Different Shades of Sexuality: The Psychological Aspects of BDSM

Young couple about to kissIf you haven’t read the novel yet, you might be 50 shades of curious about why Fifty Shades of Grey is the most-talked-about tale in print currently.

A quick search will reveal that the romance between the main characters, Mr. Grey and Miss Steele, revolves around bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadism, and masochism (BDSM). In fact, Christian Grey appears to really only get satisfaction from sex when it involves inflicting pain or dominance over his partner, which, following criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV-TR) used by mental health professionals to make diagnoses, could be considered a mental disorder called sexual sadism.

The DSM IV-TR states that “sexual sadism involves acts (real, not simulated) in which the individual derives sexual excitement from the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim.” In order to officially be diagnosed with sexual sadism, individuals must meet the following criteria:

1)    “Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving acts (real, not simulated) in which the psychological or physical suffering (including humiliation) of the victim is sexually exciting to the person.”
2)    “The person has acted on these sexual urges with a nonconsenting person, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.”

In the first novel of the series, Christian Grey appears to engage in sexual sadism only with consenting participants (like Anastasia Steele, the main female character), but he openly admits to being abused (including sexual abuse) as a child and teenager and appears to be at least somewhat distressed by the fact that it’s difficult for him to have a “normal” relationship. He even explains to the character Anastasia Steele at one point that this is just the way he is, almost with sorrow. And although he does have “normal” or “vanilla” sex with Anastasia, he makes it obvious that he prefers sex that involves pain and pleasure at the same time, always with him dominating.

Anastasia also admits to herself that there is something unusual about Christian and his sexual preferences, but she lets her desire for him take over, and she hopes that she can make him want a “normal” relationship with her. She herself has issues with low self-esteem and confidence, which is perhaps why she is so drawn to the seemingly overly confident Christian. Both characters appear to function as well as the average person in their fictional world, but both have issues that could potentially need to be addressed by a professional if they lived in the real world.

So it appears that one of the main characters of Fifty Shades of Grey may have a diagnosable disorder related to sexuality, or at least has abnormal sexual preferences and a traumatic past that hasn’t been resolved yet. He has major difficulties maintaining any lasting romantic relationship, and yet the relationship between Christian and Anastasia seems to have been received in a somewhat positive light, considering the large following of readers.

The Experts Weigh In
Several mental health experts have offered their insight into the unusual relationship found in Fifty Shades of Grey (and the two other novels in the series). Reef Karim, a board-certified psychiatrist, the founder and medical director of the Control Center for Addictions, and author of Why Does He Do That? Why Does She Do That? and host of the new show Broken Minds on the Discovery channel, said that the novel is definitely making people think about normal and abnormal sexuality and possibly changing some people’s minds.

He said in an e-mail that the main question people are wondering is, “What is normal and abnormal sexual behavior, and when is aberrant sexual experimentation and behavior considered a mental health diagnosis?” “The really interesting part of psychiatric diagnoses is that many are based on a behavioral spectrum where the interruption of an individual’s social, relational, occupational, and functional life is a key factor in making the diagnosis,” Karim said. “This book has become a literary piece of pop culture that is challenging many to review their thoughts on normative and ‘out of the box’ sexual behaviors.”

He said that there could be concerns about a link between sadomasochism (S&M) and childhood abuse as well, since that is mentioned in the novel. “There is definitely a connection, but many people with no psychiatric or psychological history report enjoying BDSM primarily as a novel and alternative way to connect with each other,” Karim said.

Despite (or because of) the unusual relationship involving pain and pleasure (and emotional issues), many women appear to be captivated by the novels. Karim suggests this is because women enjoy having sexual fantasies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want the type of relationship found in the novel to become more than a fantasy. If anything, women might be more prone to sexually experiment during or after reading the novels.

However, he doesn’t think the novel is capable of completely changing sexual norms, so sexual sadism and sexual masochism will most likely still be considered mental disorders according to the DSM in the future. “I believe the novel opens up the conversation of BDSM, kink and sexual norms, but it’s much more in the curiosity range than actually changing research-driven professional medicine,” Karim said. “Expecting an increase in sex shop purchases is different than changing a clinical manual.”

Karim explains further why the novel is so appealing to women (and men), even with the dysfunctional (and sometimes even depressing) personalities of the characters. “In regards to sexual research, many women fantasize about submission, and many men fantasize about dominance,” he said. “Even though men and women are more equal than ever in regards to occupation and finances, we are still very different sexes, and definitive gender and role-based fantasies do exist,” he added. “Many people in our society have hidden (or not so hidden) fantasies involving kink, S&M, or altered sexual behavior. 50 Shades of Grey has opened up the conversation of previously hidden sexual desires and fantasies of many women.”

