E.L. James' erotic novel has drawn an impressive following, creating a rush on riding crops and blindfolds in every adult toy and book store in the nation. Adult toy sales must have gone through the roof, and companies fortunate enough to have contracted the rights to use the phrase, "as seen in Fifty Shades of Grey" have to be rolling in the green, thanking their lucky stars for author, E.L. James' ability to draw in newbies to the BDSM scene. Frankly, it gives me a little giggle to imagine soccer moms paired up to encourage one another on, tentatively fingering a plastic, shell-packed set of ben wa balls, whispering together, "Are THESE the right ones? They must be.. They say, 'Fifty Shades,' right here!" In my imaginings, I'm the twenty year old store clerk with pink hair and a bad attitude, snapping my gum and bored with the whole scene. "Dude." I'd say. "They're BEN WA BALLS. Ya look like you've dropped a couple of puppies, so just take the big, ugly, metal ones. They'll tighten you right up. Trust me, ladies... Your husbands will thank me"
Uh... did I just take that too far?
Practitioners of BDSM, contrary to media portrayal, are a tight-knit community who follow strict guidelines for safety and hygiene. Within a munch (a BDSM party) any toys or devices used are used in tandem with condoms or saran wrap and sanitized between each use. Contracts are commonly negotiated and agreed upon to keep play within accepted boundaries. Safe-words are chosen and utilized.
The above cautionary tidbits are necessary because within the dynamic of power exchange, there are commonly two psychological dysfunctions being put into balance.
Its often assumed that submissives are usually women; our culture tends to view male sub as being weaklings with perverse sexual desires. The reality, however falls into two general categories; the first being men or women who are at the top of the power-structure, professionally, and have a huge stress load with no one capable of sharing the responsibility. They benefit from a submissive relationship with their dom in that they are able to give themselves permission to be powerless. The power exchange actually revitalizes them, giving them a little break from the real world. They are actually more capable of maintaining their position at the top because of the temporary reprieve.
The second common drive behind the need to submit is ongoing feelings of being out of control. Voluntarily entering into a power exchange with a dominant partner/practitioner allows those falling into the second category to compartmentalize their feelings of inadequacy and later, process. Coincidentally, the same applies to dominants; their feelings of inferiority or sublimated trauma (often from childhood) create a need to have a window of control not afforded in mainstream relationships.
Of the two, the character Anastasia is perhaps the healthier. However, entering into a relationship with toxic Christian and his issues completely aside from the "red room of pain," is bound to affect her, adversely. As a young woman, naive in the ways of the world, she naturally would look up to Christian, who is older, professionally and financially successful, and established, in contrast to herself, not having completed her time at the university. As it is, the majority of Christian's contractual "boundaries" can be found on the list of red flags for identifying potential abusers.
Isolating partner from her friends and family... CHECK!
Discouraging her independent activities like work, classes or activities with friends...CHECK!
Pressuring partner to partake in sexual activities that she is uncomfortable with...CHECK!
Withholding sex as punishment instead of communicating openly his displeasure...CHECK!
Criticizes the her weight, looks, they way she dresses...CHECK!
If she does not give into his control, she feels threatened, harassed, punished and intimidated by the abuser...CHECK!
Controls all the financial decisions, refuse to listen to his partner’s opinion...CHECK!
Makes all major decisions such as where to live, how to furnish the home and what type of car to drive...CHECK!
All signs point to "Get the h-e-double-hockey-sticks out of there," Anastasia.