Sunday, April 21, 2013

Dear 50 Shades fan: BDSM doesn't need or want your defense.

WARNING: This is going to get real. Real real. So I'm putting it behind a jump. If you don't want to hear graphic details about my sex life, this isn't the post for you. And needless to say, adults only.




I was having a great day. The kids spent the night away, I slept until noon, and when my husband got home from work he came straight to the bedroom. He stuffed my panties in my mouth, spanked my pussy hard, then fucked me, fisted me, and roughly fingered my ass while asking stuff like, "Do you like that, whore?" and then when we were done, he made me a fried egg sandwich and we cuddled and watched Adventure Time.

Okay, I admit, it's not as sexy as a scene from an erotic novel. But I'm confident when I say it has more in common with other, actual D/s relationships than anything in 50 Shades of Grey is.

When I got on the internet and checked twitter, I found myself tagged in an ongoing conversation due to someone recommending The Boss. Which is awesome, thanks and keep doing that. But when I expanded the conversation, I saw that the tweeter was arguing with a 50 Shades of Grey fan who said:
I also think real life SUBS AND DOMS would be insulted to think people are calling them abusers & victims NO JUDGING
This tweet was written by a person who clearly doesn't consider herself a part of a BDSM relationship. Otherwise, she would have spoken from a place of experience and not a place of speculation on the desires of Doms and subs. But because she read 50 Shades of Grey, she feels her opinion has weight. Not only does she feel she can represent the people actively involved in various different BDSM lifestyles, she feels that in the hierarchy of social justice issues, domestic abuse and sexual violence against women fall below defending the rights of people who engage in a consensual activity that doesn't really need to be explained to anyone.

Over the past few months, I've noticed that the conversations about BDSM, 50 Shades, and abuse follow a pretty specific pattern:

  • A says they feel 50 Shades of Grey promotes abuse.
  • B says A doesn't understand the complicated dynamic of a BDSM relationship.
  • A clarifies that they weren't talking about the sex (although A isn't thrilled with the sex either), and suggests that large numbers of people in BDSM relationships don't find the book representative of their positive experiences.
  • B ignores this and, in order to derail the conversation, begins to stridently defend the right of people who enjoy BDSM to not be judged (when no person on earth is exempt from the judgement of their fellow humans in the first place).
  • The conversation ceases to be about the abuse, and begins to be about whether or not the rights of BDSM practitioners are being respected by the mean old Judgie McJudgersons who don't understand kink.
In other words, the 50 Shades fan redirects the conversation from a discussion about abuse and rape culture tropes in the books in order to concentrate on perceived wrongs against a community they are not a part of, all because they don't want to admit there's anything problematic about the books.

Now, before I go on, let me acknowledge that there have been cases where law enforcement and the judicial system have misunderstood and mislabeled consensual BDSM as domestic violence, assault, or even murder. This is unfortunate and could absolutely be prevented by better education about BDSM and sexuality in general.

But that doesn't mean that raising awareness about BDSM relationship dynamics is so important that we can't discuss domestic violence and sexual abuse for fear of damaging progress in that area. Especially since the consequences of silencing the voices of domestic violence survivors and advocates is so much greater than the consequence of someone misunderstanding another person's sexual proclivities. The National Organization for Women estimates that 4.8 million woman a year will be physically or sexually assaulted by a partner; that's roughly 13,000 women a day. 

Does it suck to turn on a police procedural drama to see yet another depiction of a BDSM dungeon as a dirty, chaotic place full of depraved people in latex? Yes. Does that type of ignorance contribute to the legal misunderstandings that have happened in the community? Yes (but then, so has 50 Shades of Grey). Am I willing to sacrifice 13,000 women a day to stop those things from happening? No. Because I believe we can discuss both issues without marginalizing either of them.

For every two 50 Shades fans demanding silence on the topic of abuse, there is one actual, experienced BDSM practitioner begging to discuss the very real danger of abuse in the subculture. This is something most of us want to talk about, as BDSM and other acceptable kinks are gaining mainstream attention. But that discussion must include 50 Shades, and that's not something the 50 Shades fan wants to hear.


I'm thinking back to how my afternoon went. It was nothing like anything I'd read in 50 Shades of Grey. During the entire encounter, I was never afraid that my husband wouldn't stop. I knew that if I used the safe word, it would be okay, we could do something else. He wouldn't blackmail me with his past emotional tragedies to try and shame me for using the safeguard we agreed upon to protect our mutual trust. I know for a fact that he doesn't think I'm whore, slut, or any of the nasty things he calls me, because that's my kink and he does it because I asked him to and he gives as much attention to my sexual needs as to his own. It's what makes the D/s dynamic work so well in our relationship. Trust, love, and honest communication.

But Ana is never allowed to ask for anything. She isn't even allowed to say no to things she doesn't want, because Christian's needs are paramount. But a 50 Shades fan is going to tell me and women like me that we're the disempowered ones who need to be given a voice? And that the only valid voice in this case is one that is arguing that our relationships should more closely resemble the one between Ana and Christian, even if we're loudly protesting that such a relationship isn't what we want? How does that make any sense?

Ana and Christian are not an example of a healthy BDSM relationship, and when 50 Shades defenders- whose only exposure to BDSM has come through this single source- frame it as though it is, they're actually harming the image of BDSM more. But that's not something they want to hear. They want to feel like they're protecting a misunderstood and beautiful people, who do sexy things in expensive high rise apartments.

If someone wants to criticize me for my sexual preferences, that's their problem, not mine. I'm a big girl, and I can handle it. I don't need- and I think many, many other sexual deviants out there would agree- anyone to read a damn book, decide they have learned more from a fictional account than I have learned in my lived experience, and then rush to my defense needlessly. I am a sub, not a brainwashed sex zombie. I am fully capable of defending my sexual tastes if necessary.

So, I'll end by just reposting what I tweeted in response:
I am a real life sub. Please do not use 50 Shades to defend my lifestyle, because it is not representative.  

