50 shades of gray


A new campaign called #50dollarsnot50shades has been picking up steam on the internet.  While we believe in the cause and absolutely think you should donate your dollars to help, we were upset about the simplified view of BDSM so we turned to our resident Kink Expert, 

 On Consent, Abuse and 50 Shades of Grey

Though the internet has been ablaze with chatter around the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie all year (and much of last year, in fact), the Twitterverse exploded this week with the hashtag #50dollarsnot50shades and threw the production very firmly into the spotlight.

The campaign urges individuals to donate $50 to a shelter for the victims of domestic abuse rather than spending money on going to see the 50 Shades movie, with the argument that the movie is an inaccurate depiction of BDSM, and glamorizes violent and abusive behaviour.

This is quite a claim – and one that’s not entirely incorrect.

50 Shades of Grey – the book and what we’ve seen so far of the film – is an inaccurate depiction of a BDSM relationship.

As many of you will already know, the BDSM community is entirely centered around the concept of consent. Consent is the very cornerstone of BDSM play. Those in the real-life BDSM community never indulge in kinky play without the consent of another. There can be no coercion or begging involved; it must be a consensual exchange of sexual and physical energy.

When this occurs, as it does every day in the real-life kink world, BDSM is inspiring, caring, loving, nurturing – and most of all, fun for all involved. When you know that all participants in a scene are willful playmates, you can open yourself up totally to new experiences, new pleasures and things you thought you might never do. You can truly let your filthy mind fly – with consent given affirmatively, often and always in sound mind.

Throughout any BDSM scene, from the very beginning to the very end, consent must be positively and consistently given – and yet, many of the scenes in 50 Shades appear to happen without the consent of Anastasia, the submissive. Without consent, there can be no BDSM play.

Without consent, it is abuse.

It seems that even the author, E.L. James, misunderstands what a real BDSM community is like. Her “hunk”, Christian Grey, is a character that engages in sado-masochistic behavior because he suffered through an abusive childhood, and at the end of the book, he is “cured” of his deviances and goes on to marry his partner, have children and live a vanilla life.

This is painfully wrong in two major ways. First, the implication that S&M is an outlet for a person’s inner demons because they are “damaged” degrades the many, many people who enjoy kink in a sane, safe way.  Second, the implication that a victim of domestic abuse can eventually change the behavior of his or her abuser is an incredibly troubling message to send out. Love, unfortunately, does not save all.

It’s clear, then, that 50 Shades is not the sort of book that anyone in the real BDSM community would hold up as a textbook of the scene.

However, the #50dollarsnot50shades campaign paints an equally damaging dichotomy; it says that you are either against the film, or you are a supporter of abuse.

Of course, this isn’t the case.

There are many instances in pop culture where (sometimes terrible) art has been created around the themes of stalking, abuse and dangerous behavior. Last year’s Gone Girl, for instance – and let’s not forget your mom’s favorite song, Every Breath You Take. She might warble the song to your father after one too many gin and tonics, but this doesn’t mean that she endorses stalking.

As you probably already know, 50 Shades began life as Twilight fan fiction; one person’s personal fantasy based on characters from another book. In that sense, 50 Shades seems a lot less worrying; many among us enjoy fantasies about things that we would never engage in in real life. A 2009 study, for example, claimed that up to 65% of women enjoyed rape fantasies on a regular basis. In these terms, E.L. James has as much right to have her Christian Grey as you do to have your lesbian threesome or your 10-man gangbang; fantasies are not real life.

It’s important to remember that 50 Shades of Grey is just that: a fantasy.

Showing something on screen doesn’t mean that you think it’s okay, otherwise Amy’s manipulative, murderous behavior in the aforementioned Gone Girl movie would have been censored, and the unspeakably violent horror movies that are seen on a daily basic would never make it to the screen. 50 Shades is just another dive into a fantasy world that is different, for most, than their real life.

And the cold, hard fact of the matter is this: it sells.

Though the BDSM community certainly won’t be lining up to see this movie, many will; the books sold an unprecedented 100 million copies, and there’s already at least one spin-off board game in the works. Like a Harlequin romance novel, 50 Shades allows people to indulge their swooning, hidden desires in a way that won’t greatly affect their life – and if something harmless can give sexual satisfaction, who are we to judge?

There are some important discussions to be around this film, the book, and what its popularity means to a modern culture. With regards to #50dollarsnot50shades, it is fantastic that domestic abuse shelters have benefited from the Twitter campaign, as such organizations do incredible work – and not only with women, as men can also be victims of abuse in relationships.

The very fact that you’re reading this article also helps to maintain a healthy conversation around sexuality and the concepts of both Risk Aware Consensual Kink and “safe, sane and consensual”, two standards to which most in the BDSM community adhere. If you do nothing else today, look up those terms and learn a little more about what BDSM really is.

What you do with your 50 dollars this weekend is your choice – but don’t be led to believe that going to see a Hollywood movie is tantamount to condoning abuse. 50 Shades of Grey may be as far away from a real BDSM relationship as  Gone Girl is from a healthy marriage, but at the end of the day, like all stories, it is just pretend.

If you want to learn more about the BDSM community and what a true relationship looks like, read more of Lord Morpheous’ articles.