Category Archives: Dominic Davies

50 Shades review

Ok, in the words of a few colleagues and friends I “took one for the team” by actually going to see the film rather than sit on the sidelines commenting from afar.

The controversy and hype on Social Media has been intense over the past few days.  The jokes and spoofs have also brought a smile to my lips and I was prepared for a challenging couple of hours so I booked two tickets for the studio cinema of the Genesis which has a bar in the cinema and super comfy sofas and ordered a large glass of Shiraz.  I took a good friend, performer and wit Ernesto Tomasini in one of his rare nights off in London and we settled down for a giggle and a groan!

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Top line: I certainly didn’t feel the film was as bad as the hype,  Jane Fae’s review seemed fair and totally on point.  I read it before and I read it afterwards and it strikes me as the fairest and most balanced. Check it out as it says all that needs to be said.  Allowing ME to focus here on my own perspective and trying to say something that hasn’t been said already.

Christian Grey was a clearly mixed up guy who could use some therapy to heal his emotionally damaged childhood  trauma, but he did seem redeemable and in fact he shifted a fair bit on his “I don’t do romance” by taking her on a joyful and completely gratuitous glider flight and during what was a very empowered “business meeting’ to discuss his submission contract, agreeing to a weekly Date Night.

Ana came across as increasingly empowered and strong character who exited the relationship when she found out at her own request how bad Grey’s punishment might be (six of the best, which was actually pretty mild by most people’s idea of CP play).

In fact his ‘punishment’ scene looked like it hurt him as much as it did her and her punishment of him (withdrawal) was much more severe (as it often is).  She portrayed a much stronger person and not the defenceless weak woman I had expected from the reviewers.

Grey appeared more of a ‘Service Dom’, focussing on her sensual arousal and awakening rather than abusing her and she did seem to be consenting. He was not sadistic or cruel or a self centred lover. There were no skull fucking scenes until she gagged and vomited and he didn’t send her back to her room with her face covered in semen. The sex was sensual, tender, and really very tame and Grey used condoms!  

Lifestyle BDSM in a Dominant/submissive relationship often does involve controlling the submissive’s diet, well being, clothing etc.  It probably wouldn’t be rushed into like it was in the film, and especially not with a virgin ingenue like Ana, and so the laments by the BDSM community (most of which haven’t actually seen the movie when asked to comment) that it’s not accurately representing BDSM are missing the point a bit.  It’s a movie, not a documentary!  I actually think we under estimate people’s ability to recognise that movies are different to real life.

We have so few representations of our lives in film I think community members want to see highly accurate portrayal and that may not make for great drama.  I remember  a few decades ago the uproar when Al Pacino played the gay leather clad lead in a film called Cruising. The gay community had no positive representations of our lives that this disturbing film presented us in the worse possible light. Virtually every gay film for decades contains tropes and stereotypes and we know life isn’t quite like that!

Maybe we need the equivalent of the highly effective Trans Media Watch campaigning for accurate BDSM content? This is something that NCSF and CARAS are doing and there are now lots of opportunities for teaching all the neophytes to BDSM lots of things about consent and safety!

I read one extensive post where virtually no one had seen the film (and most hadn’t appeared to have read the books either), but when asked for a soundbite all managed to come up with something to educate the readership (and promote their websites)!  

Two things did disturb me about his stalking really was the most outrageous and scary aspect but we’ve seen that trope of the boy chasing girl in many movies before and not been labelling it as abusive. I also recall Judi Dench as M waiting in James Bond’s hotel bedroom.  It is always jarring when someone surprises us like that.

Is it the BDSM context for this movie which is actually the subject of most criticism, but that it’s being presented  intimate partner abuse?

One thing that seems to have gone un commented upon so far, I found the early ‘Are you gay?’ joke both unnecessary and offensive.

Bottom line: I’m glad I saw the movie myself, I don’t regret doing so and I feel pleased I had a chance to come to some views of my own.

