When 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James came out a few years ago, it created more than its fair share of controversy - and when the movie was released earlier this year the story was no different. Both within the fetish community and outside of it, opinions about the book and film are intense: Does it portray abuse or BDSM? Is it a realistic depiction of an SM reltaionship? And does that matter when it's a fictional story after all?

So when SBS Movies invited Eagle Leather's Sado BJ to review 50 Shades of Grey the movie from a dominant's perspective, he jumped at the chance to have his say.

We asked a ‘Dominant’ to review Fifty Shades of Grey - by Stephen A. Russell for SBS Movies

‘BJ’ is a dominant bondage and discipline, sadomasochistic (BDSM) top and co-owner of one of Melbourne’s leading fetish stores, Eagle Leather. An expert in rope bondage, flogging and general impact play, BJ’s a passionate advocate and educator on the fetish scene.

Those ready to be shocked by the movie might not get the release they’re after, BJ suspects, and he doubts anybody in the know will raise a sweat. “The BDSM scenes were quite tame, on the whole, focussed on tie, tease and fuck, which I’m sure would be a let-down for many people experienced in BDSM,” he says. “It can be highly sexual, but for many participants, sex is a completely separate act.”

More of an erotic fiction stumbling through the early stages of a dominant/submissive relationship, BJ says the film should not be treated as a resource for BDSM education, but does give it points for highlighting that a BDSM relationship isn’t always easy, and for not portraying the submissive, Anastasia, as an emotionally damaged woman, a la Secretary. Grey’s personal struggles left a lot to be desired, though.

“The problem with this film and most BDSM literature is that often at least one of the characters is portrayed as ‘50 shades of fucked up,’ as some kind of explanation for why it is that we do what we do,” BJ says. “While I appreciate Mr. Grey has his faults, as is human nature, it’s sad to see that this seems to be the only way our culture can be defined or understood by outsiders. Many of us are well-balanced individuals who use BDSM for the thrill, and the extreme emotions and deep relationships that can be built through such an intense bond.”

BJ was a okay with the negotiation aspect of Grey and Anastasia’s arrangement, with soft and hard limits and the use of safety words, but he’s not sold on the contract being drawn up so soon.

“Considering Anastasia had no sexual experience let alone any BDSM experience, it was pretty irresponsible to try and get her to sign an actual contract. In most real circumstances, a couple would play together at length first to gain understanding of one another before deciding to sign a fully-fledged contract.”

The expectation that Anastasia was supposed to worship and submit to Mr. Grey, but not be allowed to fall in love with him, also confused BJ. “If he was so focussed on protecting her and looking after her in a caring fashion, picking her up from the bar when she was drunk and ensuring she was always eating, for example, that seems at odds with the idea that he wasn’t interested in developing an emotional bond.”

BJ doesn’t agree with those taking a crack at the film for portraying a sexually violent relationship. “If there’s one thing in this world that we have a right to, it’s our own bodies and what we choose to do with them,” he says. “If two boxers get into the ring and choose to fight, is that sport or is it violence? If you take away the consent of one of the boxers, then sport becomes assault. In the same way, if you remove the consent from BDSM, erotic fantasy becomes abuse.

“BDSM should always be practiced between consenting adults, and the depictions in the film were consensual, with Mr. Grey regularly checking in with Ana both before and during the play sessions. If Anastasia had chosen to use her safe word to end the session and Mr. Grey had continued, then that could be considered to enter the realms of sexual abuse.”

And just how hot was the sex?

“[It was] pretty boring, to be honest. I found the helicopter and glider scenes more exhilarating.”

So was there anything worthwhile?

“Any film which encourages water cooler conversation will serve to decrease the ostracising felt by many in our community, who are often made to feel like freaks or outsiders.”

Read the full article here.

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