‘Fifty Shades’ promotes BDSM misconceptions

By on February 18, 2015
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The movie “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out last week and made $81.7 million at the box office in three days, according to Business Insider. But one human sexuality expert says the books aren’t a complete depiction of BDSM.

In the trilogy, the characters Ana and Christian engage in BDSM, but according to Alice Holland, director of student health services, it leaves readers with some misconceptions about what it actually is.

BDSM is a six character acronym that stands for Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism, Holland said.

“[BDSM is] a relationship in which people take on a role of Dominant or a Submissive and may involve some type of restriction (Bondage) and the setting of rules by the Dom which if not followed properly by the Submissive he/she will be punished through some sort of discipline,” according to Psychology Today.

According to Holland, sexual acts involving BDSM include at least one aspect included in the acronym. Engaging in BDSM is a negotiated, contracted activity. Both participants express consent and want to engage in it, Holland says.

The mantra for BDSM is “safe, sane and consensual,” the symbol of it similar to a yin-yang with three parts instead of two, according to Holland. Another acronym related to BDSM is RACK, or Risk, Aware, Consensual and Kink.

BDSM is purely for pleasure and can be mild or extreme. It depends on personal preference. The goal is not to force or inflict pain; enjoyment is key, not abuse. Participants can also use different outfits to set the mood, which makes it more exciting, according to SubmissiveGuide.com.

However, can you tell if someone is kinky? Holland says no, and that it is a private lifestyle unless someone outwardly expresses it.

“It’s a taboo topic,” Holland said. “People are afraid they’ll be judged.”

Holland plans to see the movie and has read all the books, but she notes key differences of BDSM in real life from the books. In reality, the books give an inaccurate representation of the BDSM lifestyle.

For one thing, she says she doesn’t like how the book gives the impression that in order for someone to practice BDSM, there must be something mentally wrong with you. In the case of the book, Christian does have a dark reason for practicing it, based on his childhood years. Holland was clear to say that if someone does practice BDSM in real life, it is simply their choice and nothing is wrong with them for choosing to do so.

Another thing she finds to not be true to the reality of BDSM is how Ana and Christian live the kinky lifestyle 24/7. In real life, this could not be possible.

“People have responsibilities and jobs and things they need to do for their lives,” she said. “It’s impossible for someone to be tied to a bed all the time.”

A last thing she doesn’t like is how the Submissive (in this case, Ana) is treated like a “doormat,” meaning she is constantly instructed on what or what not to do by the Dominant, Christian. In real life, Holland says, the Submissive actually sets the scene and can be more powerful than the Dominant.

From a feminist perspective, she says the books also tend to objectify women and focus on the patriarchal hierarchy, something she is not too happy about.

But the books help to spark a conversation of BDSM, and this serves as a learning opportunity for other people and for those that are curious, Holland says.

In-depth view of female pleasure is also explored in the books. The main characters, Christian and Ana, communicate and talk, which are key things for maintaining a relationship, according to Holland.

Holland also likes how the books emphasize protection during sex. Christian Grey always has a condom on hand and makes sure Ana is on the best birth control available.

Even though there are aspects of the book that are not true to the BDSM lifestyle, Holland said she still likes the book.

“It’s still a good read; it’s a fun fiction and fantasy,” she said. “It’s just not, however, a manual or complete guide on how to experience the lifestyle.”

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