Not everyone thinks about handcuffs and flogs the way that Christian Grey does.
But, they certainly have flocked into movie theaters, bringing $85.2 million to the box office, according to The Guardian. And that was on top of the one-hundred million copies of the original trilogy, according to The New York Times.
Despite its financial success, the film received a 25 percent rating on the tomatometer from Rotten Tomatoes, an organization that showcases the opinions of countless television and film critics. Optimal? Not really.
At its core, the story is simply about two love stricken characters tasked with overcoming an overarching issue: Christian Grey’s sexual preferences.
However, both the book and the film required more research into BDSM and kink.
“BDSM is all about self-policing, and to the common observer there isn’t a difference between what we do and what ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ does,” Dakota Jordan, the president of Stony Brook TNG, said.
The film centers around the relationship between the innocent recent college-graduate Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and the unusually young, successful and mysterious Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan).
For starters, those who are into BDSM—or Bondage Dominance Submissive Sadomasochism—know what they are getting into when they reach for their whips and flogs. (No, not all BDSM involves sex toys, or even sex at all.) Safe words are involved. And some even sign contracts with their partners to keep it legal-or as part of the sexy fun time.
Christian stalks her, buys her things without her consent and tries to persuade her to push her sexual limits. Meanwhile, Anastasia is a virgin before she meets Christian and has no idea what kind of limits she is even capable of hitting. Once he shows her what it is like, to be whipped, tied up and to have her limits pushed, he says she will like it.
But of course, she loves him, so she wants to explore this world with him. She thinks she can change him.
That is not a BDSM relationship.
“The whole movie does BDSM wrong, but that’s fine because it’s a movie and they are not real people doing real BDSM,” Jordan said.
Other members from Stony Brook TNG said the film stirs up confusion about the distinction between an abusive relationship and a dominant/submissive relationship.
Jordan said that the film should not be watched and imitated. One of the many things that she does not like about the film is that it fails to illustrate a proper dominant/submissive relationship where safe words are always used and the other is respected.
College students joke about them all the time, but safe words are a real facet of BDSM and kink relationships. They are words that partners both know before they get started that if uttered means that something has to stop.
In the movie, Christian gives Anastasia a contract in which he lists the safe words “red” and “yellow” for her to use. However, Anastasia never signs the contract.
In the film she never officially agrees to be his submissive, therefore Christian trying to push her to do things sexually with him is not proper BDSM because it is not consensual.
According to members of Stony Brook TNG, until a duo has agreed on what their limits are and what they like or dislike, they are not in a proper BDSM relationship.
As part of the clubs efforts to inform students about safe sex, they list the phrase “enthusiastic consent” when talking about sexual scripting.
Ashley Barry, the vice president of Stony Brook TNG, said that she is bothered by the way the movie presents itself like it is the norm.
“I don’t think people are going to separate it from education,” Barry said about how women will watch the film and think it is behavior they will want to try, but will not be safe about it.
Christian is a dominant one in the bedroom. By having his submissive sign a contract, which Anastasia never actually signs in the movie or the books, he knows that they will play by his rules and he is in charge.
“One of the biggest things that scared me in ’50 Shades of Grey’ is that he forces her to go on certain types of birth control,” Barry said when talking about the conditions in Christian’s contract. Barry also gave the example that in Christian’s contract, it states that the sub needs to work out and limit the amount of alcohol or drugs they use. She said that it would only be okay if both people agreed with these conditions.
“Instead he has her sign a contract that’s like ‘I can control you in all ways shapes and forms,’” Barry said.
Jordan presented an example of a “sex list” commonly used by couples who partake in BDSM relationships and said that the movie would be much better if Christian’s list was more like that.
What it came down to for Jordan was defining the rights of the dominant and the submissive.
Christian’s sadism or sexual fetishes are not the problem, she said. It is his lack of understanding of people’s rights. The main issue with the relationship portrayed in the film is that it does not play by regular BDSM rules and consents.
Jordan also said that just because the film depicts BDSM incorrectly does not mean that it is not okay for other people to enjoy it. However, she mentioned that people are lazy and may not be safe about attempting a BDSM type relationship, though she does not believe the book can be pegged as the sole cause for it.
“I don’t want to invalidate its right to be a thing, it’s just a bad thing” she said about the film.