For SF State freshman Ariana Fletcher, bondage/discipline/sadism/masochism is more than a trend brought on by the new film “Fifty Shades of Grey”. BDSM is her sex life.
Though the controversial blockbuster aroused enough viewers to make it the highest grossing R-rated film after its first weekend in theaters, for 18-year-old Fletcher, the film portrayed her erotic lifestyle as a non-consensual, abusive practice. A portrayal that is furthest from the truth, she said.
“I think the relationship (portrayed in the book) was abusive and definitely not discussed as thoroughly as it should have been,” Fletcher said. “Showing up and spanking someone when they obviously don’t want it (like in the book), is abuse. There is no other way to put it.”
Fletcher, who identifies as pansexual, has engaged in the BDSM lifestyle for the past two years. Her ex-boyfriend introduced her to sadomasochism, or S&M and she said she practices bondage, discipline, dominance and submission because it enables her to give in and submit sexually without having to worry about anything besides serving her master.
Since the release of “Fifty Shades of Grey,”some students at SF State have expressed support of the film’s introduction to an S&M relationship and the depiction of women’s ability to explore sexuality.
For Fletcher, neither the film nor the book were praise worthy.
“The book portrayed abuse, not kink,” she said.
A BDSM relationship generally involves a dominant who assumes the active or controlling role over the submissive and is often referred to as the master or mistress, according to an article on Submissive Guide’s website. A submissive submits the control of a large percentage of his or her day-to-day life to the dominant partner.
Fletcher finds the role of being a submissive to be liberating and said her real-life relationship with her dominant is nothing like the one portrayed in “Fifty Shades of Grey” between characters Ana and Mr. Grey.
Being a submissive is not about being beneath your master, it is about giving yourself to someone you trust,” Fletcher said.
“No one is in control of your body but you,” she said. “You always need to have communication and consent.”
Consent is something that was missing from both the film and the novel, according to Jess Linares, sex educator and retail manager of the Mission District sex shop Good Vibrations.
Linares is minoring in human sexuality at SF State and said that when it comes to BDSM or any sexual relationship, both parties need to approve everything that occurs.
“My biggest concern is that 13-year-olds watching ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ will see the relationship portrayed on the screen and they’ll think that’s healthy or okay,” Linares said.
A lack of consent in the film is what kept health education major and assistant director of EROS at SF State, Al Pugh, from reading the book or watching the film. Pugh identifies with gender-neutral pronouns and prefersto be referred to as “they.”
EROS is a dedicated, non-judgmental, sex-positive, student-run program on campus that addresses all aspects of sexuality regardless of racial, cultural or ethnic background and sexual orientation.
Pugh heard a lot of outrage from the kink community about the negative portrayals of BDSM in the film along with the misogynistic and abusive behavior demonstrated by the Mr. Grey character.
“The general public is getting a lot of their information about sex play from these books and it’s not accurate information,” Pugh said.
Although Pugh does not agree with everything “Fifty Shades of Grey” portrays, they don’t shame anyone who read, watched or enjoyed it.
“It’s important to come to terms with your sexuality in whatever way you choose,” they said. “I still think it’s perpetuating that rape culture, that it’s sexy to be this way, but I also don’t want to shame people who are turned on by being submissive.”
According to Pugh, viewers are not to blame for the absence of information on healthy versus non-healthy sexual relationships like the one portrayed in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
“Society doesn’t talk about consent, they don’t talk about how to have sex, or talk to someone, or even hug someone, or that it is not okay to tell a women what to do,” Pughsaid
Pugh does believe the book gives women sexual freedom, especially in a culture where girls are taught not to masturbate. Despite weighing every side of the argument made for and against the book and film, Pughsaid they think there are too many things that can’t be avoided.
“It’s hard to ignore these things like ‘Fifty Shades’ because of the amount of violence and sexual assault,” Pugh said. “I’m angry that every single person that I know has been sexually assaulted. There was a sexual assault on campus just the other day, so when someone tries to glorify it or romanticize it or make it cool, it feels like 10 steps backwards for people who have gone through this stuff.”