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Long before Christian Grey introduced Anastasia Steele to his shockingly erotic world of kink in 50 Shades of Grey and opened up an otherwise taboo world to mainstream America, many people were already indulging in bondage, discipline/domination, submission and sadomasochism (BDSM) play. According to research:

  • 5-10% of the U.S. engages in SM for sexual pleasure on at least an occasional
    basis.
  • Only 14% of the BDSM community is between 18 and 25. The age group
    between 26 and 40 make up the biggest percentage (47%). Between the ages
    41 and 59 make up approximately 37% of the community.
  • 14% of men and 11% of women have had some sexual experience with
    sadomasochism.

Since the much anticipated release of the movie 50 Shades of Grey, BDSM has crept out from the dark back rooms and dungeons into mainstream America and now women and even men all over the country are talking about it; so much so that even Neil Patrick Harris made reference to BDSM as he hosted the Oscars. How’s that for mainstream?

The script, lights, camera, and action of Hollywood sometimes does us more of a disservice when it comes to love, relationships, and sexuality. When we try to base our lives on what we see on the big screen, we ultimately fail ourselves and our partner(s). Movies are not real life. Real relationships, real love, real sexuality does not work like the moving pictures on the big screen because life involves real people in real situations.

The movie 50 Shades of Grey does more to confuse the masses more so than it did to educate us on some grey areas of sexuality and BDSM. Fifty shades highlights Christian Grey as obnoxious obsessive yet insecure billionaire with stalker-ish and controlling behavior whom we find out later has a history of issues, including “Mrs. Robinson” issues that he has yet to deal with. It is these deep dark demons that somehow becomes the impetus for his erotic fixation on BDSM.

Anna is depicted as a virginal, wide-eyed, inexperienced, lip biting, naive and unsophisticated young woman whose innocent nature and guileless interests peaks her curiosity to know more. Anna is drawn into Christian’s worldly, sophisticated, and mysterious life and “red room.” This insatiable desire unwittingly leads her to succumb to Christians “controlling” ways. In her excitement, Anna willingly consents to experience the essence that is Christian Grey.

Fifty Shades of Grey does however capture the physical, biochemical, energetically, social, legal, financial, emotional, and mental dimensions of sexuality. Both Christian and Anna’s characters are seen exploring the struggles, interests, excitement, curiosity, legality, and pushing their boundaries to the edge of their sexuality.

The movie also does a good job of highlighting the unwavering commitment, the work it takes to sustain a relationship and the transforming power of love. Nevertheless, watching this movie or even reading the trilogy, one couldn’t help but to think that those who engage or partake in BDSM behavior must be demented, deranged or have some mental health disorder, when in fact that could not be further from the truth.

Individuals who make the informed decision to partake in BDSM activities are actually quiet “normal;”…whatever that is. In others words individuals who enjoy a little BDSM activities or even “lifestyles” are people that we come in contact with on an everyday basis. The interesting thing about it is that these people may be our family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc. After all, we really don’t know what others do or enjoy sexually within the confines of their bedroom or out of their bedrooms for that matter.

In essence, in many ways what 50 Shades of Grey has done is further stigmatize an already taboo and misunderstood lifestyle or aspect of sexuality that is a natural expression of sexual pleasure. Fifty Shades of Grey is not meant to be a sex education lesson or an end all to be all lesson in BDSM. It is not meant to be anything more than an entertaining fictitious love story. At the end of the day, the best thing that 50 Shades of Grey did was start the conversation. The movie got people talking about sex by introducing another facet of the natural spectrum of sexuality into mainstream America; which in my mind is absolutely great because it provides an opportunity for education.

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