Thursday, February 5, 2015

What 50 Shades Gets Wrong

So what’s wrong with 50 Shades? 

First of all, the primary relationship is neither a healthy romantic relationship nor an accurate picture of what a D/s relationship looks like

I tend to cut the book a big break here. 50 Shades was originally Twilight fan fiction. The relationship between Edward and Bella in Twilight is textbook controlling emotional abuse. A boyfriend that stands outside your window and watches you sleep every night, drives the car faster when you ask him to slow down and follows you around when you ask him not to – that’s controlling, abusive behavior and a huge warning sign for physical violence. The relationship between Anastasia and Christian is also coercive and emotionally abusive. He’s coming from a place of significant power and uses that power to boss Ana around and control her life down to her underwear. Her consent to that set up is, at best, fuzzy. But it’s far less abusive than Twilight. Ana has far more agency. So is it a healthy relationship? No. Absolutely not. But it’s a bit healthier than the model it was based on.

Take home message: if you meet someone and they present you with a 24/7 D/s contract after the second date – RUN. Developing a healthy D/s relationship takes time and negotiation. It should start with the submissive being clear about what they want and need from the agreement.

The depiction of BDSM play, BDSM implements (like crops) and sex toys is inaccurate. Many of us in the land of Sex Education were/are concerned about this. We were worried that the folks reading the book would go home, try what was in the book and be deeply disappointed or worse, get hurt. I think most of this fear is actually concern trolling. The vast majority of the women I talked to who read the book were very clear it was fantasy

The fantasy element is clear from the very beginning. Ana is an English major who doesn’t own a computer. I tried to rationalize this by thinking the book was set in the 90s. Nope. Set in the present. What fulltime college senior English major with a job doesn’t have a computer or at least a tablet?
Next, she has never masturbated. While a college senior who has never masturbated is in a minority, it’s certainly plausible. But it makes what comes next really unplausible. She has about five earth shattering orgasms the first time she has sex. And she’s a pro at deep throating her first time too. Could that happen? Sure. I also could get struck by lightening next week. The very cornerstones of the book are fantasy. Most readers get that. Almost every time I’ve said to a customer, “You know, the woman who wrote the book didn’t have a really good understanding of BDSM or sex toys.”, most customers say, “You know, I thought so”. And then we move on and talk about what it is they’re interested in.

Take home message: if there is a sex toy or sex act in the book that sounds really hot to you, ask someone before you try it. Go to your local sex positive sex toy store. Or check out (a great online resource for sex ed videos).

Christian’s “unique” tastes are explained by his tortured childhood. If Ana can just love him enough, he’ll be cured from this.

There is no link what so ever between childhood abuse and BDSM. Studies done on members of the BDSM community have found that folks who practice BDSM are just as emotionally healthy as anybody else.

Take home message: being interested in BDSM does not mean you are a broken person. It means that the thought of erotic power exchange turns you (and millions of other people) on.

Lastly, BDSM (bondage, domination, submission, masochism or bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) is something that is practiced in many different ways by many different people. At it’s core is a deep respect for negotiation and consent. Good BDSM play only happens after the people involved have discussed how it’s going to go. It requires trust. It requires checking in before, during and after. When it’s done right, it can feel like flying. It’s a deeply erotic exchange of power that is rooted in everyone walking in from an equal place.

Take home message: for BDSM play to be good, it requires negotiation between equals

50 Shades of Grey is a series of romance novels rooted in a world of fantasy. They’ve turned millions of people on. Which is great. They also aren’t a good road map to any kind of BDSM play. Lucky for us, there are plenty of road maps out there. 

Tune it to our next blog for a start on your map.

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