The Dangers of Fifty Shades of Gray: a Guest Commentary (Warning Triggers/Adult Content))

A Note from Tara “Masery” Miller:

The people who participate in BDSM come from every walk of life, are abled or disabled, and belong to many different races and creeds. It can be a safe and responsible form of pleasure for consenting adults. For more information on BDSM and people with disabilities visit Keeping it Kinky.

Fifty Shades of Gray is a book about a fictional couple’s BDSM sex life that’s been talked about world wide. “The series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into 52 languages, and set the record as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. Critical reception of the book has been mixed, with the quality of its prose being generally seen as poor. Universal Pictures and Focus Features plan a film adaptation scheduled for a February 13, 2015 release.”

“At the beginning of the media hype, Dr. Drew debated sexologist Logan Levkoff on The Today Show, about whether Fifty Shades perpetuated violence against women; Levkoff said that while that is an important subject, this trilogy had nothing to do with it – this was a book about a consensual relationship. Dr. Drew commented that the book was “horribly written” in addition to being “disturbing” but stated that “if the book enhances women’s real-life sex lives and intimacy, so be it.”” Wikipedia

But is it really a harmless book? Today’s guest commentator doesn’t think so.

If you are in an abusive relationship get to a safe place and call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 | 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

By Redditor ahhidk

Reposted with permission.

With Fifty Shades of Grey being made into a movie, I’ve tried to raise awareness how this book is not about BDSM, but rather domestic and sexual abuse. Many women argue that the relationship in the book is BDSM, but that paints BDSM in a bad light.

BDSM is a community that believes in safety & comfort. Consent is always necessary, and partners take care of each other. After acts and roleplays, partners comfort each other to help transition out of that zone. FSOG does not include any of this. Mr. Grey gives Anastasia (a then-virgin) an ultimatum; to sign a contract or leave. She is sexually inexperienced (being a virgin) and he manipulates that to push her boundaries to make it seem like the sexually violent things he is doing to her are okay. There are instances where after an act, he is mad at her for being upset, but does not comfort her. He uses alcohol to sway her consent – this is by law rape. There is also an instance where she uses the safe word, yet he continues. That is consent being retracted, and Christian ignores the retraction of consent. That is sexual assault.

Those are not the only problematic instances. Anastasia begins to hide things in fear of Christian’s anger. He becomes jealous and easily angered. Anastasia fears for her safety. Experts have even matched her behavior with that of abused women, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s description of partner violence.

This book completely throws people who participate in BDSM completely under the bus by misrepresenting BDSM as a whole. Bad people do sneak into BDSM to find a way to escape persecution for their violent ways, but the majority of those in BDSM are not abusive, like this book would have you believe.

This book romanticizes and fetishizes abuse, and painting abuse in a ‘sexy’ and ‘fun’ light is really dangerous for women. 1 in 5 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, that’s why this book should not be defended. Making this behavior seem okay to accept from a man is dangerous, and people will be influenced to dabble in ‘BDSM,’ but not have an actual idea of what it is, and they will get hurt.

I know many women (and men) defend this book and don’t understand how it can be seen as abuse, but it is. And I hope more awareness will be raised so this does not influence others. I plan on organizing to hand out pamphlets on domestic and sexual abuse and safety in the BDSM community, maybe even informative pamphlets on the real Fifty Shades of Grey, on the release date of the movie, and I hope others will as well.

Edit: Just want to say thanks to those who gave me gold, I will definitely pass that on! I have gotten a lot of hate for this post, but I’m happy some of you support it!

Edit 2: I’ve tried to reply to every single comment. I’ve noticed a pattern of comments in defense of FSOG I’ll address because I have to go do homework and can’t reply anymore.

“Women aren’t toddlers, they can decide what they like for themselves.” or “Who are you to decide what women should read?” I never once implied women (or men) are toddlers and can’t decide what they like, and I never once implied that I am the ultimate decider telling people what they should or shouldn’t read. It is up to every individual what they want to read, never anyone else. The point of this post is to point out how FSOG is problematic, not to police anyone’s reading habits.

