THE BLOG

Dear BDSM Community: Your Fifty Shades of Complaining Isn't Productive

02/20/2015 04:27 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
Julian Parker via Getty Images

As a lifestyle kinkster, educator and founder of Touch of Flavor, I understandably have mixed feelings about Fifty Shades of Grey. But with all the kinksters bashing the books, including here on the Huffington Post, (and here), it would probably surprise you that I think the Fifty Shades franchise has been beneficial, both for the BDSM community and the general population. Why the difference in opinion? Because as an educator, I work with the general public, an entirely different segment of the population than the one most of the professional dominants and submissives providing opinions for these articles deal with.

Shortly after Fifty Shades came out, I was having a discussion with Susan Wright from the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom. Susan is a household name in the BDSM community, and has dedicated an enormous amount of her to life fighting for acceptance and freedom for people involved in the BDSM lifestyle. When our discussion turned to the book, she told me: "This is the BDSM communities' Stonewall, and no one even got hurt."

That quote has stuck with me because it's true. Like any minority community, the BDSM community has a history of being misunderstood and persecuted. Not so long ago, the only place to meet like-minded people was in back rooms at seedy bars with a referral and a secret knock. Admitting to, or worse yet, indulging in, the kinky fantasies that so many of us have would have resulted in you being ostracized and could have resulted in you losing your job, your children or even being institutionalized or arrested.

Nowadays? There's a thriving BDSM community in almost every large metro area. People meet for munches and discussions at restaurants, kink events are booked in upscale hotels and venues catering to kink are operating -- legally -- out in the open. I've been in the community long enough to see much of that change, and while most kinksters will agree that the rise of Internet social networking is largely responsible for our community's growth, surprisingly few are willing to admit that Fifty Shades of Grey has done more for our acceptance in the mainstream than any other single factor.

And it's not hard to figure out why. Research has shown that lots of people harbor some fantasies that could be considered kinky. The Fifty Shades franchise gave people who would never have otherwise been exposed to BDSM a framework for those fantasies, and made them realize kink was something they might be interested in. When you have books that have sold over 100 million copies (we're talking Twilight and Harry Potter territory here) and a movie breaking February box office records, it becomes clear that those of us interested in kink aren't a minority at all.

And the general public has realized it as well. Kink has become an everyday topic of conversation. Women's Health is giving tips on how to tie up and spank your partner, floggers are popping up at sex stores and on Amazon, we're seeing Dom shirts at our local mall and celebrities being suspended in music videos. Fifty Shades has probably set us ahead ten years in terms of acceptance.

The hatred for the franchise from the kink community doesn't surprise me; I understand it. Even though Fifty Shades has given us a huge boost in terms of acceptance, the relationship between the two main characters isn't healthy or an accurate depiction of BDSM. It is fraught with consent and abuse issues; and the impression that you have to have some kind of traumatic background to want to dominate someone isn't true. Like many other kinksters, I'm afraid that those readers with a new found interest in kink will be headed down a dangerous path without further education.

But, it's precisely for those reasons that while I'll be the first to talk about the problems in the series and try to point people in a better direction, you won't see me complaining about the franchise (though I might make a fun, educational parody). You certainly won't seem me ridiculing Fifty Shades fans.

When I went to the opening weekend to see Fifty Shades a gentleman who grabbed me up after the film asked me: "Why are all the kinky people so angry with us? Don't they understand that we know it's just a movie? It's not like when we saw World War Z everybody started boarding up their houses."

While I agree with him, I think now that the kinky rabbit has been let out of the bag educating these new, interested people is of the utmost importance. When this phenomenon first started I made it my mission to provide these kinklings with the education they need to avoid making the same mistakes as the characters in the books. I've been interacting with these kinklings more than most for the last two years, and I have found that if you respect them and validate their desires, most of them are willing to learn.

On the other hand, if you aggressively attack and ridicule the only bit of framework they have for their fantasies, you're effectively ridiculing their fantasies as well, and people stop listening and stop learning. When I'm interacting with these kinklings or the media (broadcasting to kinklings!) I ask myself what's more important: venting about the books and movie, or teaching people the right way to do things

For me, education always wins.