Kink has Gone Mainstream and I Have “50 Shades” of Mixed Feelings About it

I had planned to write an article about how great it is that kink has become more mainstream with sex positive messages and venues like ‘House of Yes’ and Club Cumming’s welcoming mission statements and open nightclub scene arms, but then “50 Shades Freed”, the last installment in the 50 Shade franchise, was released in theaters Friday to the delight of many fans and the rabid horror of those actually in the BDSM scene. I had successfully avoided reading or watching any part of the trilogy, but I knew I had to see what the big fucking deal was.


I had been hearing since the book was published in 2011 that Christian Grey (played by Jamie Dornan) is not a good example of a Dom, and that he abused his sub. For you, dear reader, I watched the first movie. I needed to see it before I beat my breast over it. Grey and Anastasia (played by Dakota Johnson) had a contract, right? That seems legit. Why is everyone freaking out?

As someone with a sado-streak (or so I’ve been told while giggling as I snapped the clothespins off my boyfriend’s nipples with a paddle), I thought the sex was pretty tame in a very long, boring movie.

Grey and Ana are a God awful, inaccurate depiction of a BDSM relationship (stalk much, Grey?) and virgin Ana had no fucking idea what she was getting into. The sex made Domming look like worshipping her, buying her off with expensive toys and then all of a sudden, he beats her with a belt.

In Grey and Ana’s playtime, there was no aftercare shown, but anyone who thinks they should just jump into not just BDSM, but a lifestyle Dom/sub relationship, probably also believes everything that happens in a Hugh Grant rom-com.

I was catching up with a friend last week and she recounted some of the first dates she’s been on since we had last shared a bottle of red. On one date, the guy tapped her inner thigh while watching a movie and asked her if she liked it. She had no idea he was trying to introduce impact play. And then he went for her throat. No discussion about limits. He operated without communication, consent and certainly had no idea how to safely choke someone (he was putting major pressure on her trachea).

That’s not BDSM.


That’s “get your fucking hands off me, you uneducated asshole.” That’s abusive behavior, and this movie makes that seem like that’s the essence of BDSM.

Grey didn’t take “no” for an answer and her acquiescence makes it seem like that is part of a normal, healthy relationship — whips and floggers or not. And kink and love and warmth aren’t mutually exclusive, as my boyfriend commented after seeing the movie with me.

Sexual healer Tatiana Dellepiane opines that BDSM can even be healing: “I think sometimes people want to explore kink because people have sexual trauma — women and men — and sometimes they want to explore those different shades because they’re working though that trauma. Especially in a submissive role, you’re ultimately the one in control.”

Thrusting into the public eye the knowledge that there is more to sex than missionary is a good thing, because it can destigmatize, but real life or film, certain things are not OK anywhere.

It is not OK to break into her apartment after she dumps you.

It is not OK to just sell her car.

It is not OK to stalk her when she’s visiting her mom.

But I’m preaching to the choir. A choir who has probably read a few articles online this week touting “50 Shades” of bedroom sexiness with these moves or how to get your Ana on to turn on that special Mr. Grey in your life this Valentine’s Day.

You aren’t a freak for enjoying sex and wanting to expand your horizons. You didn’t know you liked raw fish until you gave sushi a try, right? I mean, fucking raw fish? To me, that’s foul, but slapping clothespins off nipples… that’s entertainment that gives mutual pleasure in a loving relationship based on respect and trust.

As mental health worker and go-go dancer Anda (last name withheld) put it, it is “beautiful” to destigmatize, talk about sex instead of whispering about it and treat sexual curiosity as part of “normative behavior.”


The takeaway for filmgoers needs to be that there is a distinction between a controlling, abusive boyfriend and respectful, consensual BDSM.

So, I still have mixed feelings. Just like destiny bringing two people together a la “Sleepless in Seattle” isn’t quite realistic, jumping into a Dom/sub relationship based on a movie isn’t either. Read up on kink. Learn before you try it. Take workshops. Education is sexy.

And I’d like to let Ana know that the belt isn’t as bad as it can get. If I see her bite her lip one more goddamn time, I’m pulling out my cane.