78 comments:

  1. All I can say is: http://img.pandawhale.com/46616-Jayma-mays-clapping-gif-GLEE-1IN8.gif

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  2. Props Jenny! I couldn't agree more :D

    I think maybe the most frustrating part for me, and why I have tried to stay out of arguments with 50shades fans, is the ignorance. Its the part where I say "No, I'm not talking about the sex, I'm talking about the ABUSE." And they straight up change the subject or ignore it. Its impossible to have a discussion with someone like that, and just so, so frustrating.

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    1. I hear ya on that one.

      When I am asked for my opinion of these books, I tend to list a bunch of the things that are wrong with them, and then say "and I'm not even talking about the sex". Deep breath, more stuff that bothers me about this drivel, and, "*Still* not talking about the sex..." Because there is SO much wrong here that occurs out of the bedroom, it makes me ill to think that people who seem otherwise sane just can't seem to see it.

      Then of course there IS the terrible sex... The lack of consent (i.e. rape), the trust issues... and most of it, besides being non-consensual, is not even BDSM, because of course, Ana's love has 'cured' Chedward of his obsession with those games, right? :(

      But yeah, the abuse portrayed is just accepted, as if it's part and parcel of a BDSM relationship. Safe, Sane and Consensual? Most folks don't seem to have heard of it, even though the concept could and should apply to every liaison, not just BDSM.

      I try not to get into these conversations IRL anymore. And I try to tell myself that fans don't recognise the abuse because they've never experienced it first-hand, which is far better for my own mental health. I can envy their relative innocence, instead of raging about willful blindness, though I suspect the latter is more often the case. :(

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  3. Brava to you for being brave enough to put your real-life kinks out there. I find I'm often hampered by discussion about 50 Shades and/or BDSM because I'm not in a position where I can be out and proud about my sex life (mostly because my husband is a more private person than I am), so I end up having to make general statements instead of specific "This is BS and I know from experience." I'm "out" in the sense that I'm a romance writer, and people assume that means I write smut, but that's about it. (And they'd be kinda right, if they define "smut" the way judgmental sex-negative people do.)

    If 50 Shades really is encouraging more couples to be open with each other about their kinks, I think that's a good thing - more communication is always a positive thing. Hopefully those same couples can separate out the sexy parts from the creepy abusive stuff, though.

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  4. "I also think real life SUBS AND DOMS would be insulted to think people are calling them abusers & victims NO JUDGING"

    I think real life subs and doms would be insulted to hear people are calling abusers and victims subs and doms. The story they're white knighting is not about BDSM, it's about a rapist wearing BDSM as a mask.

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  5. I couldn't agree more, Jenny. BDSM is not the problem in 50 Shades, and it's a testament to how sex-negative our society still is that the first thing a fan tells you when you raise criticism of the book is that you're a judgmental, anti-BDSM meanie. That shouldn't even enter the equation, that shouldn't be part of the dialogue.

    But I'm glad people keep tirelessly trying to educate the ignorant masses. Endless props for that.

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  6. Whenever someone tells me that I'm being judgemental of the BDSM community, I tell them that I'm a [currently non-practising] Dom, and that from my experience 50 Shades is nowhere near what I've experienced in the past, and nowhere near that core ethos of ours, 'safe, sane and consensual'. However, I must give you a great deal of kudos for your response. At this point, my self-restraint on the matter is ... quite well worn, and I'm more likely to turn into the Hulk rather than provide a cogent argument such as this.

    I'll be honest, and say that, when I first came here, I just wanted some 50 Shades bashing (though I stayed for many other reasons), because I hated all my non-kinky friends saying that it's so good, and telling me I'm wrong about the inaccuracies of BDSM portrayal. While that still gets my goat, that's kind of fallen by the way side of the abuse issue, and one I'm constantly appalled by people's doublethink on said issue. Anywhere else, I can assure you, they would realise that it's clearly abuse, but because the superficial layer is all lovey, gooey, sexy Mary Sue fantasy-ness, they tend to accept just that. It's understandable, from a psychological point of view, but that doesn't mean it's right.

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    1. My Dom/husband and I had a pretty good conversation about 50 Shades that sort of ties into this and the whole refusing-to-believe-this-is-abuse lack of taking responsibility for the smut they like. I think 50 and other works like it where consent is dubious or non-existent is a case where a lot of women who are sexually oppressed by society want to be able to enjoy sex and sexuality but don't want the negative labels and stigmas attached to it. So having a main female character who is obviously very sexual and enjoying sex (well, most of it) but isn't "owning" it is the best of those two things in a twisted way. She gets to have sex and do all sorts of kinky, sexual things but she isn't a "slut" for it because she's forced to, because she's actually doing it for him, and all the other terrible oppressive tropes that go hand in hand with female sexuality and when it's "okay" and when it isn't. It's understandable like you said on a psychological level. I certainly don't blame the women who need those things to be addressed to on some level start feeling comfortable with their sexuality, but I think it's fucked up when in turn they try to silence the conversations about the society that made it that way in the first place.

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    2. And what's also weird about this, is that most off them insist that Christian is the perfect man O.o

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  7. I have no experience whatsoever with BDSM, but from what I've read on your blog and in the comments, I'm going to venture the guess and say, it doesn't seem so complicated: it needs to be consensual, safe words are there for a reason and there needs to be enough trust to know it can be used without hard feelings.
    This is just clearly not the case in FSOG.
    Do, it becomes abuse and rape, because often it's not consensual, the safeword becomes an elephant in the room. And there definitely is no trust.

    Also, I find it creepy that millions of people now think they're an expert on BDSM, because they read 1 fictional book. (It doesn't matter that it's read by millions, it still only comes from 1 (unfortunately very lazy) mind, and don't take the time to look up other sources.

    Deidre

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    1. You've got a better grasp of BDSM than EL James does, that's for damn sure. ;)

      The abusive part of the books isn't even the sex the majority of the time. I can have my husband tie me up and put stuff in my butt, and the next day he will not police my clothing choices or ban me from going out for drinks with a friend of any gender.

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    2. realistically, I don't think the BDSM stuff is all that different than other parts of a relationship, like figuring out where to go on dates or what movie to watch. You discuss your likes and dislikes and figure out what to do within those constraints. It's just the activities are a little more unusual. It's not exactly alike, of course - if my husband wants something I really can't handle he doesn't have the option of finding someone else, for example (some people do, but we're strictly monogamous) - but the basic principles are still the same.

