Monthly Archives: February 2015

7 Movies That Do BDSM Better Than ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Sure, there’s some light spanking and whipping in Fifty Shades of Grey, but plenty of other movies feature hotter, better BDSM sex than the film adaptation of E.L. James’s novel.

Unless you’ve been living under the rock of repression, odds are you’re at least familiar with the phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey. E.L. James’s series of BDSM-lite novels, with its cringeworthy prose, has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, been translated into 52 languages, and even inspired an allegedly faulty line of lube.It’s also spawned a film trilogy whose first installment, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, dominated the box office over Presidents Day weekend with a record $94.4 million take, and a global haul of over a quarter of a billion dollars.The film centers on Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson), a romantic, virginal English lit student who falls for a surreptitious 27-year-old billionaire, Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan). Little does she know that Grey has a dark past, which manifests itself in his desire to slap, whip, and smack around women with a series of tools in his red-tinted “playroom.” Anastasia isn’t into it at first, refusing to sign her suitor’s dom-sub (dominant-submissive) contract, but eventually relents after falling for the kinky bastard—albeit as a free agent.BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism) is a catch-all phrase that includes a variety of kinky endeavors—from inflicting pain and/or humiliation to the use of restraints—but involves a dominant who controls the session and asubmissive who surrenders control. The BDSM scenes in the Fifty Shades of Grey film are tame by virtually any sexually active person’s standards. Take it from an actual dominatrix. But there have been a plethora of movies that have tackled BDSM in more unique and interesting ways.

So, without further ado, here are 7 movies that do BDSM better than Fifty Shades of Grey.

SECRETARY (2002)

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Steven Shainberg’s film tells the tale of Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a clumsy and emotionally fragile gal who, after attempting to take her own life, tries to work her way back into society. She gets a job as a secretary for an attorney, E. Edward Grey (James Spader), who revels in how submissive she is. He doesn’t just share the same last name as Christian; also his taste for BDSM. What starts off as spanking to punish her typos blossoms into a full-blown dom-sub relationship. And James Spader is the ultimate dom.

BELLE DU JOUR (1967)

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“Do as you wish with me,” says Séverine Serizy. In surrealist master Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film, Serizy (Catherine Deneuve) is a young housewife whose sexual relationship with her husband is nonexistent. To satiate herself, she fantasizes about BDSM. Eventually, she begins working at a brothel under the name “Belle Du Jour” while her husband is at work, fulfilling her sexual fantasies and desires—including with a young gangster, Marcel, who brings her to the brink and back with his active dominance.

BITTER MOON (1992)

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This is legendary filmmaker (and fugitive from justice) Roman Polanski’s stab at BDSM. Nigel (Hugh Grant) and Fiona (Kristen Scott Thomas) are a bored, married couple on a cruise to Istanbul, passing through India. They come across Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner) and her paraplegic husband, Oscar (Peter Coyote), a couple very into BDSM. Oscar first tormented Mimi, humiliating her constantly and forcing her into an abortion, then, after Mimi renders him paraplegic, she relishes both dominating and humiliating him, having sex with other men in front of him. Nigel finds himself taken by Mimi, but she may prove too hot and twisted for him to handle.

A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011)

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David Cronenberg is no stranger to BDSM—take the brilliant “device” sequence inDead Ringers—and this film provides a fascinating psychoanalytical exploration of humiliation. Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley) is being treated at a psychiatric hospital in Zurich by Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). Her frenzied condition was, it seems, caused by the simultaneous humiliation and sexual arousal she felt when her father spanked her naked as a child. At Freud’s (Viggo Mortensen) apparent suggestion, Jung and Spielrein begin a hot and heavy affair—one that includes bondage and plenty of spanking (by Fassbender, no less).

