With franchises like Fifty Shades of Grey having integrated themselves almost completely in the mainstream, I have had the combined frustration and horror of my role as a submissive and my role as a teacher nearly clashing more than once. While I would NEVER share any part of my home activities with any of my students, it’s difficult to curb my teacher’s instincts when I overhear the sharing of opinions which have clearly been formulated by a Hollywood-ized variation of a story which has very little understanding of what the power-exchange between a submissive and his/her Dominant actually entails.

Understand that I teach teenagers; I overhear conversations about who has had sex with whom and in what bathroom at what party with enough frequency that the topic of sex itself can be categorized as “yesterday’s news.” What concerns me regarding the reaction that people have had to movies and romance novels like Fifty Shades is that adolescents and young adults who are genuinely interested in the lifestyle are going to end up in positions where they can easily be taken advantage of on a physical or emotional level. Having read some of the questions that appear on this forum alone, I feel some strong, plain words of advice are needed for some of our newest voyagers.

So here they are:

Dominance/submission is a game of pretend.

It doesn’t matter if you call yourself a sub, a slave, a pet, or an object; it doesn’t matter how kinky you like to be in the bedroom, if you’ve checked the “rape fantasies” box on your list of interests, or like being asphyxiated during intercourse. It doesn’t matter if you are aroused by being demeaned, if you enjoy your punishments a little too much. At the end of the day, there is a VAST distinction between a situation where you truly have no control, and the situations you allow yourself to be put in as a submissive.

You are your own advocate.

You should NEVER disappear so far into a relationship that you lose sight of who you are; you should never allow yourself to be talked into something that you aren’t comfortable with—or at least excited about. You should never—never—feel hesitant in telling your partner to stop or to say that you’ve had enough. And you should never be in a relationship with someone who is so caught up their side of the game that they are willing to sacrifice your physical and emotional safety for his or her own enjoyment. This goes far passed the premise of Safe, Sane, Consensual or Risk Aware Consensual Kink (both of which, you’ll notice, have the words “Consensual”), and into your survival and development as an individual—which you should retain, even if you have been happily married to a person for several years and spend most of your time with them.

Good Doms let their subs use Safe Words

, and you should definitely have a Safe Word at your disposal long before you enter a scene. If you don’t have a Safe Word, the phrase “Time Out” is well enough culturally embedded in most societies that it should get your point across. Remember that it is your right as a human being to use your Safe Word the moment that you feel you are putting yourself at risk, or you are no longer enjoying yourself—because the entire point of the Dominance/submission power exchange is that both parties are doing things that make them feel good.

Finally: understand that your initial willingness to participate in a scene does not mean that you are obligated to finish said scene

. You reserve the right to retract your consent at any time (this is why Safe Words are so very important). If for some reason you find yourself in a position where you were coerced, or denied your right to say no, you are in no way, and by no laws of humankind, required to accept that as part of the Dominance/submission exchange. Pretending to be reluctant, and actually being reluctant are two very different creatures. If you have expressed a sincere desire for something to stop in a scene, and the Dom in that scene has continued, it’s the Dom, and not you, who was in the wrong, and that situation needs to be followed up with some serious conversations between you and the Dom.

Submission, more than anything, is about trust. You as a sub need to trust that your Dom will listen to you if you say no, but your Dom trusts you to express your needs as well.