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    3. Yes, the abuse outside of the sex is very blatant. I still don't understand how fans of these books don't see that.

      Deidre

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    4. See, and that's completely overlooked in these books. Actually nothing is really consensual because it's always about what Christian wants and needs

      Deidre

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  8. "I knew that if I used the safe word, it would be okay, we could do something else."
    Yes! Bc that's what safe words are for!

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  9. Well, all in all, consider that you're arguing with people who think 50 Shades of Grey is a good book. I mean, how can you take that person seriously on any level?

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  10. Yes, I am also into BDSM, and I don't need "defending" from idiots who like FSOG. The difference between my experience and Ana's? After my husband and I finish having sex, he doesn't track my cellphone, yell at me for days about having a drink with a friend, get mad at me if my skirt is too short, or tell me he has to control everything I do to keep me "safe." If I get upset about some aspect of the BDSM (which happens sometimes when we try something new or my claustrophobia is triggered), we stop doing whatever it is and discuss it. There's no "if you loved me you wouldn't use the safeword" a la Christian. It really depresses me that fans of FSOG think a) that BDSM entails abuse and b) can't recognize the most obvious abuse in the world.

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  11. Bravo, just fucking Bravo.

    Every single space oriented towards Doms and subs and people who are into BDSM basically outright hate 50 Shades of Grey because of how badly it portrays our sex lives and for some of us, our whole lifestyles. Nothing pisses me off more than when clueless fuckwits who found 50 Shades hot think they're somehow doing me a favor by attempting to silence needed conversations about abuse and rape culture and muddying the waters by conflating those two things with a consensual, safe adult relationship. Beyond that, it's so intellectually lazy. They know what computers are and what google is, how hard is to do a little research and this novel thing like listening to people who actually engage in the lifestyle? Gah.

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  12. I'm with Wendy above - I'd like to be open but right now my husband is in leadership in a youth ministry, so this will need to be anonymous.

    I'm also a sub, and I don't think I could be without huge amounts of trust in my husband. We do orgasm denial and orgasm on command (the latter took some work, obviously) and I love it - but unlike ana I asked for it in the first place and I know he'll let me come and I know he just wants me to have fun and after most sessions I comment on what worked and what didn't so we have more fun next time. And just last this weekend I safeworded (he was bouncing me and I started to panic because of sensory issues) and we took a breather and did something else. And then he got me tea.

    Anyway, hats off and kudos and that last tweet was a great response.

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  13. One thing that particularly bothers me about this series is the way that the author and other supporters use BDSM as a shield to hide behind. Whenever any criticism is launched, the supporters quickly jump to their standby argument about how the book is depicting a BDSM lifestyle and those whose who criticize it are being intolerant. They do not bother to hear the criticisms being made and engage in a meaningful dialogue about them. The problem with this series is in the relationship between Ana and Christian, regardless of sexual preferences. The adamancy of their reliance on this shield underscores how problematic the series really is.

    Outside of the sexual relationship, Christian attempts to control what Ana eats, drinks, what birth control she uses, what she wears, what activities she engages in, what companions are suitable, and a myriad of other aspects of her life. He even goes so far as to exert control over her career and finances, neither of which should have anything to do with their sexual relationship. She relents to his control on these factors due to emotional manipulation and a desire to "save" the injured hero and give him what he needs. She also makes it abundantly clear that despite her apparent enjoyment of the BDSM practices, she believes his fascination with it stems from his being "damaged."

    Perhaps one of the most disturbing things I have read in these recaps of late is the way that Christian responds to Ana's use of the safe word. In the first book, after Christian beats Ana and she leaves him, he later makes her feel guilty for not using the safe word. In the third book, when she does use the safe word, he makes her feel guilty for using it, as though it has caused him emotional pain. In other words, she is not supposed to use the safe word ; she is just supposed to accept whatever he wants to do regardless of any physical or psychological pain it causes her. This is simply abuse.

    Suffice it to say, the BDSM lifestyle does not explain or justify these aspects of the books.

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    1. Something that really bothers me with the control he exerts over her professional life is the fact that he's non-consensually involving literally everyone who works with her in their sexual (and romantic) life. No small part of that particular boundary for most reasonable people is that it's ethically repugnant to involve non-consenting outsiders in your sex life.

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    2. "Whenever any criticism is launched, the supporters quickly jump to their standby argument about how the book is depicting a BDSM lifestyle and those whose who criticize it are being intolerant."

      And in doing so, they are defending abuse. So, what, if the guy who abused be fore five years called it BDSM, then it would be okay and those who criticized him and criticize him now are just being intolerant, even though my "consent" was almost always given only because I had NO CHOICE or, at best, a choice between doing what he wanted or getting beaten?

      Here, stick you hand in this pot of boiling water or on a burner. Oh, you're hurt now? Well, it was your choice to put it in the pot of boiling water even though you were going to be hurt either way and didn't want to have to do either....

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  14. The muddying of the boundaries between their sex life and their relationship is to blame for a lot of the confusion. He tells her he wants to 'punish' her for going out with her friends or going to visit her mother, but he casts it as 'punishment' in a sexual way. He says he wants her to 'stop defying him' so he won't have to 'punish' her, but he also says he wants to spank her, etc - so you're left wondering, wouldn't that mean he would want her to continue 'defying' him.

    If this was all portrayed as sexual, ie if the 'defiance' was part of foreplay/role playing, and if he was playing the part of the jealous moron who thinks looking at another man is infidelity as part of a previously agreed sexual fantasy, it would still be tedious writing but it might have some kind of internal consistency. The contract does suggest that 24/7 submission is what is being asked for, but they keep saying that they're not doing the contract. And then he behaves as if they are.

    Even if they were, this would, I guess, be terrible, highly irresponsible BDSM that the community would frown heavily upon, given anna's inexperience?

    the first fundamental problem as always is that Ms James is rather stupid, and cannot write. The second is that her fans are people who don't read often and don't have highly developed critical faculties, and her crappy writing happens to fit very nicely with their uncritical style of reading. Repetition helps; wrapping up every 'crisis' within one or two chapters helps.