MAITRESSE (1975)

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The French, sexually liberated beings they are, sure know their BDSM. And the BDSM scenes in Barbet Schroeder’s French film proved so racy that the movie was banned until 1981 in the UK, with the ratings board remarking, “the actual scenes of fetishism are miles in excess of anything we have ever passed in this field.” The film tells the story of Olivier (Gerard Depardieu, in an early leading role), a crook who falls under the wing of Ariane (Bulle Ogier), a seemingly normal woman whose apartment has a ladder that descends into a torture chamber. Yes, she spends her days working as a professional dominatrix, and a fascinating dom-sub relationship ensues with her new assistant, Olivier. The film was finally released in the UK after several minutes were cut from it, included an unsimulated scene where Ariane nails a client’s penis to a piece of wood.

BASIC INSTINCT (1992)

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Paul Verhoeven’s erotic phenomenon starred Michael Douglas as Nick Curran, a detective investigating the case of a rock star who was brutally stabbed to death with an ice pick by a mystery blonde. The prime suspect is Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), an icy, bisexual writer with a penchant for bondage. While the leg-crossing scene is the most iconic, there are also several sexy BDSM scenes here featuring Stone tying Douglas to the bed and riding him like Seabiscuit.

9 ½ WEEKS (1986)

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Adrian Lyne’s erotic drama is very ‘80s—about a divorced gallerist (Kim Basinger) who meets a Wall Street hot shot (Mickey Rourke) with a thing for dominance. The two start dating, and he begins controlling her sexually, first by blindfolding her, then in the iconic food sequence, before forcing her to masturbate at work at designated times. They get off having sex in public places, and then he buys a horsewhip, where things take a sadomasochistic turn. Eventually, he stretches her too far, and the relationship proves too adventurous for her tastes.

HONORABLE MENTION:

MR. AND MRS. SMITH (2005)

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Doug Liman’s film remake is most famous for being the movie where current husband-and-wife duo Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie first got together. In the film, they play a happily married couple who both lead double-lives as spy-assassins. When they’re forced to target each other, that’s when the shit hits the fan. Now, this isn’t a BDSM-themed film per se, but there is a fun sequence featuring Jolie in full leather dominatrix gear smacking around a handcuffed mark with a riding crop—before snapping his neck.

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Let me Explain: 50 Shades of Grey and BDSM

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There is a whole lot of hoopla all over the interwebs and airwaves about 50 Shades of Grey right now.

It’s theatrical release coinciding with Valentine’s Day should only further the chatter and curiosity, to the author and production company’s delight.

I read the books. I will say that they are not very well written. No disrespect, but it is everything a romance novel is meant to be…and not be. It’s an easy read that has a lot of sex in it, however, the euphemisms used to further describe a quite undesirable experience wore on my last nerve. The storyline kept me mentally checked-in though.

It seems many people are not happy with the book due to it’s perceived “intimate partner violence” (IPV). There’s even a hashtag (#50dollarsnot50shades) which is growing in popularity and asking people to donate the $50 they might spend on the movie and concessions to a local women’s shelter. I just finished reading an article by progressive Christian, Mark Sandin, who I respect very much, in which he claimed that this (IPV) was his own problem with the novels and why he would not be supporting the movie.

Here’s the thing:

Yes, 50 Shades of Grey revolves around two people participating in a BDSM (Bondage & Discipline, Sadism & Masochism) relationship, however, BDSM is not about violence. The roles of BDSM partners are, in and of themselves, while unequal, complementary to one another. The idea of informed consent of both partners becomes essential. It is less about control, isolation and pain than most people believe.

Practicing BDSM involves high amounts of trust and vulnerability. So much so that it almost becomes, dare I say—spiritual. What is spirituality without trust and vulnerability? Can you be spiritual without daring greatly to bare the most intimate knowledge of yourself? Having a spiritual connection at that level to something outside of ourselves is at the heart our desire. Desire, not lust.

While leaving yourself exposed opens you up to the greatest pains you’ve ever known, it also allows you to experience things at a whole new level. Love. Sex. If you’re going to keep pieces of it unavailable, you’re never going to know the heights you can reach. That’s the real idea behind BDSM. At least for those I know personally who practice it.

