Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Kink Myth #1: It's Abuse/Non-Consensual

As a response to my review of 50 Shades of Grey and a continuation of my post on being sex positive, I'm starting my discussion of BDSM with the myth that it is abuse. Something I've been seeing a lot of in negative reviews of the trilogy is the disgust at "the contract" that Christian initially wants Ana to sign.

To an outsider, it does seem fairly extreme. Yet, I'd like to call your attention to several things {warning: spoilers!}:

1. Christian does not know Ana. He believes this relationship will be non-romantic in nature and he has absolutely no idea what she likes, dislikes, can and cannot handle, etc. In a situation like that, having a written agreement is never a bad idea. Ana has veto power on anything and everything {and, if you recall, uses it}.

2. Later in the books, when Ana uses her safe-word or says "stop," Christian stops. This is a highly important occurrence, folks. This shows that he has her consent and recognizes when she chooses to withdraw it.

3. There was a lot of discussion. Even before the incident where Ana {IMO} overreacted and ran away, they discussed what was going to happen, and how she should stop him if she wasn't enjoying herself. When Ana ran away, she was in a scene where she hadn't used her safe-word. This is also a huge deal. No person who is acting a dominant can know everything, especially one who has just met the person they're playing with. Often, people in these situations want the experience of being able to cry or scream, or say "No!" or "stop" without actually stopping. It's a loss of control thing {some people are aroused by the seeming loss of control and is why a LOT of people go for bondage}, and it's what safe-words are for.

To sum it up:

As with anything, including "vanilla" sex, there is the potential for things to be non-consensual. This is obviously immoral and illegal {and rightfully so}. However, this kind of play/sexual activity requires a HUGE amount of discussion, negotiation, and trust. Consent is not just implied: it is explicitly asked for and given, and there are specific things that are not consented to depending on each person. Sometimes, as I mentioned above, there might be a situation where someone wants to be "forced." When that happens, safe-words are especially important and are considered standard. In fact, in any kind of "kinky" sexual situation, a safe-word is considered standard {side note: a safe-word is a word that means "stop NOW" and is something totally out-of-context such as "zebra" so it won't be mistaken for anything else}.

Even after safe-words and negotiations, both partners are responsible for their safety. If something hurts in a way it shouldn't, or there is a medical or emotional issue, both parties have a duty to stop or use a safe-word, and this is widely practiced among responsible people. In addition, things such as breath play {kind of like the choking game people played in high school. Some people can only reach climax when holding their breath, and breath play is a more extreme version of that}, disfigurement, etc. are widely frowned upon, as are things such as needle-play without proper training.

Bottom Line: Some of this sounds icky, right? You might be shaking your head going "it doesn't sound safe to give that much control to another person" or "that is DEFINITELY NOT MY THING." Both of those things are OK to feel, as long as you realize that when practiced in a safe, negotiated manner, these things ARE safe. Think of it this way: I love to rock climb, and I facilitate at a challenge course. As part of my job, I climb on a personal belay up to 50 or 60 ft. That is something a lot of people will not do because they don't feel safe. That doesn't mean it's not safe {it is!} or that it's wrong for me. It just means that it's not something other folks want to try.

Stay sex-positive friends, and look for the second installment in a few days. Also, for Book Club I have a list of titles you might be interested in if you liked 50 Shades.


  1. I'm definitely with you on this one. I totally understand why there are rules and contracts before entering a BDSM relationship.

    Safe words keep people safe.