    I know it's wrong to judge people for what they like, it's subjective, blah blah blah, but if you like 50 shades it's hard not to. I remind myself that for most people who are not well read, or not intelligent, this is not their fault. It was irresponsible to publish this drivel. But still. I do sort of want to judge people who like it.

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    1. to clarify a little, Ms James says that this is her 'fantasy'. I would suspect that she might construct a fantasy of a man who is terribly possessive and abusive because he loves her so desperately and that makes her feel special and absolves her of any responsibility for her sexuality, etc. So she's created the fantasy, the rape fantasy included - and then hasn't had the skill to define the boundaries and demonstrate the difference between the book's internal 'reality' and the book's internal 'fantasy'. It's the only way she can defend what goes on in it as fantasy. But she is too stupid to be able to say 'everything Anna says is her fantasising or Christian enacting the fantasies she has'. She thinks women want their fantasies to be made reality, rather than acted out in a safe context. because she is thick.

      I do like the idea that Anna is hugely experienced but fantasises about being a virgin who is too stupid to understand what's going on. But James is not intelligent enough to have written her that way.

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    2. I actually touched on that some recaps ago, with a theory I had about how horrible abusive books like this get written. I think it's because most people who aren't experienced readers or are just plain unimaginative, cannot find fulfilment in a sexual fantasy that is two (or more) steps away from themselves. They can't be satisfied with a book about a couple who enact a rape/abuse fantasy within the boundaries of consensual and safe roleplaying, the book needs to be about actual rape/abuse, because they are too simple-minded or inexperienced or unimaginative to derive satisfaction from a sexual fantasy that is more than one step away from themselves.

      I've seen 50 Shades-like stuff in fan fiction (which is exactly what 50 Shades is, too), and it always seems to stem from inexperienced writers who don't really understand their characters as people, but as extensions of themselves. Ana is not a character, she's an extension of EL James. Chedward is not a person, he's an idealised fantasy. That's pretty much why she keeps defending it as a fantasy, because she doesn't understand what she's doing. And the sad part is that she's managed to sell that fantasy to millions of other people, who probably don't see Ana and Chedward as people, but as themselves and their ideal fantasy.

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    3. As a writer, an English major, a devourer of GOOD literature, a woman and a human being, I judge 50 Shades fans and I am not ashamed.

      And the more they defend it, the more I judge them.

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    4. I've talked some with people who do 24/7 D/s relationships. As far as I can tell, the problem would be less her inexperience and more the complete and utter lack of negotiation. I think he accepted one limit (caning), but keeping things on the list after she had expressed reservation about them (anal), doing the discussions when she is nervous or drunk, and even handing her a "standard" contract rather than starting with a blank page are all problematic. (It's one thing to use other contracts for inspiration, but using one as a starting place changes the discussion dynamic.) He also made no allowances for her inexperience - no trying one thing for one night to see how it went. He wouldn't even shorten the contract to one month instead of three.

      Even now, when they're married and he's put away most of his toys, no one has ever suggested that she go around the room, try paddles and floggers and things on her arm, and see what she thinks is worth trying. He just pitched it all except the couple of toys he'd already used on her.

      Oh, and the mind games. (What is he mad about, etc.) BDSM is not a place for that sort of refusal to communicate.

      As for judging...I dunno, judging someone for a choice means assuming they are aware of other options and have the support needed to make a clear decision. In some cases that may not be true. But we can judge them for being unwilling to learn.

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    5. "The muddying of the boundaries between their sex life and their relationship is to blame for a lot of the confusion. "

      Even sexually, she's given free and willing consent for almost nothing. Most of it was manipulated out of her or coerced because the alternative was going to be worse for her. At times, she said NO and meant it and he continued anyway. Because she orgasmed, a lot of real-life people don't see the problem with what was literally rape.

      Ana never EVER even gave the hint of agreeing to 24/7, and yet that's what has happened because she is afraid. The vast majority of her "consent" is out of fear. This doens't count. If you hold a gun to a woman's head and tell her to lay down and open her legs, is it consent because she does? No. It's from fear of worse happening. Extreme example, yes, but for some people, you have to use these extreme examples so they can start to get it. That's the example that got one of my friends to understand "consent"-from-fear.

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    6. That's what I mean, yes - the only way to make this OK would be if her lack of consent was actually role play, agreed upon in advance, part of a rape fantasy. If this entire thing was one big rape fantasy, in fact. but ELJ does not have the capacity to understand what she's done, let alone to rewrite the story of O.

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  15. Perfect post. I wish more people got it.

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  16. Something else that drives me fucking nuts about these books: not only is BDSM portrayed as a symptom of mental illness and/or childhood trauma, female Dommes are especially pathological. We see it in anything having to do with Mrs. Robinson and also in the rare moments when Christian is borderline submissive towards Ana. The only permissible form of kink in this world is male Doms with female subs because the man is the head of the household or something, and now because it sold so many damn copies, that's what's being marketed as kinky in the mainstream. Is it so much to ask to get some queer kink, or some with a woman on top? I'm so bored of male Doms and I want to see my own fantasies treated as normal!

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    1. I hear you. I would write it, but it's not my kink and I would be so bored. :( Joey W. Hill writes scorching hot domme stuff in her Vampire Queen series.

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    2. And by bored, I mean I just wouldn't be as into it and it would show in the writing.

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    3. Yes, there is a large disparity between the amount of female submissive/female dominant available material. In my opinion the worst part is that 99% (completely made up statistic based on my extensive searches) of the female dominant media, is only catering to the fantasy on the man's side. Or even worse is when it's female submission masquerading as dominance. This is distressing for me as a woman and distressing as a dominant. In no small part for the times I'm looking for something hot to read/watch... for uh educational purposes and only turn up the inverse of what I'm looking for or things that just make me sad that my sexuality is largely ignored in media.

      I wouldn't personally recommend the Vampire Queen series. I've read the first and that was enough for me to determine it wasn't for me. It was basically the (dehumanized) dominatrix fantasy all over again when what I think is needed is examples of real woman (as in not objectified as some deity or something) having the submission of men. It's disheartening when the only way it's portrayed possible for a man to submit to a woman is when the woman isn't "real".

