Fifty Shades of Consent

There has been a lot written in both vanilla and kinky circles about the recent phenomenon which is the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James.  People seem to either love the series or hate it, and many good arguments have been put forth for each point of view, with people in the kink world mostly coming down on the hate side. It has been decried as poorly written, and as bad education.  It has even inspired some wonderful and bitingly funny parodies such as the one penned by Laura Antoniou, author of the popular Marketplace series.  It is serving as the catalyst for a great deal of discussion in both the kink and the vanilla worlds, and that is never a bad thing.

Despite the negatives, on the whole, I actually really liked the books, and have some thoughts that I’ve not seen addressed elsewhere, specifically around the portrayal of consent.

First of all, before getting to that, what it actually is is a series written by a first time author who researched the subject of BDSM online, and makes no bones about that fact.  It is first and foremost a love story, and largely a literary first in that it is clearly pornographic, but in a format that appeals to a very broad base of mostly vanilla women who generally are not associated with reading porn of any sort beyond the bodice-ripper genre.  It is aimed at the mass market, and has succeeded wildly in exactly what it has set out to accomplish.  It is a mistake to expect a book to be what it is not and was never intended to be – and to read it and to decry it as what it never did set out to be is to entirely miss the point, when reading any book.

The story opens a door into our world that most have never seen, and as such, makes what we do more accessible to the public, and will hopefully serve as a gateway for those who are curious to seek out information and ways to dip their toes into the waters.  It also legitimizes women’s erotica and has gotten the world talking about women’s sexual fantasies and desires, not just those of men.  It was never intended to be a book about BDSM education, so why get so upset that it isn’t?

Great literature it is not, but it is far from as terribly written as many writers have made it out to be.  The much-vaunted Beauty series that is often brought up as a comparison is actually considerably worse, and ultimately deadly boring, despite being written by quite a good author.  For one thing, Fifty Shades actually has a plot line and other things going on in the story beyond the endless jackrabbit-like fucking and sucking that permeate Beauty to the exclusion of everything else, and there is character development.  Whether one actually likes the characters involved or not is a different question, and a matter of personal tastes, but we do see the evolution of both two individuals and their relationship unfold in its pages in what is actually a pretty realistic manner overall, even if the time frame is rather insanely sped up. Continue reading

It’s the Internet, Stupid! How the Online World Encourages Abuse in the BDSM Subculture

I received a private message from someone who was commenting on how BDSM per se doesn’t inspire abuse, but that “…people watch vids on the internet, get it into their heads that subs are just human punching bags that will do anything for anyone and that misunderstanding of everything does cause abuse”.

Yup, you’ve hit the nail on the head, guy.  No, it’s not BDSM per se that is the problem, but all of the rest of the crap – and I include the books, including the Story of O and all of the older books and videos, not just the new crap and the Internet influences – that cause the problems.

Or, more precisely, giving them too much weight is what does it.  There’s nothing wrong with getting ideas from these sources, but one has to understand the limits of that.

I’ve found that the ability to separate fantasy from what’s viable in real life is sadly lacking in many, and it is the use of these books and videos essentially as “how to” manuals instead of recognizing them as pretty purely wank fodder that leads people astray.

Couple that with the emphasis on secrecy and confidentiality, and a whole lot of really bad – and nonconsensual – stuff gets swept neatly under the rug where it never sees the light of day, and the perpetrators get away with it with more and more people.

Those who eventually wake up to the abuse they are suffering are often too embarrassed to be open about it for many reasons, including embarrassment that they fell for it in the first place, plus fear of being ostracized for breaking the code of silence, especially if the perpetrator is popular or friends with the local community’s leaders, or is powerful in some other way perhaps outside the scene altogether.

Interestingly enough, at the class that Midori and I both attended, when asked how many people in the room had been raped, half the hands went up – and when asked how many of us had reported the rape, all but one went down.  The pressures to not report it are strong, even in the kink world.

Sadly, those who will not or cannot keep their bottoms safe on various levels tend to screw things up a lot for everyone.  I cried when reading an excellent post this guy wrote about why we do wiitwd, going into depth about the passions invoked and the challenges of taking a hard scene and coming out safely on the other side with a trusted dominant, because I do so crave being with someone who can do that with me.  Continue reading