Yesterday my interview with journalist Caroline Baum was published in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Spectrum magazine. The piece was primarily concerned with how the publishing industry relates to erotic fiction aimed at women. Of course, no current discussion of that topic could be complete without a mention of 50 Shades of Grey. I enjoyed chatting (aka ranting) with Caroline at length about why the central relationship in that particular book isn’t representative of a healthy D/s dynamic, nor a healthy relationship in general.
Here’s “my” part of the article.
“Sydney dominatrix Mistress Jadis is a professional bondage mistress. She offers a customised mix of cruelty and control for clients whose sexual fantasy is submission. Her extensive repertoire includes fetish, various forms of torture, cross-dressing, corporal punishment, piercing and watersports (which sounds more wholesome than it is).
She is a rubber-clad, whip-wielding feminist, who prides herself on offering a unique service; her website includes testimonials from satisfied clients, praising herability to take them to “a place where pain becomes pure bliss”.
She became aware of the novel Fifty Shades of Grey when it started to create a buzz on various BDSM (Bondage/Domination/Sado-Masochism) blogs and sites. But what she read disappointed her.
“The novel only explores male dominant/female submissive kink, which plays with a more traditional gendered power structure,” she says. “Female dominant/male submissive kink is also popular and is more subversive of gender roles. As it stands in the book, the central relationship resembles abuse rather than healthy kink.
“My clients want to explore domination but with the emphasis on respect and safety.”
The blockbuster book by E. L. James is set to reach an even larger audience next month, when it is released as a film, starring Jamie Dornan as the handsome, wealthy Christian Grey, and Dakota Johnson as his wide-eyed loved interest, Anastasia Steele.
As Mistress Jadis reads it, Grey isolates Steele, uses coercion tactics and ignores safe words. “In my clientele, negotiation and informed consent are the key. Limits and boundaries are agreed and there is a contract of trust.”
The article in it’s entirety can be read here.
Following up I thought it might be useful to provide resources on abusive relationships and how to identify the difference between abuse and healthy kink. While ethical BDSM is not abuse, it’s important to recognise that BDSM can be used to abuse and that abusers can and do exist in kink communities.
In terms of actual BDSM activities Christian and Anna play quite lightly. The troubling aspect is that Christian very quickly sets himself up to control aspects of Anna’s life that go way beyond what she negotiates or is comfortable with. Major red flags include:
*Stalking. Christian finds out where Anna works and lives. He tracks and monitors via her devices. He keeps files on his former submissives.
*Basic consent principals and safeword use are not respected. Safewords and consent are addressed in the book and then dismissed and even joked about.
*Anna is very inexperienced both with sex and BDSM and yet is drawn into a very intense D/s relationship incredibly quickly.
*Christian attempts to control Anna’s interactions outside the relationship and she is discouraged from discussing the relationship with others.
*Christian sets himself up as Anna’s major source of information about kink and does not encourage her to seek information elsewhere.
*Christian dictates Anna’s contraceptive choices.
*Christian pursues Anna after she tells him she wants to end the relationship.
It’s worth thinking critically about why a relationship with these toxic characteristics is being embraced as a romantic and erotic ideal!
While researching this post I cam across an excellent article here at Scarleteen: How to tell the difference between kink and abuse. I recommend that you read it in full but this expert is pivotal.
“healthy BDSM relationships require a high level of trust, respect and a whole lot of communication. Healthy BDSM relationships require that you know yourself, and take responsibility for yourself, reasonably well, and that you have the tools and support network you need to deal should you learn surprising and new things about yourself. Healthy BDSM relationships require that you can openly talk about sex and sexuality with your partner, that you feel able to be honest with them, and that you are prepared to listen respectfully to what your partner has to say even if they say something you may not like. Healthy BDSM relationships require a real respect for, not just in word but in action, everyone’s limits and boundaries. (You may notice that healthy BDSM relationships sound a whole lot like healthy sexual relationships of any stripe: that’s because they are.) “
“A healthy relationship is marked by open channels of communication and by caring and respectful interaction. An unhealthy relationship, on the other hand, is often marked by fear, manipulation, exploitation of vulnerabilities and secrecy. “
More online resources:
The Pervocracy: Consent Culture
Fifty things wrong with fifty shades of grey
50 Shades and Abusive RelationshipsUniversal Red Flags
Why I hate 50 Shades of Grey(It’s not for the reasons you might think!)