As someone with a fierce appreciation for literature, I have to admit, I hated the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series.
While I could understand the surface appeal of relentless sexual tension, a tortured alpha male, the destruction of innocence and the excitement of sexual awakening, the actual storyline and delivery fell flat for me.
The writing was mind-numbingly repetitive; the plot was poorly developed, and I felt myself rolling my eyes more than Ana's inner goddess did.
That aside, I could harbor an appreciation for what the book did for the conversation surrounding sexuality and sexual taste.
The explosive popularity of Anastasia and Christian's romance helped to awaken certain urges and desires in people, which they may have been afraid to explore before. For that, I am entirely on board.
I, myself, had never been much of a stranger to many of the topics or acts explored within the book. I have always enjoyed a healthy sex life, and have never felt hesitant to talk about (or cater to) certain desires.
With that said, I don't think I ever grasped the full effect of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" movement until I met Nick.*
In the book, Christian Grey was depicted as handsome, successful, powerful and damaged.
As a result, he was the ultimate control-freak.
There was a certain darkness within his character that, while frightening, was also inherently thrilling. This is, if anything, the only way I can capture the allure Nick had.
Having just ended a particularly bad relationship, I found myself reeling into the typical post-breakup desire to become occupied with everything other than romance.
Right around this time, I met Nick entirely by chance.
Apart from an obvious initial attraction, I immediately found myself fascinated by him for reasons I couldn't explain.
I took this as all the more reason to keep my distance from him. Nick, on the other hand, had entirely different intentions.
The following months, I found myself being pursued in a way I had never experienced before. Nick was handsome, athletic, extremely intelligent, intense, troubled and the ultimate "alpha male."
While I have never found myself drawn to overly dominant males, he was nearly impossible to ignore.
It wasn't necessarily his character on its own, but the effect I seemed to have on him.
Unlike Anastasia's character, I have an undeniably strong personality.
I am independent, constantly engaged, competitive, strong-minded and have a very sure sense of self. I have never been one to shy away from anything, or to feel overly intimated by anyone, either.
With that said, I challenged Nick in a way he described as "catatonic," and he, in return, terrified me.
We both had never met anyone quite like each other and that in itself presented an undeniable intrigue.
There is no sexual tension quite like that which develops in the face of resistance.
While I had always been confident in my ability to handle myself in relationships, I knew Nick would be, ultimately, bad for me.
Of course, this effect of "forbidden lust" only worked against me, and I eventually overlooked my trepidation in favor of my growing desire.
I already knew Nick was unlike anyone I had ever met, but as soon as I agreed to play by his rules, I realized I had just met my own version of Christian Grey. I had just stepped foot in the "red room."
Before we got into any detail, Nick insisted I agree to a certain set of "contract rules" regarding our relationship and what would ensue:
"If you crave something I'm offering, say yes. But, if your mind isn't screaming yes, we won't waste our time. When or if you agree to my terms, we will proceed."
For him, the ultimate control freak, everything with me had to be strictly defined.
I refused him the type of control he was used to, which both frustrated and exhilarated him. When I begrudgingly agreed to his contract, Nick's eyes lit up with intensity:
"You just signed your soul to the devil," he said.
I soon learned of every fantasy Nick had, in detail — some of which I could understand and appreciate, and some which made me entirely uncomfortable.
He also inspired fantasies in me I had never before known to exist.
Not only was he an intense physical force, but he also had a way with words that was enticingly eloquent; he commanded every aspect of my imagination and my attention.
Ropes, handcuffs, blindfolds, rough play, elaborate fantasies, the rendering of complete control — Nick demanded all of these things from me, and more.
Except, I was never his submissive, like he expected, or like Ana was to Christian.
In fact, the most memorable moments I shared with him weren't the ones in which I was partaking in a BDSM-inspired fantasy, but the simpler moments, ones in which I challenged him for control and won.
One night, I brought him out onto my balcony with me and let him take me as the sun rose.
I don't know if it was the feeling of the rest of the world still being asleep while we indulged in each other, but he lost himself in me entirely, giving me complete control for the first time.
As we slumped to the ground after we finished, flushed and exhausted, he looked at me incredulously, with a kind of disbelief I relished almost as much as his expert touch. We were equal forces, and we had awakened something in each other.
Of course, it wasn't all sunrises and incredible sex.
As I had sensed when I first met Nick, he had no shortage of problems hiding under his well-crafted exterior. He was, for lack of a better term, "fifty shades of f*cked up."
Nick was a compulsive liar, a trait which went hand-in-hand with his excessive need for control, and he scared me in more ways than those which were fun within the bedroom.
As such, it wasn't long before I felt compelled to end things.
Of course, he never made it easy for me.
Over the following months, Nick was relentless in his efforts to continue consuming my thoughts and work his way back into my life.
In an effort to gain closure, I eventually agreed to meet up with him one night, a few blocks away from my apartment.
As soon as I saw him, I could feel my body start to react the way it always did. His eyes carefully scanned my body and stared back at me, challenging me.
As we walked between two buildings, he turned and had me pinned against the wall before I could even catch my breath. With his hands on me, his breath on my neck, I felt like I was on fire.
This was the last night we shared together.
Christian and Ana's relationship, much like my relationship with Nick, is easy to glamorize.
That said, this type of relationship isn't necessarily one to lust after or idealize; things can prove to be a lot more complicated once you leave the bedroom.
In my case, I was far too morally guided to allow Nick to remain in my life, and while he awakened something in me, I also think I lost a part of myself in him.
I knew he wasn't someone I could ever build a real, working relationship with and that knowledge alone began to diminish my desire for him.
I could never be with someone who craved that kind of control over me, and he could never be with someone who challenged his nature the way I did.
What we had together was lust, but it would never be love.
And, in the end, love will always trump lust.
*Name has been changed.