How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 2)

This post is the second of three that lists some of the ways a rant I read about an abusing big-shot 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 How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 2)

How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in 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 How 50 Shades reflects real-life abuse in BDSM (part 1)

On the receiving end of sex – why it’s not just about giving

Sex: not just about giving

Photo credit: Toa Hefitba, Unsplash.com

EDIT: this post is aimed at people who feel guilty about being pleasured. If you want to read about consent and negotiating for mutual enjoyment as part of a long-term sex relationship, I recommend this post on Ashley Easter’s blog.


The ‘always be giving’ myth

Every now and then I read something that suggests that if you’re not on the giving end of sex, you’re doing it wrong. The argument follows a few leaps of logic:

  • It is better to give than to receive;
  • Therefore, to desire your own pleasure is to put yourself before your intimate partner;
  • Therefore, if you’re not giving, you’re abusing.

If you’re in a sexual relationship and you’re never or rarely at the giving end of sex (or not nearly as often as your intimate partner), then that points to an imbalance and imbalances raise questions about the overall health of the relationship.

But I cannot reconcile myself to a model of sex where the expectation is that you must always be giving. Or, to put it another way: I cannot reconcile myself to the idea that a healthy sexual relationship means you should always be contributing to the pleasure of your intimate partner.

To explain, I’ll need to tell you about some of my sexual history. Deep breath. Continue reading On the receiving end of sex – why it’s not just about giving

Love vs Abuse: two Bible stories you’ve not heard like this

This is a drama sketch based on two Bible stories: Genesis 39:1-20 and the book of Ruth.

Ruth and Boaz Bible
Ruth chapter 3 in my pocket New Jerusalem Bible, published by Darton, Longman and Todd

Boaz:
I’m Boaz.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m Mrs Potiphar.

Boaz:
I’m a wealthy landowner from the tribe of Judah.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m married to the Captain of the Guard to Pharaoh himself.

Boaz:
I’m a bachelor who’s coming on in years.

Mrs Potiphar:
I’m an underappreciated trophy wife.

Boaz:
A while back, a woman started working in one of my fields. Her name was Ruth.

Mrs Potiphar:
A while back, my husband bought a new slave. His name was Joseph.

Continue reading Love vs Abuse: two Bible stories you’ve not heard like this

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

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

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?

YesMeansYes: What coercive people look for in a “No”

This isn’t a post directly about 50 Shades but the concept behind it is one that is, I think, relevant to how Christian interacts with Ana in the first few chapters in FSOG. It’s about how coercive people aren’t interested so much in what potential victims have to say, but in how they it – and from that they make inferences about whether said potential victim is an easy or hard target.

The YesMeansYes blog primarily focusses on rape and the writing I want to recommend to you is titled “Mythcommunication: It’s Not That They Don’t Understand, They Just Don’t Like The Answer“. My favourite bit is right near the end:

I tell my niece, “If a guy offers to buy you a drink and you say no, and he pesters you until you say okay, what he wants for his money is to find out if you can be talked out of no.” The rapist doesn’t listen to refusals, he probes for signs of resistance in the meta-message, the difference between a target who doesn’t want to but can be pushed, and a target who doesn’t want to and will stand by that even if she has to be blunt.

Content note: The post contains a few pro-rape exhortations though the author warns about these before they come up.


Did you find this by clicking on a pingback from YesMeansYes? You might be interested in:

The myth that love cures abuse

I personally believe that fearless, compassionate, sacrificial love is one of the most transforming things anyone can ever receive. But I dare say there are a lot of fanciful and quite wrong ideas about what that really (I mean really, really) looks like in action. I’d love to explore that theme later down the line (and hope to do so) but in the meantime I think the point needs to be made:

Ana’s feelings and actions towards Christian is not what it looks like. 

The 50shadesisdomesticabuse blog makes this point really well in a myth busting post they wrote. Not only that, but it points out the reasons why this is such a dangerous myth when it’s believed by victims of abuse.

The relevant post is quite long (though worth a read) but the bit about this particular myth is after the image of a bookshelf and under the heading “But her love cures him in the end. They both have to learn, compromise and make sacrifices and that’s what a relationship is about.

Did you find this by clicking on a pingback from the 50shadesabuse blog? You might be interested in:

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:

A message to S-Types – What you REALLY need to know

This is essential reading for the would-be Ana’s out there who are curious about BDSM (and for anyone looking to be more informed about BDSM in general). As you’ll see from the sign off at the end, it’s from someone at the total-power-exchange end of the BDSM lifestyle. Content note:  Contains a couple of a brief references to things sadists might do. Continue reading A message to S-Types – What you REALLY need to know

Jenny Trout: On defending BDSM with 50 Shades

You don’t need to go very far to find people arguing that the relationship dynamic in 50 Shades is abusive… and when you find them you’re likely to find someone else saying “It’s not abuse, it’s BDSM.” This essay by Jenny Trout gives her reasons on why she believes 50 Shades is harmful to the image of BDSM and why she doesn’t want people to use 50 Shades to defend her personal choices. Dear 50 Shades fan: BDSM doesn’t need or want your defenseContent note: this has colourful language and some explicit content. Heed the content note she puts at the top of the essay.

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