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.
CEO Pink Therapy
Psychotherapist and Clinical Sexologist