Sunny Days in DC

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Why the Kink World is So Angry About the 50 Shades of Grey Movie, or… “Hey, I Bet A Bunch of People Are Gonna Die.”

on January 27, 2014

The global BDSM scene is heaving a (probably corseted) sigh of frustration as of late. I’ve been in the Scene for just about 10 years, which is long enough for me to be able to say that I absolutely do not speak for everyone. I speak for myself and my experiences. And in my experience, very few people are suddenly aware of sites like Fetlife, or are born knowing that they enjoy rope bondage more than a thuddy flogging. Most of us come (ha!) to the world of kink either through a friend, or through media. Things like websites, movies, literature… when you’re sitting in a movie theater and the sight of a man or a woman tied down to a chair does more for you than for pretty much everyone around you, you tend to be curious as to why. So you look, you communicate with others, and you realize that there is a whole world of people just like you (or worse!), and they like it dirty!

So no, I’m not opposed to a film supposedly about BDSM. I even welcome the discussions about sex, both “vanilla” and kink, about consent, about age, about what is still taboo in our culture, that this film will inevitably bring. What I, and most people I know from the Scene, find most upsetting, is the Disneyfication of who we are and what we do.

And it’s very, very dangerous. Like, fucking LIFE OR DEATH.

Having never actually read 50 Shades of Gray, I’m going to make a few assumptions, but please do let me know if I’m wrong. Based on what I’ve heard, a young virgin falls for an older, wealthy, kinky dude, and he “lures” her into his lifestyle. So, right off the bat, the kinky person is devilish and dark. Ok, fine, sure, I know heaps of people in the Scene who wear mostly black and like to meet younger, less experienced people. But, where’s the talk about consent? What about education? What about CIRCULATION?!

Not exactly clear on what I’m talking about? Well folks, on average, most “riggers” (that would be, people who suspend others by rope or other means) spend HOURS AND HOURS learning how to do it properly. Let me amend that: YEARS. I know people who have spent YEARS learning. Even tying someone to a chair can end badly if that person has circulatory issues. There is preparation, there are ‘back-up plans,’ and yes, there are MOTHERFUCKING SAFETY WORDS.

Guess what folks?? Most of kink is actually REALLY BORING.


*”Yeah, yeah… pinch the nipples, cut off her clothes. Whatever.”*

But it’s boring for a reason. My husband and I were attending a house party in New York once, and a young, inexperienced man had a girl standing on a chair, hands tied behind her back, and was about to put a loop of rope around her neck.

Raise your hand if you can already spot the problem.

My husband quickly stepped in and showed the young man a different, safer, way of accomplishing the same end goal. But most people haven’t spent HOURS AND HOURS in classes. And by the way, this is all assuming that your kink scene includes sex… which MANY DO NOT. “But hey, that’s really complicated,” says hollywood. “Let’s skip to the fucking.” I applaud your focus, hollywood, but not necessarily your tactics.

So people will go to see this movie, get all hot and bothered, and decide that they want to do a “Rape Play” scene, or maybe they want to meet another kinkster and get into a “Consensual Non-Consent” scene, not knowing how those terms differ, or even what they really mean. So some chick will say she’s “down for consensual non-consent” to some dude she meets online because it’s “totes romantic,” and she’ll end up locked in a metal cage for a week before escaping. And then she’ll go running off to the cops crying ACTUAL assault. And everyone will look surprised and we’ll all wonder WTF just happened. Or worse, people will die. Because this movie, I’m guessing, will show the fun-fun-happy side of kink. It won’t talk about the hours of negotiation, of contracts and detailed discussions that HAVE TO HAPPEN before you even take off a stitch of clothing. Does your partner have asthma? Do they have emotional triggers? Yeah, that’s all shit you need to know before you start beating him or her, making them call you daddy, and shoving a dildo up their ass.

And worse, this girl is a VIRGIN?! How the hell does she know what she wants? Most people in the scene shy away from virgins. They bring drama and confusion. They’re just discovering themselves and have no idea what their limits are. They don’t know how some past trauma will impact a sex-positive scene, because they’ve never had sex. There are the rare exceptions, and I’ve met them; people who are experienced in everything except penetration. Fine. Whatever. These folks are the exceptions that prove my rule.

So, we’re putting a film ALL ABOUT DANGEROUS SEXUAL ACTS out to a public with little or no knowledge about how to perform these acts in a safe and consensual way. Knife play, rope play, take-downs, electrical play, flogging…. if you know how to do them, it can be a lot of fun. But if you don’t, frankly, you’re setting people up for a very, very dangerous evening.

…not that hollywood cares.

