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An Open Letter to Sex Educators & BDSM Community Re: 50 Shades of Grey

fifty shades of grey sucks

fifty shades of grey sucks

Dear Sexuality Educators and BDSM Community Members,

Love it or hate it, THIS article about rescued marriages is what Fifty Shades of Grey is doing for a lot of people– and that’s a wonderful thing. I get letters from folks all the time about saved marriages and renewed relationships. As educators and BDSM community members, poo-pooing the book (as many in this article quoting 50 sex educators/fetishists on 50 shades do) does nothing but shame people’s very real, valid, life changing experiences. And what we want most is for them to enter the world of BDSM in a safe, sane, and consensual manner (or in a RACK-y way if that’s more their thing ;) ) and learn to differentiate between fantasy inspiration and healthy real-life kink.

92584e72a138800511ad03618870aff1When they seek out guidance from us and all they hear is a chorus of voices saying how wrong, stupid, and awful Fifty Shades of Grey is, it invalidates everything they have newly and excitedly discovered about themselves (“they” mainly being women and hasn’t our sexuality been suppressed and overly-critiqued enough?). Rather than being eager to learn from us, it drives them away– either stopping them in their tracks or leaving them to try this stuff alone, learning by potentially dangerous trial and error. That’s not good for any of us.

Yes, the story does BDSM wrong. Yes, it even does basic, healthy relationships wrong. And it certainly does perpetuate unhealthy, incorrect stereotypes about BDSM.  There is a way, however, to point out the shortcomings in the book/s and movie without being dismissive and shaming those that find it titillating. This story has given thousands the courage to examine and act on their desires resulting in happier relationships and changed lives. We need to accept and respect the fact that a fantasy like this has inspired so many people.

Remember, fantasies can be unrealistic and sometimes pretty fucked up when examined with a logical lens. Sometimes we can’t help what turns us on in a fantasy sense whether it be silly, unrealistic, misogynistic, dangerous, not politically correct, or downright abusive. We all have them and we can’t deny that some of our fantasies can seem pretty “wrong.” But as educators and BDSM community members we know how to differentiate between the elements that are unrealistic and the ones we can act out in real life. And the ones we can’t really do, we know how to modify them so we can explore them safely and consensually through role-play (I’m thinking consensual non-consent as one example. Non-consensual sex is very wrong but can be wonderful when acted out as part of a carefully negotiated, consensual role-play). Let’s help the 50 Shades folks do the same. Their fantasies spawn from an emotionally manipulative, harlequinesque romance with a dash of poorly executed kink. Why are they not allowed to bring a safe, consensual version of that to life like we can with our seemingly fucked up fantasies? When did we become the fantasy police?

50 shades awful writingStop coming off as holier-than-thou about the books/movie. Be mindful to differentiate between your personal opinion/reaction to the story and try to see it through a new person’s eyes. Help people safely fill in the gaps, learn the difference between stereotype and reality, and to play safely and consensually. And please do it in a way that makes people feel good about being inspired to take control of their sex lives, relationships, and marriages.

As educators our purpose is to help people live happy, fulfilling lives by encouraging transparent authenticity in their relationships, sexuality, and gender expression. Why do we eagerly give acceptance and share knowledge to those that seek it EXCEPT those inspired by 50 Shades?

Something to think on . . .

P.S. For the record, in addition to my one contribution that appeared in the 50 Thoughts on 50 Shades article— I submitted all of the thoughts below for consideration.  I agree the story has many shortcomings but ultimately it’s a story people love that inspires fantasies. That’s a fact and not something we can wish away.  

Abusive relationship: Christian Grey exhibits so many relationship red flags outside the bedroom. He stalks Anna, separates from her friends, disallows her from going where she pleases, and coerces her consent among other things.  

Too serious:  There is a playful, fun side to BDSM that rarely gets much exposure. 50 Shades plays into the tired, old stereotype that BDSM is dark and only about pain, misery, and punishment.

