*ADULT CONTENT with possible GRAPHIC imagery* 

Now that the first official trailer of Fifty Shades Darker is out and the marketing campaign is about begin, BDSM will once again be the talk of the town and so will several misconceptions along with it. So here I am, your expert in Indian politics, foreign movies and American television, detailing out exactly why the 50 shades series as well as the first movie not only gets BDSM wrong but also demeans it.

A couple of disclaimers before I start making my points : Firstly, let us address the elephant in the room. No, this is not a book review. Book reviews are done for books, and if you haven’t read it yet, the 50 shades series does not really qualify as one. The writing is juvenile, the characterizations are flimsy and the plot is, well, non existent. What started off as a fan fiction of Twilight (the initial fifty pages are almost the same) got bloated into a billion dollar franchise. Nothing more exemplifies our intellectually bankrupt pop culture than this series.

Secondly, because my blog is mostly for Indian readers (or if I have any readers that is) and because the average Indian grows up in an extremely sexually prude upbringing I will be explaining certain words in brackets. It might be irritating (or a source of amusement) for most of my “experienced” readers (again with the caveat that I may not have any) but that cannot be helped. So here goes nothing.

1. DOMINATION IS A FORM OF ABUSE – FALSE

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I don’t know who made this but the person’s knowledge about kink (unconventional sexual practice, and no that does not include homosexuality, that is conventional and mainstream, ughh! ) is about as much as Donald Trump’s knowledge about foreign policy. Which is to say : none. Unfortunately for author EL James, her knowledge about it seems just about the same. The whole Anastasia Steele (great name for a Bond villain, btw) Christian Grey relationship feels abusive. Not necessarily physically, but also mentally ; unlike say in a real dom-sub (dominant-submissive : it means exactly what you are thinking) relationship. In real life however, they are just like any other couple, they can be dicks, they can also be extremely loving and caring for one another. The domination play is just an alternate sexual lifestyle and that’s about it. There is no abuse intrinsically involved, at least not non consensual.
During play, there are safe words. Usually the submissive is not allowed to speak during ‘play time’ but there are always safe words. A safe word is something that the submissive says when he/she can no longer tolerate the pain/tease/play/whatever else is going on and the dominant immediately stops. Like a said before, this is an alternate lifestyle not a form of abuse.

  2. SUBMISSIVES ARE WEAK CREATURES – FALSE

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Domination and submission is not about being physically or mentally strong. Or weak. It is about control and exchange of power. The dominant finds the control and power over the other sexually titillating just like another person finds foreplay. The submissive finds solace in giving up control. The feeling to lose complete physical and mental control to someone else is what turns the submissive on. It is very liberating. The submissive may be a top professional in his/her day to day life, he/she may be a very powerful person. That has NOTHING to do with this.
Speaking of this, Showtime’s new prestige drama Billions (starring Paul Giamatti, Damien Lewis and Maggie Siff) has one of the most close to real life portrayals of this kind of relationship you will find. Paul Giamatti’s character is the US attorney of New York and he and his wife (Maggie Siff) share a femdom (when the female is dominant) relationship. This is shown very organically and without giving any additional emphasis or attempts to sensationalize the whole thing.
Now here’s where 50 shades of Grey gets it all wrong : Anastasia essentially is a weak character. She is not a submissive. Neither is she submitting. If any she is SUBJUGATING to the wills of a man who seems to have very little empathy for her or for anyone else. And that is where my first point comes to foray as well : 50 shades of Grey is essentially about a man abusing another woman into bending to his wills and thus at its very core conflicts with everything a dom-sub relationship stands for.

