Ever since Fifty Shades of Grey hit bookstores, women have been asking me questions about sexual contracts. Are they real? How do they work? After all, when you think about it, E. L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey is a 500+ page contract negotiation.
In the book, "The Contract" is a proposal by a wealthy, gorgeous millionaire, Christian Grey, who is offering financial support, an unlimited clothing budget and ultimate sexual pleasure to Ana, a new journalism graduate, self-proclaimed klutz and sexually naïve woman.
In exchange, Christian is asking Ana to be his submissive for two days out of every week. Submissiveness in this context means Ana would cater to Christian's every whim without question. If she doesn't obey, he would have the right to 'punish' her with any method he chooses. This sounds despicable to Ana until she learns that the punishment cannot include "emotional, physical or spiritual harm," and there are mutually agreed-upon "safe words" that can slow down or stop any activity at any time. She will be able to negotiate a whole list of sexual activities or punishments, deciding beforehand which acts she would consider trying and those she would never do.
As you read the novel, you cannot help but wonder what your own answers might be. Would I have oral sex or do anal fisting? To some, the answers are an easy -- "absolutely" or "no way!" Other choices may not be so clear. Just like the sexually naïve Ana, we are intrigued to discover our own answers.
Some might think this contract is about sex, to others it is about power, to still others it is about free clothes, and for a few folks it smacks of misogyny.*
Ana, however, realizes early on that no legal body would uphold this contract in court. Without legal meaning, the contract becomes only a titillating discussion between a man and woman about what they will do or not do in their mutually consenting relationship.
This type of contract can create a safe and fun playground for couples to negotiate great sex. It does not need to contain the bondage and discipline (BDSM) of the Grey contract. Instead, sexual contracts can be whatever you want them to be, opening up a whole world of sexual exploration and discussion between lovers in the process.
What can a sexual contract do for our sex life?
1. It can make us aware and titillated.
Going through the process of sexual negotiation encourages us to think about what we would consider doing sexually, opening up possibilities for sexual exploration. We discover new areas that turn us on and can make us aware of our 'sexual triggers.'
2. It opens up sexual communication.
Sex can be a difficult thing to talk about, often complicated with feelings of shame or guilt. A contract can give a couple a place to start, walking them through the process in a safe and structured way. Couples who have done it say it is more exciting than anxiety-provoking because they feel like they are exploring it 'together.'
3. It makes us aware of our limits -- what we won't do.
When we know our partner knows and respects our limits, we feel safe about relaxing into the things we look forward to doing.
4. It makes us curious to explore what we might do.
When we are able to say "that sort of interests me, but I'm concerned about this aspect...", it introduces a safe way to engage in activities that we wouldn't have normally thought of doing.
5. It establishes ways to deal with awkward sexual situations.
As a couple becomes familiar with the sexual negotiation process, it becomes increasingly easier to discuss all sexual topics, including those sexually awkward moments.
6. It creates greater intimacy with our partner.
If we know what our partner is excited about or hesitant about doing sexually, we can help them to realize their desires.
* I encourage all those worried about gender inequality to read a similar contract from Sacher-Masoch's novel, Venus in Furs (the root of the word masochism). This tale from 1870 highlights how power contracts are not gender-specific. A wealthy baroness negotiates a similar contract with a potentially submissive man, or slave. This contract gives her even more control than Christian Grey dreams of asking of Ana, even adding a suicide note pre-signed by her slave, so she can control his life entirely, even killing him without legal consequence.
Get Your Own Contract Download and fill it in with your partner.