fascinating.

    Anyway, I enjoyed your article, Diana, and I can’t really understand Susie ‘s position about your being non-feminist..you aren’t ascribing any of these qualities specifically to women at all, so that seems quite confusing to me.

    As a staunch feminist, I support women taking all sorts of “positions”, in the bedroom and elsewhere! Sexual play with gender roles and power relationships is quite liberating for many people. I think that the attraction for many women to be “dominated” in sexual play is that they feel that they must be in charge and taking care of everything and giving, giving, giving, in most of their lives (always “a top”, if you will) and being dominated gives them the experience of allowing surrender and a way of being cared for and given to. Being dominated does not necessarily entail pain or humiliation and the “submission” is being carried out with an awareness of playing out a role for sexual excitement and satisfaction.

    I understand that in “50 Shades” the thrill is also not just Christian’s domination of her, but the absolute love and attention he wants to give her..it is a romance after all. You know, they call it, “Mommy Porn”! I think that this speaks to a need of many women who have a lot that they have to take care of to be cared for and even, sometimes, told what to do so that they just don’t have to make one more damned decision!

  • @Christine: I wish you luck! Denver may be dried up but what matters is: We are not!

  • Joan Z. says:

    I haven’t read this book and I’m not going to.

    It’s a plagiarized version of a book that came out in France in the 1970′s called “L’Histoire d’O” (The Story of O). Like “Grey”, it caused a furor, and was eventually made into a movie which was criticized and condemned by all us feminists at the time ….and the Catholic Church!

    “Grey” is recycled girl-porn. Pity that everyone is falling for it.

  • tara says:

    By the way, Diana, I’m very aware that nothing unites a group & gathers them protectively around their leader than a mean old hurtful outsider. .

    As Stephen Colbert would say, You’re welcome..

  • tara says:

    Uh, yes, If you’ve done any reading at all, I’d certainly hope you’ve run across that phrase (“think piece”) before…

    Oh Diana. I’m not sure how old you are, exactly, but I wouldnt be surprised if we’re not around the same age (although, to be clear, I dont think of myself as a “girl”,,,) & at our age we really should try to let go of our preciousness, be a little less fragile when we put ourselves out there & a little more nurturant & welcoming of the ideas & feelings of others, even if they challenge our own.

    I dont go looking to kill anyone’s spirit or hurt anyone’s feelings, I dont usually go all “mean girl” on anyone & I would never have been moved to write a response at all if you hadnt jumped all over Susie for her response. She’s a good writer (something you, as a writer, should appreciate) she had a clear, well- articulated position (which I happen to agree with ) & she put it right out there. Why shouldnt she? You’d already had a dozen qvelling, ego-stroking little thank-you notes for your delightful little piece- why not be gracious when you finally get one that didnt see you as the female Stephen Leacock & consider she might have another take on what you’d written ?

    I’ll never forget seeing Gloria Steinem respond to a question from an audience member that truly did seem like a mean-spirited & personal attack. Unlike the rest of us, who might well have reacted in an angry & threatened way, Gloria refused to make it all about her , ignored the vitriol. responded with warmth & openness & genuine curiosity & focused on what was human & universal in the issue, what united rather than separated us.

    We’re all just doing our best to make sense of our lives & anyone brave enough to stand up & voice an opinion should be welcomed & encouraged to do so. If you’re the blogger, or columnist & you’re the one with the voice, & you’ve set the agenda, its certainly your right to make the site your own little coffee clache if you want & the j-date people let you, but dont expect someone like me, who wonders in off the street & finds you dividing the room into friends & enemies, not to say something about it..

  • Christine says:

    Great article! Agree!!!!
    Wish, wish I could find a Christian Gray, with 1/4
    Stamina! Denver is dried up this summer!

  • @Tara–For a person who’s never read any of these as you put it “little think pieces” (and, I think I saw that phrase somewhere else) you’re amazingly proficient at something that makes seasoned columnists put down their blogger pen: spitting on (or is that spitting up on) the hard-working columnist. However, to point out the obvious, I DID get a spirited debate going, thank you.

    Getting a spirited debate going, though, is not as important to me as two other things: Lifting people’s day with a little laughter, and talking to, with, about, and of, people my age, and our travels and travails in the world of sex, dating, and romance. There is woefully little about us and OUR experience, we are not seen and shown in most advertising (even for products that are targeted TO us), and our sexual experiences are usually portrayed as adorable and cute rather than what they are: sexy and steamy, and on that note…

    @Harvey Y: Your phrase “Domestic Discipline” with those two capped Ds scares the zuzums outta me, and if this is what your men-friends practice with their wives, that might explain why they’re all having intimacy issues.

    @LisaLips: You go, girlfriend! Lucky 40something guy! @Susie: Are you going to attack me because I didn’t say womenfriend? @Joanna: What you say def has truth, or the Shades of Grey series would not be striking such a chord with so many women.

