Why I Won't Be Seeing 50 Shades Darker

Content Note: This article will discuss abuse, rape, and sexual themes

There are a lot of reasons why a person might not want to see 50 Shades Darker. The original source material was poorly written, the actors clearly lack chemistry in the trailers, critics claim that the movie itself is painfully boring, it only has a 9% on Rotten Tomatoes… The list goes on and on. However, none of those reasons are the reasons why I’ll be avoiding this movie. I refuse to see this movie because of its glorification and romanticization of abuse, and how it misrepresents BDSM (short for Bondage/Discipline, Dominance/Submission, Sadism/Masochism).

Most people have probably been exposed to the trailers or ads for 50 Shades Darker, or they are familiar with the books written by E. L. James due to their huge popularity a few years ago. It was, supposedly, mainstream erotica. In my own experience, most of the middle-aged women in my life had read at least the first book, and some of them even enjoyed it for its sexually deviant nature. It was the “naughty” guilty pleasure for a fanbase that may have never even heard of BDSM. For those of you who haven’t read the books or seen the first movie, the overarching plot centers around Ana, a young woman who falls in love with the sexually dominant, highly controlling billionaire, Christian Grey. Ana is your typical ingenue, inexperienced with sex, and Christian takes advantage of her inexperience and essentially coerces her into a BDSM relationship in which he tracks her every move, coerces her into giving her “consent” during a spanking scene, and a variety of other terrible, illegal, and unhealthy things. Real romantic, huh? Not.

The original source for 50 Shades Darker, and the whole series in general does not depict a love story, despite what the author or the media may say. And no, it has nothing to do with the kinky nature of the books. The issues lies in the conflation of kink and abuse. A BDSM relationship, like any other sexual relationship, requires mutual consent. It doesn’t matter if you’re having vanilla missionary sex or tying up your partner(s), you need consent or else it is no longer sex. “Sex” without consent is rape. Throughout the first book, there are numerous instances in which Ana explicitly says “no” to sex with Christian, and his response is merely “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too.” It’s true that in BDSM, “no” can occasionally mean “yes,” unlike in vanilla sex. However, in those cases, “red” or “banana” might mean “no.” These seemingly random words are called “safe words,” and they exist so the submissive is able to live out certain fantasies, but are able to withdraw consent at any moment and stop the scene as soon as they are said. In Ana’s case, she doesn’t have a safe word at this point, so her “no” certainly means “no,” but Christian does not respect that, nor does Christian receive any sort of consequences for his actions. Even though he supposedly gets “better” in Fifty Shades Darker, I have no interest watching a movie in which a rapist is portrayed as a victim who needs to be saved. Nor do I have any interest in watching a movie in which a rapist faces absolutely no consequences for raping and stalking his victim beyond having his victim temporarily break up with him.

Though I find the material to be highly offensive, that’s not where the problems end. Not everyone who has seen these movies or read these books has had experience with BDSM. For many readers and viewers, it was likely their first time being exposed to that type of sexual relationship. Their very first exposure to BDSM was through a highly toxic, abusive relationship, and viewers/readers then went on to emulate what they either read in the books or saw in the first movie. People have actually died after copying scenes from the series. BDSM, unlike vanilla sex, can be dangerous for those who are inexperienced. Fifty Shades makes it seem like one can just jump into it without any sort of research or careful planning. Christian puts Ana in a variety of situations that would be terribly traumatic and dangerous in real life. Those who know about BDSM or have practiced it themselves can very easily recognize the toxicity and danger associated with their relationship. Those who are looking to experiment for the first time aren’t being properly informed on how to practice safer kinky sex, as the books and movies simply gloss over the “non-sexy” parts of BDSM. If you’re looking to “spice up” your sex life, I urge you to look to other sources than Fifty Shades.

I pass no judgement on those who do wish to see Fifty Shades Darker, however, I ask that you be a conscious consumer of this movie. If you are inspired to explore your sex life with your partner(s), that’s great; just be aware that there is a huge difference between what is possible in fiction and reality. And, if you ever happen to meet someone who claims they’re exactly like Christian Grey, be wary. Taking on a submissive role in the bedroom is a very vulnerable state, and only share that state with someone who is trustworthy and knows what they’re doing. And, if you want to try dominating your partner(s), remember that safety and consent always comes first. Know your partner or partners’ limits, and always respect their right to say “no.”


Images: Cover, 1

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