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The Simpsonian

I read Fifty Shades of Grey recently and it sounded super hot. I want to try some of the stuff I read. What do I do?

ask-millie

“Fifty Shades of Grey” by E. L. James is now one of the most popular series in history; it is the best-selling book in Britain. Despite its criticism for “appalling writing,” and even I found a multitude of mistakes, the series was a hit. 

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, I’ll catch you up. The trilogy (yes, this nonsense is three complete novels) takes place in sexy Seattle where a virginal Anastasia Steele meets the elusive CEO Christian Grey. They have a few awkward encounters, he stalks her a bit and then she goes home with him to discover he’s into BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism) Obviously, he wants to make her his sexual submissive. Fun. They go back and forth on if they can have a relationship that meets both their needs. Of course the answer is yes because it’s an erotic novel and they live kinkily ever after.

So there are some major problems here. Firstly, why did people like this garbage? Second, the book portrays kink and BDSM incredibly inaccurately. The book could be retitled “How Not to Do BDSM.” Critics took most issue with the lack of consent in the novel. While Anastasia explicitly consents the majority of the time, she is afraid to communicate what she needs or wants, which is completely against the rules of safe BDSM practices. 

Third, the novel portrays Christian’s use of BDSM as an unfortunate side effect from his childhood trauma. The novel is redemptive for Christian when he finally realizes he doesn’t need kinky sex, just Anastasia. Kink and trauma are not inherently related. There is no need to overcome desires for kinky sex because it should be healthy, pleasurable and safe.

Lastly, the books were written as a fanfiction for another popular series, “Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer. Both series have received the same overarching criticism: the books portray an abusive relationship. The isolation of not discussing their relationship with her friends or family, the stalking, the lack of consent and more build to make the relationship unhealthy. Some of these traits are present in BDSM, the difference being that there is clear communication and consent for everything that happens.

So with all of that in mind, how do you start? I would suggest you do a self-check before you start. BDSM is equally mental and physical, so be prepared to be challenged. Are you a good communicator? What parts of the book made you interested? What are your fantasies? Do some research about BDSM and understand some basic terminology. Try to also be open minded about your own kinks and others’. When you know some basics and feel comfortable,you can search in your area for “play parties” or “munches.” You can usually find them online or on websites like Fetlife.

Make sure that you go slowly and set boundaries. Have fun exploring a new side of yourself and try not to get caught up in the labels. Laters, baby.

-XO Millie

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