50 Shades of Abuse Versus BDSM

When is comes to love, sex and relationships, I’m a big fan of people doing whatever they want. While there are plenty of things I which are just not for me, I’d hardly call them wrong. Polygamy, for example – it’s not for me, but so long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and is treated equally, I’m not about to call it wrong.

Another thing on that list is BDSM. It just seems rather painful, unless I’m the person causing pain. But then, I’d feel bad for causing pain. I might have even that wrong. Outside of reading Spankalicious, all I know about BDSM comes from my days as a self-proclaimed dating expert. Yes, I am far from an expert, but my philosophy still stands. Consenting adults should be able to enjoy BDSM, if that’s what they’re into, with no shame.

I often see BDSM condemned as some terrible evil act. Once, I saw an anti – Planned Parenthood video that showed off fliers on things like BDSM as something to be used against them. “Look what they are teaching out kids!” they cried.

Well… uncomfortable or not, if my teenager asked me what BDSM is, I’d give an answer. Why leave them ignorant? It’s not some deplorable fetish. In fact, given 50 Shade of Grey, it seems there’s a lot of people who greatly enjoy the idea of BDSM.

I’ve never read 50 Shade, but I have read Twilight (50 Shade was originally Twilight fanfiction, remember). I can imagine how the mentally abusive relationship between Edward and Bella could be twisted further with sex and bondage added. I don’t know what Christian Grey’s excuse is, but I can see Edward whipping Bella because she wanted to dabble in BDSM. When it becomes too much she begs him to stop but he can’t in the throes  of his vampiric passion, or whatever excuse he comes up with. Bella’s so obsessed, she’ll likely believe whatever excuse he gives.

This photo, “A la de ya!!” is copyright (c) 2014 Javier Pais and made available under an  Attribution 2.0 Generic license
This photo, “A la de ya!!” is copyright (c) 2014 Javier Pais and made available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license

This is why 50 Shade of Grey is problematic. I’m not saying people shouldn’t enjoy the book or see the movie. Read whatever you like, but I really hope people see abuse for what it is. I understand there is a scene like this is the books, where the main character asks Christian to stop an act and he keeps going. Whatever was just going on between them becomes assault at that point.

A while ago, I read Sharn’s post on Consensual Non-Consent. It stuck with me like nothing else. Every time I hear someone bash BDSM or glorify ‘rape fantasies,’ I want to sit them in front of the computer and make them read that post. Rape is an assault. It’s a sexual attack on a non-consenting individual. Even if you want to be surprised, tied up and left to the whims of your lover, that’s not a rape fantasy. You consent to all that. Chances are, you even have a limit and certain acts you don’t want to do. Boundaries are set around the activity and, within those boundaries, you give your consent for anything to happen with out checking with you first.

As I said, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight. I confess, I spent a year or so obsessed with the Twilight series. I definitely bought in to the idea you could change someone if only you loved them enough. I accepted that mad depression was normal when the one you loved left and that literally taking apart your mode of transportation in order to prevent you from seeing your friends was just what caring people do when they’re concerned about you. Who doesn’t want a stranger to stand at the foot of their bed without their knowledge, just obsessing?

That relationship is all kinds of crazy. I wonder how many of my dating red flags are in that book? As I see it, the reason why Edward and Bella work is because they both obsess over each other to an excessive degree. I do see my short high school relationship in Twilight. When I read the book, I couldn’t see it because I thought that was normal. When I started dating Zachery, I had ignorant thoughts that if he really loved me, he’d no what I want (because love allows people to read minds, duh). I thought if he really loved me, I could change him.

That’s a fantasy. People change if they want to change, not because people around them want them to change.

The popularity of Twilight and 50 Shades worries me because I think most people who read them hold those relationships up as some kind of ideal fantasy. There is so much wrong with that. That kind of obsession isn’t healthy. As this woman says, 50 Shades romanticizes and fetishizes abuse. There’s nothing wrong with dabbling in BDSM activities to spice things up in the bedroom, but people should know the difference between that and abuse. If you say stop and your partner doesn’t, you have a right to be angry. If your partner obsesses over you to a degree that makes you fear for your safety, that’s not cute. It’s wrong.