As with anything, people get involved for the wrong reasons. Just like marriage and even religion, when you add the wrong person and abuse of power, especially where vulnerabilities are concerned, the potential for things to go wrong or become abusive is high.

That’s always going to be the problem with vulnerability.

Spoiler Alert:

In the storyline beyond the BDSM in 50 Shades of Grey you find that Christian Grey (man, that’s a loaded name) was an abused child. The only way he was able to become successful was to lose his inhibitions through a BDSM arrangement. 50 Shades of Grey is actually a reference to the many levels that are not black and white that make up Mr. Grey, not bruising as many people insist. It is also through this arrangement that he is finally able to fall in love because it allows him to become vulnerable.

So, you see there is actually a lot more to the story than meets the eye. If you look for it, you’ll find a really deep lesson in vulnerability. And who doesn’t need more vulnerability in their life?

Just imagine, fantasize if you dare, the possibilities.

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I Taught Christian Grey All That He Knows . . . But Not All That *I* Know !!! – 50 Shades of Domina Kathryn

It was a red flag: sex should never be choreographed, except perhaps in musical theater and interpretive dance. More warning signs came from lead actress Dakota Johnson, who said the sex scenes were visually “beautiful,” and “like a dance.”

Cut to Christian Grey’s bedroom, where the antihero of E.L. James’ bestselling BDSM-lite novel, a 27-year-old billionaire and sexual dominant played by actor Jamie Dornan, deflowers the clumsy and hopelessly romantic Anastasia Steele (Johnson).

The film’s first sex scene shows a lot of earnest lip-biting, heavy-breathing, and body-undulating from Anastasia, while Christian’s head hovers awkwardly and elusively around her pelvis.

Much attention is given to the curves of Anastasia’s naked body—swollen breasts, arched back, curled toes, quivering abdomen—emphasizing the male gaze. But nowhere does the scene stray from these hackneyed conventions, which, were it not for one fleeting glimpse of her pubic hair, could pass in a PG-13 film.

During last week’s splashy ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ promotional tour, director Sam Taylor-Johnson described sex in the film as “very choreographed.”

The writhing and sighing drags on uncomfortably through a decidedly G-rated money shot, when the camera sweeps up to a skylight above Christian’s bed, where we see a reflection of our billionaire sadist’s bum flexing with every mechanical thrust.

Two things came to mind: first, that the only other time sex has looked so “choreographed” in a movie was when marionettes made love in the satirical comedy, ‘Team America’. Second, that watching Christian and Anastasia’s first time play out on the silver screen was like watching two people you don’t care about have terrible sex.

That would make more sense in a sex scene that’s supposed to be difficult to watch. But as fans of the book know well, Anastasia’s first time is intergalactic—nothing like lackluster sex most women associate with losing their virginity. Christian is also fully in control and rather chatty. Indeed, the unfiltered dirty talk is the only thing that makes reading E.L. James’s euphemism-heavy smut worthwhile.

But on camera, Dornan has never looked so neutered, so utterly lacking sex appeal, so unenthusiastic. And we cannot pin all blame on the actor, who has excelled at this stuff in almost every other role he’s ever played.

Things don’t improve much in Christian’s “playroom,” where Anastasia, the wary but wanting submissive, gets acquainted with his state-of-the-art equipment, riding crop, belt, whip, and other toys.

There are a few fleeting moments that could pass as sexy, like when Dornan exerts himself during one particularly unrelenting spanking, or when flesh is seen from an angle that pushes the envelope ever so slightly.

But the film has set the bar shockingly low. It leaves the audience feeling shortchanged, after sitting through a film that is otherwise fiercely loyal to the original material. In short, the movie that promised to be the most titillating Hollywood motion picture ever made—the apex of a cultural phenomenon that thrust BDSM into the mainstream—was, basically, really bad in bed.

