I recently felt the urge to weigh in on the Fifty Shades debate over on Fetlife. I said my piece and had a little bit of dialogue with a couple of commenters but then things went very silent. I think that’s mostly because people thought I was being a troll.
Because I defended it.
I defended the right of people, in particular women, to fantasize about whatever the hell they want and not to feel embarrassed or ashamed or be shamed by others for liking something.
We don’t watch movies about spies or prison outbreaks, serial killers or robbing banks and then sit there and pull them apart because they’re presenting something that we don’t agree with or because we think they’re doing it ‘wrong’. We also don’t spend hours debating the rights and wrongs of much more violent films that are also presenting fantastical situations, so I wonder why people are suddenly feeling the need to jump on their high horses and proclaim 50 shades as abusive, dangerous and that it should be boycotted.
If the movie had an alternative title such as, BDSM For Dummies – how to truss them up and beat them down or if it was presented as some sort of informative research material, my feelings about it would be very different, but it is fantasy, it is entertainment and it is meant to be enjoyed and not thought too deeply about, like any other fictional movie, novel or piece of artistic expression.
I’ve read quite a few of the reviews of the movie and mostly they harp on about non-consent and there was one particularly amusing one that called it nothing more than a ‘man’s fantasy thinly veiled in woman’s clothing’. That comment irked me the most because it seemed to be saying that woman shouldn’t be fantasizing about, let alone enjoy, being forced or played with. Personally, the whole idea of being keep as a pet, being controlled and doted on has always appealed to me and it’s one of the main ideas that got me interested in bdsm in the first place. Just because those things are not on the fetish list of the reviewer doesn’t mean she has the right to poo-poo them.
I guess the reason I feel quite strongly about this is because I’ve spent the last two years of my life writing a story that has a lot of nasty stuff and quite a bit of non-consensual activity in it. I began writing it for my own amusement and no-one else’s because I wanted porn that pushed my buttons and I couldn’t find what I wanted.
The themes and content of what I have written mostly go against what I believe and subscribe to as a practitioner of bdsm, but I’m completely fine with that because, and I cannot stress this enough, it is fantasy. While I’ve based a lot of the activities that go on in the story on my experiences and some of the feelings and ideas expressed by the characters are stylised versions of things I’ve felt, said or been told, the scenario that I’ve written about is not how I live my life or a situation that I could ever probably cope with in reality, but reading and writing it gives me the warm fuzzies because I get off on fantasies that involve non-consent and interrogation/imprisonment.
I have to admit that I haven’t read the Fifty Shades books, but I have watched the movie. And my thoughts are…well…other than it having some very awkward dialogue such as:
“I want to fuck you into next week.”
“What are buttplugs?”
“You would like to leave? But your body says otherwise…”
And my absolute cringe-to-the-max favourite:
(And this dialogue is all stuff that probably works okay on the written page, but not coming out of the mouth of people. I think this, more than anything, raises the very important point that there is a difference between a screenplay and a novel.It’s porn of the written variety, after all, let’s not forget what it is.)
overall the movie is very tame and not too bad. Granted it’s contrived, corny and not very sophisticated in bdsm terms, but honestly, it’s hard to make that stuff look and sound anything but those things. Oh and I thought for a billionaire, he had a very tame and boring playroom, which I hated him calling the “playroom” throughout the movie as in, “I want to take you to my playroom”. Really? Who says that?
It must be very hard getting two actors in a room full of crew and trying to make good bdsm stuff when there’s no connection or chemistry or anything else that turns weird and uncomfortable into good. And honestly, bdsm in the early days of a relationship is really, really awkward. It takes time to build trust and get things going and because play needs to be calculated and controlled you lose the spontaneousness that could push you through awkwardness. I’ve played with probably around ten people to various levels in my time and every single encounter has been weird and uncomfortable off the bat. Only in fantasy does everything run smoothly like clockwork with everyone getting off and then the dominant going to play a concerto on the grand piano at the end of it.
But back to my point about everyone needing to chill the fuck out about Fifty Shades.
The thing about Mr Grey having a backstory and that’s why he enjoys dominating women and everyone whining about it? That’s called writing a story. Having someone who just enjoys it for the sake of it, does not an interesting character make. It doesn’t allow for a reveal or flashbacks or any of those other literary devices that help you write a story. You give your characters pain and challenges and it makes them much more interesting. Once again, fantasy, not reality.
I had a thought that the whole reason a lot of bdsm folks are getting so worked up about it is because we’re an arrogant lot who assume that the vanilla folk will immediately head down to the hardware store and buy some things, try some stuff out and get it wrong. What if, just maybe, the vanilla folk know that it’s a movie and don’t bother doing anything, or what if, god forbid, they do something and get it right? On the flip side of this, I’m also quite sure that a lot of the kinky folk are doing things ‘wrong’ too.
Some people love watching hardcore horror films that are filled with people slicing up other people with chainsaws. It doesn’t mean they will go out and recreate what they have just watched so why should watching someone strap someone’s ass with a belt make everyone call red and yellow?
I understand the difference between really ‘out there’ fantasy involving murder, which most sane people know not to do and a bit of slap and tickle in the bedroom which everyone probably feels is less taboo, and I’m assuming that is why some folk are telling everyone they meet that the movie is dangerous and not how it’s “really done”, but do we need to start every book and movie with a disclaimer, ‘Do not try this at home’ because people can’t be trusted to tell the difference between fantasy and reality?
I think people are smarter than that and I don’t think people fantasizing about things is bad either. So there’s a billionaire who wants to take me for a ride in his helicopter and have his way with me? Great! Just let me break out my hitachi…