      Okay my comment is getting a bit long here so I'll just leave this link to a rare exception of the rule. Enjoy! http://femaleutopia.blogspot.com/

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    4. In particular, I wish there were more lesbian erotica/porn made for lesbians. Lesbian porn made for men is just so...straight. I can't watch it without thinking, "But that's not how women have sex!"

      Thanks so much for the recommendations! I can't wait to check them out! Does anyone else have any to share?

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    5. And what's really bizarre is that, when talking about hetero couples in the subculture, it's more often the man who is the sub and the woman who is the Domme. Yet this isn't reflected in the mainstream in a way that actually reflects the makeup of the BDSM community at large.

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    6. @Anon I'm not really into girls but I've heard the fingernails can be something to shudder at.

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    7. http://shiniez.deviantart.com/

      This person writes and draws a comic about a BDSM relationship between two women. It's sexy and very realistic. I suggest it highly, for those who want to see a Domme with a female sub.

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    8. Thanks Anon! I haven't finished the first chapter(?) yet, but so far the comic is completely ADORABLE! I love the dual perspectives and that they're both clearly just two people instead of archetypes. Though being straight, I can't vouch if it's too 'straight' or not. ^^;

      If anyone else has more true-to-life portrayals like that, please link! It'd be nice to have a little list of of things we can point to when FSoG-confused people want a reality check.

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    9. @Em Actually male top/female bottom (I use top/bottom because it encompasses relationships without power exchange as well as D/s) is the more common dynamic. This is definitely reflected in the makeup of events I've attended where it's probably 2/3 male top/female bottom with the rest made up of female top/male bottom, switches, and same sex/queer dynamics. I switch and prefer to play with men and I have a really hard time finding male bottoms to play with, even casually. You also see this in how poorly male bottoms get treated by some in the community (especially by straight male tops).

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    10. thank you, anon, for the comic rec!
      so nice to find some well written (and drawn!) lesbian bdsm!

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  17. Let me re post this link with some quotes that I adore:

    http://leviathan-rpc.tumblr.com/post/43676193800/this-guide-is-going-to-be-very-simple-because-im

    On Aftercare: If you’re a Master, and you neglect your submissive after a scene; even a mild one. You’re kind of a piece of shit.

    On Safeword use: A SUBMISSIVE SHOULD NEVER BE PUNISHED FOR USING THEIR SAFE SIGN OR SAFEWORD. This is put in place to safely and politely say - please stop. If a submissive uses their safeword, you need to stop and take them up in arms, make sure they’re alright.

    On Risk Assessed, Consensual Kink (RACK) in renegades to more heavy handed (and possibly either more physically or mental risky) play:It’s my fucking duty as a Master to make sure they’re A) Willing to take part in my desire. B) Mentally prepared for the shock, the pain, and the fear that might come with it. C) Physically able to endure it. D) Understand the risks, and understand they have a safe word (or sign).

    *finger snap* 50 Shades is not Safe Sane and Consensual nor is it Risk Assessed, Consensual Kink because the "Master" never does ANY of the above but the exact opposite.

    But we all knew that already here.

    ReplyDelete
  18. The lack of fear is key, I think. I'm not hardcore BDSM, but my partner and I do enjoy some of it and do it pretty frequently. I'm a sub, and I am NEVER afraid that he is not going to stop, that he is going to overstep the boundaries that we have agreed upon, or that he is going to use sex as a weapon, as a way to actually punish me for things we do outside of the bedroom. Mostly because my boyfriend is not a creepy fuck, but also because I really, truly, honestly trust him.

    And I know that if I want to stop, if I use the safeword, he will immediately stop and ask me if I'm okay. And, when things have calmed down, he will ask me what went wrong and how he can make it better now and for next time. Because that's just what you do when you're in a relationship of mutual trust, respect, and understanding, which is the prerequisite for any healthy sexual relationship, romantic or casual.

    What 50 Shades lacks is that lack of fear, because there is no trust. And what's worse, this lack of trust is supposed to be romantic and exciting, when in reality, doing BDSM with someone you didn't trust and couldn't predict the actions of would actually be terrifying. More than that, in the novel, it IS terrifying, but that terror is supposed to be exciting. That terror doesn't foster strong consent, if any. It is not consent if you are too afraid to say no. Christian is a rapist who hides behind BDSM as a way of making his rape seem, well, less like rape.

    I know I'm preaching to the choir here, and that sucks, because I feel like 50 Shades fans simply don't want a dialogue to happen. I also wonder if the 50 Shades fans, some of them anyway, on some level, actually feel some shame over having "got off" to books that are borderline consensual at the best of times, and downright rape at the worst, and then project those feelings onto us, saying that we are shaming them or the BDSM community when we haven't done so.

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    Replies
    1. Regarding the fear and lack of trust, something a lot of fans like to say is she could have left if she didn't like it. Too bad they're forgetting how clear he made it in the first book that he already owned her by buying her company and, when she said she'd go somewhere else, told her he'd just buy that company too. She knew he had the money. He had the power to destroy her career and her livelihood and was pretty open that he'd do it. So no, she couldn't have just left. What do you say to a potential new employer about why you won't get a good reference from your last job? "Yeah, the guy I lost my virginity to wanted me to be his property and then bought the company so he'd still control my life, and he's mad that I left"?

      Delete
    2. He also followed her to her mother's house and has isolated her from all but one of her friends, who he is actively trying to isolate her from, and has made it clear he has dossiers on just about everyone he's ever met and the will and the money to find people and find out stuff about them. Where is she supposed to go if she leaves?

      Ugh, this fucking guy.

      Delete
    3. He says he'll track her to Antarctica if she leaves! (or Alaska, I can't remember, but you get the point)

      When he thinks she's sent an email breaking up with him (which he admits he took seriously) he COMES ROUND TO HER HOUSE and RAPES HER in response. Of course she can't 'just leave'. she should be in serious fear for her life. he's a sociopath.In a crime novel he wouldn't stop until he himself was killed by a woman who refuses to live in fear. I wish this was a crime novel.

      Delete
    4. Fear can be part of BDSM play but only when it's negotiated ahead of time (I LOVE a good mindfuck). But it shouldn't be part of the relationship dynamic, that is messed up and abusive.

