Let’s face it, E L James’ best selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t very good. Whether we’re talking about the poor writing, awkward dialogue or, most importantly, questionable depiction of BDSM, Fifty Shades doesn’t have much going for it; however, it’s been memorable enough to become somewhat of a phenomenon. That sentiment was a little hard for me to imagine at first, but in the eyes of someone who’s entirely new, but interested in kink Fifty Shades is a leap in a fun, exhilarating direction. By no means is Fifty Shades hardcore erotica (in fact, it’s pretty vanilla) but not everyone will feel that same way, especially if the concept of BDSM is something new. The idea of BDSM and exploring dom/domme and sub relationships is the key factor to this book’s success, not its story or writing.
People can’t help being curious. I can’t even fathom the amount of times I’ve seen customers oggle at floggers, ball gags, paddles and masks in the fetish section of my work. It’s pretty welcoming really, considering what negative stigmas people have conjured up about BDSM. To some, it’s still a dark abyss, but many are starting to explore their sexuality in ways they originally would have never imagined.
That’s when Fifty Shades comes along, a series of novels that are racy enough to ignite curiosity in readers — Fifty Shades of Grey is probably the most popular of the three. Fifty Shades focuses on an enigmatic, billionaire named Christian Grey who becomes romantically involved with Anastasia Steele, a sexually inexperienced young woman. This isn’t your typical piece of erotica, however, with the two forming a dom/sub relationship in the process.
As mentioned, Fifty Shades doesn’t exactly depict the BDSM community in the most positive of ways, approaching the topic with a stereotypical gaze. Christian’s desire for dominance is a consequence of his battered childhood, while Anastasia’s submissiveness is due to her sexual inexperience. While this is a work of fiction, the context behind the story might not sit right for some of you. For one, kink does not correlate with damaged childhoods nor is it a negative, dangerous act. Studies on BDSM have proven that very few are mentally disturbed, and must have a clear, consensual mind in order to pursue this deep act of trust. That wasn’t always clear in Fifty Shades and while Christian and Anastasia formed a firm agreement, someone as clueless and inexperienced as Anastasia made the scenario much less realistic and less mutual.
For some interested readers, this will forever just be a fantasy, but for others it could potentially be a way for them to explore roleplay, bondage, spanking and much more. While Fifty Shades isn’t always the most positive, it has definitely instigated a positive movement to the mainstream. Now you see people who had never set foot into a sex store take that first small step. So what do we do from here? Communicate. It might seem scary and embarrassing at first, but communication is a necessary part of understanding your interests and further exploring BDSM in a fun, informational way. Fifty Shades won’t teach you everything you need to know, but there are people who are more than willing to fill in those gaps.
Toronto sex store Come As You Are wants to do just that with their upcoming workshop Fifty Shades of Play. At this workshop, Cambridge, Ontario resident and sexual coach, Gaia Morrissette, will guide a discussion of the book, educate readers about the BDSM community and introduce new techniques to help readers better communicate their fantasies in a sex-positive environment.
Fifty Shades of Play is happening this Sunday, August 12 from 5:30 – 7:30pm at Come As You Are (493 Queen St. W), and is $25/person. If you’re one of the many out there who are interested in BDSM and want to learn more about it in an open environment this workshop is one of many options that will place you that much closer to an intimate, happy and healthy new direction.