Sydney’s tired of the dating game around here. A single, attractive lady in her 40s, she has no trouble getting dates in St. John’s — what she has trouble with is the kind of men she’s meeting.
They’re nice enough, she said, and there are plenty who she finds attractive and interesting. They’ve just been, well, lacking in the charm department.
“From my perspective, as a single Newfoundland woman, I find the men want the women to do everything,” she explained.
“I went out on a date not too long ago and we went out for supper. When the waiter came, the guy looked over at me and said, ‘You order.’
“As a single woman who makes every decision I have by myself — I have a job, I have a mortgage, I pay my own bills — it would be so nice to have a man that might say, ‘It’s OK, I’ll make dinner’ once in a while. I’m all about equal rights, but I have no problem with a man opening a door for me, or (with me) wearing the dress in the relationship. I like feeling like a woman.”
Sydney — like hordes of others, mostly women, in this province — has a fascination with British author E.L. James’ “50 Shades of Grey,” and an infatuation with Christian Grey, one of the two main characters.
James’ erotic trilogy of novels — touted by some as soft-core porn for its explicit scenes of bondage, and sadism/masochism — has surpassed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as the fastest-selling paperback in history, and has sold more than 31 million copies worldwide.
In the series, which started out as “Twilight” fan-fiction, 22-year-old college student Anastasia Steele meets wealthy young businessman Christian Grey after she fills in for a friend on an interview for the college newspaper.
They begin a sexual relationship, based on paperwork: Grey asks Steele to sign a non-disclosure agreement as well as a dominant/submissive contract.
“50 Shades of Grey” has been criticized for being poorly written, misogynistic, and with content that borders on emotional abuse. The contract Steele is asked to sign includes a limited list of foods she is allowed to eat; Grey informs her in the start there will be no romantic relationship, just a sexual one, and pampers her with lavish gifts. Others see it as a Cinderella or “Pretty Woman”-type story, where a naive, inexperienced woman gets swept off her feet and taken into a new life that excites her.
In any case, readers in this province have been grabbing the book off the shelves, to the point where it was once sold out for a short period of time in every bookstore provincewide.
About 120 women in the St. John’s area alone have created profiles on dating website SeekingArrangement.com, specifically looking to re-enact the Steele-Grey contract in real life.
The website, founded in 2006, isn’t a typical dating site. The site matches “sugar daddies,” wealthy people, mostly men, with “sugar babies” — attractive women looking to be pampered and spoiled.
In creating a profile on the site, sugar daddies are given the option to include a monthly amount they’re willing to spend on their date; sugar babies can state the amount they expect from a relationship.
“About three or four months ago, my staff members who approve profiles started telling me there’s this ‘50 Shades’ thing going on — people were putting that in their profile, and the names of the two main characters,” explained Brandon Wade, SeekingArrangement.com’s CEO, who founded the website for his personal use.
Last winter, he married a woman he met through the site.
“That got me very curious as to what that was, and at that point we found out that the book had just made the New York Times’ Best-seller list.”
Once “50 Shades of Grey” made that list, the number of women joining Wade’s website grew to more than 186,000 worldwide. A poll the website conducted with its 1.6 million members revealed that 24.8 per cent of women with active profiles want to find the same arrangement as described in the book.
Of the female members, 78.8 per cent said they like the idea of succumbing to a dominant male, while 90 per cent of men on the website said they like the idea of finding a submissive woman like Steele.
Wade said you’d be surprised by the number of eligible, handsome, rich men on the site. The average age of sugar daddies, he said, is 40. Not surprisingly, however, sugar babies outnumber them on the site 10 to one.
SeekingArrangement.com members include some wealthy heirs in their 20s, at least one member of European royalty, and one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 10 richest men in the world.
Many of the members, when they meet, sign agreements similar to that in “50 Shades of Grey,” Wade said.
“Most of them meet and form an arrangement, which means they actually discuss, ‘What am I going to get out of this relationship and what is expected of me in this relationship?’” he explained.
Wade doesn’t see his website as facilitating relationships that could be considered abusive.
“Once it is made clear, up front, what you are supposed to expect, you can’t really say it’s an abusive relationship; it’s more like role-playing,” he explained.
While Sydney’s not a SeekingArrangement.com member, she gets where those looking for a 50 Shades relationship are coming from.
“Maybe it’s a little bit kinky, and maybe they’re gold-diggers a little bit,” she said.
“But it’s a combination of excitement, passion and chemistry. Christian is charming — he constantly lets (Anastasia) know that he wants her, he wants her to have the best of everything, he worries about her, and he takes care of her.
“Besides that, he really loves her, and she loves him. The story is a Cinderella fantasy, and it’s romantic.”