Christian is also unusually polite and sensitive for a sadist, constantly addressing his submissive by her full name, and even rubs her down with baby oil after a spanking

 

‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is perhaps the only movie about a woman’s romantic and sexual fantasies which could fail at being sexy and still manage to be a phenomenal success.

 

That so many people bought tickets in advance—it has become the fastest-selling R-rated movie in Fandango’s history is proof of the ‘Fifty Shades’ franchise’s prevailing cultural influence.

 

It’s no wonder that director Sam Taylor-Johnson has signed on to make the second installment in the trilogy, as she told NBC’s ‘Today’ show. No amount of lackluster reviews or collective groans of disappointment will deter people from seeing it. ‘Fifty Shades’ is, quite simply, critic-proof. It will endure, and throw off, any scorn thrown at it.

 

When E.L. James rolled out the ‘Fifty Shades’ trilogy in 2011, her smutty fan-fiction quickly became a literary phenomenon.

 

The series resuscitated the barely breathing books industry, selling 20 million copies within months of being published in March, 2012. (To date, more than 100 million copies have sold.) Random House raked in so much cash from sales in 2012 that all employees, from VPs to janitors, were given a $5,000 bonus at the end of the year.

 

Publishing also profited from countless ‘Fifty Shades’ spin-offs and genre crossovers, from memoirs to parodies. Fringe fantasies suddenly entered the mainstream, exposed on Amazon’s bestseller charts.

 

For example, ‘monster porn’ made a name for itself in the increasingly lucrative industry of self-published smut with the ‘Cum For Bigfoot’, a 12-book series by Virginia Wade, a pseudonym. At one point, Wade was earning $30,000 a month from ‘Bigfoot’ sales through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

 

In 2013, the books also spawned an off-Broadway play and a gender-studies course: ‘Fifty Shades’ permeated every niche of culture. There were thousands of think pieces, including one on this website comparing the book to James Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’.

 

In a 2012 story in ‘Newsweek’, Katie Roiphe attributed the book’s success to the success of feminism, arguing that women may want to surrender some of the power they’ve gained in chipping away at the glass ceiling.

 

There have been two soundtracks, one released in 2012 after the books and one with the movie, plus endless merchandising tie-ins that far surpassed the predictable lingerie and sex toys—everything from ‘Fifty Shades’-themed vacation packages to wine and baby onesies. With its Valentine’s Day release, the movie has given businesses an opportunity to cash in on the Fifty Shades’ effect all over again.

 

And yet, despite all this, the thing we know it best for—its sex—is absurdly underwhelming and silly. At least the movie cuts much of the book’s most groan-inducing prose and Anastasia’s internal monologue, making her character more likeable.

 

Johnson’s nuanced, effortful performance helps. The actress surrenders fully to her character but also brings Anastasia’s fumbling innocence to life in a way that is endearing and even comical. Her efforts are not totally lost on the film’s bad sex: she deserves credit for some of those fleeting sexy moments.

 

If anything ruined the sex in the book, it was Anastasia and E.L. James, who punctuated long descriptions of explicit sex with Anastasia’s ridiculous and juvenile exclamations (“Holy Cow!” “Holy Moses!’).

 

But between the book and the film, the bigger problem is Christian Grey. He is a blurry fantasy of the dominant male ideal, a thinly sketched derivative of Mr. Rochester and other brooding heroes in the Victorian literature that Anastasia studied in college.

 

The book allowed female readers to round out his character with their own versions of this ideal. But this doesn’t translate on screen, where little distinguishes him from the hunky star of a daytime soap opera besides his “singular tastes” and varied collection of spanking paddles.

 

Christian is also unusually polite and sensitive for a sadist, constantly addressing his submissive by her full name, checking in on how she feels, serving her fine wine and making sure she’s well-fed. He even rubs her down with baby oil after a spanking.

 

These are all part of E.L. James’ unsubtle efforts to make him fit the classic male romantic hero ideal: all-commanding, but all caring. The heroine fears and desires him. He is both mysterious and nurturing, and—hoary stereotypes intact—at the end of the day, she just wants to be saved.

