As a well-balanced kinky gal, I wanted to like Fifty Shades of Grey.
I was blissfully unaware when I went to see the first installment, excited to find a new guilty pleasure and to watch a salacious portrayal of a BDSM relationship.
Within 15 minutes of the movie, I realized I was getting neither. After Christian (the male "hero") stalked Anastasia (the protagonist) at her work, I was tempted to walk out. Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't resemble a communicative, healthy BDSM relationship. In fact, it comes closer to an abusive, non-consensual dynamic.
Anastasia, or as she prefers to be called, Ana (she told Christian twice to call her Ana — and he, of course, blatantly disregards that), is a virgin when she meets Christian. And not exactly a sexually aware virgin — she has virtually no experience with sex and pleasure.
After a speedy romance, Christian introduces her to his elaborate dungeon and into his world of sadomasochism. The ridiculousness of going from virgin to a submissive in a dungeon is shocking and disturbing. In a realistic situation, if you are someone that has very tailored sexual needs, such as being collared or dressed up in frilly dresses, then you usually find someone that has those same interests. You wouldn’t seek out someone who doesn't even know what a butt plug is, and provide them with an ultimatum.
Of course, people introduce others to kink, but it is usually done gradually. When I introduced my partner to BDSM, I did so slowly and with care. First, I asked him to spank me from behind during sex, and after seeing his delight, I asked him to pull my hair. It escalated from there, as we experimented with different forms of power exchanges.
This was over a course of a year. It didn't go from zero to ten over a few weeks. If I had brought him to a dungeon our first night, he would have ran for the hills. And rightfully so. A BDSM relationship is a process with boundaries changing as desires grow equally between both partners through communication.
If you push someone's sexual boundaries too quickly, it can be very violating. In a healthier depiction, Christian could have first tried something light to see how Anastasia responded. There are two people in a relationship with two sets of desires and needs — and it's important they meet in the middle. This is not what happens between Anastasia and Christian.
It's his way or no way.
He comes into the relationship with a contract already set. It's all about his desires. While I'm absolutely for rules within power-play, they need to be constructed from scratch and contributed equally from both partners.
Christian is a characterization of an abusive man, not a dominant in a healthy BDSM relationship.
For anyone that's been in an abusive relationship, it's very easy to see through Christian's power games. He is extremely controlling. He stalks her, tracks her phone, and questions her involvement with her male friend. Then, he literally flies unannounced to visit her in Georgia. These are signs of power-hungry creep, not a romantic partner with her best interests in mind.
And this is not a characterization of what a dom is. In a consensual DS relationship, while the dom has control, his/her number one concern is the sub's pleasure. Ultimately, the sub is the one who holds the power.
Anastasia sadly doesn't have much power in this relationship and her needs are never really highlighted. She was an unaware virgin. It's such an archaic and very dangerous storyline.
This depiction of this broken relationship is very harmful to the perceptions around the BDSM community. The worst and most frustrating aspect is that Christian became interested in kink after statutory rape. It enforces the idea that BDSM stems from abuse and is only for damaged people. It promotes the very heteronormative belief that vanilla sex is good and kinky sex is bad.
In reality, people from all walks of life enjoy taking part in different forms of BDSM. There is something beautiful and intimate about the level of trust between partners in these relationships.
There is no intimacy between Anastasia and Christian, just some boring sex scenes back dropped in a fancy dungeon, dressed with stalking and a whip.
The new Fifty Shades Darker trailer for round two of the awful series aired last week. It is a culmination of every aspect of what is wrong with the series. The cringe-worthy trailer gives us a glimpse of creepy stalking, sexual awakening at the hands of a child-abuser, and a clear portrayal of how vanilla sex is better than kinky "perversions."
But the most alarming part is the ending, when Anastasia is accused of trying to save Christian.
Ugh. Please. Can we please stop teaching women and girls it's their job to save broken men?
This Valentine's Day, save your money. There are many alternatives.
See the trailer below:
Images from Fifty Shades of Grey
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