7 essential facts about consent

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

A message to Muslim teens on 50 Shades

As I consider myself to be a person of faith, I’m often interested in how other people apply their beliefs to sex. I recently read a post by a Muslim writer and mother who says:

I cannot discuss all the points in the book thoroughly in just one article. However, to highlight some major issues, I want to tell my dear teenage daughters…

My only caveat on this article is that the author criticises a particular practice that labels itself “Christian” in the Christianity sense. Her criticism of the practice is justifiable in my view, though it seems strange to me that her single reference to a religion other than her own picks this out – particularly when a great many Christians, including me, would describe the practice as anything but Christian. [Edit: you can read her response to this below]

That said, what she makes a number of excellent and concise points. You can read them here: What Muslim teens need to know

Did you find this post by clicking on a pingback on the MuslimMatters site? You might be interested in this review of the film of 50 Shades of Grey from a Christian(ity) angle.

Ana’s spin cycle – the most mundane description ever?

In some respects Lord of the Rings was wasted on me when I first read it. I was after action and adventure but, although there was enough of that to keep me reading, Tolkien as an author evidently delighted in painting pictures with his words – and he spent a great proportion of his books doing just that with people, landscapes, cultures and histories.

As I read I became practised at zoning these bits out and, unsurprisingly, I didn’t remember much of Tolkien’s descriptive flourishes first time round. But, as it so happens, years later I went on holiday to Scotland… Continue reading Ana’s spin cycle – the most mundane description ever?

50 Shades of Grey: A Christian(ity) angle on the film

This might get a bit confusing: my name is Chris(tine), I describe myself as a Christian, but I don’t like Christian (Grey). Here goes…

With the recent release of the films, the whole 50 Shades trilogy has hit the limelight even more and there are plenty of places where you’ll see reviews of the film written by people whose opinions are informed by what they believe. In many ways I don’t have a problem with this, after all, I’d be lying if I said starting this blog was in no way informed by what I believe. Of course it is.

But it’s not uncommon for me to cringe a little as I read reviews, comments and open letters from people who evidently:

  • haven’t seen the film but want to comment on it, or
  • haven’t read the books but want to comment on them, or
  • just want to engage with their concerns about sex-related issues, rather than the issues the film and books raise.

But today I read a review/comment that I found refreshing. It was written by an anti-porn campaigner, but porn wasn’t his problem with the film. He was also a Christian, but his problem wasn’t with the sex outside wedlock. Instead, he saw the problem as being the fact that Christian is abusive.

He also invited readers to re-tweet a couple of his sentences. I don’t do Twitter (yet), so I’ll repeat the one I liked best here:

this movie didn’t turn me on – it made me mad.

Yup, I had that when I read books. Welcome to the club.

Here’s the review: What I don’t understand about Fifty Shades of Grey

50 Shades of Wannabe

I was musing about what songs or theme tunes would fit Ana and Christian and had an unexpected creative burst. You need to imagine this to the tune of the Spice Girls’ song Wannabe. At some point I’ll see if I can’t add audio and visuals, but for now, picture Ana reading the BDSM contract and singing this…  Content note: The dark streaks in this are not unintentional. I guess that’s my way of saying you might find this disturbing and not funny. And yes, it is disturbing because, well let’s face it, Christian’s behaviour is disturbing – as are Ana’s attitudes towards him and herself! Continue reading 50 Shades of Wannabe

Christian is creepy like John Travolta. Or have I got it all wrong?

OK, I confess.

I was all up for writing a piece about consent and victim blaming and the difference between allowing an action and accepting an action, and I was going to do an analysis comparing the recent Oscars encounter between John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson with Ana and Christian in chapter 12.

And then Scarlett Johansson turns round and says John Travolta wasn’t being creepy.

Fine. I’m not going to pretend I have a case that says she’s been bullied into defending him.

But let’s think for a moment about chapter 12.

Content note: this post describes some of the stuff Christian does in chapter 12. I wouldn’t describe it as really violent, but some of the behaviours would be consistent with a rape. And if the idea of mouth-to-mouth creeps you out, don’t read on. Continue reading Christian is creepy like John Travolta. Or have I got it all wrong?

Why do people say 50 Shades is (or isn’t) abusive?

