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Fifty Shades of Meh: A Real Dominatrix Takes On the Bestseller

02/02/2015 12:30 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

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Photo by Robyn Beck

The film Fifty Shades of Grey is coming out on Valentine's Day and we're all excited to see it, because it's so naughty, so sexy, so erotic, right? Um, right? 

There are a lot of people who would rather get a good spanking than a box of chocolates for Valentine's Day and I'm all for that. The problem I have with Fifty Shades of Grey is that it's BDSM for Dummies, it's BDSM Lite. (I don't want to jump on the bandwagon with those who call it "Mommy Porn," because I think mommies deserve good porn as much as anyone else.)

The book sold over 100 million copies worldwide, proof that the people who bought it -- mostly women -- are turned on and intrigued by the power dynamics involved in BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadomasochism.) That's a great thing!  And the book does open up a forum for discussion of BDSM within mainstream conversation, BUT it isn't really about BDSM. It's just a bad Harlequin romance novel that reinforces antifeminist stereotypes of gender in a conventional and conservative story between a controlling man and an amenable girl. Don't get me wrong, a good Harlequin romance can provide strong female role models, hot fantasy scenarios or romantic escapism, but Fifty Shades is more than a few shades short of that.

For those of you who haven't yet endured the punishment of reading the book, I'll save you some time. Our protagonist, Anastasia Steele, is a naive college student with an elementary school vocabulary who falls for Christian Grey, a rich asshole with amazing hair and blazing eyes. Grey is a control freak who says that if she wants him to be her boyfriend she has to sign a contract where she agrees to eat what he says, exercise when he says and dress as he commands. She must also live under the constant threat of pain as punishment, and be sexually available to him at all times. I know... a couple of red flags. But did I mention the amazing hair? Meanwhile, Anastasia just wants a vanilla (conventional) relationship, with maybe a touch of naughtiness. Then there is chapter after chapter of eye-rolling and lip-biting and holy cows and by the end of book neither Grey or Steele get what they want. I only know that by the time I finished it, I wanted to punch this book in the face.

Fifty Shades doesn't explore BDSM as a potentially meaningful, consensual sexual practice to the individual or collective female experience. Rather, the book keeps the taboo in kink with the misconception that a person must be really messed up (abused) to explore this erotic practice. It also doesn't explore the beauty and the power of submission, nor does it touch on the harder elements of BDSM play.

True BDSM is a consensual role-play experience where both parties negotiate and agree to act out specific erotic desires in a safe context. There are a variety of activities, fantasies, and fetishes that are explored, but there are specific rules in place to keep things safe, sane, and consensual, or risk aware. And unlike Fifty Shades, real BDSM can be very, very fun.
 
However, Fifty Shades of Grey has some value for me as a domme. 

I currently use the book in sessions as a torture device. Very bad slaves have to read the book aloud and act out scenes. One of my slaves pleaded for me to stop the pain, offering to receive 100 strokes of the cane if he could just stop reading.  Another used his safe word and willingly gave up a year's salary to me to "end this horrific task."  So, my inner goddess thanks you, E.L. James, for 500 pages of pure torment. 
 
Fifty Shades of Grey doesn't offer a glimpse into the authentic world of BDSM, which is more beautiful and disturbing than anything portrayed in the book. We'll see if the film offers any more insight into what I know is a complex and fascinating world. But you'd have to tie me up to make me sit through it.

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Mistress Trinity works as a professional dominatrix in Los Angeles. She has a Master's degree in Philosophy and her academic work focused on a woman's ability to consent to violence in a sexual context. Her thesis was entitled "A Pro-Sex Feminist Defense Of Consent to BDSM."
 
She is currently developing a TV show called "Kink", which explores the kinky lifestyle as well as the kinks in life.