Picture of a branch with a bright red rope around it, tying a double coin knot, with the words: Why submission in the comp/egal debate is actually about boundaries (and warrants comparison with kink) workthegreymatter.com

Why submission in the comp/egal debate is actually about boundaries (and warrants comparison with kink)

Complementarians, egalitarians and kinksters are three groups of people who all frequently talk about submission in the context of a sexual relationship but using different words with different meanings.

  • The kink community (sex positives who are into BDSM) talk about D/s, a shorthand for domination and submission. (Click here for why I write about BDSM.)
  • Complementarian Christians talk about the servant-leadership of husbands and the wifely submission of—well, wives.
  • Egalitarian Christians, on the other hand, talk about mutual submission.

Each group explicitly says that it doesn’t support abuse, but each one also says that either or both of the other two groups normalise abuse. So how did that happen? Continue reading Why submission in the comp/egal debate is actually about boundaries (and warrants comparison with kink)

Holding someone by the throat: abusive strangulation or consensual play?

Following the allegations against Eric Schneiderman, I saw a cluster of articles a couple of weeks ago revolving around the topic of someone’s breathing by putting pressure on their throat. Some talked about this as an act of violence, others as an act of erotic play.

The articles were not always helpful – and I want to talk about this.

I’ll start with a CONTENT WARNING: this post contains stuff about sex, BDSM and sexualised violence. The links from this post have explicit content.

If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type”, and “kink” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades. Continue reading Holding someone by the throat: abusive strangulation or consensual play?

Book of How Not To Write a Novel with copies of Fifty Shades books and Grey

Crimes against literature: Fifty Shades has 50 novel-writing mistakes (part 3)

Welcome to the final instalment of this mini series wherein I list the failures exhibited in Fifty Shades as we go through what How Not to Write A Novel. This post covers interior monologue, setting, research and historical background, theme, and … sex scenes! So, more than in the other posts so far, I’ll be talking a fair bit about the BDSM elements of the books. (If that’s a strange term see my Dictionary page.) Here are links to parts one and two.

CONTENT NOTE: This series of posts is meant to be a fun and light-hearted. However, at times there is simply no getting away from the problematic portrayals of consent, BDSM, purity culture, misogyny, racism, child abuse and mental health problems that are inherent in Fifty Shades. To say nothing of the gratuitous displays wealth.

I also link to other blogs that also criticise Fifty Shades because I think they have insightful things to say about EL James’ writing, but I make no guarantees as to the language or suitability of content on those sites.

Also, credit where it’s due, the names given to the writing mistakes and the explanations are extracts from How Not To Write A Novel.

All in all, I hope you enjoy, but read at your own risk.

Continue reading Crimes against literature: Fifty Shades has 50 novel-writing mistakes (part 3)

Woman standing arms folded in from of Christian Grey picture from 50 Fifty Shades Darker.

I dated Christian Grey… and I don’t care to see him again (guest post)

With the launch of Fifty Shades Darker in cinemas, this guest post is just as relevant as it was when it was originally written two years ago. Ruthie Hird looks back on her experience of a toxic boyfriend (whom she met on a church retreat) and draws striking parallels with Christian Grey. I found it compelling when I first read it and she kindly agreed for me to re-blog it here.


So, there’s this book/movie that has come out recently: it’s called Fifty Shades of Grey, perhaps you’ve heard of it? Well, I sure have, and I’ve seen the throngs of mommy (and non-mommy) squee-ing over the very idea of a dark, mysterious man sweeping girls off of their feet and having incredible sex with them. Oh, if only Mr Grey really existed! I hear women sigh longingly.

Well, ladies, guess what: he does exist.

I should know: I dated him.

And so have about 4 million women in North America in one year alone.

Here’s the thing: Mr Grey in my world was not a high powered businessman, in fact he wasn’t rich at all. He was actually a twenty-six year old, blonde haired, blue eyed, church-going construction worker. He wore a cowboy hat, drove a pick up truck, and I had no idea what I was in for when he asked me out.

CONTENT NOTE: References to rape, coercive control and non-consensual BDSM perpetrated against the author – as well as similar behaviours in Fifty Shades.

Continue reading I dated Christian Grey… and I don’t care to see him again (guest post)

10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 3)

“It’s not abuse, it’s BDSM.”

Well, BDSM-ers disagree.

This post is the third of three that lists some of the ways a rant I read about an abuser in the BDSM scene reminded me of Christian Grey (part one is here and part two is here). You can read the original rant (in its uncut strong language) here. If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 8: There are NEVER “no limits”

Let’s start with a quote from the rant:

No one has “no limits”, and to say you don’t (especially as a new person to the lifestyle) is simply foolish because a new person has no idea what to expect.

And anyone remotely informed about BDSM knows this. Anyone who remotely cares about consent will challenge anyone and everyone who says they have “no limits,” because people who say they have “no limits” do not know what they are saying. Instead, their idea of what a BDSM scene could involve has limits.

Continue reading 10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 3)

10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 2)

“It’s not abuse, it’s BDSM.”

*sigh*

This post is the second of three that lists some of the ways a rant I read about an abusive dominant in the BDSM scene reminded me of Christian Grey (part one is here).

If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 4: Pre-negotiation must be neutral and pressure-free

The ranter talks about limits:

There is no excuse for a D/M to be unable or unwilling to discuss these things openly and in a non-threatening, non-intimidating fashion in a neutral setting (emphasis on the “nons” and “neutral”). This allows for open communication and allows the s-type to express where they are with a particular limit.

Continue reading 10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 2)

10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 1)

One of the biggest myths spoken about 50 Shades of Grey is “It’s not abuse, it’s BDSM.”

