Love & Sex Magazine

BDSM 101 (or What to Do and What Not to Do from Fifty Shades of Grey)

By Megbarker @megbarkerpsych

The film of Fifty Shades of Grey is out this week to much excitement and media attention. As somebody who has researched with BDSM communities for over a decade, and written about the Fifty Shades books, I thought it’d be useful to give my suggestions for people who are thinking about getting into kink for the first time having watched the movie.

So, over the next four days, I’m going to cover the following topics, including where I think Fifty Shades gets it right, and where it has a lot of room for improvement:

  • Mythbusting about BDSM
  • Getting informed about kink
  • Figuring out, and communicating, what you’re into
  • Consent, consent, consent

Before we go on it’s important to say that pretty much everything covered here is also true for any kind of sex – not just kink. It’s sad that people often don’t think about tuning into what they enjoy, or ensuring consent, until they’re considering BDSM. So you might well find it useful to read on even if kink isn’t something you’re particularly interested in.

First some myth-busting

There are a lot of myths out there about BDSM, which stands for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, and Sadomasochism. Fifty Shades manages to challenge some of these, but also leads some of them in tact. So what do we actually know?

Well, first of all the whole Fifty Shades phenomenon demonstrates that having some kinky desires or fantasies is not abnormal. There’s no way the books would have been such bestsellers if it were. And research bears this out. Around two thirds of people have fantasies about bondage, and other common interests like spanking and roleplay are not far behind.

Research has also now clearly demonstrated that being into kink also doesn’t make you psychologically unhealthy or more likely to be injured during sex. BDSMers actually come out as higher than others on emotional well-being in some studies, and they don’t turn up in ER any more than anybody else.

However, Fifty Shades does – unfortunately – perpetuate one common myth about BDSM: that people who are into kink are more likely to have been abused themselves (as Christian Grey was as a child) or to be abusive (as the women who introduced the young Christian Grey to BDSM was, as was one of his other ex-partners).

Again the evidence shows that BDSMers have childhoods that are indistinguishable from other people’s and are no more likely to be abusive themselves. Of course, that means that there will be folk in the BDSM world who have experienced abuse (just as there are in the general population). Also, sadly we know that there are abusive people in all communities and BDSM is not exempt from this. But it’s important to remember it is no more likely here, despite how it might seem in Fifty Shades.

So it’s absolutely fine to want to be kinky. However, as with all forms of sex, it is worth thinking up front about how you’re going to do it in as consensual and enjoyable way as possible – both for yourself and for any other people involved. That’s what the rest of these posts will cover.

Tomorrow: finding out more about kink.


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