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“50 Shades of No” and the BDSM FYI

This Valentine’s Day the highly anticipated and debated “50 Shades of Grey” film will be released in theaters. While the “50 Shades” film and books are meant to portray a BDSM (Bondage Domination Sadism and Masochism) relationship, numerous members of the BDSM community have spoken out saying that the franchise poorly represents them. The Washington D.C. based National Center on Sexual Exploitation has called for a boycott of the movie, saying it glamorizes domestic abuse.

The center’s director, Dawn Hopkins, told WTOP, “The whole premise for the book is this powerful, rich, handsome man can do anything he wants. He uses manipulation, coercion. He degrades this young, virginal college student. While millions of women are fantasizing about the controlling and abusive Christian Grey, there are many other women dealing with the horrors of actually living with men like him.”

Hopkins and the NCSE are asking those thinking of seeing the movie to instead donate funds to local women’s shelters. For those still curious to see what all the talk is about, I encourage you to return your copies of “50 shades” and do your own research on BDSM. It would, of course, be my pleasure to start you off with the basics.

BDSM is an umbrella term and can also be broken down as “B&D” (bondage and dominance/discipline), “S&M” (sadism and masochism) and “D&S” (dominance and submission). While these words may seem intense, they’re certainly nothing to be scared of. BDSM in all its different variations represents roleplay. Two people take on different roles which can stop and end at the bedroom or persist through the entire relationship.

For those who keep their BDSM relationship strictly sexual, there is usually a period of downtime after roleplay for the two to comfort each other and transition out of their roles. This is generally defined as “after-care” and is explained on the website ChicoMunch as “the willingness to continue being there with your play partner for a sufficient time period that they can feel safe, regain their emotional equilibrium,  and no longer feel the need to cling to you.” ChicoMunch defines itself as, “a social-community resource for people who share an interest in the safe practice of BDSM and a source of information about things related to BDSM.” The site further explains that people involved in BDSM roleplay often experience a lot of physical, emotional and mental exertion during sessions. This can cause a rush of hormones in the brain to create a “natural high.” Coming down from that high can cause a “drop,” which can come with feelings of detachment, exhaustion and a drop in body temperature.

BDSM roleplay is often mistaken as fetishism, but it is important to know that the two are entirely different. Los Angeles sex therapist Christine Milrod, PhD, told Women’s Health that BDSM is considered kink. “BDSM is what a lot of people mistake for a fetish because items and objects that are used in BDSM can be fetishized,” Milrod said. In other words, kink is considered specific roleplay, whereas a fetish involves, “sexual excitement and gratification from a specific thing in lieu of intercourse,” according to Milrod. Spanking, for example, is a fetish that can be a part of BDSM roleplay, but does not define it.

Each BDSM relationship is defined by the two roles of a dominant and a submissive participant. There are several varying terms that classify these two roles within the subculture such as “top/bottom” and “master/slave,” but in every BDSM relationship one person essentially dominates over the other. The more extreme side of this domination can the form of a dominatrix. This is (generally) a woman who is hired by someone to roleplay with them and be their dominant. Dominatrixes, however, are not prostitutes. They participate in role play for money, but do not have sex with their “slave” employers.

Participating in BDSM doesn’t mean you have to dress up like Rubber Man from “American Horror Story” or take a beating from a dominatrix. The experience is about sensation and the connection with your partner. For some this can be purely verbal or involve light sensations, such as using feathers. It’s about what two people want and are comfortable with. This brings us to one of the most important aspects of BDSM: consent.

Consent is a clear and verbal “yes” in all sexual situations. Consent is not a lack of a “no” and cannot be provided by anyone underage or under the influence of drugs or alcohol (for an easy in-depth explanation of consent see Laci Green’s “Consent 101” video on youtube). In BDSM consent is the most important part of a relationship, as many kink acts can be disguised or passed off as BDSM behavior, when they are actually performed on a non-consenting person. This is considered sexual assault.

To make mutual consent louder and clearer than a verbal “yes,” many members of the BDSM community use contracts and safewords. Written contracts will be signed by both parties confirming their consent to specific acts within a certain period of time (a “session”) or the entire relationship. These contracts are not legally binding, and cannot act as consent for a minor. Safewords can also be included in contracts or verbally established between partners. Whichever safeword is agreed upon (usually something other than “stop” or “no”) is a signal that the individual has withdrawn their consent and an act or a session must stop.

In the case of “50 Shades of Grey,” consent on the part of the main character, Ana, is essentially nonexistent. Oftentimes Christian, her abuser (read “lover” by those who don’t realize he is abusing her) beats Ana against her will and uses the fact that she is aroused or has orgasmed as a way of manipulating her into thinking she has consented. Neither arousal or orgasm is equal consent, and disguising it as such is a tactic often used by sexual abusers. In chapter 16 specifically, Christian holds Ana down and slaps her raw for rolling her eyes at him. He then rapes her, telling Ana afterward that she liked it because she was aroused. At one point before she is immobilized Ana asks herself “should I run?” This is the opposite of a healthy BDSM relationship.

Aside from being an inaccurate depiction of BDSM, “50 Shades” is a notoriously bad read. Mistress Trinity, a professional dominatrix, wrote an article for The Huffington Post saying she uses the book as a torture device. “Very bad slaves have to read the book aloud and act out scenes,” she wrote. “One of my slaves pleaded for me to stop the pain, offering to receive 100 strokes of the cane if he could just stop reading.  Another used his safe word and willingly gave up a year’s salary to me to ‘end this horrific task.’”

Whether or not you’re interested in putting a kinky twist on your Valentine’s Day, I advise you to do anything else besides supporting a franchise like “50 Shades of Grey.” This holiday is about celebrating love, not sexual abuse.

Need advice from our Sex and Love columnist? Want us to cover something specific? Go to http://ask.fm/MinaretLoveAdvice and send in your questions anonymously.

Selene San Felice can be reached at selene.sanfelice@theminaretonline.com

 

1 Comment on “50 Shades of No” and the BDSM FYI

  1. Tom Johnson // August 29, 2016 at 1:51 am //

    See also: fiftyshadesofchildabuse.org

    Like

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