50 Shades of Grey: What I learned from the Movie

50 Shades of Grey: What I learned from the Movie


I was one of the millions of people who saw 50 Shades of Grey this Valentine’s Day Weekend.  Just like the book, it broke all box office records and grossed $247 Million in world wide ticket sales.  I’ve also been following the interest its generated by reviewers, bloggers, sex experts and the public on Facebook.

I’m unashamed to say that I’m a fan of the  50 Shades of Grey series, having devoured all three.  BTW, the NYC Subway was packed with women reading that book so I was hardly alone.  In my view, the book gave mainstream women the permission and opportunity to publicly indulge in two of their most common fantasies …being taken by a strong, dominant man and being rescued by Prince Charming.  50 Shades of Grey also introduced millions of women to Kink or BDSM, albeit not exactly the way sex educators would have preferred.

In terms of the movie, I much preferred the book.  For starters I felt like Christian Grey was miscast and the intriguing, mystery billionaire bachelor never really came to life.  Also I tend to agree with the NYT who said in the most thoughtful review I’ve read, “In print, Christian is a blur and a blank — a screen onto which any given reader can project a customized masculine ideal. On the screen, he risks becoming just some guy, which is how Mr. Dornan plays him, without mischief or mystery”.

In terms of how the relationship and BDSM world is portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey there has been a deluge of  negative feedback from some of my very well respected colleagues in the Kink community, I’m wondering if somehow I’m missing the point.  Or maybe we just see what we want.

The biggest concern that I hear about the 50 Shades of Grey movie is the lack of informed consent.  Call me crazy but the movie that I watched had Anastasia (the love interest) spend a considerable amount of time researching BDSM and presumably the role of a submissive.  There are fairly extensive contract negotiations  where it appears that she has read every single line in the contract. Also she hardly rushed into this arrangement.  Both the book and the movie portray her considering the offer over a several week period of time.

I do agree that her lack of sexual experience is an issue.  Going from virgin to submissive in one fell sweep is problematic and also provides the possibility that she can be more easily manipulated.  But again the Ana that I saw showing up in this film was not such a weak, guileless woman as other reviewers portrayed.  She definitely had some gumption, seemed to know what she wanted, including when to quit.

The most controversial scene, and one you would never see in a healthy BDSM relationship, was related to her wanting to “understand how bad it could get”..presumably so she could relate to where Christian was coming from.  Spoiler alert…being whipsawed with a belt with tears rolling down your face, is NOT healthy BDSM even if there was a safe word that was not used.  And as my colleague Sexologist Vixenne writes “Angry BDSM is No. Just No”.

What I find most interesting is how this movie is so often categorized as “sado-masachistic “.  Serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer who torture and eat their prey are sado-masachistic.  But putting adult consensual BDSM defined by a legal contract in the same category is evidence of our puritanical, sex negative culture.

One thing is for sure.  Don’t try this at home without first getting some solid education from BDSM experts.  Even wrist tying done incorrectly can cause nerve damage.  Take a workshop, read a book, work with an expert.  If you’re looking for resources, reach out to me and I’ll send you in the right direction.  If you like the movie, read 50 Shades of Grey.

It will be fascinating to watch the fall out from this movie.  Already Hollywood is abuzz about how this might change the culture that “sexy movies don’t sell”.  If this phenomenon results in more mainstream films portraying real sexual relationships, then 50 Shades of Grey will have done its job.

4 responses to “50 Shades of Grey: What I learned from the Movie”

  1. Lani Akers says:

    Thanks for this review. I just recently read the trilogy, and being a fan of smut, I enjoyed it, though I certainly went into the reading knowing many of the pitfalls I would find (unreasonable young, no-power-in-her-real-life, virgin, sub; problematic powerful-in-his life experienced dom; poor writing; elements of abusive, manipulative co-dependent relationship).

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but your impression of the movie-vs.-popular-opinion echoes my impression of the books-vs.-popular-impression. Your review makes me think I may have realistically interpreted what I read, as opposed to how some peoples’ opinions make me think I missed something huge.

    • Xanet says:

      Thanks Lani. Yes sometimes we get swept away by popular impression without having all of the facts and making our own judgment. Movie and the book def have issues but the outcry over it from the sex positive and sex educator community in particular has been rather unreasonably harsh.

  2. Sharon says:

    Thanks for saving me the time and money. Actually, I am probably the least curious person about this series of books and the movie. (The thing I was most curious about was finding a resemblance to Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson in their pretty daughter.) Maybe it has something to do with the libido-sapping menopause? Just curious about what’s masochistic about Jeffrey Dahmer? Seems he was on a pretty sadistic one-way street. 🙂

  3. D. W. Winnicott says:

    On the screen, he risks becoming just some guy, which is how Mr. Dornan plays him
    An important nuance, indeed. If the writers could not comprehend that his character needed to be a canvas for the viewer to paint … then, maybe Hollywood's saying that "sexy movies do not sell" is simply something Hollywood would far prefer to say, instead of something more truthful, such as, "We of Hollywood are 'way out of our depth, on the topic of eroticism. We can do sex, just fine – after all, it's sorta like a car chase, just with no cars. But eroticism – enh, we'll leave that to the Europeans. Breillat can have that one …"

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *