The Psychological Distinctions Between the Movie's Portrayal and Real-World D/s and BDSM
In my critique of 50 Shades Darker, I came down hard on the movie’s outdated insistence that Grey’s desire for Kink was pathological. It could only be a reaction to a severely traumatic childhood, according to the story line, rather than an inherent sexuality.
The truth is, according to a growing body of research, that one’s developmental experiences can cloud or inhibit one’s authentic sexuality, but they do not create it.
There are several additional distinctions it is important to make about real-world Kink versus the movie depictions.
The movie casts the origin of Grey's sadism with unresolved anger at his mother for the tragedies he experienced as a boy. This sadistic anger is what was supposed to have been dramatized in the final scene of the first movie, "50 Shades of Grey".
Anna asked Grey to unleash his sadistic edge on her. He takes her into his Red Room dungeon and proceeds to give her an ass beating with a short-lived intensity that any self-respecting spankee or masochist would have yawned at.
But for Anna, it became something that scared a part of her, and she gave what was, in my judgment an overreaction. Something was triggered in her psyche that was from her own inner experience, but she projected that onto Grey. The projection implied that Grey was a stone-cold pathological sadist, not a consensual Erotic romantic Dominant.
This is where it is clear that Grey does not understand, despite his earlier training under a pro-Domme, that it is important to clearly separate and distinguish the sacred from the profane aspects of Kink, as well as any unresolved anger or other personal issues.
In terms of sacred and profane, these co-occurring elements represent a paradox within Kink. What I define as the Yin/Yang of Kink-D/s and BDSM. D/s and BDSM are two distinct dimensions of the Kink experience. How they fit together in a consensual Kink relationship or even just a one-off scene, needs to be better understood.
The D/s or dominance and submission aspects are in my view, the noble, sacred values, boundaries, and protocols, that both partners aspire and agree to. The foundational principals of the D/s aspect can apply to a one-off scene or to the negotiated day-to-day relationship dynamics between a Dom and sub.
In this sacred side of the paradox, there can be an almost chivalrous or reverent nature to the connection between the partners, while the power differential remains clear between Dom and sub. This is the side of the relationship where negotiations, expressions of care, mindful connection and protocols, are shaped and held.
The profane or taboo aspects of BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism, masochism) on the other hand are where the sadist and the masochist, the primal, wild beasts, alpha/beta, predator/prey and other archetypal, paired figures from within the sexual psyche can learn to dance freely within negotiated boundaries.
All that is forbidden, painful, cruel, intense, or degrading, can meet and engage in a consensual intoxicating ecstasy that can be ultimately empowering to both partners!
By having clear negotiations and mutual care and trust established as the foundation in the D/s aspect of the relationship, all the taboo, shadowy, and edgy yearnings from the BDSM side can more intensely be explored to the farthest edges, if so desired.
You can consciously negotiate and explore this paradox in your real world engagements. This will cover a common issue often expressed by my clients: Can I still be a good loving, caring responsible person, parent or partner, and be Kinky as Fuck?
The answer is an emphatic YES!
Without this understanding of paradox and how to communicate about it, Grey and Anna will continue being confused about how both their sacred romantic desires can synergize and dance with their profane primal wild desires. Having this awareness would allow them to better negotiate clear boundaries about what they do and do not desire.
If Grey cannot distinguish his anger related to his mom from his Erotic desire as a Kink-driven sadist, then he needs to find a supportive therapist who can help untangle unresolved anger and ultimately grief, from his authentic Kink desires.
Once he understood and was conscious of that anger at his mother, as distinct from his innate Kink, it could be possible to embody and express these sadistic energies in a negotiated, intoxicating erotic BDSM scene that was mutually fulfilling to both.
Rather than having Grey address his authentic sexual identity and core psychological issues, the movie’s approach was to try to swing the pendulum of Grey’s Dominant sadistic desire to the opposite pole. The movie attempts a kind of romantic conversion therapy. Can you change your stripes, Mr. Grey? Give up your Dominant and Sadist and kneel before another…for love?
This scene in the movie offers another opportunity to consider further the dance between the sacred and profane aspects of Kink.
On the sacred side, Grey was willing to give all for love. This is epic, mythic romantic chivalry, if not doomed idiocy. He would be devoted to Anna’s desires and pace, even if it meant yielding what may be his innate Dominant nature. Whether Grey has an innate Dominant nature or it is simply this way to keep control to protect his vulnerable wounded boy, is yet to be made clear.
But in the real world, for someone who is inherently Dominant and an Erotic sadist, changing their authentic sexual nature is not ultimately possible nor desirable. I would never encourage attempting to change someone’s inherent authentic Kink nature any more than I would encourage conversion therapy for gays.
The Kim Basinger character is the ominous siren of this looming conversion disaster. She tells Anna Grey’s nature is to be Dominant and he needs a submissive in all of his life, not just the bedroom. The Basinger character speaks as someone who apparently mentored Grey and probed deep into his psyche.
But how good of a mentor she was, we do not know.
She clearly has her own shadowy agenda and influence on Grey, but what that looked like in the past is not yet revealed. She is not portrayed as a conscious, mindful character. She’s more like a catty vixen out of a soap opera than a skilled professional Domme who trains others in the art of Kink.
For all the ways it does a miserable job at representing authentic Kink sexuality and relationships, I am glad the 50 Shades franchise has generated such curiosity about Kink and brought it into the mainstream cultural conversation.
If you are curious about how to explore Kink in your own life, and with your partners, in a conscious, consensual way, stay tuned for my next article, 50 Shades 2.0: Time to Update Your Kink Sexuality Knowledge Base.
Galen Fous MTP is a sex-positive transpersonal psychologist. For deeper insight into all the nuances of Kink, Sex and Relationships go to GalenFous.com for info on his book, Decoding Your Kink, take the FREE Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth Survey with over 2500 respondents so far, and learn how he works with clients striving for sexual authenticity via Skype, phone or in person.