What is your impression of BDSM? How do you separate it from sexual abuse? Why do you think there’s so much misinformation? Have you ever read 50 Shades of Grey? Do you see any troubling signs in the relationship? Why do you think that book has become so widely popular?

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29 thoughts on “50 Shades of Abuse Versus BDSM”

  1. I think this is a difficult one – when you start to compare fantasy and reality, that is. Does anyone remember all the trippy sexualised vampirism from Anne Rice? But then, I guess the distinction between that fantasy and reality was very clear: the vampires still killed their humans, at least. Some people definitely get turned on by pain and having control wrenched from them. It’s a very, very fine line. How much are they really enjoying and getting into character when they’re saying ‘no’? I guess these things need to be clearly defined before the act begins. As far as fiction confusing the issue, I don’t necessarily agree with that: I don’t believe in true love, but I will indulge in the fantasy through fiction. I believe in leading a safe, boring life in reality but in fantasy world I can do anything. I play a lot of video games too, both creatively violent (see madworld) and sexual (see mass effect) and I do things in those games I wouldn’t be comfortable with in real life. I can’t help but see the argument you’re making as similar to the “violent video games encourages violence in real life” argument, which I don’t agree with either: I am a kind and caring person in real life. However in the realm of fiction, I am attracted to much darker things. We have to expect that, as adults, we can tell the difference between what we desire in fantasy and what we desire in reality. And obviously, as you said, if things go too far then you do have the right to be angry. I do agree with you though that if people don’t take it seriously for what it is and clearly define what is consensual and what is not then people are going to get hurt.
    Wow this was an interesting post! I hope my reply wasn’t too long but I really found a lot to think about there 🙂

    1. Part of my inspiration for this post is because I’ve seen a lot of women who appear to seriously want a man like Christian Grey or who equate him with a ‘real man.’ There’s nothing wrong with being entertained or turned on with these books, but that shouldn’t stop us from seeing the clear abusive relationship.

      It reminds me of a class on took in college called African Americans in the Media. The professor was talking about the Tyler Perry movies. She’s where I learned the idea that you can greatly enjoy something or be a fan of something, but you should make a point to also be aware of any problematic messages.

      To me, that helps keep the indulgence in fantasy a fantasy.

      As far as BDSM, people partaking in such acts must have a lot of trust in each other. While ‘no’ might not being the stop word, they are likely to have another safe word which is not be be ignored. It’s all about consent and trust. Without those things, any sexual act is abusive.

  2. I am still surprised they can be called in one sentence.or used.
    It is beyond me why some activities are still being linked to BDSM.

    50 shades, i tried, i failed, i hated it. True it romanticizes abuse. But we are still talking about a book of fiction. every one in there clear mind should not believe every word that is written in a book of fiction. Why did it get so popular. because it was not as extreme as the BDSM books available at that time. Even the Marquis de Sade would be blushing at some of these.

    BDSM is in my opinion a beautiful world. Though through misunderstanding, misinterpretations and misinformation a lot of people use it as an excuse to abuse.
    People only hear of Domination, control when there is lots more at play. BUt very hard to explain in a small comment box.

    never enjoyed twilight as well. And I am all vampire fan.

    1. I think the problem with 50 Shades when it comes to BDSM is that people already have a flawed idea of what BDSM is. They read this book accepting the fantasy but at the same time accepting those acts as true to what people who participate in BDSM do. I really don’t like that. I don’t like that BDSM is equated to abuse when it is clearly not.

      1. In that last point you made is also the reason Practising BDSM is in a way forbidden in most states/countries. Having a doctor who knows is good treatment wise.
        But due to misinformation and the misusing the name BDSM is seen as the deviils act.

        Really a shame that misinformation or more showing extreme truths to make it wrong. but at the same time see many people getting hurt trying to copy 50 shades.
        It did seem less extreme, but only the true practitioners know

        I thank you though for bringing this up.