      Delete
    5. A while back I read an article by a woman of color who does racial role play about literal slavery. I've heard kinksters say they don't like the terminology of master and slave because it minimizes the horrors of actual slavery; racial role play takes it literally and they roleplay scenes like slave markets, catching and punishing a runaway slave, rape, stuff like that. Not for the faint of heart, and this woman gets a lot of criticism from other people of color, even kinky POC, for it. Her argument, aside from the obvious "mind your own damn business," was that role-playing those scenarios in a controlled environment helped her understand the nature of fear, and understand her own responses in terrifying situations. Then when the scene is over, the fear ends. It doesn't carry over to the rest of her life.

      Delete
  19. I'm a sub, too, and I really appreciate the exposure you've given to BDSM relationships, not just through analyzing 50 Shades of Grey, but also in this post. If there's anything we, as a community can do, it's demonstrate how perfectly stable, sane, and, well, normal we are.

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    Replies
    1. Ooh, not sure I'm the right person to rep sane and normal...

      Delete
  20. I totally get what you're saying here. I've had people who were drawn to the BDSM community through FSOG and then act as if my criticisms of the novel are actually condemning them or saying they shouldn't be kinky. Really, fans just seem to take the criticism way too personally.

    Also, I'm a sub, and I think the main difference between BDSM and abuse is not just consent, but an underlying understanding that regardless of the role one plays, we are all still equals with personal agency and free will. My submission, while definitely a part of me, is still a role I play that is lesser to my more normal, opinionated self. My Dominants all respect the spark that makes me who I am as an individual, and allow me to be that spark in scene and out. You don't stop being a person when you submit, you just are a person who has chosen to place a higher priority on someone else for a time.

    As for non-kinky people trying to defend BDSM from criticism via FSOG, it feels an awful lot like what people to us with disabilities. We become inspirational stories for them to look up to, up on a pedestal that we never asked for, simply for being different from them. I find in both contexts I start to feel like a mythologized fictional character that should be happy for that pedestal regardless of how demeaning and degrading it feels to be shoved up there for everyone to gawk at. Maybe I'm seeing something that isn't there, but I definitely feel a connection in how both situations make me feel.

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    Replies
    1. " You don't stop being a person when you submit, you just are a person who has chosen to place a higher priority on someone else for a time."

      This seems particularly key after that scene (in book 2 maybe?) when Christian was saying that Ana is his lover, not his sub (while picking out what toys to use on her, EL James is so confused about this) and therefore she is free to giggle and smile and snark. If nothing else, James seems to have missed the part where the sub is supposed to be having fun.

      Delete
    2. I don't do BDSM. My husband is way too prudish for that, and in some ways, I am, too. I'll freely admit that. But I AM disabled. I have a large handful of chronic illnesses that stem from one giant mother of a genetic illness that fucks with my entire body and has left me physically crippled. And I know exactly what you mean. And even though I'm not involved with BDSM, I can completely understand the parallel you're drawing.

      Because I'm an intelligent person, I can put myself in other people's shoes and understand a situation. Being a non-kinkster doesn't mean I can't understand the rules of BDSM and see how Erika is totally off here. One of my siblings actually engages in BDSM (I have 9 of them, so I don't feel as if I'm calling anyone out, here) and has taught me a lot over the years.

      Anyway, I think this is a good analogy. And now I can see just how much this sucks for y'all, being defended by the 50SOG fans. Yuck.

      Delete
  21. I love reading your recaps and the boss and all of the discussions in between. I think its great and as someone who has no experience in BDSM this has been a real eye opener. I think the only good thing that has come out of FSOG is this very discussion we're having now and people who are in D/s relationship (never knew it was referenced that way) are coming out and educating people about what it actually is. Well at least
    to people who are willing to see that FSOG is the possibly the worst represebtation of BDSM.

    After hearing everyone's experien I'm curious to dip my
    feet in the water and try a few things out. But I'm really not sure where to start and that really kinda scares me. Also I dont think my boyfriend would be very keen on it either because I think he still holds onto that stigma about BDSM. I think it would be a little to harcdore for him. I don't want to derail the conversation (there's not much I can add to it anyway that hasn't already been said) but where can one actually edcuate themselves about this? where do you begin? I can't always trust google and obviously is there's FSOG tripe out there well I don't want to be influenced and 'educated' by shitty books like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are some good places to go. There's a website out there called Fetlife which is like a kinky Facebook (there are other sites, like "collarme", which you should avoid like the plague). It's not perfect, but there's a lot of good people on it, groups and discussions you can join or just read. Lots of people providing resources too. Also, I fully recommend reading The Boss (which you say you are doing). So far it's hands down the most reasonable and realistic portrayal of what things can be like that I have ever seen in fiction, and I read a fair bit. I personally also quite like the Rescue Me series by Kallypso Masters. The people fuck up in that series, but at no point is that treated as normal or good, and she writes a lot about building/repairing trust.

      Something else you can do (and possibly you might find help on Fetlife with this) is attend a munch in your area. Even if you go alone (which is terrifying as a newbie, I know, but bear with me), it's a brilliant way to learn. It's usually a vanilla setting in a pub or cafe, and people can get together, have a chat, and know they won't be judged. Talk varies from kink-related to the weather, and there will likely be people who can make it all seem more "real life" to you. Nice, mostly normal, very friendly people. :) I would add a caveat: no matter where you are or who people claim to be, if they ever say, do or recommend anything you're not comfortable with, simply say no. Just because they're more experienced in the scene doesn't mean they know *you* better than you do.

      There are also books out there, such as the famous "Screw the Roses, Bring Me the Thorns" which are also good resources if you want to go for a tried and trusted classic.

      As for maybe bringing it up gently with your boyfriend one day, instead of diving in with talk of whips and chains you could try sensation games (ice cubes and feathers are popular). I've been in the scene a while, seen a lot, and still one of my favourite things is simply having my wrists held firmly. Heck, lacing fingers and holding down hands during sex is practically vanilla, but it can work as a dominance vibe. I'm not talking about trying to trick him into anything, just giving suggestions about little things that might be softer ways to see how you both feel about those kinds of games and open the door to talk about more (fuzzy handcuffs, anyone?).