“It’s just a book, jfc!” Yeah, it’s just a book…that perpetuates the idea that women love being dominated. A book that perpetuates and romanticizes domestic abuse, which is already incredibly high, under the guise of ‘fun’ and ‘sexy’ BDSM.

“There are movies about murder, wanna censor those too, you facist??” There is a difference between a book that can be written without abuse and get the same point across, but still includes abuse that is romanticized and fetishized to the Nth degree, that perpetuates a problem that is already way too normalized, and a movie about murder. If you think this, you don’t seem to understand where the line is drawn. People don’t leave the Purge thinking, “Damn! I want to go on a murder spree!” But women (and men) will leave a FSOG showing and think, “Damn! I want to try BDSM!” When it was never BDSM.

“So what if women like to read about/act out rape?? It doesn’t matter!!” Kinks and fetishes do not exist within a vacuum. They have real life effects on the real world. Rape play creates demand for rape porn. Rape porn gives people Here’s a link about how porn in general shapes the ideas of sexuality: http://www.mincava.umn.edu/documents/arpornography/arpornography.html#idp7024288[1] with included quote: “There are limits to what research can tell us about the complex interactions of mass media and human behavior. But from both laboratory research and the narratives of men and women, it is not controversial to argue that pornography can: (1) be an important factor in shaping a male-dominant view of sexuality; (2) be used to initiate victims and break down their resistance to unwanted sexual activity; (3) contribute to a user’s difficulty in separating sexual fantasy and reality; and (4) provide a training manual for abusers.” If you aren’t convinced, here is another link on how porn shapes the sexualities of those under 18 with included sources: http://pornharmsresearch.com/2013/12/talking-points-pornography-and-criminal-behavior-and-attitudes-research/[2] There are studies that prove rape porn decreases the amount of rapes that actually happen when mass consumed (the same happens when a violent movie is just released; violent crimes decrease. It’s satiating the potential perpetrator) but at the same time, these sources show that rape porn also creates new demand for rape, and new potential rapists. It’s more important to stop the cycle.

“It’s not my/their fault they like (insert kink)! I’m/They’re just born that way! It’s a part of sexuality!” No, it isn’t. No one is born with kinks or fetishes. Those are learned behaviors, usually by something in the childhood. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_fetishism[3] Refer to ‘Psychological origins and development.’ (If you want to complain about it being wikipedia, click the citation, it takes you to the URL for the source.) Fetishes and kinks are most likely either conditioning and socialization, or events that shaped your sexuality. If you liken it to sexuality, you’re no different than those who liken pedophilia to sexuality, when it in fact has nothing to do with sexuality.

“Using alcohol isn’t rape! (Insert definition of rape) That’s rape!” Thank you, I know what rape is. But if you think this, you seem to be forgetting the key to rape: consent. And under law, consent can not be given while the person is under the influence. No consent = rape. Plain and simple. If you want to argue more, please gain a basic understanding of consent and consent laws before commenting again.

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  • lizzysimplymagic

    “Fetishes and kinks are most likely either conditioning and socialization, or events that shaped your sexuality.”

    Can you tell me what aspect of sex ISN’T shaped by conditioning, socialization, or events?

    I’m not writing this in defense of the book (which I haven’t read) but I do find it objectionable to decide what is and isn’t “normal” sexual behavior for consenting adults. Not too long ago people said the same kind of stuff about homosexual behavior. Maybe we shouldn’t paint sexual behaviors with broad strokes, hmm?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      I would agree with you that sexual behaviors shouldn’t be painted with broad strokes. The main point of the guest commentary was how the book suggested that stalking, emotional manipulation, and ignoring safe words were erotic when indeed they are actions of an abusive relationship.

      • kenofken

        I think its fine to critique the book as poorly written and to put out the message that the story is not an accurate account of responsible BDSM. I refuse to be a part of some ridiculous crusade to “save” people from the supposed harm this or any other book is purported to unleash.

