It’s just a film – just a fictional story – about two people involved in a relationship that includes a sexual element. Just normal people, getting up to the things that love, sex and relationships involve: intimacy and sexual exploration. The catch is – that sexual exploration’s role playing is seen as controlling, and abusive and not unlike rape…
Let me start off by qualifying myself, like the other writers, reviewers, critics etc ad infitium have done, just so we’re clear, before I unpack MY opinion:
I am a submissive, like Ana, in Fifty Shades – but unlike Ana, I have been playing in this space for over two decades – since my late teens. Since before I was raped by my boyfriend and a friend of his. They were not into BDSM and my rape did not happen in a BDSM situation.
I am not “broken inside“. I do have a therapist, who helps me unpack the word and my place in it, just so we’re clear on that score.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a film; it’s a story. It touches lightly – and with a lot of accuracy – on the world of BDSM and just two of the many different roles that exist, the dominant and the submissive.
It’s just a film, like I said – and in 90 minutes it is impossible to fully explore the entire panoply of what BDSM entails.
Take for example the 1991 film ‘By The Sword‘ that told the story of a fencing coach and his team. The film obviously had to show fencing, which is an incredibly complex and fast sport, but had to dumb it down to a large degree so that the ordinary movie goer who was NOT a fencer could understand the basics of how it’s done and how a winner is determined. Real fencers everywhere scoffed at Eric Roberts’ laughable footwork and the exaggerated movements, done so that the non-fencing public could follow the blade play. Now think of Fifty Shades’ BDSM in the same way…you have barely skimmed the surface, and the film touches on the two very basic roles, that of dominant and submissive.
It’s easy to see why that is taken for rape, where the attacker subdues their victim.
The difference between the two is this: rape is an act of violent, aggressive abuse. BDSM is an exploration of your body’s sensations. Often it is not sexual; it is sensual. (Think of the scene where Christian flogs Ana’s hand…)
In the film, you caught a glimpse of some of the toys that we use (and boy, would I kill for a playroom like Christian’s!) – but there is so much more that is explored in this fascinating, sensual, and above all consenting world we play in.
I am what’s known as a sensation seeker – I submit to the sensation of touch – of skin. Hot wax. Ice cubes. Suede strips drawn slowly over my back. Leather floggers. Rubber whips. Wooden jacks. When I am at play, my eyes are masked and the room is silent, so I can focus purely on the sensation on my skin.
For me, BDSM is not sexual – it is sensual and intimate. As I said I am gay and a submissive. And the dominant that I submit to is a woman. Our play sessions are therefore not sexual – you can see that, right? Any play that we have is discussed at length for days before we engage. We discuss what sensations I want to explore and what toys I want her to use, and for how long. We don’t have a contract, like Christian and Ana – but that could be fun, and part of the role play.
My dominant knows about my rape; we are both clear that I am not recreating that awful night, in fact when we are at play, that night doesn’t even enter my mind. I am completely focussed on the beautiful, sensuous things happening to my head, my back, my arms and my legs – and yes, the rest of my body, let’s be honest.
We are good friends, beyond this BDSM play space, and connect as equals.
“One scene did smack of rape to me big time. She said no. Repeatedly.” – Sam’s comment on Twitter is valid – and that is the risk you run when you produce a film where you have to pick a fraction of the multitude of aspects and facets of such a wide subject. So let me clarify this a bit more, so you can understand it:
In the carefully scripted play between a dominant and their submissive, it is the submissive who is in complete control at all times. Read that again – it is the submissive who is in complete control at all times. The play starts and ends on their say so. We have safe words that at all times guide the play:
Green: carry on, I like this and I want more
Yellow: I am at my limits, carry on slowly – but with care
Why do we need these words, if it is consensual? Answer – because this is a role play, and often we’ll say things like “Stop!” or “No!” because we are living out a fantasy – we like to play, just like you when you put on your French maid’s outfit, or talk funny-dirty like Kevin Kline in ‘A Fish Called Wanda‘.
More importantly, when we are at play, we are often pushing our own personal boundaries of how much we can take (how much hot wax, how much ice rubbed over your nipples and for how long…) Why? Well, why do you try to beat your personal best when you’re running, or lift more weights at the gym than you did yesterday? Because we’re competitive – and never more so than when we are in competition with ourselves, always striving to do and be more than we did and were yesterday. It’s that simple. And it doesn’t need a thesis from a psychiatrist, or a panicky scary mom blog to fuel the poorly-informed hysteria.
It would be a far better thing for that psychiatrist and that mom to do some proper research before advocating and pontificating about a lifestyle they know only what they gleaned from 90 minutes in a theatre (IF that!)
Because otherwise, it’s fear mongering. It’s like the old days of “don’t talk to that queer, you’ll catch gayness from him!” – it’s facile, infantile and laughable. Stop that.
But ultimately, like all submissives, you are in complete control of your knowledge and your opinion. Use it wisely and don’t force it down everybody else’s throats. If you do, I’ll call RED! (See what I did there?)
My opinion? It’s a great film. It’s shallow, light entertainment that is beautifully filmed and has a pretty amazing soundtrack. And it’s fiction. Don’t get so hyped up about it. The sensationalism will pass, so those of us who play in this space will not engage in the fickle media spotlight – it will move on to something else tomorrow.
I do wonder though, if that psychiatrist and that scary mommy are also writing letters to their sons for every action movie that portrays a reality where guns and violence save the day; where life ends with a happy ending; where driving too fast and too furious is a ‘thing’ – are they? No. Of course not. Because driving fast and shooting people (except if you’re Oscar) is not the sensitivity of the moment.
We DO have a HUGE problem with violent sexual abuse of our women and children – and to confuse the matter with a romance like Fifty Shades is puerile, and simple. Don’t get caught up in it, and don’t lose sight of the real challenges we’re facing in life today, just because of this one harmless movie – yes, harmless: the harm comes from the misunderstanding and the hysterical barnyard psychology that’s vomited out as a result.
I completely agree with Gaelyn – if it’s your thing, watch it. If not, don’t.
POST SCRIPT: Having chatted to a friend about this – one thing that needs to be mentioned is that in both the books and to a lesser a degree in the film, Ana does not completely trust Christian. In BDSM play, as in all relationships – trust is an absolute foundational requirement. If you don’t trust your partner, you are open to all sorts of trouble, that taken too far becomes emotionally or physically harmful. There is a lesson in that for all of us – and it is not peculiar to the BDSM lifestyle, but to ALL relationships, regardless of whether they have a sexual element or not.
© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.
NOTE: I’ve scene some pretty abusive commentary out there – take care to comment here respectfully, as this blog is MY space, and I will delete and block anything that does not contribute to the conversation in a constructive way. I am ALWAYS happy to answer questions and help educate – I am in no way trying to convince you, convert you or sell you my opinion as the only one that matters. I respect that you may have a completely different view. Take the time to read this, to read up on BDSM, to ask questions and become informed – it’s always better that way when you enter a debate.