  • Betty Maxwell says:

    Wasn’t the question whether the story would be different if the man were named Jewish instead of Christian? I haven’t read the book and probably won’t, so I’m speaking from the position of ignorance about the contents of the book, but it seems to me that the difference between Jewish and Christian men would not be vast. After all, my Christian faith is based on the Jewish faith, so I feel that Jews and Christians are a lot alike at the core. My impression, from what I’ve heard about the book, is that it’s pretty much out of control sexual content, so I would hope that both Jewish and Christian men would be more self controlled than to take part in those activities. As for the girl…..would any self respecting Jewish or Christian girl be involved, either? I hope not!

  • tara says:

    Wow. I guess the rule around here is you’re supposed to gush all over the writer, or she’ll be hurt & lash out at you & tell you not to come back?

    I’ve never read any of these little “think pieces”, but I have read 50 shades & I was interested to see what “my people” thought of it. FIrst thing I thought when I read this piece was that she hadnt read the book, because I saw that same 2-line summary somewhere else- maybe in a Salon piece?- & thought the same thing then. Anyone who thinks its about her “becoming his sex slave” skipped over the badly written but reasonably well-paced plot to get straight to the steamy sex stuff.

    I like what Joanie says, I agree with Susie & I think the livelier the debate the better!! If I want to read a string of zippy little 1-liners , followed by cyber-hugs & congratulatory notes on the quality of the writing, I’ll read Christmas Newsletters-

    What really surprises, me, truthfully, is why on earth someone who writes a column that she then throws out to the world (or at least to j-date world) wouldnt be thrilled to get a spirited debate going, with some strong & diverse opinions thrown in to stir things up.
    We Jews are an opinionated people. Didnt Golda Meir say something about 2 Jews, 3 opinions?

  • LisaLips says:

    I am 61, quite flexible and am enjoying experimenting with another area of sexuality! I might not like some of it and haven’t tried a lot (yet?) but it is thrilling to me. I have always been in charge in all areas of my life and have always been with really nice, respectful feminist men. Quite frankly, they usually bored me in bed! So kinky or not, I am having lots of fun with a dominant 44 yr old man.

  • joanie says:

    I believe the book is not just about Christian dominating her. Anastasia also dominates him to keep him where she wants him. I don’t see what the big deal is…in every relationship one person dominates in some areas while the other person dominates in other areas. He asked her about doing the things he liked to do and she decided on her own to try them. She also LIKED doing those things. I think a big part of being a feminist is having the FREEDOM to make your own decisions as a woman with regards to what is right for you. No one has the right to tell you that as a feminist you shouldn’t like to be dominated or you shouldn’t like to cook dinner for your significant other every night. We have weakened the importance of feminism by taking antiquated notions that certain things are NOT RIGHT for women to like and have punished ourselves. If you don’t want to be dominated–DON’T get into that type of thing…but don’t issue a blanket statement that liking domination sets back women and feminism for centuries because honestly that doesn’t help feminism at all. Loved your article Diana…first time I have ever read it. Thank you.

  • Lara18 says:

    Adorably funny article with some truth to the telling. I think it can be incredibly seductive to have a man make decisions or strong sexual suggestions, while the woman experiments along for the sheer fun and joy of it. Some of what your article comically states, though, about the aging side of sexuality, is interestingly why the older men prefer younger women and the older women prefer younger men. The newly divorced man of a certain age, has yet to discover that it’s only his wife who was frigid. The rest of us arent.

  • Harvey Y says:

    i would have bet 10 Zuzum that the article was written by a woman. There was the proper and dominant emasculation followed by the don’t even think about it. it was nicely written, very ethnic, but was wrongly dismissive of something that could liven up your entire life.

    I have not read Shades but know a little more than most about dominance and submission. i know everything about Domestic Discipline.

    I know there are exceptions but everyone i know, married or single, who are in a relationship are having intimacy issues, are sleeping with the enemy, are tolerating, are bored to death but comfortable, are sexually repressed and 1/2 of them are on Craig’s List in the hook-up section. the other 1/2 would like to but are on a short leash.

    I think Dom/Sub games with defined limits, if done right, are exciting and fun, would lead to rising expectations, fun ambiance, toys that are wonderful, scenarios, being bound, and too much fun to talk about here.

  • joanna says:

    I think women do like to be dominated, yet it all depends on how far and in what kind of circumstance. Is it thrilling to be with an alpha male, i know i feel like an alpha female and hate wimpy men. I do want to be approached by someone stronger than me. I do want him to know exactly how to treat me in and outside the bedroom. I think it is exciting to let yourself go when you have met that certain “right person that you have so much chemistry but who also stimulates you mentally”, someone who is in charge , who is assured , assertive yet in a confident way. I know I don’t just want vanilla sex, there is more to life than that lol. Men should be men and women should be men and women lol, why not be the best of both worlds.

  • abby says:

    wonderful acerbic wit. wasn’t slavery outlawed in 1863? who (in her right mind) would voluntarily become a slave – sexual or otherwise? from what i’ve read, slavery is bullying but on a much grander scale – that’s why the worst crime possible during slave times was teaching a slave to read – knowledge is power. and after all, how’ya gonna keep them down on the farm (or their hands and knees) after they’ve seen paree?