15 responses to “Why the Kink World is So Angry About the 50 Shades of Grey Movie, or… “Hey, I Bet A Bunch of People Are Gonna Die.”

  1. Great post. Lots of food for thought. Like many movies about guns, bombs and drugs in the past, this one undoubtedly will give audiences just enough knowledge to be as dangerous as you’ve suggested.

    I predict, however, that the movie will have a record-breaking opening weekend quickly followed by a record-breaking drop in ticket sales. The books were trite and I imagine the people who bought them won’t want their church friends to see them going into the theater to watch the same story on the screen.

    • H. Stern says:

      I’m sure the opening weekend will be full of “ladies night out” girls, teens who snuck in, and actual fans of the book. But you’re probably right. One month later, it’ll be off the screens.

      I can’t say whether the book was a fantastic work of art, or a complete piece of crap… but I am familiar with hollywood’s inability to really flush out a concept and show all angles of it. For that reason, I’m concerned.

      I ALSO don’t want to hear people go on and on about “all these newbies” getting into kink because of that movie. I actually don’t mind if it introduces new people to the scene. The more, the merrier! I just wish it would do so, SAFELY.

  2. FreeRangeCow says:

    I am flummoxed at the way the world grabbed onto that book. There, I said it. For me, rode-hard experience trumps a virgin ANY day of the week (aka I “did it” my first time just to get it OVER WITH). My background makes me do a double-take when a non-virgin wants any sort of virgin (be it real, proverbial, or “for this lifestyle).

    • H. Stern says:

      I mean, I get it. It’s porn. People like porn. It has power exchange, risque scenes, and a wealthy man who wants to have sex with her. Ok, very nice. Sure, it the plot line doesn’t sound like much, but whatever. The entire romance novel industry is HARDLY built on realistic plot lines. But whereas I doubt many woman go looking for an ACTUAL viking lover, some idiot WILL go on to craigslist, in the hopes of recreating a scene or two. And that’s a problem. And not only is it a problem for the two (or more) people who try to recreate a scene, but the MINUTE someone gets injured, the public will look at the kinky community and say, “you’re a dangerous bunch!” and we’ll look back and go, “NOBODY TOLD THEM TO PLAY A GAME WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW THE RULES!”

      I guess what I’m saying is, this could all backfire REALLY badly.

      And I’m with you on the “targeting virgins” thing. If you fall for someone and they happen to be a virgin, ok. Whatever. But honestly, it’s irresponsible to be an experienced Dom (as I’m assuming this male character is), and go for an inexperienced potential sub, without having LONG conversations first. It’s just….. in a setting where your reputation is EVERYTHING, this guy would not be welcome at most events.

      • FreeRangeCow says:

        I definitely see your point. I agree dangerous things are sure to happen and then it’s “the community” that will be labeled as dangerous freaks…cuz that’s how things like this have to happen. Inability to accept personal responsibility and all. At least you know you spoke out!!! After one such event, this might be the “black santa clause” blog. ;oP

  3. You are right about this. Could be dangerous…Unlike “Secretary,” (which I thought was awesome, did you see it?) this movie will be in wide release and may influence people.

    • H. Stern says:

      I have a very deep love of that movie. I’m not thrilled that the main characters are both deeply damaged people, but I think it shows the kink side of their relationship in a very positive light, very true to a lot of the relationships I see in the scene. I know one very young woman in particular who was in a bad relationship. She managed to get out of it, and hooked up with this EXTREMELY controlling Master-type. And do you know what happened? She’s really happy. He’s really happy. They WORK. He made her get her driver’s license and finish school. When she hesitated to apply for a study abroad program, and ordered her to do the paperwork. FOR SOME PEOPLE, this works. And it helps the people grow together. It’s actually a really beautiful thing when two people are completely open about exactly who and what they are, and they just click!

  4. Thanks for shedding some light. Never did kink and probably never will, but very interesting perspective.

    • H. Stern says:

      Kink isn’t for everyone, and I don’t say that in a snooty way. I don’t like Rocky Road ice cream; it isn’t for me. My main thesis was simply that by dumbing down something about which hollywood clearly knows nothing, and worse: has no real interested in exploring in any significant way, they do actually risk the health and well-being of the public. But it’ll be the kink community who will end up having to be pro-active in ensuring people aren’t stupid.

  5. ekgo says:

    Before I get all “OMG, I hadn’t even considered THIS aspect of the 50 Shades merchandise fest that is surely to follow,” I wanted to give you some background, since you said you hadn’t read the books.
    Here are 2 reviews that will help you understand the books better:
    Review 1

    Review 2

    I’ll be back later with relevant comments. Probably. If I ever get my ass in gear again.

