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Men are fans of 'Fifty Shades of Grey,' too

POSTED: May 7, 2012 11:04 a.m.

The racy fantasy series is attracting a wide range of readers.

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NEW YORK — They're young and old, doctors and churchgoers, gay and straight — and those are just the men who have devoured oh-so-naughty "Fifty Shades of Grey," an erotic trilogy that has earned millions of women fans in a matter of weeks.
Reading on iPads and Kindles or hurriedly picking up the books in stores, some didn't know about the romance part, thinking the surprise best-sellers by newcomer E L James would be more "American Psycho" than steamy Harlequin.
Others knew exactly what they were getting into. There's flogging and bondage and sex toys — and a steely control freak of a gazillionaire Christian Grey, a damaged sexual "dominant" who enlists the virginal (not for long) college coed Anastasia Steele for rough-but-consensual role play.
Jeremiah Wirth, a grad student and Iraqi war vet in Maine, said the opening book was nothing short of a life-changer. He read it on a business trip to "magical" Hawaii, returning home to Bangor a better man.
"I was away from my girlfriend. I was lonely and I was reading this book in this beautiful place and I thought it would be something fun and easy," said the 26-year-old Kurt Vonnegut, a "Star Wars" fan who is just a year younger than the fictional Grey.
"People hear about flogging and stuff like that in this book, and they don't get it. I became emotionally invested in the love story, especially from the female's perspective. That was important to me, to put myself in Ana's shoes. It was overwhelming, and I'll never forget it," Wirth said.
John Puckett, who is gay, spared no superlative from San Dimas, Calif., where he works as a theatrical manager about 20 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. Usually preferring autobiography and true crime stories, he's now reading all three "Fifty Shades" books for a second time.
"I was pretty much hooked from the beginning," said Puckett, 45. "It grabs a hold of you and it doesn't let go."
Most appealing, he said, is Grey's slowly unpeeled vulnerability, that "lost, hurt little boy who craves nothing more than to be deserving of unconditional love."
Dr. Mehmet Oz sees a potential for these books to help relationships, dedicating a recent show to exploring the books with an audience of women and men who have read them.
"This woman has gotten people talking about sex in a way that no one else could get them to talk about it," he said.
Bob James, an ex-Marine and dad of four grown children, first read "Fifty Shades" when it was still fan fiction.
"Most people who criticize it haven't read it," said the 50-year-old James. "They take things out of context and just pick the sex scenes out. I liked the romance. Ana is drawing him away from all the bondage stuff."
His wife, a regular volunteer at their church, rolled her eyes when he read her excerpts, "but not the sex parts," he said. Has he picked up any marital pointers from the attentive yet troubled Grey?
"I learned that I do need to show more of a protective nature toward her in public," said James. "There's something that's drawing women to read it and it would behoove a man to know what that is."

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