He said the novel could help couples become more creative in their sex lives, but going to any extremes is generally not beneficial. “The introduction of BDSM can add to a couple’s sexual tool box, but occasionally it can get out of control,” Karim said. “When extreme behavior leaves the bedroom or involves extremes in the bedroom, it can negatively impact the relationship. I’ve treated couples who use BDSM as a novel, fun experience in a healthy and intimate way, and I’ve treated other couples or individuals who became obsessed with the act or re-created a previous abuse history with a lot of painful markings.”

Overall, the BDSM series is encouraging men and women to discuss sexuality more openly with each other. “The book mentions childhood abuse and difficulties with self-esteem that contribute to the psychological make-up of these characters, but it has also found a way to tap into the S&M lifestyle curiosity shared by many men and women,” Karim said. “It may actually normalize the behavior, when done in moderation, as not something strange but perhaps just another form of sexual expression. Life isn’t always black and white; sometimes it’s fun to live with a little grey.”

Kari Tabag, a licensed clinical social worker, works with adolescents and college-age men and women and has read the series. She said the novel has passages that hint at mental health issues like posttraumatic stress, codependency, BDSM, and alcoholism.

Although she agrees that the novel can improve people’s sex lives through fantasy, role play, and experimentation, the sexual expectations people might have after reading the series might be set too high, leading to disappointment. Also, she emphasizes that the actual relationship depicted in the series is very unhealthy in many ways. “Christian and Anastasia’s relationship is not a healthy one. They are codependent and are too enmeshed with each other,” Tabag said. “A lot of women are codependent and are what I call ‘daddy hungry.’ This novel depicts two people who have abandonment along with trust issues.”
There are even more unhealthy aspects of the fictional relationship, according to Tabag:

  • When Anastasia finds out that Christian only dates women with brown hair, it is a dead giveaway of his childhood abuse and abandonment. In fact, Anastasia refers to him as her “boy,” which is not healthy.
  • Anastasia repeatedly feels that she is not worthy of Christian and vice versa.
  • Christian is obsessed with Anastasia and even follows her to another state when she visits with her mother.
  • They both are looking for someone to take care of rather than focusing on healing themselves. A healthier relationship involves two people who have their own separate, independent personas, making them well-established, well-rounded, self-reliant individuals.
  • Christian wants Anastasia to give in to him and give up all control, and he lavishes her with gifts as a reward.

Although the relationship in the novel is not healthy, BDSM is not necessarily as terrible as it’s made out to be. Tabag suggests our society is not necessarily mature when it comes to accepting and understanding sexual preferences outside of ‘man on top.’”

Viewpoint From a Submissive
Kasi Alexander, the author of several books and short stories about alternative lifestyles, such as Becoming Sage and Saving Sunni, has herself been involved in the lifestyles of polyamory, BDSM, and power exchange. She currently identifies herself as a “slave,” and the partner in her polyamorous relationship is the “master”; she could also be referred to as a submissive. She said in an email that the relationship between Christian and Anastasia is not necessarily a model of the typical BDSM or power exchange relationship. The characters themselves are also not typical. For example, Christian Grey was abused as a child and became involved in BDSM at 15, and he now avoids “vanilla” sex and relationships.

“Very few people in the lifestyle immerse themselves so deeply that they have no desire for a relationship outside the parameters of power exchange,” Alexander said. “The ones who do are using the lifestyle to mask other personality defects, not the other way around. Accepting your dominant or submissive tendencies does not kill the desire for intimacy, closeness, or connection.” Also, the character of Anastasia Steele is low in self-esteem, self-worth, and confidence, which is not usual for submissives, Alexander said.

“Many people assume that submissives give up all responsibility for themselves, are doormats that cannot stand up for themselves, and so are taken advantage of by predatory dominants,” Alexander said. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. Submissives are stereotypically extremely strong, capable people. Many of them crave submission as a way to temporarily escape the huge responsibilities they take on in their “vanilla” lives.”

Alexander adds that the BDSM lifestyle can even be considered therapeutic in different ways. “In my own relationship, we have used our power exchange to work on my self-image and body issues, increase my self-confidence, and achieve many goals, including writing and publishing three books (so far),” she said. “Other kinky people that we know use sensation play as therapy or catharsis to work through feelings of inadequacy, childhood abuse issues, and various kinds of mental health issues.”

The BDSM element of 50 Shades of Grey just takes the typical romance/erotic novel a little further. “Women have a genetic inclination toward alpha males, so we love our fictional heroes to be large, powerful, and a little scary—someone who has the ability to hurt us but doesn’t,” Alexander said. “And almost all BDSM play is based on the intensification of physical experiences. So the fantasy of the physical ‘danger’ (intensity of experience) goes along with the mental domination of having a strong alpha male taking over your life. It’s erotic, even if it’s not what we want in our actual day-to-day lives.”

She said BDSM and power exchange have the potential to make relationships more sexually fulfilling, but just like in any relationships, it’s a matter of communicating wants and desires. And just like in other bad relationships, abuse and manipulation can happen, but that is a matter of individual personalities and relationships, not a characteristic of BDSM as a whole. She said it’s important to make a distinction between mental conditions and different sexual preferences and alternative lifestyles. “The most important aspect of the mental disorder consideration is the difference between true sadism and kinky sadism,” Alexander said. “A vast majority of ‘sadists’ in the BDSM community derive no pleasure from inflicting pain unless the recipient is enjoying the experience, whereas a true sadist is not concerned with the benefit of the other person.”