    • H. Stern says:

      Here’s my favorite line: “This is not a book about BDSM, this is a book about one sick, abusive man and his obsession with a young, naive invertebrate. It’s a book about a girl who has absolutely no sense of self, who sacrifices any pretense of individuality in order to hold onto a man who doesn’t even show her the faintest glimmer of respect.”

      *BOOM!* There it is. It isn’t WHAT he does, it’s WHY he does it… although, that tampon scene sounds kinda fucked up. But whatever; not my kink. The problem, as that wonderful author so rightly points out, is that he sounds like an abusive piece of shit. I know men (and women!!!) who beat their partners, but it’s consensual. Everyone is an adult, everyone knows what they’re doing, and they’re exploring themselves a bit more by doing it. But NOBODY goes up to a virgin and mentally abuses him or her, and then expects to be adored.

      People like that are VERY quickly shunned in the scene. They give all of us a bad name, regardless of their looks, penis size, or wealth.

      Also, NOBODY FUCKING CALLS IT A PLAY ROOM UNLESS YOU’RE INTO SOMETHING FRINGE. Like, baby-play or pony-play or whatever. Even the word “dungeon” strikes me as silly. It’s a “space.” It’s like any other “space,” except it has some other shit in it. Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

    • ekgo says:

      Ok. I’m back.

      So…mostly…I don’t know that there will be that many accidents and/or deaths because of this movie. Unless it’s death by bad movie (I just naturally assume this movie will be bad because I am judgemental) Anyway…I think the one thing we’re all forgetting is that humans tend to be pretty damned lazy and doing new things would amount to too much effort. Besides, the women I know who thought this book was H-O-T or even freakish and gross would probably stop at tying their wrists to the bed with neckties. Granted, that can be dangerous if you’re all thrashythrashy and whoops! My shoulder is dislocated! But it’s no worse than the person that has to go to a hospital because she was using an empty Coke bottle as a boyfriend and stuck the open end in first and created so much suction that the bottle had to be surgically removed. People wind up in the hospital for sex-related accidents all the time. There’s always room for experimentation, with our without the aid of movies, and I’m not sure this is going to put any crazy new ideas in anyone’s mind. Besides, after this book came out, didn’t everyone just Google Image all the terms? What will this movie do that the internet hasn’t done already?
      However, I digress. Unless this is rewritten by someone actually involved in any fetish community whatsoever, it will probably be mostly spanking and … well, I want to say “normal stuff” but what’s normal in sex?
      The bigger problem that I see, and it’s one I keep seeing in mainstream fiction, is the idea that Alpha Male = Abusive Asshole. Like, I get that the women’s movement has maybe left some people feeling at ends, wondering what their role really is in society. I can see how some women may find an assertive, confident, boss-like man appealing. So these men – in this book and others – are all that but they are also abusive and there is no line drawn, nothing to show young men and women that a strong male character does not have to lack compassion, does not have to be emotionless, that he is allowed to care and be loving. It’s all so black-and-white with these dudes; the heroes are all villains. Why are stories telling us to throw ourselves at the villains? Aren’t we supposed to be learning that it’s great to be nice to the villains because they’re people, too, but we can’t fix them and we need to be worrying about our own character, anyhow so let’s work on building us, not saving those who don’t actually want to be saved?

      I wonder how Disney’s going to use this new/old archetype to their advantage? Will we see The Gaston Stories soon?

      I wonder how much of this comment actually makes sense. If none, try running it through a translator.

      • H. Stern says:

        No, I agree. As I pointed out, I know a really DOMINANT and controlling Dom in the scene… but he’s a great guy. He’s absolutely been a positive force in this girl’s life.

        But I will say that being aware kink exists, and then seeing it big-as-life on the screen and being all turned on by it, are two very different things. When it’s right in your face, I worry that people are more likely to act on their immediate desires. Then you get some guy who thinks it’s fine to do a little breathe play, and a chick ends up passed out, or worse. Now, fair play to you, I haven’t read the book and I don’t know if he ever chokes her out, but I worry about where this could go. I’m Jewish like that.

        The issue of hollywood watering male and female archetypes down is another issue, entirely. As my husband so often points out, he hates Beauty and the Beast, as it’s essentially a story glorifying Stockholm syndrome. Honestly, there are NO positive male role models in that story. If we waited for mass media to show us positive and uplifting stories (which we should not do, but ok), we would all die of old age before seeing anything worthwhile. So, I’m not surprised that they went for a male character with no depth, and seems sociopathic and abusive. But if something goes wrong, the media won’t look at all handsome men and go, “YOU FREAKS! YOU DID THIS!”

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