Fifty Shades of Play

With the release of the unrated DVD version of the hit movie Fifty Shades of Grey this week, I thought it appropriate to finish the third and final blog in the Fifty Shades of Grey series that I’ve been working on. :)

I know that my first two blogs were addressing really difficult issues, about abuse and manipulation; however, now that the social worker in me has voiced concern about the negative things portrayed in the movie, it’s time to have some fun. It’s time to talk about Fifty Shades of Play. ;)

One of the reasons the Fifty Shades trilogy has been such a big hit since it came out in print format a few years ago (and was picked up to be a major motion picture) is because it takes the general population into a world of sexual intrigue and play. It allows us to gently look at what testing our boundaries and exploring our sexual limits looks like, in a socially accepted, pop culture setting.

When most people think of BDSM (short for Bondage and Discipline/ Domination, Submission/ Sadism and Masochism), they likely think hard core whips, chains, nipple clamps, suspended from ceilings with blindfolds and possibly even degradation.  Most people typically have a negative response to it. The movie Fifty Shades of Grey allows us to have a different look at BDSM.

BDSM comes in all different levels, or “shades,” and should never be degrading to the individuals who are consensually participating in the play—unless the participants are looking to feel degraded and humiliated. And even then, there are boundaries to keep everyone safe.

After doing lots of research into Fifty Shades of Grey and BDSM, I came to learn that the movie doesn’t quite portray kink and BDSM relationships in the way that they are meant to be experienced. True BDSM relationships are based on safety, trust, communication, respect and mutual consent...none of which is 100% present in the relationship between Christian and Anastasia. What the movie does do is give us an opportunity to open ourselves up to the idea of experimenting a little bit more with our sexuality; it offers us an invitation to play in a different way.

Part of my research was an interview with a woman (who is choosing to remain anonymous) who actively and willfully participates in kink/BDSM. Below is some of what I learned from her along with some tips on how to have fun with this type of play.

During our interview, it was shared with me that the most important things to consider when engaging in any type of sexual play are: safety, trust, and communication.

It’s important to choose a partner to play with who you trust would not actually hurt you. She goes on to advise that communicating with your partner is the way each of you knows what is safe and acceptable. She also recommends playing with a partner you trust because they will be able to read you and sense when you are feeling uncomfortable. If you are in a relationship, be open with your partner that you would like to play. If your partner approaches you about the things that he might be interested in, keep an open mind and hear him out without shutting him down. If you are not in a relationship, perhaps joining a kink community where you can learn more about kink and other sexual play would be helpful.

Our interviewee also advises you to embrace your sexuality in your integrity. She goes on to share that this means doing only that which feels good to you or that you are comfortable exploring. However, she also advises that if you do happen to cross a boundary that doesn’t feel good, that you should give yourself the permission to forgive yourself for going outside of that boundary.

Lastly, she recommends that you trust your own senses and intuition. If something doesn’t feel good or right, give yourself permission to leave. I think this one ties back really well to the movie Fifty Shades of Grey because during the entire movie, Christian continues to remind Anastasia that their sexual contract is one which she can leave at any time. The part in the movie that I felt was really symbolic of this was that the wallpaper in Ana’s room has a caged bird on it, but the cage is open, allowing the bird to fly free if it so chooses.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs on the movie, there are aspects of the relationship between Christian and Anastasia that are portrayed as abusive and not true to the true kink or BDSM relationship in which there is mutual respect, safety, trust and understanding; however, what Fifty Shades of Grey does invite us to do is to take a look at our own sexuality, the limits we place on ourselves, and to give ourselves the permission to explore and play a little further with our sensuality.

For those of you who are ready to explore the fifty (or more!) shades of play, here are some tips to ensure that you will be safe and have fun:

1. Safety first! Choose a partner you trust, have an open communication with them about what does and does not work for you or what you are and are not willing to explore in the play (you know, like Christian had Anastasia do by checking off on his checklist of what was and was not okay to explore), and even set up a safe word (a word you use when the play is starting to feel uncomfortable and you need a pause) that is clearly understood between you and your partner. Our interviewee says, “Lay out boundaries and guidelines of what feels safe for you.” This should be done before engaging in this type of play.

2. Engage in the play sober. Mixing alcohol and drugs with the play put you in a space where you are not able to make clear choices. Our interviewee says, “When it comes to sexuality, you have to be clear. You have to be clear minded, stay present, be in your body and make choices that feel good for you.”

3. Stay in your integrity. Don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable to you, but stay open minded and without expectation of how the play will go. Be open to exploring, but also know that if things don’t feel right to you, you can either stop the play or leave the situation at any time. If however, you do find that you go outside of your boundaries,” give yourself permission to forgive yourself.”

4. Know that you are ultimately responsible for your experience. This means that it is up to you to communicate clearly with your partner during a time that both of you are present and in your right minds and bodies, about what your boundaries and limits are. It is up to you to create safety, a safe word, and an agreement that feels good for you.  

5. Start slow and work your way up. “Just like Mother Nature slowly eases us into different seasons,” says our interviewee, “the play should also be introduced slowly and in a progression.” Maybe starting with light bondage, a silk scarf or tie wrapped around your lover’s wrists, or even a blindfold as your partner runs his tongue across your body. Then work your way up to the next level. You don’t have to start with the giant strap on and mega nipple clamps right away. Our interviewee also shares, “the more you do it, the more you know what you like; the more open you are to experimenting, the more you will learn.”

6. If you’re not sure where to start, know that there are communities out there that can help you learn. Once again, always use discernment and trust your intuition.

Some final points:

Have fun with it!

Be open minded and explore what feels good for you. If you are in a relationship, communicate openly with your partner your wants and desires. Don’t let shame get in the way of exploring your sexuality with your partner. Our interviewee says, “Kink is a fun way to connect with your partner. I don’t think there should be any shame around it. Just ask yourself, what is your truest nature? Is this a part of your truest nature? If so, that’s okay, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

That said, I invite you to start exploring your sexuality a little bit more. You might find that you like more than just missionary twice a week and blow jobs for special occasions. ;) 

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