I’m getting various search hits with people asking why 50 Shades is abusive, so I thought I would try and summarise the main points in one place. Please bear in mind these points come from the books not the film. If you want a view on the film, I recommend Jenny Trout’s review.

There’s a lot more that can be said on these points and I’ve probably not covered everything that’s worth covering, but I figured I’d keep it to a list of 10 to make it more readable. Here goes: Continue reading Why do people say 50 Shades is (or isn’t) abusive?

In a frenzied search for your Mr Grey? Read this. Now.

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.

Telling the difference between kink and abuse

There’s great piece of writing about the difference between kink (that is, BDSM) and abuse on Scarleteen –  an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support website. My favourite quote is this:

Any responsible kinkster (any respectful and caring person, period, IMO) will take a step back upon finding out that someone they would like to pursue is completely inexperienced. They will give the other person the time and space to make their own decisions, rather than “educating” them on what those decisions should be based on what they, themselves, want from that person. This is true not just for BDSM, but is just generally good etiquette for any situation in a relationship where one partner is far further down a road than the other. One partner is ready for intercourse and the other isn’t? You wait until they are. One partner wants to move in together and the other prefers to have more alone time? You keep your separate places for the time being.

You can find the full article hereContent note: Has a dash of colourful language – but only where she’s quoting 50 Shades. 

“All consensual?” Jamie, can you REALLY say that?

Jamie Dornan said the following in a recent interview with the Guardian:

On a more serious point, Dornan describes himself as a feminist – is he worried that the film will glorify sexual violence against women? “I think it’s very hard to argue that when it is all consensual. Half the book is about making contracts. Permission and agreement that this be done. There’s no rape, no forced sexual situations.”

There’s a lot that can be said about that short quote, but for the record: Ana never signed the BDSM contract. It’s important to appreciate that consent is important in the whole of a relationship – and whereas I’ll say that Ana did consent to some things, to say that she consents to everything is doubtful. There are numerous consent violations throughout the books and here’s a post on the 50shadesabuse blog (formerly: 50shadesisdomesticabuse.webs.com) that lists a number of them.

 

Jenny Trout: 50 Shades and abusive relationships

In this post, Jenny looks at characteristics of abusive relationships and the fact that many of them feature in 50 Shades – hence one of the reasons why she finds the books so problematic. Worth a readContent note: has some colourful language and talks about some of the stuff that happens in abusive relationships – which, obviously, isn’t nice.

Did you find this by clicking on a ping back from Jenny’s blog? You might be interested in:

Is this really intellectual snobbery?

One of the common complaints about 50 Shades is that it’s badly written. Jamie Dornan was  quoted in the Guardian as saying:

“… you have to give Erika [EL James] some credit, because whatever you might think of the prose style, 100 million is a lot of people. Are the literary critics saying those 100 million people aren’t very bright?”

Now, I’m personally in the camp that says the book lack literary merit but my simple answer to Jamie is, “No, we’re not saying those 100 million people are stupid. We’re saying the books are not good examples of literature.” And here are some examples to show why:  Continue reading Is this really intellectual snobbery?

February 2015: 15 Reasons NOT to watch 50 Shades

As I write this, the film of 50 Shades of Grey is yet to be released. Not only that, but it’s yet to be viewed by press for review purposes.

So, there are a lot of limits on what we can currently know about the films. But in my internet wanderings, I came across this blog post: “15 Reasons NOT to watch 50 Shades of Grey This Valentine’s Day“. I found it a helpful overview of the books and why people object to them particularly for those who’ve heard of 50 Shades but don’t know much about it.

[Update: That link is no longer valid, though I appreciated it when it was up.]

It started as fan-fiction

So this is my first post looking at 50 Shades from the literature angle, and I think the first thing that needs to be said is that 50 Shades is Twilight fan-fiction. This article on crushable.com goes into more detail. [The article is no longer up, so I’ve linked to the Way Back Machine’s version.]

I’m not going to say that a piece of writing necessarily lacks merit when it’s fan-fiction, but this is something that needs to be understood when putting that writing into context, and there are arguments (mentioned in the article above) that say that fan-fiction can never stand on its own merit alone. That said, I wonder whether any piece of good literature can truly be said to be standalone.