50 shades of Grey Vs. BDSM – Reclaiming the great beauty

50 shades of grey trailer

Yesterday saw the release of the 50 shades of Grey movie trailer. The only one to realize were bottom-feeding journalists (like the one who cleverly noted how it «had fetish undertones». You don’t say?), the few chicklitters still remembering how they wore out their panties over the books two years ago, and naturally the BDSM fanatics. The latter – including me, I’m afraid – feared those twelve hundred seconds of YouTube video like an omen of the apocalypse about to smite the world on the next Saint Valentine’s day. In fact, February 14th, 2015 is destined to be the day when hundreds of millions of readers will storm cinemas dragging innocent boyfriends and husbands with them, but more importantly it will be the date when Anastasia Steele & Christian Grey’s delusions are going to be tragically discovered also by all those females who had been too lazy, snob or shy to read 1,664 pages of Harlequin porn.
The fear stems from how easy it is to imagine the consequences, especially because we already saw this scenario play out in similar situations like the glory days of Story of O or with the brief craze for Secretary. All of a sudden extreme eroticism and fetish – that, by the way, is not what you see in the trailer – will be everywhere, from the media to fashion to advertising. More than they already are, I mean. These frequently improbable interpretation will unleash a hunger for BDSM in a horde of confused people, who’ll invade the specialized clubs and websites, self-confidently rant on social networks, and inevitably get into troubles.

As a matter of fact all of this has already happened when James’ books first came out. The number of light and serious accidents during erotic games skyrocketed worldwide, so much that I was compelled to write a free micro-guide to help newbies to avoid at least the most frequent and dangerous errors. It is thus reasonable to foresee that the larger users base movies have compared to books will bring back the problem on an even larger scale.
Seen from this perspective, a certain anxiety in those who really practice BDSM is more than understandable. Like any extreme activity, extreme sex requires a sensible and respectful approach to its limits and techniques; to study these things for years only to find yourself grouped with some retarded hairdresser who ended up in the paper when she killed herself trying to emulate a bad novel she didn’t even understand isn’t pretty. Likewise, it is not pretty to have finally managed to find a real BDSM party where you can serenely express your sexuality and see it suddenly invaded by clueless people raised on Fox News. Nor it is pretty to find your deepest passion transformed into a disposable fad by corporate marketing decisions. But there is more to this story: a somewhat uncomfortable side it’s time to honestly discuss.

I have to begin with a confession: I did like that trailer. I really loved the elegant use of fonts, the music, photography, its rhythm… and the secretary, who abundantly trounces Anastasia. If we pretend to know nothing of the ridiculous plot and of those lunatic characters, that brief video manages to be fascinating indeed – especially if you watch it from a female standpoint as its intended public is. And you know why? Exactly for the same reason that makes the 50 shades trilogy so hated by those who actually practice extreme erotic games: because it doesn’t look like real BDSM at all.
Watch it again (you can find it below) looking for this. The fundamental tone of the trailer is beauty, not only of its male protagonist but in everything you see – including even Anastasia, when she finally embraces his “perverse” lifestyle. The second element is clearly the relationship between the main characters, tense and awkward, yet also exciting and full of serene and mundane moments. Or is it? After all, during a boring family dinner there is that hand on her thigh that makes eroticism suddenly invade normality… and this is in fact the third intriguing part of the story. How can you not be interested in such a trinity?

Let me repeat that no, I have not gone crazy and I am not a Fifty shades fanboy. I maintain that James’ trilogy was a sorely lost opportunity to offer the public a more conscious and sane idea of sexuality, but we are strictly talking about the trailer here. Unsurprisingly, after watching it several of my female acquaintances commented: «ah, if only things were really like that…» And they weren’t sighing about Mr. Grey’s fantastic bank account. Fact is, the reality of BDSM is unfortunately almost the exact opposite. Let’s analyze things in detail…

The BDSM scene isn’t beautiful – As anthropology and sociology explain, worldwide enthusiasts lament and even I denounce often, the problem of BDSM is the BDSM scene. Rightly founded on the acceptance of diversity, with time the culture of extreme eroticism ended up overdoing it. It focused so much on the innermost essence of people and of their behavior that it forgot the outward appearances at all. For fear of not being discriminatory assholes we came to embrace persons and attitudes that would be unacceptable in any other social contexts. Rude douchebags, desperate, sick persons and individuals lacking the bare minimum respect for themselves and the others. This is not a mere aesthetics issue (and let’s face it: talking about sexuality looks do count) but of the whole approach.
You only have to look at any amateurs site to immediately notice that in most cases the iconography is composed of ugly people doing ugly stuff portrayed in very ugly ways. Would it be too much to ask for a modicum of self-regard, and maybe a not entirely repugnant photo? Trouble is that, unfortunately, other people of that sort see such places as havens where they can finally bond with similar self-critically challenged mates, feeding an ever-growing maelstrom of horror which in time came to be seen as normal. When even genre pornography resigns itself to abandon every effort to be pleasing we can’t be surprised if sensible people prefer to avoid most BDSM communities.

The elusive relationships – One of the questions I am more often asked as a personal coach is: «could it be possible to reconcile BDSM and love?». Such a doubt is partially caused by the absurd yet very common belief that sex constitutes a world of its own, distinct from “real life”. The scary part is that the question usually comes from wives and husbands who never dreamed of revealing their deeper passions to their spouses… Telling, isn’t it?
This attitude is also prevalent in the so-called BDSM scene, where most people are seeking a partner, but they rarely look for a real relationship made of real connection, sharing and growth together. Usually they are feverishly seeking just a body on which to project their fantasies, sexual or affective. While this might work for a quickie, it just won’t do when it comes to games based on a much deeper connection of souls than “vanilla” sex.

Soiled eroticism – Remember the thrill from that shot under the family table? An unfortunate side effect of “BDSM culture” is to have achieved the exact opposite. Those who seriously study unusual sexualities invest lots of time to interiorize and claim the normality of eroticism. They are right, of course: sex games are as natural as having lunch or going out with your friends. It is a shame then when the same mindset causes you to lose the necessary distinction between arousing fantasies and daily routine.
Every couple is sadly familiar with this. How can you lose yourself to sensuality when the phone keeps ringing or your infant in the next room is wailing to have his diaper changed? You can experience the same lack of enthusiasm in many BDSM gatherings which, far from looking like Eyes wide shut, are actually rife with people chatting casually, goofing off and destroying any sensual ambiance. To allow banality intrude and defile eroticism is a capital crime, but very widespread nonetheless.

In the light of these rueful yet realistic considerations I have to conclude what I’d never have imagined to think: I have great hopes for the Fifty shades of Grey movie. Not for the film itself, mind you, but for the other effects it might have on the somewhat unfulfilled world of extreme eroticism. As plain as it is that this “cinematographic oeuvre” is just fanservice with no artistic value whatsoever, it is also evident how its imagery will influence society well beside the ninety minutes spent in the multiplex – and maybe this is just what we needed.
Now that the popularization phase started in the Eighties is happily done, it is time for BDSM to reclaim some of its magic. Not elitism nor pointless mumbo-jumbo: just a bit of that great beauty we all fell in love with when we first discovered the existence of another way to live sensuality. How ironic would it be if Christian Grey was the one to bring it back?

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