from the Submissive Guide Newsletter 2/21/15

I had, for the longest time, an opinion that I was not going to write about or mention the "50 Shades of Grey" series on this site. I've never read them and have no desire to see the movie, but I have read countless reviews and read-alongs from others in the community and the media to make up my mind about some of what I knew would be prevalent within the literature and newly released movie. Just days after the movie released, this site received a spike in views that more than doubled what it averaged on any other given day - that alone brought my voice to the front and I knew I wanted to give some of my viewpoints on how this piece of popular culture has impacted the BDSM lifestyle and the communities that participants mingle in.

If you've lived in a cave for the past 4 years let me give you a little summary of the books from Amazon:

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms. Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

On that premise, it is a trashy romance. And most people in the BDSM community agree that it's trash. They argue that the characters are poorly developed, the BDSM is unrealistic, plenty of abuse and rape and a very messed up relationship at the basis of it. So, why are people transfixed by it and using it as a new sex manual in their relationships and marriages?

It's Everywhere

When a book goes from a water cooler gossip book to a worldwide phenomenon it's hard to go anywhere without people talking about it. While I know many BDSM practitioners cringe when they here vanilla people talking about the book, it does a few things for the general public.

People talk about things that feel naughty and when they do so they might learn a bit more about who they are and what they are interested in. Romance novels on a whole feed a sexual need, even the poorly written ones.

Media outlets are doing stories about BDSM and some of it is positive. The fact that they are talking about it at all helps to build people's opinions about alternate sex practices. I have always felt that having an opinion based on information is better than not knowing anything at all about a subject.

It's Unrealistic

The inaccurate portrayal of the BDSM scenes in the series has advocates up in arms arguing that it's just not the way it's done. Consent and communication are always on my lips on this site and the books disregard much of that on the premise that "I'm the Dom and know what I want, so accept it". I don't think I'd be the first person to say that a romance novel is fiction and you can't expect the knight to come showing up at your door to sweep you away at any point, but when a romance is written in a modern time people can't separate fact from fiction as easily.

Also, from what I've read in reviews the BDSM itself isn't realistic to what could actually happen. So the fantasy is even further extended to the actual BDSM that occurs in the book. If you are new and have only read the book, don't expect it to be the same in any respect to what you've read. Do your reading and learning about what really happens.

It Promotes an Abusive Relationship

Since consent is nearly non-existent, the relationship borders on abuse with the mildest of scenes, and in others has outright rape, assault, breaking and entry and brain-washing. The fear that BDSM participants have is that the vanilla public will begin to believe that this is the way it always is and shun the alternate sexuality even more and then vilify or criminalize safer BDSM practices.

Make sure you know the differences between BDSM and abuse before you try to enact anything you read. Anything!

It's Bringing Novices and Others into Communities

It brings more vanilla people that had closet fantasies out to munches, or at least onto online communities to talk about their interests and stop feeling bad about their fantasies. I've certainly noticed an influx of new people exploring BDSM and thankfully they've approached the community to get that instruction. I know that I've seen a jump up to twice the amount of normal visitors on Submissive Guide for each release of the books and when the movie came out. It's good that people are exploring what might be a longing they've had for quite a while.

Now, with that, it also brings curious people that aren't interested, but just want to gawk at the perverts, media reports of local communities and the damage it can deal with smaller, less organized groups. So, community leaders have to be more aware and on the ball with the new people coming in. I'm certain that in time, these uninterested people will just fade back into their own lives and leave us be, but until them, I'm sure we'll see even more news reports of debacles at BDSM events and gatherings.

I'm sure these aren't the only impacts this series has on the BDSM community and I would like to hear from you in the comments or send me an email. What impact do you see? Is it good or bad for the community?

Thoughts to Ponder

  1. What do you think of the media coverage that "50 Shades of Gray" is getting?
  2. What other impacts does the book/movie have in the BDSM community and lifestyle?

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