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Just how realistic is the S&M in 50 Shades of Grey?


Are EL James’ books an accurate insight into the S&M world? We asked writer and sometime sexual submissive Nichi Hodgson for her insider view

I’m Nichi and I'm a 28-year-old journalist, card-carrying feminist, and occasional sexual submissive. If someone had told me 10 years ago that I’d enjoy having my hands tied behind my back or being held down while I had sex, I would have said they were mad.

I’ve visited a ‘red room’ (a for-hire dungeon) filled with sex toys, including straps, canes, crops and the violet wand – a Victorian contraption which pulses with a mild electrical current to give you a sensual shock. Personally, I prefer a partner to use their hands to chastise me and find looking up at someone I adore as I anticipate their slap across my cheek unbearably erotic.

Things do go wrong occasionally, as is alluded to in Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve been bitten so hard I’ve bled and had some of my hair pulled out. There are far more sex toys than the book could ever have documented, though. I’ve used everything from nipple leads (clamps with a chain attached so you can be lead about by your ‘master’), studded paddles and even a hog-tie harness (which allows your wrists be tied to your ankles).

Submissives give up control to get a sexual high

The book’s heroine Anastasia Steele’s ineloquent interjections (“holy crap!”) and references to her “inner goddess” make me cringe, but I can easily identify with her unrequited love for domineering businessman Christian Grey, having recently found myself falling for an emotionally unavailable ‘Master’ too. Part of enjoying being a submissive is knowing when the fun is over so, like Anastasia, I ended the relationship.

The book’s broad appeal and success hinge on its clichéd sex scenes, which can easily be ‘coloured in’ to suit any given reader’s particular sexual fantasies. Like all the very best erotica, the book itself is a mere aphrodisiacal aid.

Overall Fifty Shades is a reasonably accurate depiction of the dominant/ submissive dynamic. however, I do have one big criticism of it. I find EL James’ rendering of Christian Grey as a victim of adolescent sexual abuse troubling. there are thousands of perfectly well-adjusted members of the BDSM community who simply enjoy kinky sex, with absolutely no underlying neurosis necessary. Submission is all about temporarily relinquishing control in exchange for a sexual high. that’s why so many socially empowered, sexually confident women enjoy it so much.

It’s high time the worlds of bondage and discipline, dominance and submission got the positive publicity they deserve. So here’s to Fifty Shades of Grey, and many more novels like it.

Do you think the book is a realistic portrayal of the S&M world? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

Picture credit: Rex Features



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