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Many of you have probably heard of the oh-so-popular kink-related series called “50 Shades of Grey.”, written by author E. L. James. As an active member in the BDSM community, I am more than happy that our lifestyle has been brought to life and has been shared throughout the ‘vanilla’ world. However, there are some aspects of the Dominant/submissive (D/s) relationship shown by Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele that I think should probably be discussed and addressed before someone gets the wrong idea about topics of consent, submission and power play. I would personally feel bad NOT writing about it.
So here are 4 key things to keep in mind for the next time you read or watch one of the series' three installments.
Exhibit A: Consent
In real life, the BDSM community revolves around and practically worships consent. It’s what allows us to have our fun and participate freely in what we do. As a submissive, it’s all about me giving consent to my Partner – submissives really hold all the power anyways. Before playing with a Dom, called a scene, all aspects are discussed ahead of time, and trust should already be present between the two of them. In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian was shown many times to just ‘take’ Anastasia into his ‘Red Room of Pain” and a scene just magically plays out from there; No safe words, no discussion on consent, hard limits or soft limits, heck he doesn’t even know if she’s into power play or impact play whatsoever. The killer part is that she just lets him! Even in scenes where she is clearly uncomfortable or questioning whether she actually likes something she’s receiving, you hardly EVER hear her speak about it to her apparent “Dom” Christian.
Exhibit B: Anastasia doesn’t even know submission.
To submit to someone is to give them the power to control, to discipline, to train and to own. It’s an amazing, powerful thing that allows the synergistic combined existence of someone who craves to have control, and someone who craves to give that control. Submissives can be choosy, seem stuck up, or seem needy. Typically, we're taking the time to feel out certain situations, and see who makes us feel the safest, and who we connect with most. In all safe and completely consensual D/s relationships, the submissive will already understand her hard limits and soft limits, or at least have a clear idea of what they’d be willing to explore. As this happens, everything is spoken about between the D/s to not only see if their fetishes align properly, but to discuss hard and soft limits. It's a long and strenuous process that often takes weeks of courting. After that, you vie for their collar, and it's up to the Dominant about whether or not he likes to make you theirs. Anastasia battles throughout the whole first two books about whether she is even able to submit to someone, let alone the constant battle of whether Christian is a psychopath or not for being a sadist. They skipped all the good, meaty, gritty parts of the beginning of a safe D/s relationship and skipped straight to not only the play, but an already-assumed relationship on Christian's part. Sigh.
Exhibit C: Christian Grey
Yes, you were abused by a previous Dom. You don’t need to take this poor girl who knows nothing about the lifestyle and throw her into it (potentially unwillingly!). What kind of a Dom are you anyways? I could never really piece together the specific story about what happened between him and Mrs. Robinson, and about what the heck went on in his head after that to turn him from an active submissive to strictly a Dominant. Not that that really matters for the book/movie’s enjoyment anyways, since it's mainly meant to confuse Anastasia and freak her out about the entire scene even more, because why not! In the second book, we do see his old submissive stalking Anastasia and eventually breaking into her apartment. In the movie specifically though, we do see Christian taming his ex-submissive into a receiving position to allow him to take a weapon away from her (it's the scene where he approaches her and causes her to drop to her knees in front of him with her hands out turned). I was SO happy when I saw this particular moment in the second movie - they really did get this position right! It's a serving position, extremely common in the lifestyle. What we can kind of infer from this whole chapter of the book is that his poor ex-submissive was abandoned in a horrendous way, or was seriously manipulated by him or something - what other submissive would go crazy enough after being abandoned to literally come to his new submissive's place with a weapon!? Geez.
Exhibit D: Aftercare
After a particularly intense scene, aftercare must be preformed to elevate any negative feelings of degradation that the submissive may have felt, and to properly discuss and assess the scene performed. It re-levels us, especially after a sub-drop (I’m going to have another article devoted to what this is soon, see here when posted). There was NO aftercare in these books. It was a complete disappointment that this aspect of play wasn’t shown – it’s where all the caring, nurturing, and loving feelings come back to connect the D/s. Poor Ana probably had to just continue on with her day wondering about whether she did anything wrong or questioning some feelings she could have about her emotions or specific toys used. This is a big problem with most ‘vanilla’ relationships that partake in light BDSM in the bedroom as well – many people who will take on a Dominant role will not even think for a second to perform aftercare, or to discuss the scene at all!
In short conclusion, I’m still grateful that our lifestyle has been able to take center-stage for a while and bring awareness to millions of people worldwide. I just really do wish that these four aspects of our lives could have been shown more in the movie, or at all! I think it really would have shed a lot more light on the caring, nurturing aspects of the scene. As a final disclaimer, I did really enjoy learning about the characters that E. L. James developed, and how Anastasia grew into her submissive role. I just wish it could have been done with these small aspects of the lifestyle added.
So yes! Please read it or watch the movie if you want to, but make sure to keep the consent, D/s relationship and aftercare in mind. Pretend that they added it in their or something!