 

These qualities are underdeveloped and poorly conveyed, but they pass in print, in part because Christian doesn’t hold back in bed. Dornan doesn’t add enough to them in the movie to make Christian a three-dimensional character. He plays his character straight, without being able to demonstrate any of the sexual prowess we know from the book.

 

It doesn’t help that most of the dialogue in the movie is lifted, unaltered, from the book. You can’t help but squirm in your seat and laugh nervously when Dornan delivers one of the book’s most famously cringey lines without any irony: “Because I’m fifty shades of fucked up, Anastasia.”

 

He’s also completely mute during sex, a directional decision which makes little sense except that producers didn’t want anything too pornographic in the film, least of all from a man who is already wielding paddles and tassel whips.

 

It’s worth noting that the tassel-whip scene—ridiculous in the book—is filmed in slow motion, with 16th century composer Thomas Tallis’ ‘Spem in Alium’ playing in the background. Dornan looks like a complete ninny, wielding the tassel-whip limply and delicately as if it’s an accoutrement to a piece of expressive dance.

 

After that visual debacle, it’s incredibly satisfying to see him sweat while spanking Anastasia at the end of the film.

 

The film could have succeeded had it shown raw sexuality on camera—especially raw female sexuality— as opposed to “choreographed” sex, where the woman is an instrument. But it’s difficult to do sex brilliantly in a film that’s a love story, and impossible to do in a maudlin, made-for-teens love story.

 

The films that handle sex brilliantly, if sensationally, tend to be more realistic in their portrayal of passion, like ‘Blue is the Warmest Color’ and ‘Y Tu Mamá También.’ But in the multiplex-friendly ‘Fifty Shades’ we could not have expected to see anything like what we saw in other movies where sadomasochism is a main theme (‘9½ Weeks,’ ‘Last Tango in Paris’).

 

These films are too dark, too transgressive, and ‘Fifty Shades’ was always going to be a commercial film. But if sex in the film had been better—more real or more intense—then it might have given the phenomenon more cultural cachet. It could have actually challenged our perceptions of BDSM and power dynamics in relationships. But BDSM is served badly by ‘Fifty Shades’, as are more mundane expressions of sexual desire.

 

Of course, ‘Fifty Shades’ is what it is: a mainstream runaway train of a success, with the misleading promise of dabbling around the extremes of sexual fantasy and roleplay. The producers would have likely sacrificed commercial success to push the envelope in this film. Had they done so, the effect would have been too polarizing. (Sex that pushes the envelope in film is always polarizing).

 

It’s clear that, like the books, the movie isn’t meant to be taken seriously. But as a result, it’s just witless camp that verges on self-parody—like a really bad porno without any sex.

 

For all its supposed titillation and challenging of sexual mores, ‘Fifty Shades’ couldn’t feel more conservative and stilted. Teenage chastity activists could use it persuasively as propaganda. The film that should have turned us on the most this year manages to extinguish sexual desire. It is uncomfortable in its own, superficially sexy skin.

 

Why ‘Fifty Shades’ appeals to so many is simpler than a thousand think pieces would have us believe. It’s a safe walk on the dark side; the faintest brush of a tassel-whip, then home in time for tea.

 

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Your Dominatrix Is So Bored by ‘50 Shades of Grey’ !!!

The “50 Shades of Grey” movie trailers show restraints and sex dungeons, but why do BDSM-themed books and films get the practice so wrong?  My recent motto has been “I taught Christian Grey everything he knows … but not everything I know!”

What do Altoids, Axe deodorant, Ikea furniture, Dannon yogurt, and Bass Ale have in common? At some point in the last two decades, advertisers for each have bet on reaching consumers by channeling elements of BDSM, a set of sexual practices encompassing bondage, discipline, domination, submission, sadism, and masochism.

This might seem like a surprising promotional strategy for such varied household goods, until you consider how saturated pop culture is by one specific brand of erotica.