I recently read a rant from a guy in the BDSM scene calling out abusive behaviour from a big-shot d-type who was using his reputation to silence his critics and the people he was abusing. Unlike 50 Shades, the rant is not fictional, which is why the strong parallels it has with 50 Shades are so serious. You can read the rant (in all its anger and uncut strong language) here. In the meantime, this post is the first of three that lists some of ways the big-shot dominant the ranter described reminded me of Christian Grey.

If phrases like “BDSM,” “s-type” and “d-type” are unfamiliar for you, you might want to check out my Dictionary page. I’ve also written separately about why I write about BDSM and why I write about 50 Shades.

Content note: This post talks about abusive behaviour. I try not to be graphic but it’s generally not nice to read about and I do repeat some of the creepy things Christian says and does to Ana in the 50 Shades books.

Lesson 1: Abuse can happen – even in a BDSM setting

“It’s BDSM” is never enough. There should always be a discussion about consent, risk and appropriateness: that’s what distinguishes abuse from what gets called “safe, sane and consensual BDSM” and “risk-aware consensual kink”.

Continue reading 10 ways 50 Shades is like real-life abuse, not BDSM (part 1)

A real-life rant about “command rape” in the BDSM scene (guest post)

This guest post is about abuse within the BDSM scene, particularly what the author calls “command rape”. It’s not a piece of fiction. I asked to reproduce it for one thing because the author is in the scene and makes some good points about BDSM and but also because the “Snake in the grass” he’s ranting against also bears uncanny likeness to Christian Grey. I’m writing about that separately in three different blog posts, but in the meantime, this will give you a gist of why he’s writing:

We’re all human, we make mistakes. It’s when those “mistakes” become a pattern that raises concern. When there are multiple individuals coming forward talking about a local “Master” who appears to have abused, coerced and straight-up disregarded the hard limits of, not just someone close to me, but several others, I get [very angry].

Content note: This post is very angry in tone, has very strong language, discusses abusive practices and uses graphic hyperbole to make a point (I have put a warning into the text). Also, although the author gives useful definitions to make his points and help convey understanding, these are not intended as legal or definitive definitions and should not be understood in that sense.

Continue reading A real-life rant about “command rape” in the BDSM scene (guest post)

Why do I write about BDSM?

BDSM stands for: Bondage and discipline, domination and submission, sadism and masochism.

I want to get something straight right at the outset:

This blog is not here to promote BDSM.

So if you’re looking for tips on how to get involved with BDSM and meet people who are into it, you’ve come to the wrong place. BUT, there are a number of writings here about how not to get involved (often written by people who are involved).

So, I’m not trying to promote BDSM, but I do want to promote awareness of what BDSM is and isn’t. I have three main reasons for why I want to do this. (If you want more detail on BDSM-related words and phrases. you might want to glance at my dictionary page.) Continue reading Why do I write about BDSM?

What’s bad about “the worst” six slaps?

It took me a moment to register that I was smiling as I read chapter 26 of Fifty Shades of Grey. Yes, you read correctly, I was smiling. Christian and Ana were engaged in a playful game of cat and mouse around the kitchen – he with his dastardly boasting, she with her undaunted wiliness  – and it was fun. Until suddenly it wasn’t a game.

The ending of Fifty Shades of Grey (both film and book) is undeniably one of the most irritating things that I’ve had to get my head round. Ana asks Christian to show her “the worst” in the film or “as bad as it can get” in the book. In the film he asks her if she’s sure, in the book he asks if she’s ready. She says yes. He says he’ll hit her six times. He then hits her six times. He then stops. Does this mean she actually was consenting to the whole relationship and he’s not actually abusive? Deep breath. Content note: I talk about abusive and violent behaviour in this post and the use of discipline in a BDSM context.  Continue reading What’s bad about “the worst” six slaps?

7 essential facts about consent (guest post)

This piece of writing is a fantastic one-stop-shop about what consent really looks like. The BDSM-er who wrote it intended it more as a vent of frustration than an educational piece, which is why I have ever-so-slightly edited some of the original language. Reproduced with kind permission of tumblr’s HotDogPhoto.


During the last several months, my local community and the scene at large has had a number of issues regarding consent violation, assault, and generally predatory behavior. In the wake of these instances, I’ve seen a lot of discussions of consent and in the course of those discussions I’ve seen a lot of comments that have chilled my blood. People saying things like, “Well, I subscribe to a blanket theory of consent,” or “The older generation of kinksters doesn’t think about consent that way.” The purpose of these statements is often to make it appear that the issue of consent is that of a subjective communal construct that my peers and I are changing after the fact.

Here’s the thing: It’s not. “Consent” as a concept, has been widely employed in medical ethics (and extended to ethics more broadly) through the last 60 years. So, unless you got into the scene before Nuremberg, the word “consent” has entailed much of the same conceptual baggage the whole time. I want to take some time (as someone with years of graduate training in the history and anthropology of medicine, and medical ethics) to clarify some of the facts.

Continue reading 7 essential facts about consent (guest post)

In a frenzied search for your Mr Grey? Read this. Now. (guest post)

OK, so… this isn’t a post directly about 50 Shades but I’m putting it here, because when I think of women getting all excited about the idea of finding their personal dominant Christian Grey, I think of this story.

As the author opens:

Sub frenzy: (definition) A state of being in which a sub, usually but not always one new to the lifestyle, gets so darn excited about the concept of submitting they attempt to submit to the nearest door knob and/or find themselves in potentially dangerous situations because their brain is so awash with endorphins they are honestly not thinking clearly.

I don’t have a problem with people being curious about their submissive sides and having a look for a dominant partner. But I do have a problem with people doing this with their brains switched off. This is a story from a woman in the BDSM community that shows why. Content note: This post contains strong language and description of an actual rape. 

Continue reading In a frenzied search for your Mr Grey? Read this. Now. (guest post)