        Whoever the author of this piece is, they claim not to be advocating censorship, but they are arguing from the core premise of censorship: that some ideas are too dangerous to allow adults to read, view or publish. If they cannot be banned outright, then at least they must come with warnings of some kind because folks can’t be trusted to think for themselves. The reasoning is exactly, precisely the same as that of the Hays Code of the film industry in the 1930s.

        The author’s argument is anti-sex to the core. He or she claims to favor consent among adults, but then immediately prescribes for them, for all of us, what the acceptable boundaries of that play and even fantasy should be. “Porn” is just erotic content that the person hurling the label doesn’t like. For this person, any literary depiction of behavior that doesn’t conform to real-world progressive ideals is off-limits. Plenty of people indulge in fantasy and play involving rape scenarios, abuse, and very edgy things that cross plenty of comfort zones for others and which would be felonies in the real world. They do so within the boundaries of their own consent and safe words etc. This author has decreed that they’re not capable of making these decisions for themselves because their play and fantasy life is “abuse”. There is a movement within some quarters of the feminist and pagan world which is seeking to impose a sexual orthodoxy and to define deviancy for everyone which is functionally no different than the Christian Moral Majority’s efforts. They are going to find very, very little buy in among most of the pagan community.

      • lizzysimplymagic

        Yes, that is the main point, and it is well taken… right until the part where the guest author starts defining normal sexual behavior based on what is apparently the most intellectually developed source available: Wikipedia. (Yes, I am going to complain about that! The author could have simply linked to the supposed source, instead of letting us guess which citation is meant to defend this position. The actual wikipedia page the guest poster links to, by the way, differentiates between “a healthy kind of fetishism” and “pathological fetishism”, something the author either missed or ignored for the purposed of this article).

        I think it is important, CRITICAL even, to educate and frequently discuss consent and to avoid normalizing abusive behavior. And again, I have no argument with the authors’ problems with the book (haven’t read it), but I have serious concerns with expanding that argument to pathologize any sexual behavior that the author deems unacceptable. Even if that’s not the main point of the article, the author STILL felt it was important enough to include digressing into a disapproval of certain “deviant” sexual activities, going so far as to link them to pathological, abusive, and predatory behaviors: “If you liken it [kink] to sexuality, you’re no different than those who liken pedophilia to sexuality, when it in fact has nothing to do with sexuality.” Thanks.

        E. L. James may not be the only one confused about BDSM.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      I would agree with you that sexual behaviors shouldn’t be painted with broad strokes. The main point of the guest commentary was how the book suggested that stalking, emotional manipulation, and ignoring safe words were erotic when indeed they are actions of an abusive relationship.

  • kenofken

    I think its fine to critique the book as poorly written and to put out the message that the story is not an accurate account of responsible BDSM. I refuse to be a part of some ridiculous crusade to “save” people from the supposed harm this or any other book is purported to unleash.

    Whoever the author of this piece is, they claim not to be advocating censorship, but they are arguing from the core premise of censorship: that some ideas are too dangerous to allow adults to read, view or publish. If they cannot be banned outright, then at least they must come with warnings of some kind because folks can’t be trusted to think for themselves. The reasoning is exactly, precisely the same as that of the Hays Code of the film industry in the 1930s.

    The author’s argument is anti-sex to the core. He or she claims to favor consent among adults, but then immediately prescribes for them, for all of us, what the acceptable boundaries of that play and even fantasy should be. “Porn” is just erotic content that the person hurling the label doesn’t like. For this person, any literary depiction of behavior that doesn’t conform to real-world progressive ideals is off-limits. Plenty of people indulge in fantasy and play involving rape scenarios, abuse, and very edgy things that cross plenty of comfort zones for others and which would be felonies in the real world. They do so within the boundaries of their own consent and safe words etc. This author has decreed that they’re not capable of making these decisions for themselves because their play and fantasy life is “abuse”. There is a movement within some quarters of the feminist and pagan world which is seeking to impose a sexual orthodoxy and to define deviancy for everyone which is functionally no different than the Christian Moral Majority’s efforts. They are going to find very, very little buy in among most of the pagan community.