3. BDSM IS PERVERSION – FALSE

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It is not your everyday missionary vanilla sex. But it is an act between two consenting adults. If this is unnatural and perverted, then so is fantasy football.
Mistress Rikka, a professional DOM, shares her view: “My personal opinion based on years of playing professionally is the more intelligent and successful a man or woman is, the more likely he or she is to engage in BDSM. Why would this be? First, the largest sex organ we possess is the brain, so if you are smart, the sexual fantasies you have will be much richer, detailed and kinkier than the rest. Secondly, if you are in a position of control or high stress and are dominant throughout the workday, taking a break from also being sexually dominant is necessary for balance. That doesn’t mean my clients want to be dominated all the time. Just every once in a while when the pressure builds up.”
In 50 shades of grey however, the issue is completely different. Christian Grey is portrayed as someone who needs to be saved and his falling in love with Ana is that saving factor. People who like BDSM are not in the need of saving, there is nothing to save or cure. The idea is as regressive as those who try to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Worst yet the trilogy ends with Grey slowly adopting a ‘normal’ lifestyle with his wife and children while sometime maintaining the eroticism of his past life. This is nothing but a poorly written, horribly researched fantasy of a woman who clearly neither has the chops for writing nor much first hand experience.
There is something entirely wrong about the whole thing. Christian is also portrayed as someone who was once in a femdom relationship with a much older lady who had scarred her after years of abuse. Thus the only female dominated relationship is again portrayed as an abuse and something wrong in every possible way. While this is supposed to be a book about sexual liberation and that too written from a woman’s point of view it sticks to a set pattern of regression and slut shaming when it comes to certain matters.
The movie itself is no better, while Dakota Johnson is fully to be seen in all her naked glory there is not a single shot of Jamie Dornan’s penis. The sex is all flowery, there is no smudged make up, there is no messiness. While the book itself was not the best source material to start with, Hollywood simply glosses over what little bdsm the book offered giving us basically a bland movie with mild eroticism at best. And a fantastic star making turn from Dakota Johnson. She, pretty much like Kristen Stewart, another great actress, is stuck in a terrible role and people often tend to associate bad writing and bad characterization with bad acting. While it has taken Stewart years to shake off her Twilight image by doing fantastic films like Camp X Ray, Still Alice and Clouds of Sils Maria to name a few, I wonder what the long term repercussions are for Dakota, the actor.

4. BDSM = PAIN : FALSE

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BDSM is a lot of stuff unlike the simplistic take of 50 shades. Grey is not necessarily a bdsm enthusiast. He is mostly a sadist (someone who gets sexual gratification by inflicting pain) and Ana is not a masochist (someone who gets sexual gratification when pain is inflicted on them). There is no clear cut dom-sub role, there is hardly any proper bondage and it all boils down to whether a non masochist can make a clear sadist into a normal loving person.

That’s about it. To quote Ronald LH Eliiston, who in 1989 opened one of the first fetish clubs in the world :

“I’ve read Fifty Shades and thought it was very Mills & Boon, very twee. The film was really bad, but it was very faithful to the book. If Christian Grey was older than 27 it would make more sense: there’s no way someone so young would have accumulated so much knowledge about BDSM. It takes years to acquire the level of expertise he’s meant to have.

If you wanted to find a partner for this kind of thing you could go via the modern social-media route, engaging in conversation over a period of time to find out if that person is on your level or not. You wouldn’t take someone who wasn’t into it and try to change them, as Christian does. Anastasia goes from being a virgin to being trussed up like a Bernard Matthews chicken in less than, what, a month? It’s not like she wants to explore her sexuality. He says, “Come into this room”, then she goes through the doorway and sees a dungeon! Most people would run away.

People like Anastasia usually get into the scene on their own in small steps. If the story had been about her discovering BDSM then meeting someone like him, it would tie in … but someone that’s fallen in love, finds out the guy is basically a sadist, then engages in that world – it’s not realistic.

That makes this film very dangerous. Psychologically, certain guys could watch it and think, “All right, this is how we play it now, do we? This is what I need to do.” There’s no way on Earth I’d let my young niece near a guy like that.

Women who want to explore the naughty side of it will just see the sexual tension between the couple. That’s what they’re getting off on. They’re not getting the deep underlying storyline; they’re not understanding what the implications are. You’ve got to be very careful who you invite into the world of BDSM. It could all end in tears, huge tears.”

And that is what is wrong with it. Though on a brighter side, 50 shades helped open the conversation about BDSM in a big way and made it mainstream. In this day and age with multiple other sources available it is only advisable that people do not think of the book series as a holy grail before entering this world. Because just like any other world, this too has corners which are darker than you can imagine and your guiding book should not be from someone who herself has the least bit of idea about what is going on.

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