Arts & Life, Opinions

BDSM hits the mainstream even harder

In lieu of its hues of red and pink, lovers and singles alike may be enticed to paint this year’s Valentine’s Day with 50 Shades of Grey.

The film, an adaptation of E.L. James’ explosive novel, is expected to gross at least $60 million during the four-day opening weekend, according to IMDB’s 2015 box office predictions.

50 Shades of Grey follows the quick progression of a BDSM relationship as the female protagonist, Anastasia Steele, drops into the world of submission at the hand of Christian Grey, the mysterious and powerful man who dominates her. The film is expected to show 20 full minutes of the sex scenes that may make stay-at-home mothers blush.

BDSM stands for Bondage/Discipline, Domination/Submission and Sadism/Masochism. As defined by the community, it is a practice governed by three tiers of principle: consent, communication and trust.

“You cannot have a real BDSM relationship that does not involve the most sacred core value of trust,” Maha Ziani, a 27-year-old professional dominatrix attending the College of Marin, said. “You’re trusting someone to take your body to vulnerable limits and promise you complete pleasure and satisfaction in the process, to take away the ideals of what sex is and provide you with your darkest and most secret desire with zero judgment or question.”

Ziani said she explored BDSM at age 14 in order to scratch an itch that naturally formed. Over time, she fell in love with the process and meaning behind genuine BDSM relationships.

“[The community is] filled with sexual deviants, perverts of the best sorts [and] the most sexually liberated individuals you’ll be lucky to meet,” Ziani said. “[BDSM is] thrilling if done properly.”

The novel has glamourized this formerly taboo practice that has been considered brutal and outlandish in the past. However, some professionals within the BDSM community have said that the book is inconsistent in the most dangerous ways.

“The character Anastasia doesn’t trust Christian. Her entire experience with him is a conflicted emotion of infatuation and questioning,” Ziani said. “He as a master is laughable. His character is insecure, confused, controlling and obsessive.”

The different expressions of BDSM that Ziani has come to know and love, such as rope bondage, are considered forms of exotic art; they are practiced and mastered by people who are passionate about the lifestyle and shared with those who care to dabble respectfully.

As the film shallowly popularizes BDSM to an even wider demographic, the practice has become less private and more of a fad. Members of the community are concerned that physical and emotional precautions will not be taken into consideration.

Bryn Cartwright is a senior anthropology major who has spent the last eight months conducting fieldwork and researching the BDSM “Old Leather” community. Cartwright said she is concerned that BDSM is being hyper-sensationalized, which could result in naïve practitioners going into scenes without a proper understanding of the importance of safety and consent.

“They’re going to go home to buy a ‘50 Shades of Play’ kit,” Cartwright said. “I promise you somehow, somewhere, someone is going to get hurt.”

In light of the recent approval of SB-967 and the campus-wide movement to spread understanding about the importance of consensual sexual relationships, 50 Shades of Grey blurs the lines between consented exploration on paper, and crossing those boundaries while in the heat of the moment in the bedroom.

The allure of fire and whips comes from their potential as torture tools made only for experienced hands. Cartwright said that an understanding of anatomy is crucial to proper rope tying and flogging techniques, lest the master may cause nerve damage in his or her submissive.

In Old Leather or traditional BDSM, the Dom or Domme is not a violent individual with the only goal of quenching his or her sadistic desires. He or she is an individual that takes on the responsibility of setting up the “scene,” meticulously planning and testing the ritual or play that will ensue.

“That’s why they call it ‘work at play,’” Cartwright said.

Ziani said she feels that newcomers to the BDSM scene must remove the fantasy that 50 Shades of Grey provides, and remember that BDSM is a lifestyle for some.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Daily 49er newsletter