  • Scarlet Imprint

    Dear Tara, I am sure it is a trashy book and the issues that you raise about consent are important. But where would the logical extension of your argument lead with the other staple texts read in the BDSM community, for example, Story of O, the entire oeuvre of the Marquie De Sade, Torture Garden, Bataille et al. In fact, even works like the erotica of Anais Nin? Or how about the film Secretary?

    Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to use this as an opportunity to discuss consent in BDSM play and ‘vanilla’ relationships rather than taking a fictionalised account to task. It will only produce knee-jerk reactions and anger, rather than the outcome you seek.

    My position would be to embrace the fact that kink is in this position in culture rather than being criminalised as it was in the UK with Operation Spanner. That makes us safer from prosecution by the State. We really need to use this to bring the consent awareness of the BDSM community to those outside it, whose notions of consent are not articulated with such clarity.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/paganswithdisabilities/ Tara “Masery” Miller

      “The police had obtained a video which they believed depicted acts of sadistic torture,
      and they launched a murder investigation, convinced that the people in
      the video were being tortured before being killed. This resulted in
      raids on a number of properties, and a number of arrests.

      The apparent “victims” were alive and well, and soon told the police that they were participating in private BDSM
      activities. Although all of those seen in the videos stated that they
      were willing participants in the activities, the police and Crown Prosecution Service insisted on pressing charges. Sixteen men were charged with various offences, including assault occasioning actual bodily harm.” Wikipedia on Operation Spanner

      Thank you. I didn’t know about that case in the UK where innocent men where arrested.

  • Scarlet Imprint

    Dear Tara, I am sure it is a trashy book and the issues that you raise about consent are important. But where would the logical extension of your argument lead with the other staple texts read in the BDSM community, for example, Story of O, the entire oeuvre of the Marquie De Sade, Torture Garden, Bataille et al. In fact, even works like the erotica of Anais Nin? Or how about the film Secretary?

    Perhaps a more constructive approach would be to use this as an opportunity to discuss consent in BDSM play and ‘vanilla’ relationships rather than taking a fictionalised account to task. It will only produce knee-jerk reactions and anger, rather than the outcome you seek.

    My position would be to embrace the fact that kink is in this position in culture rather than being criminalised as it was in the UK with Operation Spanner. That makes us safer from prosecution by the State. We really need to use this to bring the consent awareness of the BDSM community to those outside it, whose notions of consent are not articulated with such clarity.

  • http://www.paganleft.wordpress.com Mariah Sheehy

    I don’t know what other people’s problem is. This is an important topic that needs to be discussed. The problem is people who are kink-curious but unfamiliar with the norms of Safe/Sane/Consensual will get bad information from this book and may try unsafe/abusive things at home. I don’t know whether the author has serious interest in BDSM or is part of the community- I get the impression she is kink-curious mostly herself. The mainstream media who is ignorant of BDSM may think this is representative. It’s kind of like a straight person writing a book about a same-sex relationship that is abusive, and then people think that is a typical same-sex relationship. If you actually are familiar with the rules of BDSM play and what is/isn’t abusive, then you might be able to enjoy works of fiction where safewords are ignored etc, but realize that *they’re fiction* and should not be done in real life.

    • kenofken

      The problem I have with it is that is that it proposes that adults cannot be trusted to read a work of fiction for themselves and to discern it from reality and apply their own ethical reasoning to life. The writer proposes that adults cannot think for themselves and that other adults have a mandate and a duty to take on a parental role over them. That is not ok to me on any level. Once you accept that premise, censorship becomes absolutely inevitable.

      What’s even worse in this instance is that the self-appointed guardian of sex-positive BDSM culture is clearly not kink friendly in any realistic sense of the phrase. She defines it primarily in terms of pathology and deviancy and decrees that those who indulge in the “wrong” sort of fantasy play or depiction in erotica are responsible for the actions of rapists.

