Aug. 30, 2014

Forget Bella and Edward: Make bondage 50 shades of healthy

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January 30, 2014

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If you haven’t heard of the infamous novel “50 Shades of Grey” by E.L. James, get your uncultured butt to the library or nearest bookstore. Prepare to be awed — and by awed, I mean confused, disgusted and maybe a little angry.

I’m going to admit with absolutely no shame that I haven’t read “50 Shades of Grey.” However, I’ve read enough plot synopses, summaries and critical examinations that I feel justified in shouting my contempt — or writing it for all of you to read reverentially.

Let’s all jump on the hate train.

“50 Shades of Grey” is an erotic romance novel that follows characters Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in their adventures of love, hate and kinky sex. Throughout the series, Christian introduces Ana to the world of BDSM — or, well, he haphazardly drags her into it with no explanation other than a contract stating, among other things, that he’s going to anally penetrate her whether she wants it or not.

The author markets Ana and Christian’s romance as a healthy BDSM relationship. However, it is anything but. Rather, Christian engages in emotional and physical abuse. He is also a manipulative scoundrel.

Now let’s talk 50 Shades of Healthy BDSM. BDSM is a complicated abbreviation that stands for a number of terms: BD for bondage and discipline, DS for dominance and submission, and SM for sadomasochism. It has become somewhat of a blanket term for a number of sexual kinks, including leather, gags, power play and restraint, not to mention all that its letters imply.

Take a moment to forget all the weird porn you’ve seen because what the Internet might label BDSM is probably ignorant and horribly misguided. Healthy BDSM lifestyles operate on three doctrines: safety, sanity and consent. These key concepts distinguish BDSM from abuse and rape, and when ignored can turn a night of fun debauchery into frightening violation. Do I need to mention that “50 Shades of Grey” never adheres to the aforementioned tenets?

To elaborate on the doctrines, let’s start with consent. Both partners must explicitly communicate their consent and willingness to participate prior to sex acts, and both also have the power to stop them at any point. If the participants agree that “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no,” they employ a safe word: a word or phrase that can be said to completely stop the other party’s actions or indicate undesired discomfort.

Healthy partners also constantly assess the risk of their actions and keep their sex safe. While partners may agree to use pain or humiliation in their play, there is always a line. Participants should always complete research prior to trying something new, or else experimentation could lead to severe injury instead of painful but thrilling stimulation.

Finally, BDSM relationships can be both intense and enjoyable. Many partners may need emotional maintenance such as cuddling and whispered conversation after a session, assurance and validation in the middle of discipline, or even a back massage following a night of bondage to keep each party healthy and sane.

To reiterate, “50 Shades of Grey” does not portray a healthy BDSM relationship. For one, Edward Cullen and Bella — I mean Christian and Ana — never establish a safe word, despite Christian assuming consent even when Ana verbalizes objections. Ana’s limits are discussed only vaguely, and even then, Christian often seems bound and determined to break them.

BDSM can be exciting and climactic when approached properly. It should always be a consensual process discussed explicitly before engagement. Experimentation is healthy and important, but before you decide to break out the blindfolds and gags, make a couple incriminating Google searches to keep the process safe.

And don’t take any pages from “50 Shades of Grey.” None. Not even a paragraph.

Finally, remember that you can buy whips and chains from Amazon, so save up those Christmas and birthday gift cards.

Kalyn H. is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and has fifty shades of hate for poorly written Twilight knockoffs. 

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