Dominic Davies
Psychotherapist, Clinical Sexologist

If you’re a therapist have you booked for our Beyond the Rainbow conference which will amongst other things explore BDSM on 21 March 2015 in London


The obligatory 50 Shades post

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Many people within the Kink community quite rightly objected to the portrayal of the relationship as abusive and challenging deeply held norms within the Kink community around play being ‘Safe, Sane and Consensual’.

However, the book, has resulted in more people learning about Kink, attending munches (social meetings in regular pubs) and going to kink-oriented clubs and buying more fetish gear and toys.  They’re has been an enormous explosion of interest in BDSM and Kink.

In my view this has been very helpful, it’s helped to reduce the shame that many people have held about their fantasies and desires for power exchange based sex (Dominance and submission) and for certain levels of restriction and restraint (bondage) or certain kinds of pain based play which increases endorphins and can be intensely pleasurable for some (masochism).  These are all entirely normal and very common fantasies and desires and now many people are feeling empowered to legitimately incorporate them into their sexual relationships.  These then get added to their repertoire of existing preferred sexual behaviours and can lead to enhanced communication with their partners and deeper intimacy and connection.

But what about the consent issue?  Christian Grey is clearly abusive and engaging in intimate partner violence and this is being presented as BDSM.  However, whilst we’ve seen a huge increase in interest in BDSM, I haven’t heard of a similar increase in presentations at Domestic Violence charities or to the Police where people are stating the abuse occurred in their relationship because of the 50 Shades phenomenon.  I think the readership of what are, by all accounts really poorly written books are intelligent enough to see that Grey is abusive and to separate out the hot exchange of power and sensation (the two core elements of BDSM) from the non consensual side of things.

Having said this, Consent IS a big issue for those of us in kink community and a large scale research project by the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom is underway and lots of conversations about non consensual experiences are being had within the community.  An education campaign is being undertaken by many activists in the community to try and address these issues.  But these consent issues predated the 50 Shades phenomena and has been an issue in our community with people often being afraid to speak out or worried they won’t be taken seriously.

I think the Kink community IS attending to this issue and the newcomers to the community need education about what IS and isn’t safe and good practice in incorporating these powerful techniques into their lives.  I’d like to encourage readers to check out and follow the blog of one of our Clinical Associates Dr Meg John Barker, author of the excellent book Rewriting the Rules who has been been blogging about BDSM in the run up to the movie being released.

Dominic Davies
CEO Pink Therapy
Psychotherapist and Clinical Sexologist


Sartorial Experimenting

I was thrilled to make it to this year’s Rainbow List and even more delighted to have been given a higher ranking this year (No. 28) on last year’s initial entry at No.34. I’d guessed I was on the list again because a few weeks ago, I got an email from the editor at the Independent on Sunday inviting me to a celebratory party. This is the first time they’ve had such a party and of course I was delighted to accept. And Nervous. Being a natural introvert, I don’t find these things easy, but I do feel like I want to be there.

Last month I attended the European Diversity Awards with my colleague Leah Davidson. Pink Therapy was shortlisted for the Community Project award and running against some of the big guys like Channel 4 and Croydon Council as well as long standing community projects like Newcastle’s West End Women and Girls project. The awards were being held at the Natural History Museum and after consuming several glasses of champagne and probably more canapés than were wise for someone about to sit down to a three course dinner, we took our seats amongst the Dinosaurs.  The dress code was Black Tie and I had great fun wearing my second hand tux.  It’s only the second time I’d worn a tux, the first being a hired one for last year’s National Diversity Awards (we didn’t win that one either)!

at European Diversit

at European Diversity Awards

The dress code for this party was Dress as You Wish. I would have wished to wear the Tux again but didn’t want to look our of place and too formal.  But I felt this increased placement  in the Rainbow list deserved a new outfit. I don’t shop for clothes too much and I wanted something eye catching and interesting. Living in the middle of Covent Garden I set out for Floral Street and checked out Nigel Hall, Ted Baker and Paul Smith and realised very quickly that this year’s look was tiny print shirts which reminded me of pocket square handkerchief styles or even cotton pyjamas. They just didn’t grab me at all.