  • Susie says:

    Ms. Amsterdam,

    Contrary to your reply, advancing women’s rights is not just about being cheerleaders for one another. While cheerleading clearly pumps up your ego, as your comment and that of “Dee” so beautifully demonstrate, it ultimately does nothing to help women or men.

    Advancing women’s rights is also about being self-reflective, self-critical — both as individuals and as a group — and waking up to the realities that women’s rights cannot be advanced without also reflecting on the roles we women assign to men.

    Telling me not to read your column if I disagree with you is just a way of saying you can’t handle disagreement.


  • Dee says:

    Bravo Diana! I had been thinking of responding to Susie’s comment, as I had a similar reaction as you did. I find it fascinating that many who claim to support a “woman’s right to choose,” and say that “what consulting adults do in the privacy of their own bedroom is no one’s business,” somehow deem themselves the arbiters of what those choices should be and no compunction about passing judgment on what’s going on our bedrooms– or in this case, our “fantasy bedrooms.”

  • @Susie: If you put my record of beating down doors closed to women against yours, I’m sure I’d win hands down, any day. In the battle for women’s rights, women criticize, put down, and slice other women to shreds as much or more than men, as your comment so beautifully demonstrates. So next time you want to comment on my blog, Ms. Self-Righteous Criticizer, shut not only your eyes but your mouth instead. Or better yet, don’t read me. Diana

  • Susie says:

    Keep unraveling all the progress made by feminist movements, one post at a time… It’s like watching the feminist movements bleed to death.

    It’s one thing if you were to write about how people enjoy experimenting with being in the role of the dominant and/or the submissive (research shows men and women both do equally); but it is another thing altogether to ascribe this desire to women, as though there is something inherently feminine about it.

    When you talk about women this way, you are feeding into stereotypes that have been used to harm, subjugate, and oppress women for centuries. Nice going.

    It’s truly depressing to see how many women are contributing to the wholesale undermining of progress for women. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.

    Not to mention how much you are all hurting men at the same time. These ridiculous stereotypes and gender-specific role assignments are just as destructive to men as they are to women.

    Next time you have a nap, please wake up before you start writing.

  • MichaelB says:

    It’s all about developing trust between two people, and when you do, you are open to acknowledging your deepest desires &fwntasies to your intimate partner. NOTHING that doesn’t hurt another living creature should be out of bounds, if the two people want to do something. That’s for them to decide, and none of anybody else’ business.

    @Potzakh, Indon’t know how you can speak for the rest of the human race about what they want & like. I mean, who did you ask? Didja take a survey?

    And BTW, I beieve you meant “fallacy” — or perhhaps not….

  • Stella says:

    Your funniest yet. (I still love the -how to find the kitchen). Very enjoyable. I will forward to all my middle-year girls.

    I listened to the book and the reader’s performance made it funnier because A.seemed to take this experience less seriously and with a sense of curiosity. The series is quite a phenomenan. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 on best sellers list and the compilation is #7.

  • Rich Chazen says:

    Some men like women to be the strong one and dominate because if you trust the woman it is a turn on to surrender to her.

  • Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed my article, Tsipora, Dee and Cheryl. I know just what you mean, Dee, about wanting someone else to make a decision for a change. It’s enjoyable and sexy to be with a man who is forceful and strong, and this doesn’t mean tyrannical or domineering. When we can push our man around and he turns into a milquetoast, wanting sex with him goes down down down. Diana

  • cheryl says:

    great article, very well written, and very right on !

  • Dee says:

    Funny!! At this stage in my life, the fantasy appeal is someone, other than me, making a decision for a change, and not expecting me to do anything except enjoy myself.

  • Tsipora says:

    Very, very funny! I never post comments, but just had to for this. Keep on making us laugh….

  • @ Melissa — If the book is only for deviants, the world has a lot of deviants. This is one of the most popular book series in history.

    @Sanych — Oy, in what sense, and Vey, how do you mean that?…

  • Sanych says:

    Oy, vey…

  • Melissa says:

    I think this book FSOG is perverted and only deviants can appreciate it.

  • Potzakh says:

    You’re a funny woman. In my opinion nobody likes being dominated. This is a phallacy. The dominator likes to dominate, though, that’s for sure.

    Like would the government need an army of cops and jails, if the populace was happy being dominated?

    Would the Afghans reached for their weapons if they enjoyed being dominated by the army (well armed) Amy army?

    Or would any person do a consciencious job at the salami factory if it were not for being watched by the slave drivers there?

    I say domination is nice only when you do it.

  • Sandy says:

    A lot of fun to read.This will be forwarded to my Schwester Esther.
    Thank you for the laughs and for telling it like it is.

  • Karen says:

    What a nice article. Beautifully written and so tender. After a few adjustments, you never have to stop loving, so keep on enjoying!

  • Mark Miller says:

    Nicely written, Diana. I laughed and identified. And never realized that women enjoy being dominated after a nap. Life certainly is a learning experience.

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