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Fifty Shades of misrepresentation

by The Concordian November 4, 2014
Fifty Shades of misrepresentation

Mainstream media and Jian Ghomeshi don’t represent Kinksters

With the recent events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi and the popularity of the erotic fantasy novel Fifty Shades of Grey, I would like to take some time to clarify and demystify some popular misconceptions regarding BDSM. Foremost, I would like to clarify that I am neither condemning nor defending Jian Ghomeshi, nor his actions. The purpose here is to introduce you to BDSM, and elucidate some of the big misconceptions that mainstream media has created.

BDSM stands for “Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, Sadism & Masochism”. Usually, people in the BDSM world refer to themselves as Kinksters, because they are into kinkier forms of sexual play (yes, it is play). But does an unconventional sexual preference mean that it is violent, non-consensual, and utterly disrespectfully done? Not at all!

BDSM is an activity that is often misrepresented and vilified. Photo by Javier Pais on Flickr.

It actually splits into three categories of people: Dominants, Submissives and Switches. Dominants—doms, or dommes—are the ones who will take control in the sexual play, and are usually the ones giving and saying what to do. Submissives (subs) are the ones who receive and are told what to do. Switches are those who can swing between being submissive and dominant. Within each category, there are spectrums. A switch can have predominantly submissive or dominant tendencies. Subs can be more or less submissive. And, naturally, Dom/mes can be more or less dominant. And all of that is more than okay, because not everyone likes the same stuff.

Fifty Shades of Grey’s male protagonist, Christian Grey, wants Ana to sign a contract. Signing a contract is not unusual when people are not in a committed relationship (although one like the one in Fifty Shades is highly unlikely). It sets the soft limits (an activity that may become something the person is comfortable with) and hard limits (the activity will never happen). Usually, in a BDSM relationship, the sub sets the limits as to how far the play will go. It is good to have someone that you are sexually compatible with and has the same tolerance levels as you, because it makes the sexual experience more pleasant for everyone.

What goes on in a BDSM relationship can be as mild as spanking, biting and pinning down all the way to tying someone up (sometimes intricately, might I add), dripping hot wax on them, and, yes, even wearing the leather/PVC suits that most people associate with BDSM.

But there are three important things to remember. First of all, there is a mutual respect between partners: making sure that both parties are consenting and comfortable is not a given, it’s an obligation. Furthermore, after the deed is done, there is a period of aftercare. Meaning, the Dom/me will tend to the Sub’s needs or pains and talk to them about what the experience was like. They don’t just leave them there in the end—far from it! Last, but certainly not least, is the safe word (or signal). When the safe word is said by the sub, everything stops. Even if the Dom/me has most of the control, the sub retains the most important control of all: saying when it stops.

So the takeaway messages are these: 1) a relationship, be it kinky or not, is based on respect; 2) everyone has different degrees of tolerance and those who have more should be flexible; 3) beating someone against their will is NOT kinky, that’s abuse.

If you are interested in discovering a little bit more about a BDSM relationship based on respect, a good movie to watch is The Secretary.

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