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Sex or Violence: BDSM in Fiction

Jennifer Czepiel

50 Shades of Grey Discussion

Sex or Violence: BDSM in Fiction

If you are not talking about the film that is bringing sex and the BDSM community into the spotlight on the holiday that centers on romance and love, then where have you been? The book, 50 Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, hit the shelves in 2011 and the controversy exploded. Now, with the film about to light up the big screen just in time for Valentine’s day, there is even more of a buzz around the kinky, twisted, and dark fantasy created by E.L. James.

Mr. Grey
Before going into the real meat of the 50 Shades of Grey story, I want to take a good hard look at the now notorious Mr. Christian Grey. The leading man in most romance novels has a certain type. This is something that should be noted about the formula of the romance genre. The leading man is more often than not (yes, there are the exceptions to the rule) all Alpha. The alpha man is charismatic. He is intelligent. He is driven to succeed in anything he does. This of course includes his leading lady. The alpha male in the world of romance is also typically stubborn, proud, and desperately in need of a woman to tame his almost caveman like mannerisms.

Mr. Grey. He is all of these things. Grey fits the mould of the romantic hero. And, then, he doesn’t. In the typical romance novel the leading man will at some point in the story realize he needs to bend and he really is, on the inside, a total sweetheart. Grey is a control freak to the bitter end. There is never a point in the story, and this may be even more clear in the film, where Grey relinquishes his control to the subordinate Anastasia.

Subs and Doms
It is true that the dominant persona of Mr. Grey is part of the fantasy of the BDSM lifestyle. But, the trouble is that Mr. Grey is not a Dom, he is just domineering. In the BDSM world there is an equal part of care that goes into the behaviors of the Dom. There may not be a romance in the traditional sense, but there is always respect. And the Sub has some control! To be clear, the Sub is not a toy for the Dom to play with. The pair discuss the scene, and the rules of the game they are about to play. The Sub is giving the power to the Dom. The Dom is not taking that power. There is a difference.

Ultimately though, maybe the release and the buzz of the 50 Shades of Grey series has done all of us a bit of good. Before this book, and now film, became a household name, how many out there really knew what the BDSM lifestyle was all about. This, while a negative portrayal, has offered a platform for the public at large to really learn something new. What the public does with this knowledge remains to be seen of course. But, the word is out, and there are many more people opening their eyes to a whole new world of sex, romance, and sub culture. When we learn something new, we learn something new about ourselves as well.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Do what you will, but do so with love.

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