With the long promised movie coming up, internet BDSM communities are continuing the ongoing tizzy about how terribly awful bad this phenomena is for kink, particularly how we are going to expect a barrage of innocents any day now, who will totter in all starry eyed and come into some sort of unspecified calamity based on something they read or saw.
I’m going to bracket this by saying 50shades is not my cup of tea, and indeed is Bad Writing. Then again I can’t say I’m a fan of a lot of things- cheerleading, miracle whip or pastel magical unicorns are also going to draw out a bah humbug (and indeed given the injury rate, cheerleading is probably a lot more dangerous than recreational spanking). And for that matter the books have never claimed to have aspirations to high art.But, that aside, this still doesn’t mean the supposed tide of 50shades newbies we’re supposed to get (who have yet to present themselves, btw) are somehow this big problem we needed to dread and plan for.
True, Christian Grey is fucked in the head, while Anastasia is at least next door to having some sort of combination social anxiety and eating disorder, as well as weird jealousy issues and poor decision making. But BDSM literature as a whole is a zone of emotionally unhealthy characters- not in the least of which because we are a bunch of by and large sane people fetishizing horrible things. (I mean come on, depending on which version you read, Story of O ends in her suicide!) There are millions of terrible harlequin romances extant and somehow heterosexuality as a whole has survived all sorts of silliness.
Let’s take a look at some of the common worries, shall we?
BDSM is a super special dangerous thing you need training to do. Newbies are going to get hurt if they enter into kink thinking this is easy and safe. The books never get more intense than a beating scene with a prison strap, which is further addressed as being something it is both okay and understandable for the dippy heroine to not want. Hell, the first book ends with a break up because she decides she is not comfortable- and the middle book is about coming to a compromise that balances their respective crazy. But, more to the point, this is kinky sex, not rocket science. You are not part of the special sexual elite- 99% of what we do, while highly enjoyable, doesn’t exactly take annual certification and an OSHA inspector. And no judgement, but triple razor wire flaming suspension bondage is not a common activity for most of us, even scene veterans.
The other implication here is also that the 50Shades fanbase is somehow dumber, more naive and less inclined to do their homework than the person making that claim. Now you might point to how stupid you think the books are, but then again BDSM is not known for our high quality pornography. As Wildcard observed to me on the subject, I don’t think most of us were initially sexually inspired by high art.
The books sell an overtly controlling person as a super magical dom, and will lead to newbies not knowing that they could find kinky abusers.. Over the course of the three books its repeatedly addressed that BDSM itself is not the weird thing, but rather that the male lead is literally crazy. The implication about worrying about risk of abuse is that 50shades newbies are ripe picking for our resident predators. You know what that says? If you are so utterly sure there are enough abusers in the scene that you have to actively protect everyone who comes in you are acknowledging one hell of a missing stair problem. That is to say if you really think the community you are part of has more risk than the rest of the humans who are not part of your special sexual subculture, the problem is that your subculture is fucked up.
Maybe instead of trying to focus on some sort of welcoming committee, as many people seem to think needs doing, that energy should be used to clean house?
People who get into kink through 50shades are annoying dabblers not REAL kinksters. I’m sorry, you’re a snob if you think this. I am as peeved as anyone else that the bottom tier of cheap toys has taken on a distinct colour palette and branding. But, no matter how you feel about tacky satin blindfolds and rhinestone handled paddles, you do not get to make the distinction of sincerity versus weekenders. And if you try you are going to sound like a huge hipster trying to keep your exclusive hobbies from the poseurs. This also goes to people who think there is some sort of unbroken legacy that’s been handed down but will now be neglected- sorry guys, BDSM is an activity practiced in the private bedrooms of couples all around the world. You don’t get a monopoly to define and control kink and you never had one.
The problem with 50shades is mostly that it’s in the midst of a moral panic the like of which is typically found among suburban parents worrying about jelly bracelets and rainbow parties, but most people who don’t think its worth the flap are generally not invested in protecting ridiculously popular things. It hits just in the sweet spot between containing enough sex to make conservative prudes squawk, but not enough self awareness to make anyone who would normally be all liberal and sex positive happy. And yet, maybe its time to admit the franchise didn’t create any problems that weren’t already there to start?