A much needed conversation starter: BDSM is much more common that most people think.  Most of us have a bit of a kinky side but are often afraid to explore it for fear of being labeled as weird.  50 Shades takes the shame away and gives the mainstream permission to finally explore their hidden fantasies.

Supports unhealthy relationship models: 50 Shades reinforces that false notion that women can change their partners, women can “control” their partners behavior by simply not doing things that cause irrational outbursts, and that it’s acceptable for a partner to overstep boundaries in the name of “love.”

Is a guilty pleasure: Many of us who are fully aware of all of the negative aspects of 50 Shades love it anyway.  We know the sex is unrealistic (Simultaneous orgasms every time? Please!), the relationship unhealthy (No, you can’t change your manipulative partner!), and their lifestyle is unrealistically lavish (Charlie Tango, anyone?) but that’s exactly why millions can’t get enough of it.  It’s the ultimate, unattainable fantasy.  

Also, my thoughts from a couple of years ago after I read the books and studied them to lead my Fifty Shades Book Clubs:

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6 replies
  1. Victoria
    Victoria says:

    This is so important! I haven’t read the books. I saw the movie and enjoyed it for the most part and after seeing the video at the end of your post, I think I will read the books. I really appreciate your perspective on not shaming people for a particular taste in a book.

    Reply
    • Sunny Megatron
      Sunny Megatron says:

      The movie is on the list for me this weekend. I’ve been reading tons of reviews and compare/contrasts and I’m hearing the book has quite a few nuances the movie does not (which is usually the case). In the book Christian Grey does display quite a few of the abusive/manipulative red flags outside of the sex scenes. I’m hearing he does in the movie too but some of the specific instances are different. The movie also apparently cut out some important sex scenes (the kegel balls, the tampon scene, etc.). Most importantly, (SPOLIER) the trilogy goes on to basically have Anna “cure” him of this kinks and they live vanilla and happily every after– i.e. “I love you so much you’ve cured me of my need for kink! Now marry me and shoot out all of my babies who will grow up to eat off fancy china!” Awful for real life but I can see how people get sucked into the fantasy of having someone love you so much they change the core of who they are. I’d love to hear your reaction after you’ve read the books.

      Reply
      • Victoria
        Victoria says:

        Ah yes! A trap that many people fall into in real-life relationships: Thinking we can “fix” or change our partners. Might seem like it for a period of time; they might tuck it away for a bit, but more often than not things come back.

        I can’t wait to share my thoughts once I read them! (That reminded me, I haven’t done the homework that Ken assigned me… And the GARY thing. #WorkInProgress http://www.sunnymegatron4.com.php56-15.dfw3-2.websitetestlink.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-monalisa/icons/wpml_wink.gif)

        Reply
  2. Sunny Megatron
    Sunny Megatron says:

    Someone on facebook made this commentary and . . . YES!!!! “Why is everyone so upset that women got hot reading something poorly written with undertones of abuse but men can watch all the bad porn they want and it doesn’t get this backlash? 50shades is constantly on my feed for the last few weeks–either people saying if you like it you must have been or will be abused or people who did love it asking the others to get over themselves. And I keep thinking…if a man wrote this would it have all gone down like this?”

    Reply
  3. Chris
    Chris says:

    I am trying to locate an email address for sunny. Also wondering if the red light district sex turs are still going on in Chicago. My partner and I are traveling there form out of state the weekend of March 20th and would love to check out the tour. Any info would great thanx

    Reply
  4. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    it was a horribly written book. however.. it’s just a book! it was 100% fantasy. and it actually opened my husband’s mind up to BDSM, something i’d been interested in for years. no, it’s not a completely healthy view of a relationship, but it’s pure fantasy. it’s fantasy that the reader has control over, how you feel about it. maybe a bad example, but rape fantasies are still valid fantasies – mostly because the person having them is the one in control 100%. the person that wrote 50 Shades had a fantasy, and she wrote it down. i don’t have to like her writing to appreciate the idea of it.

    and in the end, it brought the conversation up. we talked about it. he gets now that sometimes, i like to be hurt, and he does too. but we don’t want actual harm. we’re still learning, and we’re having a ball!

    Reply

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