  3. I’ve never experienced BDSM, but not for moral reasons. Pain is to be avoided! 🙂 The problem with it arises from one partner being very interested in it, and the other just willing to satisfy the partner. That’s where BDSM may cross the line. When one partner says enough, and they other continues. As far as 50 Shades, I find it humourus. It’s like porn for suburbia, soccer mom porn, et al. Then again, I feel similarly about Twilight. It seems contrived to me. I could not get through either book. As far as the popularity of 50 Shades, I think that it’s appealing to those who are curious about porn, but not interested in reading/viewing anything hard core.

    1. I have never experienced BDSM for your same reasons. I can see where your situation would be a problem, but then that wouldn’t really be BDSM. The second someone revokes their consent, the act should end. If the other continues, they are now being abusive. That’s one of the reasons trust is so important when it comes to those acts.

      I did enjoy Twilight, but I was young and totally bought into the idea that you could change someone if you just loved them enough.

  4. I haven’t read 50 Shades, if my mum and younger sister enjoyed it I don’t think I would even bother lol too tame! But on the flip side I loved the Twilight series and I really identify with that kind of ‘can’t live without you’ love.. It’s an amazing feeling to find someone who completes you and I’ve only done that recently, never thought I would be that lucky and yet he came along and turned me into a silly teenager lol … BSDM is not something I personally partake in but I do see the attraction in one partner having control or playing with the balance between pain and pleasure, it’s exciting!!

    1. I agree, too tame! I don’t mind the passion in Twilight, but I feel like the obsessive way Edward and Bella reacted to each other was often dangerous. To love and respect someone is one thing, to be so obsessed with them that you take apart their car so they can’t visit their friends is a whole new thing. They both did it, though. They both loved each other to such an extent they would hurt the other if they thought it was for that person’s own good.

      I don’t think I could do more than read about BDSM because I’m not one for pain… but who knows. I may be open to things ^_^ (but not pain)

  5. I was curious about 50 Shades, so got my hands on a free copy. All I can say is thank goodness I didn’t pay for that piece of crap! The pages were full of grammatical errors,redundancy, and repetitive phrases. I started skipping ahead to see if it would get better, and the story just seemed to get worse. The strange thing about it is the fact that it’s so plain to see (as least for me) that this book was written by an amateur writer, (and someone who knows very little about BDSM) yet the popularity of the series is off the charts. There are great erotica books out there, but I guess no one really gave erotica much thought until this 50 Shades series was released. I’ve done quite a bit of research on BDSM and know people who live in that lifestyle. I don’t believe it’s a form of abuse unless you bend the rules. It is really all about trust, and if you can’t trust your partner to be safe, and continue to practice BDSM, you are allowing yourself to be in an abused relationship.

    1. Yeah. I came across my share of free erotica via blogs during my days as an online dating expert. There’s definitely better stuff out there. It’s a shame there’s such a stigma around BDSM. I don’t like that people who participate in that lifestyle feel like they have to hide and I don’t like that people curious but misinformed about BDSM may get themselves in trouble. If we could have more open, honest, public discussion about sex, maybe there wouldn’t be so much misinformation.

  6. You may know already know that I feel BDSM is fine so long as it’s not causing harm.

    And here are the two ways I think it can cause harm, which should be avoided:

    1) It can cause actual physical harm. Stop doing that particular thing that is causing physical harm.

    2) It can make sexism seem sexy. Best to compartmentalize and sustain equality outside of BDSM role-playing.

    1. There are definitely fine lines. The people I know of who participate in the practice do neither of those things. I think a lot of problems are related to people who are curious but ignorant of BDSM. They think it’s supposed to be like 50 Shades of Grey, when that’s far from the truth.

  7. I agree with you about people doing whatever they want as long as it’s consenting. I’m more of an old fashioned boy, but each to their own. I have read the first a Fifty Shades book. I didn’t read anymore, but that’s more to do with the fact that it was badly written, not the subject matter. Is that really true about the Twilight connection?

    1. Sometimes I think you and me are kindred souls. I feel the same way. Consenting adults can do what they want, but in my personal life, I tend to be rather old fashioned.

      I was 99% sure the Twilight connection was true, but I googled it just to be sure. Here’s a quote from the Wikipedia page.