      Also, although I mostly sub, I'm personally a switch and so is my fiance. Some people can't switch roles with one person (some switches feel D or s depending on their mood, others depending on the vibe they have with another person) but especially with light stuff it can be a fun way to spice things up, experience both sides, and just generally see how it all feels.

      Wow, that reply got long and my grammar needs work (it is 4am here). Just for a little background on me, I've been kinky for ages but only "actively practicing" on a regular basis as it were for about 3 years. For two of those years I've helped at a local monthly fetish club and while I don't think of myself as any kind of expert, I've seen a lot. The range of kinks runs from simply liking to dress up in heels and corsets (purr) to really full on stuff that makes most people flinch, but as long as everyone's consenting and risk-aware everyone has a good time. :)

      If you have any specific questions you can find me on Twitter at this name, or @gmail.com. I can't (and won't) tell you what to do, but any advice I can give to someone curious about BDSM I'd love to help with.

      Delete
    2. I'd say the most important thing is that it is not an obligation. Like the safeword discussion further up the page, your boyfriend must know that you won't hold it against him if he declines, or if he tries it and doesn't like it.

      Second, I'd say to forget about non-standard safewords: no means no, stop means stop. Sending mixed messages by saying no when you mean yes is only going to hurt his enjoyment of the experience if he's worried about what he's doing.

      I would definitely recommend starting with something that relies entirely on the willing suspension of disbelief, like a blindfold. By which I mean, a blindfold is only a restraint as long as the sub pretends it is - they can whip it off at a moment's notice if they're uncomfortable with where things are going.

      Delete
    3. Thanks guys,
      You've both been really helpful. I might be wrong here but I certainly feel and the vibe I get from others is that a BDSM relationship is a whole new level of trust and intamacy you might not possibly get in a 'vanilla' relationship. And I definitely want to explore that with my partner. And even if in the end it doesn't float my boat then that's ok too. It's just a pity that alot of media out there portrays the extreme side of it, all latex and secret dundegons and I think it's not really a true reflection of it. I mean you all sound like sane, intelligent individuals. :)

      So cheers, might start with the blindfold thing ;)

      Delete
  22. Thanks for this entry, btw. I have been reading along and haven't waded into comments much because omg I have so much fatigue about defending my fucking sex life from seemingly all angles, but this entry was just too good not to rave about in the comments section. It really clearly breaks down all the issues with the way these books and actual BDSM intersect, so thank you so much for writing it and of course, for the lovely lovely recaps ::swigs tequila in sympathy::

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  23. I'm not into BDSM but I've read books featuring it and it was very quickly clear to me that FSOG was a terrible and inaccurate portrayal of that scene. It drives me crazy knowing that many of my intelligent sex-positive friends like that piece of shit of a book and that they do not see the abuse in it. I really wish that I could link them to your recaps but I don't want to get into a fight with any of them, I just have to hope that they'll work it out for themselves.

    Thank you for sharing your own experiences of BDSM, it was very brave of you. And thank you for The Boss which is so much fun to read and very hot. And finally thank you for the recaps, which helped me realise that I was not crazy to think that the FS books sounded abusive.

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  24. Been reading this blog for awhile now and I don't think I've ever commented. At first, I started with the 50 recaps but now I read pretty much whatever you post. Today I decided to comment based on this blog because I totally hear you on this. I actually quit a job in a sex shop last year because of these stupid books. The job was a blast until we began to carry the 50 Shades books and "novelties." I had one too many customer (always women) come in and complain about being "beaten" because their partners (wannabe Doms) used an implement on them that they were not familiar with. And with me being the only kinkster in the shop, I always got asked for advice. How bout, don't read those stupid books? Bossman didn't like that so much. I am just thankful Chedward never got into any hardcore whipping scenes with Ana. Being beaten with a belt was bad enough.

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    Replies
    1. I used to work for an allegedly sex-positive, woman-positive, kink-positive, gay-friendly adult toy company that recently started pushing 50 Shades-themed stuff. I feel so betrayed that they're promoting this stuff to their customers, who by and large are newcomers to all this based on our marketing demographic.

      Delete
    2. Great, now I have something new to add to my nightmares, FSOG fans with singletails. I do whip play, it is not for newbies.

      Delete
    3. Yes, Sheryl, you do. The reason I say this is because since last summer there has also been a large influx of FSOG fans infiltrating the scene. Now, I'm not against newbies. But I am against newbies who have this idea that BDSM is supposed to be like ELJ portrays it and start showing up at munches and parties thinking they're going to get their kink on. And yes, I actually had a customer who came in asking for paddles and floggers after her husband beat her with a belt. She didn't like the belt so she thought she would try something else.

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    4. That's all so incredibly disturbing. I really feel for these women, even though they're incredibly stupid and keep asking for it over and over and over again. And I feel like EL James should pay for this somehow.

      Delete
  25. I won't pretend to be an expert but I once experimented with heavier BDSM. Unfortunately I experimented with someone who called himself a dom but was mostly just abusive. I have spent the intervening 20 years just not talking about it because I just can't.

    I get frustrated telling people that I was OK with getting tied up and spanked but NOT OK with him telling me I needed to ask permission before I talked to anyone. (He claimed that I was too inexperienced at 22 to know if people were OK and he was doing me a favor by vetting everyone.) I get frustrated with them thinking that some adrenalin + sex is messed up, but parent-like behavior from a partner is just fine.

    On the flip side, I also get mad talking to people who are into the kink who think that if I objected to his treatment of me, it was probably that I was just repressed and inhibited. Apparently I wasn't "open" enough if I wasn't so amazingly sexually satisfied enough to forgive him his little foible of treating me like I was three. (Once his exact words were, "If you can't learn to be like a little child who needs guidance and care, I can't trust you to make your own decisions.") Sometimes people who are into kink (or think they are) believe that the sexual experience should be a magic wand that makes any dysfunction in a relationship healthy and desirable.

    I sometimes wonder if domestic abuse doesn't run rampant in our culture because I can't talk frankly about these things. I feel like I'm offending people if I mention that I accepted the kink part of it and offending everyone else for saying kinky relationships can go sour.

