Let’s Say it Again: BDSM is Not Sexual Assault

In case you’ve been living under a rock, the last movie in the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy premiered this weekend, and it topped approximately $125 million at the box office, making it the highest grossing for the period and tipping the franchise over $1 billion in profit. So, of course, keyboard warriors had to jump in and share their awful opinions about women. 

One thread I read recently went something like this (paraphrased): “I am a man who has no experience with BDSM and this movie frightens me. Now, I will accuse women of enjoying being sexually assaulted because this movie about them enjoying sex is profitable. I don’t understand how consent works, and I am actually the real problem in society.”

No, but for real, this guy went on a rant about how women have a double standard for enjoying movies like Fifty Shades and then tweeting #metoo. No comment on the actual problematic things in the series, just the fact that Anastasia (and assuming the women watching in the audience) likes to be punished in the bedroom. And that’s the thing here — Anastasia likes this sex. No one likes being sexually assaulted.  

It is mind-boggling to me that someone couldn’t understand the simple concept of someone enjoying sex that isn’t vanilla. It is so simple to understand the difference between BDSM and sexual assault: one has consent, the other does not. It’s just that simple. 

I’ve never seen any of the movies, nor have I read the books. I have no desire to see them anytime soon unless I’m reviewing them for a newspaper. However, based on how well they sell and how many people enjoy them, I’m just going to go ahead and assume that it’s not a movie about rape. It’s a movie about a couple that shows their love and desire in a different way than what we are used to seeing on screen. 

So what if Anastasia likes being tied up and blindfolded? She seems pretty dang keen from the trailers guys, and I’m assuming she’s a pretty consenting person in this situation. This isn’t Christian Grey sticking his hand up his intern’s skirt and threatening her career if she tells anyone. This isn’t him repeatedly abusing Anastasia after she says no. From everything I know and everything I’ve seen — as well as everything this guy online was arguing about — both Christian and Anastasia want to be involved. 

And like I have no idea what the context is for this, but this looks like it’s pretty safe to say that Anastasia is comfortable saying no to him. And he definitely stops approaching her in this sequence when she says no. That’s pretty good consent right there.

So #metoo? No. When people have consensual sex with people they want to have sex with, it is not #metoo, no matter how violent it may seem from the outside. More importantly, saying that BDSM is sexual assault shames the people who are involved in those activities and takes the all-important attention off of the actual sexual assault survivors. 

Consent is more than saying yes — it’s about being enthusiastic and really wanting what’s going on. That looks different for different people, and people who have been sexually assaulted can still enjoy BDSM because of the crazy concept that they actually want that sex. 

Anyone who says BDSM is sexual assault can seriously fight me. You need a better understanding of consent, and I hope you don’t even try to have sex until you learn.