50 Shades Darker Misses the Mark on Understanding Real-World Kink
Noted Kink-Positive Author and Therapist Breaks Down What 50SD Did Not Get Right about Kink
For a franchise that seemed to be deeply anchored in the domain of Romance Kink, there is not much about Kink or Romantic BDSM that shows up in the movie 50 Shades Darker.
The 50 Shades Darker movie did infer things about the Kink lifestyle or practices that someone unfamiliar with actual, consensual, negotiated D/s-BDSM sex and relationships may have misunderstood or missed entirely.
It is this misunderstanding of the psychology and dynamics of negotiated consensual real-world Kink that is important to address and clarify. The movie gets a number of these important elements of Kink wrong in several of the scenes and themes it weaves.
My intention is to clarify what real world Kink may actually look like versus the movie version.
Outside of an amateurishly delivered 4 stroke spanking and a brief ankle-cuff/spreader bar scene, the movie revealed little about Kink activities or relationships. The other sex scenes were run of the mill, arms pinned against the wall, bed or shower, vanilla movie-sex.
There was a scene where Ana implores Christian to take her to the Red Room, Christian’s dungeon, that was totally inane. Instead of the anticipated hard-edged scene in the most elaborately appointed high-end dungeon you will ever see, he douses her in massage oil.
But beyond my personal disappointment at the under-utilization of all the top-flight dungeon toys at-hand, there are problems with how this scene unfolded that must be pointed out.
Ana’s last trip to Grey’s dungeon resulted in her getting triggered or traumatized. Upon their reunion in the 50 Shades Darker movie, she established a boundary around “Red-Room” type play. Clearly, a part of her psyche had fear about what occurred to her in the dungeon previously. But she also had a distinct part of her that yearned for something, much different than her fear. This was her own Erotic desire that was coaxing Grey to take her to the Red Room.
I want to note here the critical considerations that should be involved in real-world Kink, when considering lifting or renegotiating a previous boundary. Particularly when it was placed there for emotional or psychological safety.
This can very complex territory to traverse that requires much more in-depth discussion between partners before proceeding, or concluding they should not proceed at that point.
A conscious Dominant would have stopped here and pressed her to clarify if she was conscious of what she was asking for before trusting the submissive was in a clear and sober state of mind.
The Dom and sub both should examine and share what their intention is in lifting the boundary; review specific things to have ready and actions to take should the scene re-trigger a past trauma; specific things to exclude or include, including languaging and energetic intensity; and specific aftercare that may best support each partner afterward. And whatever else may be important to consider related to each of you.
Let me point out another big problem in the “got it wrong” category 50 Shades Darker misconstrues about real-world Kink.
Christian Grey’s sexuality or Dominant Sadistic desires are portrayed as shaped by his horrid childhood experiences. In other words, his Kinks or desire for power-exchange dynamics are not inherent desires. He just needs to be fixed.
While the childhood trauma described in the movie was as harsh and disturbing as one could imagine, the implication that Grey’s or anyone’s Kink occurs as a result of trauma is dead wrong. This is well-supported in the scientific studies examining Kink.
A recent study conducted by the “The Journal of Sexual Medicine” found favorable results in the psychological characteristics of BDSM practitioners, and no indications Kink was driven by childhood trauma of any sort.
The study concluded that “BDSM practitioners were less neurotic, more extraverted, more open to new experiences, more conscientious, less rejection sensitive, had higher subjective well-being, yet were less agreeable.”
This pathological portrayal of Grey’s sexuality is an inaccurate generalization that is an insult to anyone exploring Kink. And I am talking about 10’s if not 100’s of millions of people in the Kink or Fetish lifestyle.
I operate on the principle, based on my experience of 20 years, my own research and that of others, that the desire for some level of power-exchange dynamic and a range of other Kink sexuality is as innate for some percentage of the gene pool, as it is for gay, lesbian and other sexual identities.
This inaccurate pathologizing of Kink in the current era is as psychologically and emotionally damaging to Kink individuals, as the pathologizing of homosexuality in the 1950’s by the psychological theorists of the day, was to homosexuals.
The question needs to be asked straight-up: Can someone who’s been as severely traumatized as Grey have an innate sexual desire for Kink and power-exchange, independent from that experience?
Picture if Grey was a gay man with the same traumatic background. Few today would be so insulting and misinformed to assume that his sexual identity as gay was formed from childhood trauma or developmental experiences. There would certainly be numerous and deep psychological repercussions from the trauma that would require healing and resolve. Trust issues and control issues could be prevalent. These could certainly interfere with his innate authentic sexual expressions, but these developmental traumas or shamings do not create one’s sexual identity. One’s sexual identity is as inherent as your eye color and distinct as a fingerprint, in my experience.
Until movies and other psychological, moral and social narratives back off from portraying Kink as based in pathology, I and other sex-positive advocates will have to keep speaking up.
It is ultimately a human rights issue – the individual freedom to be who you are sexually, by right of birth!
In Part 2 of this review I will clarify several important aspects of Kink sexuality and relationships that 50 Shades Darker gets way wrong. I will bring to light the critical distinctions between D/s and BDSM one needs to understand, that allows for both aspects to be expressed in a conscious manner. Then I will unpack the psychological issues at play in regards to Grey’s sadistic desires that have nothing to do with Kink.
For a deeper insight into all the nuances of Kink, Sex and Relationships go to GalenFous.com for info on my book, Decoding Your Kink, the FREE Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth Survey taken by over 2500 people so far, and how I work clients striving for sexual authenticity.
– Galen Fous
About the author:
Galen Fous MTP is a sex-positive transpersonal psychologist, therapist and educator helping individuals and couples get honest, shame-free and empowered around their authentic sexuality.
He sees clients via Skype or in person in Portland, OR. For info or to arrange an initial appointment go to GalenFous.com.
Galen Fous is the author of the highly acclaimed Decoding Your Kink – Guide to Explore, Share and Enjoy Your Wildest Sexual Desires. His innovative, free, research survey, Discover Your Personal Erotic Myth, with over 2400 participants so far, helps people consider and embrace the depths of their own erotic nature, and contributes to Fous’s sex-research mapping the Erotic psyche. Take the survey here.
He is also the creator of the Tetruss 3 in 1 Portable Dungeon, Suspension Bondage Rig and Sex Swing, sold the world over since 2000.