Ten years ago the adult industry was changed in a very real and very mainstream way through the novel; you guessed it: Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s right. 10 years ago in May E.L James took to publishing her novel Fifty SHades of Grey which was originally a Twilight Fanfiction on her website (now obsolete) fiftyshades.com. Her first novels were published as requested by an Australian publisher in 2011. The series began to spread in notoriety in book clubs and small circles as must read “have you read that book?” It wsn’t the first erotic novel that tackled or used BDSM and yet it began to spread like wild fire. A year later Random House Publishing bought the rights to the trilogy and sold over 45 million copies of the book.
The trilogy was so popular that the UK ran out of silver ink at one point from printing the seductive covers. During its first week of sales, word of mouth had done such a successful job in promoting the novel that it hit the New York Time’s best seller list. At its peak, two copies were sold per second of the seductive story; within four months, it had sold 4 million copies.
The fifty shades of grey saga has certainly been an interesting one. Not only do we have the novels and ebooks but we have the cinematic immersive experience which plays nom de plume E.L Jame’s piece into real life and then we have LoveHoney’s own line of deviant adult toys to bring the debauchery alive. All of this has created an existing enterprise worth over $1.3 Billion.
It cannot be denied that Fifty Shades of Grey brought BDSM mainstream to a lot of people who had never considered it before and allowed BDSM to be privy to many new parts of conversations within friendship circles and relationships where it would not have been before. Insights from Nielson stated that previous to having such a mainstream book like fifty shades of Grey people found discussing BDSM or adult toys difficult to discuss with friends, however having a book to use as an ice breaker or an “in” made it much easier to casually throw it into conversation and start a discussion.
Many of the following of fifty shades of Grey came from women in the 30s, 40s and 50s and most read and reread it again and again giving it positive and amazing reviews and praise, adding to its notoriety. But then there was the flip side.
Not everyone loved fifty shades of Grey, in fact some loathed it. Many critics bemoaned its prose and badly written sequence calling it nothing more than a Harlequin paperback and crappy writing. And perhaps this only added to the demand of people “having” to read and experience it. But on top of this, many experts, novices, kinksters and BDSM practitioners read, watched or listened to others describe the saga with concern because while E.L James may have briefly looked into this world that some of us live in- it is not correctly portrayed in either the books or the movies or the franchise.
And boy was there backlash.
If you were to type into google what Fifty Shades of Grey got wrong you would be inundated with articles, blogs and rantings of various levels from fans to psychologists debating over the extent in which the storyline portrays the use of BDSM, communication and general healthy relationships throughout the three novels.
The main and crucial part of the dynamic that is often found to be missing between Anastasia and Christian is consent. I have often discussed consent in some of my earlier articles how it is used in everyday life, how it is imperative in any relationship and how it is more than just yes and no. What is demonstrated in the early stages of Ana and Christian’s relationship is not only against the carefully constructed “safety” of the contract that Christian supposedly uses to ensure the safety of his submissives but also the blatant manipulation of Ana’s feelings and coercion into saying yes to situations within their relationship that she did not want and was not ready for because she was afraid that by saying no she would lose Christian and therefore their relationship.
Neither of these instances highlight a healthy relationship nor do they portray Dominance/submission. Let me use the spanking scene from the first book as is often discussed as an example
“Oh, Anastasia Steele, did you just roll your eyes at me?”
“No,” I squeak.
“I think you did. What did I say I’d do to you if you rolled your eyes at me again?”
“I haven’t signed,” I whisper.
“I told you what I’d do. I’m a man of my word. I’m going to spank you, and then I’m going to fuck you very quick and very hard.”
Tentatively, I uncurl my legs. Should I run? This is it; our relationship hangs in the balance, right here, right now. Do I let him do this or do I say no, and then that’s it?
He hits me again … this is getting harder to take. My face hurts, it’s screwed up so tight. He strokes me gently and then the blow comes. I cry out again.
“No one to hear you, baby, just me.”
And he hits me again and again. From somewhere deep inside, I want to beg him to stop. But I don’t. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction.
Out of context
and out of the book, this paragraph may even read as an abuser bargaining with an emotionally inexperienced person who isn’t sure how else to keep a relationship that has only just begun. This is not what the definition of consent is whether as part of a D/s relationship or not. While the act of contracts is something that many dynamics use, it is not for every D/s or M/s dynamic and should never be imposed without both parties fully understanding the responsibilities of the document and being able to feel safe and heard should they have any sections that they would like to change.
We note here that in the Fifty Shades Series, Anastasia does not eventually sign the contract even after the review of terms. This does not mean that it was all talk, in fact it would seem a reasonable assumption that the relationship that Christian and Anatasia took on, developed outside the means and the rigid boundaries that the contract had provided Christian; highlighting again that it was more a story of deeper communication and psychological dysfunctionality rather than the perversion of BDSM.
What is also absent from the stories is the continuity in Christian’s role as a Dominant. Anastasia, who has zero sexual experience is left to “research” the roles, terms and nuances of the contract and kink. Any prospective Dom should be helpful and willing to explain these to any potential submissive to help ease their mind but also to ensure that they are on the same page. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet. Anastasia proves this by typing a few things into a search engine, taking one look and going “nope-nice knowing you”. To which, later, Christian gets upset that she could so easily dismiss him. Gee, I wonder if there was a way he could have prevented that from happening?
For all of its misgivings regarding kink, consent and BDSM, if you took away the prospect of Christian falsely promoting himself as a well seasoned dominant there is something we can agree on. He did enjoy Kinky fuckery. The start of Anastasia’s journey into kink is not the most consensual, however we do learn that she does also delight in aspects of kinky fuckery.
This, along with the serendipitous timing of Fifty Shades is what opened many a conversation up to toys, bondage and spicing things up in relationships and sexual exploration. In Fact in the wake of the books and then the movies, adult toy sales rose over 30% in total. 400% increase in weighted love balls (or rather Kegel balls), 60% in whips, 35% in bondage and 150% in anal plugs.
Whether or not Fifty Shades of Grey contributed to the awareness or staggering interest that many people found in their own sexuality and escapades (or should I say Sex-capades), there is no denying that it came at a time where people began to feel more readily accepted to discuss kink, sex and using toys.
10 years on from Fifty Shades of Grey and people are still talking about it, it is still referenced and many have reported it to be a segway into having that “I saw/read about this in Fifty Shades, can we try that?” Because of its popularity it makes fifty shades a point of common ground for people to refer to that is not as lucrative as some others.
Fifty Shades made sex toys mainstream
We can agree that Fifty Shades helped make using toys and bondage more mainstream for some, we can also agree that Fifty Shades is not the compendium that should be used for Dominance, Submission or perhaps even relationships in general. But it is a starting point.
If you enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey and wanted to learn more about kink try reading
Screw the Roses Send me the Thorns by Philip Miller and Molly Devon
The Ultimate Guide to Kink by Tristan Taomorino
If you loved the fictional kinky BDSM aspect of fifty shades and want some more try
The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day or
The Original Sinners Series by Tiffany Reisz
At your Service
OhZone Sales Consultant, Avid Reader and Kinkster.
Tiffany is studying to be a future Sexologist with a current background in education and leadership. As a passionate writer; Tiffany is heavily interested and invested in all things kink, sex and pleasure. Tiffany has spent much of her life experimenting, learning, reading and seeking out as much information as she can from various sources to bring you great reads and tantalizing information.