BDSM, '50 Shades of Grey': How E.L. James got it horribly wrong
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BDSM, '50 Shades of Grey': How E.L. James got it horribly wrong

Los Angeles : CA : USA | May 01, 2014 at 9:38 AM PDT
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Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day when couples express their love for each other. Now, think of the worst possible movie that could be released on Valentine’s Day. I don't mean movies that aren’t romantic. Heck, “Silence of the Lambs” was released over Valentine’s Day in 1991.

No. I’m referring to the sappy, somewhat risqué movies meant for women to enjoy, along with their reluctant lovers. This year, we got “Endless Love,” a remake of the 1981 Franco Zefferelli classic by the same name. Movies like that are sappy and predictable, but they make women happy. And when women are happy, their men are happy.

Next year, one movie in that Valentine’s Day lineup will be “50 Shades of Grey.” I can't think of a worse movie to release on that day, unless you're into misogyny and sex abuse.

It’s a tale of a young, inexperienced woman and a successful businessman exploring the world of Sadism & Masochism, but the author of the book, E.L. James, got it all wrong. And that’s got a lot of folks in the BDSM community upset. BDSM is an abbreviation for “Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & Submission and Sadism & Masochism.”

For this report, I interviewed peopled involved in the community and they had some choice words for James and for the message “50 Shades” sends to readers.

Caitlin Seida, who has gained Internet fame in recent months for her article about Internet bullying and self-image spoke with this writer in an exclusive interview and gave a clear perspective on just what is wrong with the book and movie. She said that most people don’t really understand what BDSM is, and James’ book is proof of how little research the author put into it.

She said, “What's portrayed in the book is great for illustrating an abusive relationship under the guise of BDSM. It's also great for spank-lit, but it's not so good if you're looking for an accurate portrayal of BDSM and that's kind of painful for us in the scene because it has introduced so many people to our lifestyle, or at least a warped version of it.”

According to WeWomen.com, BDSM is all about regaining control and relinquishing control, something Seida affirmed.

She explained in-depth what BDSM really is, and surprisingly, the person in the submissive role actually has more power than the person playing the dominant role. I asked her what rules exist in the scene and how James violated those rules in her book.

Seida replied, “The biggest rule of BDSM play is summed up in an acronym: SSC, or safe, sane and consensual. Right away, EL James violates consent when she has her naïve, young virgin coerced into oral sex with the protagonist of the book, without her consent.”

The power dynamics are completely wrong as well, she says. Where Christian Grey has all the power over Anastasia, the reality is that if Anastasia had explored the real world of BDSM, she would have discovered the submissive holds the power.

It’s the power to say "no." It’s the power to use a safe word or gesture to stop the play from going further. It is the power to negotiate their terms and how far they are willing to go. In a weird sense, the submissive is actually the dominant who gives permission to another person perform certain acts on them.

“Another big part of my personal beef with BDSM (as portrayed in “50 Shades of Grey’) is that the main character is never allowed to ask questions. BDSM is a journey. You're constantly growing, learning more about your limits, and if you’re with someone you trust, working past those limits.”

Seida described Christian Grey as a psychopath in the “truest sense of the word.” And the problem with this, she says, is that James portrays this erroneous viewpoint as the norm when it could not be further from the truth. Grey is a controlling, manipulative man, dictating every aspect of Anastasia’s life right down to her gynecological exam for birth control regardless of what she wants.

Communication, comfort and consent. These are the three main components of BDSM and those who participate rely heavily on them.

I asked Seida if someone into the scene might be into rape play. Her answer was a tentative "yes." Again, the person asking to be “raped” must give their partner consent to violate their consent. In other words, rape play can be acceptable only under the terms of the person being “raped.” Actual rape would never be acceptable under any circumstances because consent to violate consent was never given.

Another source who chose to remain anonymous said that as a rape victim, she would never personally choose rape play as a way to cope with what happened. Yet some victims do as a way to regain control of their bodies and to come to terms with what happened to them. Again, control and relinquishing control is at the heart of it.

The source said this is why James’ book and subsequent movie bothered her so much. The character of Anastasia never has a choice. She is forced to perform acts despite her hesitance and discomfort. She is never allowed to express her feelings. In essence, she is reduced to a play thing, a disposable toy for Grey’s pleasure and nothing more.

The message this sends to young women and teenage girls, the source said, is that it's acceptable for men to abuse them. Coincidentally, James wrote her stories as fan fiction of "Twilight," which makes sense, given how both authors portray their female characters as prey for their love interests.

C.H., another person active in kink, agreed with Seida's assessment and offered reading suggestions for the curious. He said, "Two books to recommend are Jay Wiseman's 'S&M 101' and 'Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns.' They are seminal texts in safe, sane, and consensual power exchange." Wiseman is a prolific author in eriotica and BDSM.

Seida did suggest a lighter (albeit NSFW) version of the story on YouTube:

Gilbert Gottfried reading it is hilarious…seriously, you’ll die laughing.”

* Story contains original reporting by the author.

Additional Reading:

I Feel Delicious

Facebook

Karma's a Bitch

Telegraph UK

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'50 Shades of Grey' Poster
E.L. James' blockbuster book is set to be released as a movie on February 14, 2015.
RenoBerkeley is based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, United States of America, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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