Kinkiness is having a cultural moment like it never has before. Domination and submission have made their way into pop radio, TV advertisements, and most notably the movies. For most people with access to the media, fuzzy handcuffs and blindfolds are no longer the extent of sexual risk-taking. But the practices of bondage, domination, submission, sadism, masochism and restraint are more nuanced than these popular portrayals. The release of “50 Shades Of Grey,” a literary sensation and blockbuster film, marks a shift in public consciousness about kinky sex. But here’s why this steamy piece of cinema isn’t doing kinky sex justice.What are the biggest misconceptions about kinky sex you hear about? Share your stories in the comments!

Handshake to seal a deal after a job recruitment meeting

BDSM relationships don’t start that way. Most dom-sub relationships begin online or as a result of a fetish meeting. The book’s female protagonist enters the world of BDSM simply because of her lust for her interview subject. In reality, the chances of Anastasia actually entering into a BDSM dynamic through a professional relationship are slim-to-none.

Man shopping in hardware store, rear view

You can’t buy BDSM gear at a hardware store. The scene where Christian Grey visits Anastasia at work to pick up some bondage supplies is totally unrealistic .The ropes, harnesses and chains meant for BDSM play aren’t sold at the Home Depot. In fact, they’re specially formulated so as to minimize harm to the skin.

Business Contract and pen close up

Written contracts are a joke. While boundaries and safe-words are essential in setting up a dom-sub relationship, a written contract outside of an actual sex dungeon is an exaggeration. Dominatrix Mistress D. Sandoval called Christian Grey’s “War and Peace-sized written contract…more than a little excessive.” Anastasia agrees to obey his every command, from the clothes she wears to the frequency of her exercise.

Not all kinksters are scarred. The drawn-out narrative of physical or emotional abuse leading people to develop sexual fetishes is a dangerous generalization. Christian Grey basically attributes his kinkiness to the death of his mother at the hands of her pimp. Scarring, yes. But kink-inducing? Not necessarily.

In fact, most are mentally stable. While Christian Grey is a successful, wealthy guy, he’s clearly a sadistic person in all aspects of his life. And Anastasia is an impressionable young girl with a weak sense of self. But most people who engage in BDSM are emotionally intelligent, high functioning people.

Your sex life isn’t your real life. Grey is a control freak in both his day-to-day life and his sexual life. But BDSM doesn’t always work that way. Many people engage in dom-sub play to invert the role they usually play in their professional world. So dominant, put-together men often want to be belittled and shamed, rather than remain powerful.

a couple holding hands walking into the sunlight

Consent is everything. Christian Grey makes a point of getting Anastasia to sign the contract of consent, then later disregards it. Being that 50 Shades of Grey is fiction, the lines between consensual and nonconsensual sex are blurred to allow readers some imagination. But real BDSM sex is all about consent, and the movie sidelines its importance.

A good dom keeps their distance. Most dom-sub relationships consist of routine meetings with clear boundaries drawn between play and real life. The dynamic between Anastasia and Christian trickles into every aspect of Anastasia’s life.

BDSM doesn’t always lead to intercourse. Most BDSM has less to do with actual penetration than with mental play. BDSM sex doesn’t have to include any sort of sexual intercourse, and yet the loss of Anastasia’s virginity is a central plot point in “50 Shades of Grey”.

Kinkiness is not BDSM. Throwing on a blindfold or tossing around dirty words are nice, if noncommittal aspects of vanilla sex. But real BDSM is a much more psychological complex activity.

Subs have all the power. In an authentic BDSM relationship, the submissive party has the power to end an interaction at any point through the use of a safe word. Even if the sub is totally relinquishing their control in a scene, they are still in control. Christian Grey actually ignores Anastasia’s safe word, proving that he’s pretty bad at BDSM.

Doms and subs don’t fall in love at the end. Or at least they don’t always fall in love. What message does it sent for Christian and Anastasia to fall in love after his emotional manipulation? A misogynistic message.

Dominatrix holding leash around man’s neck

A good dom keeps a sub in check. Rather than letting a sub get carried away with outlandish promises or flights of fancy, a good dom will be the realistic party. Christian Grey doesn’t just allow Anastasia to get in over her head, he commands her through sexual manipulation.

It’s not just about pain. BDSM is about eliciting a response from a partner. It encompasses lots of mental states and reactions, but pain is only one of them. “50 Shades Of Grey” paints a reductive picture with its “Red Room Of Pain.”

Establishing a dynamic is a negotiation. Anastasia and Christian Grey establish their kink dynamic through smoldering eye contact and, well, just going for it. But in reality, it takes lots of time and correspondence to come to agree on a BDSM arrangement.

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