An Amazon search for “BDSM books” yields 61,562 results as of this writing. TV programs as tame as Will & Grace, TLC’s Trading Spaces, and HBO’s Togetherness have featured BDSM-centric plotlines.

Pop music darlings including Rihanna (“S&M”), Britney Spears (“I’m A Slave 4 U”), and Janet Jackson (“Rope Burn”) have performed similarly themed songs. And then of course there’s E.L. James’ mega successful Fifty Shades of Grey, out on the big screen next week.

Many assume that BDSM devotees are pleased by this escalating attention—that the spotlight must be driving awareness of an alternative lifestyle, thereby freeing the marginalized from judgment. Indeed, aficionados are quick to note the benefits of the broadened scope of dialogue. However, a growing sense of discontent is permeating the community.

According to actual BDSM practitioners, when content creators lean on kink as a device to advance their narrative objective—whether the aim is to inject comic relief, amplify suspense, or establish erotic tension—they tend to do so at the cost of authenticity. The result is that BDSM as it’s depicted in bestselling books, blockbuster films, and TV shows barely resembles the actual practice.

Instead, potentially dangerous, inaccurate information is disseminated while harmful stereotypes are promoted. As dominatrix turned writer Nichi Hodgson puts it, what the masses get from Fifty Shades is “torturous for all the wrong reasons.”

The concern is that such reckless portrayals undermine the advantages of BDSM’s increasing prevalence. But how exactly does the mainstream media, and especially Hollywood, get BDSM so wrong in the first place?

“I’d like to see BDSM portrayed by emotionally intelligent, mentally stable, high functioning people, because that would be accurate.”
The main complaint amongst the experts interviewed for this story is the trope of the emotionally damaged kinkster. In perhaps the most widespread, offensive example, Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey is a self-made billionaire whose mother committed suicide when he was four after years of abuse at the hands of her pimp. “I had a rough start in life. That’s all you need to know,” Grey confesses to his naïve young lover, Anastasia Steele.

Associate Professor Ummni Khan of Carleton University, the author of Vicarious Kinks: S/M in the Socio-Legal Imaginary, is optimistic about Fifty Shades’ overall impact, but she deeply regrets that “Christian Grey’s hardcore side is a result of his traumatic childhood, which perpetuates a false myth.”

The same tactic of conveying instability through fondness for BDSM is used in 9½ Weeks, Basic Instinct, and Showtime’s Shameless. Even in Secretary, a film credited for its realistic bondage scenes, the two main characters are painted as fragile and dysfunctional.

Mounting evidence suggests that BDSM behaviors are more “normal” and healthier than pop culture allows. In a 1998 Playboy poll by Dr. Marty Klein, 49% of male respondents and 38% of females admitted to spanking during sex, and 30% of males and 32% of females said they’d experimented with restraints.

A recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that BDSMers scored higher than “vanilla” participants on measures associated with mental health such as extroversion, conscientiousness, and open-mindedness.

“I’d like to see BDSM portrayed by emotionally intelligent, mentally stable, high functioning people, because that would be accurate,” says Kat, a self-proclaimed psych nerd and Certified Tantra Instructor who practices BDSM regularly.

Through formulaic mischaracterizations by mainstream storytellers, Kat points out that the concept of role reversal is also lost. “I exercise control in all things,” Grey explains to Steele in a contrived back-and-froth intended to foreshadow his sexual preferences.

In pop culture, control freaks like Grey are cast as dominant in the bedroom, while pitiable men like Desperate Housewives’ Rex Van de Camp are predictably submissive. But in the real world, BDSM is often a tool for tapping into desires that don’t align with daily life. For instance, Kat, a staunch feminist, derives satisfaction when her boyfriend commands her to scream, “I’m a cock-hungry slut!”

“It’s paradoxical for me to want to submit to degradation and objectification, but humans are paradoxical,” says Kat.

Kristen Boyer, a professional dominatrix and the author of Playing Karma, confirms that many of her submissive clients are hardworking, successful people “aching to relinquish the control they exercise day to day.”

