I’m watching some past seasons of Law & Order: SVU and I just saw the Fifty Shades of Grey inspired episode “Twenty-Five Acts,” and I’m not pleased. This episode highlighted all the problems I have with Fifty Shades and it’s popularity. A quick plot summary: The author of the book “Twenty-Five Acts” is raped twice, both times by the same man, who claims she wanted it because she’s into S&M. During the investigation the cops and lawyers are worried that the victim’s sexual proclivities will make her less credible land her accusations more suspect. There’s more about authorship, marketing and academic reputations; it’s all quite problematic. Here’s why.
Fifty Shades is the only source of information lots of people have on BDSM and the kink lifestyle. And the information they’re given is by and large, wrong. Aside from that fact that this novel is a work of fiction, the relationship between the main characters is an unhealthy one; not because it’s a BDSM relationship, but because it’s an unhealthy BDSM relationship. Christian Grey is not a good dom. He’s emotionally abusive to his sub. Anastasia Steele is not given the proper amount of information needed to make sure she’s going to be taken care of and not harmed. She doesn’t fully understand what she’s getting into. And that is dangerous, for both partners.
People who read or hear about the relationship in Fifty Shades assume this is what all BDSM relationships are like. This becomes the media ‘standard’ of how BDSM is portrayed. To people in the kink community, it’s frustrating because we know differently. Our relationships are based in trust, full faith and prior knowledge of roles, rules and these three words: safe, sane and consensual. Let me repeat that: Safe. Sane. Consensual. After care is crucial. Communication is key. Negotiating and renegotiating and negotiating again is okay. Using your safe-word is also okay, encouraged even; there’s no stigma attached to stopping when you no longer feel comfortable or safe. Just because you consent to something once, doesn’t mean you consent to that forever. Safe, sane, consensual.
I’m all for people exploring their sexuality and all for people reading. If you read Fifty Shades and the BDSM lifestyle appeals to you, do your research. Go online to reputable kink sites. Go to munches and meet people. We’re more than happy to explain anything and everything to you. We want to share our knowledge. We want everyone to feel welcome. If it turns out you’re not into anything or just like the occasional spanking, that’s cool. If you do want to explore the world more thoroughly, that’s exceptionally cool.
I guess I just want people to challenge their assumptions about BDSM and the people in the kink community. It’s not all leather, whips, chains and rope, though those are popular. There are as many different types of people from all ages, races, religions, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities as there are types of kinks. Personally, I’ve had more conversations about comic books and Star Trek at munches than anything pertaining to BDSM. Hell, I’ve had more conversations about geeky things at play parties than I have about BDSM.
One of my quotes on my Fetlife profile is ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover,’ just as you shouldn’t judge a group of people by a book.