      “The Fifty Shades trilogy was developed from a Twilight fan fiction series originally titled Master of the Universe and published episodically on fan-fiction websites under the pen name “Snowqueen’s Icedragon”.”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifty_Shades_of_Grey

  8. I don’t normally read erotica (for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I feel embarrassed about it), but I read a book about a year ago that was very much about BDSM relationships. The main plot involved a very healthy relationship in which a dom meets a sub and they begin experimenting, but there’s conflict with another character who is outright abusive. I thought it was an interesting dichotomy to compare BDSM to abuse, and it clearly demonstrated that there is a difference. I was surprisingly moved by the novel. It’s called Never Have I Ever. I don’t know if you’re interested in reading the book given its content, but my review went into some of the themes you’ve discussed in your post: https://classycatbooks.wordpress.com/2013/09/21/never-have-i-ever-by-august-clearwing/

  9. I admit I picked up 50 shades on a whim, mainly because a lot of my friends kept telling me how I was like the main character….I admit nothing. While I thought it was a descent book it’s certainly not what I am interested in normally, and so it never really made any waves with me.

    Turning to the topic of BDSM I admit to having some experience there, both of my own and from hearing a family members stories. Admittedly she takes it a whole lot further then I do, but I think in that respect we both have our comfort zones in that case. I absolutely agree that BDSM along with any other sort of sexual activity is a perfectly healthy pursuit, for consenting adults. Whether your playing strip streetfighter, tying each other up, role-playing fantasies, or just talking dirty to each other when it comes to the bedroom it’s important to spice it up every once and a while. What has always mystified me is the amount of people who while interested in something like that, will never say anything about it. Instead they will complain about their SO (significant other), and say how bad their sex life is. To me breaking down those barriers with someone is something that is hugely important as a couple, no one is asking you to shout what your into from the rooftops. But if your SO is doing something you don’t like, or if you want them to do something else then talk about it, there should not be any shame there. Sure some requests maybe re-buffed, after all not everyone is comfortable with being tied up, or oral sex, or whatever your particular poison is. On the other hand, why should people suffer through at the very least boredom, and at the very worst discomfort and pain in the bedroom when they can just say something about it.

    1. You make good points. I think people are afraid of seeming unadventerous. If you ask for something and your SO says they don’t want to, what then? On some level, we are conditioned to think “if they love me they will.” But, people are just not into some things, and that’s okay. No one should be afraid to ask. So what if the answer is no, it might be yes!

  10. 50 Shades in my opinion is a mess for people who enjoy BDSM. As already mentioned here, Shades glorifies abuse and can’t seem to separate the difference between BDSM and abuse. The fact that [I’ve not read the book, I bought it then didn’t want to read it after hearing about it] Christian Grey refused to stop when she had asked just says how twisted the authors perception of the bondage world is.

    There are safe words for a reason, you do not ignore these safe words, the moment you ignore these safe words, you are an abuser, not a fetishist. I think that needs to be made abundantly clear to people interested in finding out more about BDSM. Avoid 50 Shades if you want the truth of that world. If anything, I recommend Dances With Werewolves by Niki Flynn, a BDSM model. She gives the ins and outs, the risks you may put yourself at, and the importance of safe words and trust between partners. Much better a read to understand that world.

  11. Never read or saw movies relating to Twilight but did read the 50 Shades Series. And yes, what Christian did a few times was abuse. When someone says no, you stop, even if in the beginning they asked you to do it. Period. I cried reading 50 Shades because basically, he had been abused as a child by someone he trusted. A pedophile. Plain and simple. Lots of people are abused as children. Not all of them go into BDSM. Of this I know for a fact.

    I agree, as long as the people involved are consenting adults, what people do in their own time is none of my business.

    1. That’s an interesting part of Christian’s character, but it doesn’t excuse his actions. It bugs me that the book would promote anything excuses sexual abuse. I’ve read of erotic books that are about abuse (one, where a women was captured to be taught how to be a good wife and sold to rich men. Part of her lessons was repeated sexual assaults while she was in chains… they wanted to teach her what to do in bed. Apparently she ends up falling in love with the man ‘teaching’ her.) However, that book was clear that what was happening was abuse. It didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy the book, but it was honest about what it was about. That’s what bugs me about 50 Shades. If it came out as an erotic book about an abusive relationship, fine. But that’s not what happened.

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