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Dr. Drew: '50 Shades of Grey' pathological, poorly written

Tuesday - 5/22/2012, 4:25pm  ET

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This file combo made of book cover images provided by Vintage Books shows the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by best-selling author E L James. Public libraries in several states are pulling the racy romance trilogy "Fifty Shades of Grey" from shelves or deciding not to order the best-seller at all, saying it's too steamy or too poorly written. (AP Photo/Vintage Books, File)

'I'm disturbed by it'

Dr. Drew Pinsky

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Amy Hunter, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A popular novel that has gained national attention is a "horribly written" story about a pathological, abusive relationship that in no way resembles a healthy love life, according to an expert.

"Why women would pick this up as any sort of substitute for intimacy or any sort of model for a reasonable relationship, I find just sort of disturbing," says Dr. Drew Pinksy, a relationship expert, about E. L. James' "50 Shades of Grey."

"Maybe I have no business commenting on how women massage their fantasy life. Indeed I don't. But as I look at this as a clinician, the idea that women look at this relationship as anything other than absolute, categorical, profound pathology is more than I can imagine."

The novel has topped the New York Times Best Sellers list for nearly three months. It's created a buzz due to its erotic nature, and some libraries have kept it off shelves.

The story involves a recent female college graduate who signs a contract allowing a male billionaire complete control over her life. Over the course of the novel, she becomes versed in his tastes for sadomasochistic sex.

The lead male character is an abuse victim and a sex addict who Pinsky says systematically abuses the lead female character throughout the novel.

"I can't emphasize enough the disturbing quality of this," Pinsky says. "This is a woman who is na´ve to these issues, and then is manipulated and exploited by a man who has a severe personality disorder and a sex addiction who is violent with her, it is just too much to be understood."

Pinsky acknowledges that the book plays to a "swept away fantasy," and says erotic fiction is replete with the genre. But, "anyone who has a familiarity with that literature would say there are lot better options out there than this to satisfy that particular fantasy."

Some have countered criticism against the book by arguing the story is a backlash against feminism, and is a mere fantasy that allows women to forget about their daily responsibilities.

Pinsky disagrees with this argument.

"I would say that is a Stockholm Syndrome effect. The fantasy that you are in control when you are being manipulated and overpowered by someone, that you actually adopt their point of view and believe you are participating and controlling them ... It's a complete fulfillment of a pathological fantasy."

Despite his harsh criticism of the novel, Pinsky says if the book enhances women's real-life sex lives and intimacy, "so be it."

However, his concern lies with younger minds who may read the story.

"I worry about the 15-year-olds and 19-year-olds reading this and formulating a notion that this is anything close to a reasonable relationship," he says. "I worry that this is going to be a model for something pathological."

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)