I popped into M&S to pick up some pyjama trousers I’d ordered online to be delivered there and as I was leaving the store my eye got caught by this incredible purple velour dress. Why is it women always get the nice clothes, I mused. Came home and ate lunch and my mind kept wandering back to that dress. If there was ever an occasion for me to wear a dress in public, then this even was probably the one. But I just didn’t think I’d have the balls. So I posted my dilemma on Facebook and was told in no uncertain terms that I ought to buy it!

After lunch before heading off to look at nice shirts, this time in Soho boutiques I returned to M&S just to satisfy myself that the dress was too expensive, or the wrong size/cut or something else I could use as a good excuse NOT to buy the dress. However, it was £40, came in every size from 8 to 20 (what size would I be?) and wasn’t super low cut or with big bosom darts. So I picked up three sizes, 16, 18 and 20 and headed to the changing rooms. Without a second glance the assistant gave me a counter for three garments and I slipped out of my male clothes and into a dress! I’m not wanting to do drag, or pass myself off as a women.

I found myself dithering between the 18 and the size 20 Both seemed to fit and I couldn’t easily tell the difference – the fabric was stretchy and I found myself wanting to get the smaller size, despite the 20 maybe feeling a little more comfortable! I’m sure this experience is familiar to many others wanting to squeeze into something smaller, so I decided to get the larger one and play it safe. I also needed something to cover up my hairy legs. I couldn’t easily see lycra leggings and getting more and more embarrassed I settle on some black tights but they need to be thick enough to cover my legs and large enough to fit me. Extra Large 100 Denier looked like they’d do the trick.

I then realised I’d need something to carry my phone, wallet and keys in. Handbags were NOT cheap and so I headed out towards Leicester Square tube and bought a £15 shoulder bag in black – multiple pockets and something that will come in handy for holidays. They had some great hats too and so after ruling out the Purple top hat, I went for a purple trilby!

My big heavy boots looked too clunky but I inherited a pair of pointy toed cuban heel boots from a friend who committed suicide last year. They looked stylish and elegant and drew attention away from my knees!

I feel very nervous going out in a dress, and remember the adage that a man learns more about being a man by wearing a dress for a day that a suit for a lifetime. I’ll get a cab to the venue and one home – as I don’t feel safe on public transport alone in a dress. It has already reminded me of the immense courage that people assigned Male at birth show when they go out in public dressed in female clothing. For most, I guess it’s their intense gender dysphoria which motivates them to present in public and show the world they have every right to be the fabulous person they are. For me, my motivations are a little less honourable. I want to learn more about myself. There will be no makeup, no attempt to overly feminise. I just want to be able to be a bloke in a fabulous purple dress!  Women shouldn’t have all the fun in dressing up!  Genderqueer allows us to redefine ourselves!  I claim my space on the catwalk!

So here are a few snaps of me in a frock.  The first was taken in the kitchen to test out the ‘look’ and so the tags are still on the dress!

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This next one is in front of the sponsor board.  There were professional one’s taken on arrival where I was told to smile more!  I must have been pretty nervous I guess!  Pity the photographic lights had gone off and it all looks so purple.

 

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I stepped outside and there was a magnificent skyline of St Paul’s and the Shard. Pity it was raining or I’d have spent more time out here.  The views were incredible.

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Some initial thoughts on lessons learned:

  • gay men in general either ignore you or see you as weird
  • virtually all male privilege is lost
  • it’s very uncomfortable wearing tights, the top of them comes up to one’s mid torso and then seems to roll down and readjusting it is ungainly and tights really squash your manly bits so that you walk funny!
  • it felt risky to walk the streets (I took cabs there and back)
  • accessorising makes an outfit come together :)

Dominic Davies
Founder/Director