      • http://www.paganleft.wordpress.com Mariah Sheehy

        Upon re-reading- it seems Tara’s note is BDSM-friendly, and the article seems to start out that way, then goes awry. Frankly it’s just not very well-written. I am definitely against censorship and restricting behavior that goes on between consenting adults. I also think you fantasize about, read about or even role-play things (like teacher student relationships) that aren’t ethical in real life. Anyway, I think it’s best for BDSM sex educators to be leading discussion on this. I myself am “vanilla” but have friends that aren’t, and I like to share good accurate info with people when I meet folks who are interested in BDSM, polyamory, swinging etc. I’d be happy to link from my blog to anyone who is writing from a more inclusive viewpoint.

      • http://www.paganleft.wordpress.com Mariah Sheehy

        Upon re-reading- it seems Tara’s note is BDSM-friendly, and the article seems to start out that way, then goes awry. Frankly it’s just not very well-written. I am definitely against censorship and restricting behavior that goes on between consenting adults. I also think you fantasize about, read about or even role-play things (like teacher student relationships) that aren’t ethical in real life. Anyway, I think it’s best for BDSM sex educators to be leading discussion on this. I myself am “vanilla” but have friends that aren’t, and I like to share good accurate info with people when I meet folks who are interested in BDSM, polyamory, swinging etc. I’d be happy to link from my blog to anyone who is writing from a more inclusive viewpoint.

  • http://www.paganleft.wordpress.com Mariah Sheehy

    I don’t know what other people’s problem is. This is an important topic that needs to be discussed. The problem is people who are kink-curious but unfamiliar with the norms of Safe/Sane/Consensual will get bad information from this book and may try unsafe/abusive things at home. I don’t know whether the author has serious interest in BDSM or is part of the community- I get the impression she is kink-curious mostly herself. The mainstream media who is ignorant of BDSM may think this is representative. It’s kind of like a straight person writing a book about a same-sex relationship that is abusive, and then people think that is a typical same-sex relationship. If you actually are familiar with the rules of BDSM play and what is/isn’t abusive, then you might be able to enjoy works of fiction where safewords are ignored etc, but realize that *they’re fiction* and should not be done in real life.

    • James Jimbo Graham

      If people are stupid enough to get their information from only one source they deserve to be misinformed.

  • James Jimbo Graham

    Basically every sentence you have written is either conjecture, open to debate or flagrantly false.

  • James Jimbo Graham

    “Under law” Which law? Which country?
    Use of alcohol definitely does not automatically constitute rape anyway, anywhere, anyhow.

  • James Jimbo Graham

    “Noone is borne with fetishes”
    Sounds similar to “Noone is born homosexual” to me.

  • James Jimbo Graham

    ” Rape play creates demand for rape porn.”
    So what if it does? the internet is a home for all kinds of travesty and generally such content is only viewed by the dark souls in some dark corner thereof.
    The actors in such videos are both consenting ACTORS.
    The problem with this comes when it isn’t adequately censored and minors come into contact with it, which is a lot better since Google and other major search engines updated their safesearch filters.

    This is, I admit, an oversimplification. Unfortunately the lines aren’t actually drawn this black and white.

  • James Jimbo Graham

    In my opinion the ONLY thing dangerous about this book (BOOK not Film) is if it is read by minors and/or taken out of context, for example, taken to be a factual representation of BDSM within a work of fiction, or taken as the sole guide to initiating a BDSM relationship within a couple.
    It is a work of FICTION! It will contain made up stuff! Dan Brown’s novels say “all art work and historic references are accurate” or some such disclaimer at the start, you don’t see a counterpart for these books!

  • Peter

    Ok, so what about the BDSM book and movie. Is it really so bad? Is it bad that girls try to look so sexy and vary their sex life a bit. As a guy I’m happy about it! At first glance it looks stupid and dangerous when you see girls buying fetish stuff at some fanshops like http://fiftyshadesofgreymerchandise.com/ after watching the movie. But what the hell! If I see my beloved girfriend in sexy little dress and lingerie, being happier because of my sincere excitement, is it really bad? If such books or movies strip the latent sexuality of the loving people, then I’d like to see more such books and movies. But of course not for kids.


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