We all have a dark side.
Sex, seduction, submission, domination, fetishes, wild outfits, nudity, toys, fantasy role playing, violence, kink.
Sigmund Freud couldn't stop talking about it.
That dark side usually comes out in the privacy of our own bedrooms and it's rarely talked about publicly - unless you're a reality star on VH1 or a politician busted for sending naked selfies. But, it's there. And it can be tapped into.
Enter 50 Shades of Grey.
As a psychiatrist and human behavior expert, I'm fascinated by the public outcry of interest for both the 50 Shades book and feature film. Why did people go so crazy for the book? Why are people lining up to see the movie? How did this story of our "dark side" become publicly accepted as okay? Why were women "turned on" instead of "turned off"?
It's all in the presentation. And releasing the movie on Valentine's Day weekend just solidifies what that presentation is. Romance.
Sure, we can look at the underworld of BDSM with pain, submission, domination, sadism, masochism, floggers, crops, leather and almost anything else a creative and slightly warped fantasy mind can think of. But, when you connect that underworld to the romance of a primary monogamous relationship, now you have something universal.
There's the psychological aspects of domination & submission, anticipation of pain/pleasure, anticipation of release and the exploration of fantasy driven behavior. But, it's all rooted in the development of connection and intimacy in a romantic relationship.
Critics will say, "it's all about dysfunctional behavior, not romance, it's not normal."
To which I would reply, "Tell me what normal is. And why do we need to define exactly how two people should connect with each other? And who's to say that specific connection can't be rooted in fantasy play? And what couple hasn't at least fantasized about flirting inside a bar/restaurant all night, walking up to the car and in the heat of the moment, throwing each other up against a wall and kissing passionately?"
We may not want to share it openly but we all have a fantasy-driven dark side.
Public perception traditionally sees this kind of fantasy as dark, perverse and wrong. Thinking that people who engage in BDSM may have deep psychological issues, specifically a trauma history. But, many people with no psychiatric or psychological history report enjoying BDSM (at least a light version of it) primarily as a novel and alternative way to connect with each other.
The quest for novelty in a relationship, as a result of being bored or under-stimulated, is one of the primary reasons for affairs and cheating. Subsequently, relationship experts often talk about the need to spice up the relationship. And 50 Shades has shown the public has an interest in seeing a good story and how fantasy role playing and BDSM shapes that story.
So, as we head into this Valentine's Day weekend, let's go over a few ways a couple can spice up their relationship 50 Shades Style:
1) Role Playing
Pick an occupation or a persona that's different than your own and play it out for the night. Those identities could be associated in some way. Examples: Pilot, Flight Attendant; Female Boss & Male Employee, etc. Interact with each other and other people in these roles.
2) Power Shift
Assign one of you to be the dominant for the night and the other to be the submissive. The dominant gets to tell the submissive what to wear and the dominant calls the shots for the evening and is the only one to initiate touch that night. The submissive needs to go along with it. It's all about the dominant's fantasy mind. You can even switch off mid-way through the night. Just don't get arrested.
3) Sensation Novelty
One person is blindfolded and either stands up or lies down. The other person finds a series of objects that create different sensations. You can discuss beforehand what level of sensation is okay but it's more fun if the blindfolded person has no idea. Feathers, brushes, etc. This is about trust and loss of control and heightened tactile sensation.
Whether the movie (or even the book) is deemed a work of art doesn't really matter.
What matters is that is started a movement.
A movement towards sexual self expression within romance.