Another major point of contention is pop culture’s disregard for the BDSM community’s standard safe, sane, and consensual (SSC) code of conduct. In addition to establishing soft and hard personal limits, BDSMers agree upon a “safe word” and check in with each other regularly throughout sessions.

“Negotiating a kink dynamic properly requires the exchange of a lot of emails, drinks over dinner, and walks in the park,” says Hodgson, describing an intricate process Hollywood mostly dismisses.

An authentic dom-sub dynamic doesn’t leave room for hesitation, and it is too well defined to trickle into people’s personal lives.

“A big problem with the book is that Christian Grey non-consensually and non-sexually dominates Ana in many ways,” says Khan, referring to Grey’s interference with Steele’s friendships and career.

To see what it looks like when the sanctity of consent is sidelined in the name of dramatic effect, just watch the official Fifty Shades trailer. “I don’t know if I can be with him the way that he needs me to,” says Steele in voice over. Cut to Steele, blindfolded and handcuffed, while Grey glides the tassels of a flogger across her naked body.

Guy Sanders (aka Sir Guy), an award-winning dominant and a Board Member of The Eulenspiegel Society, a nonprofit sexual liberation support group, warns that “those who don’t fully understand mutual safety and consent are more likely to engage in practices that could by physically or mentally harmful.”

Reportedly, people who treat Fifty Shades as a manual are actively incorporating cable ties into their sex lives, something Hodgson says no one abiding by SCC would advise since cables are difficult to wriggle out of and can puncture the skin.

Speaking of injury, BDSMers fear that it’s too easy for audiences to internalize the misconception that BDSM is primarily about pain. In one of Fifty Shades’ steamiest scenes, Grey unlocks his Red Room of Pain. Dressed as a dominatrix in Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Angelina Jolie teases her enemy before viciously snapping his neck. The Story of O, a 1954 French film often associated with BDSM, is really a tale of sexual slavery. And in disturbing scenes from Videodrome, Hellraiser, Bride of Chucky, and Pulp Fiction, the line between BDSM and torture is blurred.

The truth is that whips, chains, and handcuffs don’t have to be symbols of suffering.

“There are doms who will shove a strap-on dick up your ass if you want, but BDSM is about eliciting a sexual response through an energy exchange that can be quite playful and innocent,” says Boyer.

“I don’t personally love pain. I like the power exchange,” echoes Kat.

As Sir Guy explains, “The mental and spiritual aspects of BDSM are far more important than anything physical.”

So discomfort is secondary to the psychological element. As it happens, so is sex, though you wouldn’t know it from reading Fifty Shades, in which the loss of Steele’s virginity is a central plot point, or from digesting pop culture in general. The misunderstanding that BDSM necessarily leads to intercourse is yet another troubling taboo advocated by mainstream media.

“If a novice enters into a session with an expectation of sex that isn’t met, boundaries can be violated and things can get ugly fast,” says Boyer.

Clearly, when pop culture picks an “it” fetish, the potential downside isn’t limited to its existing practitioners.

Luckily, for those interested in learning how to tackle BDSM correctly, the Internet is teeming with instructional books, dedicated online forums, and videos produced by established professionals such as Midori, Lorelei Lee, and Ernest Greene.

Clarisse Thorn, author of BDSM & Culture: Fifty Shades of Stereotype, recommends thorough research because education and training are paramount. She also notes that many dungeons double as community centers, offering workshops to teach amateurs everything from whipping to preserving emotional safety during intense encounters.

The problem isn’t a lack of informative resources, but that Hollywood’s ratings-driven glitz overshadows the factual material.

Certainly, storytellers have a right to craft fiction, celebrities have a right to act, and studio executives have a right to make money. But change often starts when public figures take a stand, sometimes simply by discussing a controversial topic without flinching. Perhaps BDSM’s widespread misrepresentation would be less frustrating if the people broadcasting the fallacies weren’t the ones with the power to dispel the many myths.

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