The blockbuster success of the film, Fifty Shades of Grey, brings this cautionary guidance from Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Irvine medical school.

Couples who may be insoired by the film and books to spice thinge up should check out two  recent studies Kheriaty cites in a post on The Public Discourse.The studies link women who  have read the Fifty Shades books with an increase in behaviors associated with abusive relationships. The 2014 study is here, and the  2013 study is here.

Here is his explaination for why we should be wary of mixing romance with violence -- even in the entertainment we consume.

"Human beings have neural networks related to sexual behavior, and these are shaped in subtle ways by our sexual experiences. We have separate neural networks related to anger and aggression, and these are shaped and strengthened when people engage in violent or domineering behaviors. We have still more separate brain maps for fear and anxiety, which are shaped and reinforced by frightening or anxiety-provoking experiences." 

What happens to Christian and Anastasia's brains when love is expressed and received through brutalizing behavior? 

"When we bring sex, aggression and anxiety together in one act, we must prepare for the mind as well as the body to accommodate that new reality," writes Kheriaty.

"So these neural networks and these experiences normally remain distinct—unless our experiences begin to fuse them together. When this fusion happens, the brain gets confused. And this is exactly what happens when people experiment with sadomasochistic sexual practices. These distinct neural networks and brain maps become fused according to Hebb’s principle: neurons that fire together wire together.

"Once this happens, aggression automatically triggers sexual arousal. Or fear and anxiety automatically trigger sexual interest. When this fusion of neural networks becomes pronounced, people often will present to the psychiatrist with clinical problems. Patients complain, for example, that they cannot get aroused unless they get aggressive or violent. Or they complain that they become involuntarily aroused whenever they experience fear. Once these distinct neural networks are fused, the person is—at the level of the brain—literally tied down."

Increasingly, the influence of books and films like Fifty Shades, and the intrusion of  pornography into mainstream America will force young Americans  to make conscious choices about the entertainment they consume, if only to avoid the temptation to play with fire.

"Before making decisions about our sexual behaviors, we need to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to be doing to our brain and our body—what kind of neural tracks and networks do we want to be reinforcing through these behaviors? Do we want to be fusing sex and love? Sex and security? Sex and attachment or commitment? Sex and fidelity? Sex and trust? Sex and unselfishness? Or do we want to be fusing in our brain and in our experiences sex and violence? Sex and dominance? Sex and submission? Sex and control? We shape our brain by our choices. And we develop increasingly automatic and ingrained habits by ourrepeated choices. But the initial choice of which path we embark upon is up to us."