Fifty Shades Of — Good God, What Are You Doing? An Expert Explains What The Film Gets Wrong

As a dominatrix who sometimes switches with her clients (and is strictly submissive in her personal life), I have desperately avoided Fifty Shades of Grey. All I heard from colleagues and other kinksters about the books was that they were a terrible representation of BDSM, written by an outsider with a dubious grasp on the concept of consent. I dismissed the books as irrelevant, but with the release of the movie adaptation this weekend, the buzz about Fifty Shades has become unavoidable. I finally decided to see for myself just how bad it could be.

It was bad. I’ve attempted to catalogue all of the ways in which it was bad, but I did have to narrow the movie’s failures down to 10 items. Some of these are straight-up incorrect depictions of safe and consensual BDSM; others merely have erroneous implications for audience members who aren’t knowledgeable about kink. Here are the truths behind the myths.

1. There is more than one way to incorporate BDSM into your sexual and romantic relationship(s), and Christian’s “lifestyle” is rare.
If a guy tells you he’s into BDSM, don’t assume that means he wants you to sign a contract that will allow him to dictate your wardrobe, diet, and sleeping arrangements. This is an extreme form of BDSM, often called “total power exchange,” and it gives a strict structure to not just the couple’s sex life or romantic relationship, but also to the participants’ entire lives. The film implies that this is what it means to be “into” BDSM, but the reality is that most people who are kinky casually incorporate individual acts like spanking and bondage into their sex lives. There’s a whole spectrum between that and using BDSM as the guiding principle of one’s existence, so don’t let this movie fool you into thinking “lifestyle” kink is the only — or even the usual — alternative to vanilla sex.

2. There is also more than one way to be a dom — and, as demonstrated by Christian, many ways NOT to be one.
Christian’s style of dominance is strict. It’s all about following the rules — at least, for his submissive. Christian breaks just about every rule he establishes for his BDSM relationship, plus several more pre-existing rules of the general social contract (like don’t fucking stalk people). It’s true that many dominants have a serious demeanor and use reasonable, negotiated, and agreed-upon forms of control like orgasm denial and spoken protocol (“Yes, Ma’am!”). But it’s also true that doms can be playful and permissive, caring and nurturing, casually in charge, or any combination thereof. By definition, the only thing the dominant has to do to is call the shots (again, based on reasonable, negotiated, and agreed-upon terms). The dominant can even order her submissive to spank her, and still be the one in charge!

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