ESSENCE editor Charreah Jackson steps inside the steamiest relationship on the silver screen!

The day we’ve all been dreaming of is finally about to arrive. That day, of course, is the day we lean back into our velvet-cushioned seats and take in the sight of Jamie Dornan shirtless. That’s right, in just 24 hours, E.L. James’ explicit novel, Fifty Shades of Grey, will be steaming up movie theaters across the country. And when it comes to witnessing the film’s raunchy love scenes, we’re more than happy to get a little hot under the collar.

But apart from the opportunity to drool over Dornan’s bod, why are we really so spellbound by the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey? We sat down with ESSENCE magazine editor Charreah Jackson to get some insight into pop culture’s most controversial relationship.


If you were discussing Fifty Shades of Grey with someone who hadn’t read the book, how would you describe and/or classify Christian and Anastasia’s relationship?

On the surface, Christian and Anastasia are night and day. He’s rich with a helicopter. Her coat is from Walmart and she borrows her roommate’s computer when she needs to get online. He’s into bondage and kinky sex. She’s a virgin. But these two characters are more alike than different. They are two people deciding to get out of their comfort zone and be vulnerable. They are both naive about love yet intrigued by its power.

What is it that makes women attracted to “bad boys” like Christian Grey? Explain the psychology behind this type of relationship.

We all love a little excitement.  When we are attracted to “bad boys,” we are really wanting some of their fearlessness for our own lives. Bad boys are usually incredibly confident and sure of themselves. Even though he is naughty, I wouldn’t categorize Christian Grey as a traditional “bad boy.” We quickly see he’s not as detached and comfortable in his skin as he first appears. Smart women want a good man with a dose of bad boy, and not the reverse.

Likewise, do you think powerful, career-driven men like Christian Grey are more attracted to quiet, agreeable women? Is this related to the male’s ego or quest for dominance?

Surprisingly, I’ve found most powerful, successful and secure men want a woman who brings her own success to the table. They want a woman who is pursuing her passions, while also able to be supportive as he returns that support. I see a lot of successful men wanting a woman like Amal Clooney, not Anastasia.

Critics have slammed Fifty Shades of Grey for glorifying a relationship that appears to be emotionally abusive in nature. Do you agree? Why or why not?

I didn’t find their relationship to be emotionally abusive, but instead an honest look at a broken man who has hidden behind professional success and is finally forced to face his demons.

Women that aren’t necessarily interested in exploring BDSM in real life can’t seem to get enough of these books that focus on it. How would you explain this phenomenon?

Fifty Shades of Grey is a fun fantasy for women, whether you want to be tied up or not. Let’s be honest: Christian’s money is a silent yet incredibly important role in this story. If he was taking Anastasia to a rusty shed instead of a plush playroom in his penthouse, we would not find this lifestyle or story that sexy. He offers her the world and kinky sex, something a lot of women wouldn’t mind. This book is an escape for many women who are working hard in their careers and hustling to take care of families. It is a fantasy to have someone else do all the worrying and caregiving.

Do you think Christian and Anastasia’s relationship is sustainable? Do relationships require a certain level of balance to stand the test of time, or is that merely a myth?

Any relationship can be sustained if both parties are committed to staying and willing to do what it takes for the relationship to continue. Relationships definitely require give and take. If one partner is doing all the lifting and loving they will eventually tire out. The best relationships have a tag team dynamic.

A book and movie like Fifty Shades of Grey would have been considered taboo just a few years ago. Do you think society’s increasing obsession with pornography has created a shift in terms of embracing sexuality? Do you think this is a positive or negative change?

Pornography has definitely exposed us to sex in a way unlike any generation before us. We’ve seen more sex positions up close and personal by the age of 15 than our grandparents saw in their lifetime. But, let’s be clear, the themes in Fifty Shades are not new to the scene, but new to be discussed at the dinner table and beyond. Your grandmother might have had a BDSM fantasy. You are fortunate to see it on film.


Charreah K. Jackson is an international life coach and the Lifestyle and Relationships Editor for ESSENCE magazine, empowering the brand’s audience of 13 million. She is a featured expert on CNN, VH1 and ABC News and the creator of, a love and career advice site. The National Association of Professional Women named her a 2014 Woman of the Year.

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