Why "Fifty Shades" Is Not BDSM

Why "Fifty Shades" Is Not BDSM

There's a difference between BDSM and flat-out abuse.
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I know you probably see this article title and get confused. Of course Fifty Shades is BDSM! Christian Grey does all the bondage, sadism, dominant mumbo-jumbo, so it has to be, right? Wrong.

I feel that BDSM as a whole gets a bad rep nowadays, mainly because those who aren't actually involved with it or haven't researched it don't know what it really is. So, first things first, let's get acquainted with what BDSM is. BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) generally refers to the exchange of power between partners and/or infliction of pain for pleasure. However, there is still more to it. You may hear BDSM and typically think of whips and Christian Grey with a suspicious amount of rope, but know that BDSM is just one style of relationship with many many MANY categorical roles. Some relationships are more parent and child, others master and servant, still others owner and pet. Needless to say, there's a whole lot more to it (complete list of BDSM roles here).

Contrary to popular belief, BDSM is more than just smacking your significant other around. Otherwise, it would be abuse. When it comes to BDSM, there are three words that every "player" needs to keep in mind that act as a sort of motto for the activity: safe, sane, and consensual. Before entering into a BDSM relationship, you and your partner need to make sure that you are on the same page with these three things.

Now you're wondering what Fifty Shades has to do with this. Well, here's the thing: the series really introduced the vanilla (someone with and practicing conventional relationship standards) public to BDSM in a large way, but I personally feel as though it has been misrepresented. I have said before that the story is abuse, as have many others. I still hold this to be true. However, that means that now, the vanilla public, in turn, associates BDSM with abuse as well. This is where I disagree. Except for his supposed knowledge of whips and restraints and whatever else that red room of pain contains, Christain Grey has BDSM all wrong.

Let's go over those three rules again, shall we?

Safe: After meeting her, Christian Grey stalks Anastasia at her place of work, traces her cell phone, and follows her to her home town to drag her back to Seattle with him. In the second movie, he stalks her again at an art show after they'd broken up where he convinces her to get back together with him, steals her financial information, purchases the company she works for, and takes her to meet the woman who sexually abused and mutilated him as a child. Not to mention the fact that a scorned ex-lover of Christian's almost shoots Anastasia, but I suppose that one wasn't directly under his control. I'll give you that one, creepy boy.

Sane: Christian is emotionally manipulative. He attempts to win Anastasia's love (and more likely, her consent) with gifts such as a computer, a car, and an iPhone. On the opposite end, he attempts to control Anastasia by reprimanding her for going out to drink with her friends, becoming aggressive when she shares plans to visit her mother, and giving her the cold shoulder when presented with a business trip opportunity in the second movie. This is not the behavior of a dominant who respects, values, or wants the best for his submissive; this is the behavior of a psychopath.

Consensual: Ugh, where do I even begin? First, Christian has Ana sign a shady Non-Disclosure Agreement that states that she can't talk to anyone about him or their relationship. Second, he spends the whole of the first movie not only pressuring her into signing a binding contract for the relationship but also proceeding to go ahead with the sex and bondage and beyond without waiting for her to sign it. In the second movie, history repeats itself when he pressures her into going out with him again and doing the same sexual things she wasn't okay with the first time. Of course, now they're in a relationship, so it must be okay (it isn't. If she says yes once, that doesn't automatically mean her answer will be yes every other time).

By way of these three rules alone, which are crucial to the ethics involved in BDSM, Christian Grey is not a dominant. He isn't even a sadist. He's an abuser and a walking red flag.

Cover Image Credit: Business Insider

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