    I have since been in a very long relationship that is healthy and respectful (and yes, we have experimented with many many things sexually.) But I will always feel like I am trapped in a bubble of frustration because I see so many people around me make the same mistakes I did once. I can't talk about it because there is so much taboo and fantasy surrounding the whole thing. It's sometimes like seeing an avalanche come down on a friend across the valley and having them turn off their cell-phone when you want to tell them what is happening.

    Congratulations on being open and plain about this. I gave up on this long ago.

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  26. Hello, yup this article is actually nice and I have learned
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    ReplyDelete
  27. I have had people (men and women) beat me, choke me, cut me, slap me, bruise me and make me cry. My kinks are a bit edgier than others. However they are mine and I consented and have the power to revoke consent. I play with people I trust and have never had my safeword ignored or been made fun of for using it.

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  28. I just have to ask, anonymously, of course (already made my other comments under my name), how does fisting work?

    Maybe that sounds stupid, but I don't understand how you could get a man's fist up there and it be enjoyable or give you a pleasant sensation.

    I was on Facebook a few days ago, cruising one of the mommy pages, and someone submitted an anonymous question saying her husband wanted to fist her. She said she was a little nervous about it but only because she was ignorant of the practice and she wanted input from anyone who had done it. The other mothers immediately jumped on her, telling her to leave her husband, that fisting equaled abuse, etc. I was shocked! Who were they to say such outrageous and judgmental things? I don't understand how it works and think it sounds unbelievably uncomfortable, but I am not about to tell anyone who likes it she's being ABUSED or that there's something wrong with her. Idiots. I just can't get over people's stupidity sometimes.

    Anyway, if you're willing to share, I'd love to know more about it. Does the whole fist go in? Or is it, like, just all the fingers?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, a baby's head is generally larger than a man's fist, so theoretically, we should all be able to do that.

      I've tried it. I think you have to have a lot of control over the muscles and be able to relax easily because I simply can't do it. My BF can get pretty far in, but not all the way. And it hurts like hell, but I kind of like it. It's one of those things that hurts, but also kind of hits all the right spots and feels pretty damned good and after kind of enhances the sex. (For me, anyway.) And I'm usually really sore the next day and I like that because every time I sit down, I think about the sex.

      It isn't going to be for everyone, obviously. But it isn't abuse as long as two consenting adults are doing it willingly and that it stops once one of you says stop. I'm all for trying just about anything once and I kind of like a certain amount of pain. I just wish I could figure out how to open up better for it.

      I can handle anal a lot better (the first man I ever did it with was quite well-endowed and it wasn't an issue). I would have thought it would be the other way around. lol

      Delete
    2. Kind of all of what Anon #2 said. There is a bit of a pain component, but the key is for your partner to be gentle and go slow. It's like, less a "I'm going to punch you in the cervix!" thing and more of a "I'm going to get you so hot and open you up," thing. But it's one of those either you like it, or you don't thing.

      And no, it's not abusive. Jesus, I can't believe the stupidity. Half the women saying that are probably ones who think Christian Grey is a good Dom.

      Delete
  29. My Daddy always said, "The man with an argument will never win against the man with an experience." I think that is the main problem with the FSoG book discussions: the women who read them only have an argument and when they try to argue with those who have experiences it doesn't go well.

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  30. OMG! I just read your tagging label and laughed so loud that I woke up my kiddo! (and she's been purposely sleep deprived for 3 days, so that was quite a feat!) It's a Massive Overshare that makes me ADORE you and Respect you more. Yeah, what you described isn't my cup of tea, but so what? Your willingness to share your life with strangers add credibility to your views in a way that few people can achieve. Thank you.

    BTW, I know I told you this before, but I need to say it again: YOU FUCKING KEEP ME SANE!!! I know that blogging isn't a well-paying job, and that the personal nature of it pulls lot out of you. So, I want to give a teeny something back.

    I have 3 special needs kiddos and spend an inordinate amount of time in the PICU. Your blog is so real and so fun to read. There is nothing like sitting in the hospital (like right now), being able to laugh and escape. Your "massive overshares" are so precious to me becuase they pull me right out of this room. Thank you for giving of yourself to perfect strangers. I'll never be able to articulate just how much of a blessing you are, so just let me say YOU ARE A BLESSING! and I wish all your secret hopes come true...because you deserve it.

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  31. Thank you. I just found out my only child (just 19 yrs old) is into BDSM, and all I could do was cry. I've been so worried he would be harmed, or would harm someone. I've been doing a lot of research (which is how I landed here) to try to come to grips and understand the lifestyle (he's my child, right, so I'll love him no matter what he does, but I'll also never stop worrying about his safety and well-being). I'm still going to worry terribly (he's only 19, thinks he knows everything, and of course, doesn't), but I've tried to teach him to listen to his gut, and to judge people by what they do (especially when they think no one is watching and they can "get away with it") and how they interact with others of all kinds from all levels of society. He says he's found a "community" and I can only hope it's a good one and they teach him well and help keep him safe.
    By the way, I've never read FSOG but I knew from what was said in reviews, etc, that it was appalling crap long before I ever needed to understand the acronym BDSM. I can't for the life of me understand why anyone thinks the book is good - other than perhaps (quite by accident) it helps explain WHY a woman might stay in an abusive relationship (i.e. abject fear, complete loss of self esteem, lack of any outside support system, the mistaken belief they will "save" the abuser, diminishment of all rational thought due to every second being spent just trying to survive, etc). You've summed up WHY it's total crap beautifully.

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  32. I meant to say "thank you" to all - both the blog author and the commentors - this page was very helpful to my understanding of what is involved in a proper BDSM relationship. Now I just have to hope my son chooses his partners wisely, and is mature enough for such a relationship!

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  33. Welp, I learned something. I didn't know pussy-spanking was a thing.

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  34. Excellent! Thanks for articulating what I have been shouting since I read the first 3 pages of that drivel. I am linking this to every alternative website I can. Perfectly said! Bravo!

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  35. I was looking for some info on how people who practice BDSM viewed these books, and I thankfully stumbled upon this. So thank you. I was in a heated argument on Pinterest of all places and this has really driven my thoughts home.

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