She believes that people will eventually become more accepting of these types of lifestyles and realize that they can be beneficial to people who can learn how to make them work.

“More education is needed to show people that polyamory is not cheating, BDSM is not abuse, and power exchange is not manipulation,” Alexander said. “The important thing to keep in mind is the benefit for the people involved. BDSM and power exchange can be done badly and for the wrong reasons, but they can also be used for personal, professional, and spiritual growth and for the enhancement of relationships.”

Related articles:
What Do Your Sexual Fantasies Mean?
The Good and Bad Sides of Porn
Exploring Alternative Lifestyles in Your Relationship

© Copyright 2012 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • molly

    June 6th, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Haven’t read the book and don’t want to. Why women are finding this kind of book about control and sadomasochism so fascinating is beyond me. Why would I want to read about a woman who allows herself to be treated in such a way? I think way too much of myself to read that kind of crap.

  • Kaylin K

    June 6th, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    oh wow Molly, you have to read this book. It is HOT! Allow yourself to let go of some of that feminine angst that you have inside and experience the story. If nothing else, it might help you spice up your own sex life!

    I am not saying that I advocate all of the behavior in this book, because of course I don’t. But it’s fun, it’s an escape, and quite honestly, I think that most of us have wanted to get swept away in this kind of yearning at some point in time. Or is that just me?

  • Brynn

    June 7th, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    Ok I’m lost. Have to go get this book just to see what all of the chatter is about!

  • Webber

    June 7th, 2012 at 11:34 AM

    So I saw this book on my wife’s nightstand and had to ask her about it, why she was copelled to read something like this.
    She stated that it was just fun to read about something that is typically thought of as so naughty in society but that most women wanted to experience.
    Really? Wome want to be dominated? I am confused and told her that. I thought women wanted equality in the bedroom and the boardroom.
    She told me yes, that’s true, but that everyone wants to feel needed and desired and that this was what this book was about for her.
    Ok, I am leaving this one for the women, because the more I even try to talk about it the more confused I get, and there are enough confused husbands in the world already.

  • Sophie

    September 11th, 2012 at 5:09 AM

    I’ve read this series and while I thought it was pretty dire, the fact that it’s bringing BDSM to public attention is good. Kasi Alexander makes some really interesting points.

    As for why women want submission, even though they fight for equality: we fight for the right to choose what we do with our life. Whether that’s being submissive, dominant, or none of the above.

  • Kathleen

    September 13th, 2012 at 11:45 AM

    @Sophie, Letting your partner take control of the relationship be either bedroom only or over the entire relationship (D/s) does not mean you’re being abused or involved in an abusive relationship. There is something called SSC (Safe,Sane & Consensual) which the majority of BDSM and D/s relationships are based on. In my experience this leads to a greater understanding of each partners needs not to mention complete openess and honesty. Since being involved in a D/s relationship I am completely happy, I feel totally secure and not once have I felt abused. Open your mind a little.

  • Mike

    November 4th, 2012 at 9:43 PM

    This is the problem with males and females these days. The feminists have ruined it for both sexes and now nobody understands why women like to be dominated in the bedroom, and everybody is standing around scratching their heads.

    The men don’t get it… the women don’t get it. It really is a shame.

    Women surrender themselves to the men in return for some of their power, the men surrender some of their power is return for the woman’s submission. This is a fair trade being made with the consent of both parties.

    There is nobody being hurt here and both people are better off. This whole politically correct propaganda is really screwing things up sexually for people around the world.

    Most women I’ve met have no issue with me making most of the decisions, or being dominant in bed. I make sure she is taken care of, has her needs fulfilled and she surrenders to me in bed in return. I don’t think either of us could think of a more perfect union.

    Did anyone ever stop to consider that maybe women don’t want to be burdened with the responsibility of making life-determining choices, and that in most cases the men will take this burden on? Did anyone think that actually forcing this social responsibility onto women in order to “treat them equally” might be sexual abuse?

    And to any men on here like “Webber” who don’t understand why your wife is reading that book. I’m really sorry, I’m sure you manhood was there at one time, but it seems you’ve lost it now and just don’t understand her needs.

    I didn’t mean to offend anyone with this post (in case I did!).

    Have fun everyone! ;)

  • Christina

    July 21st, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    No, honestly I haven’t. I LIKE making life altering decisions. I like the autonomy to make my own choices. And only a man would suggest that women would be happier as second class citizens. Do you even history?

  • Sinclair

    November 21st, 2012 at 10:12 AM

    I have not read this book because of certain reviews that I have read combined with my own experience in relationships that I have had. I can say, though, that I know quite a bit about BDSM play.

    I, for one, would be considered a submissive in the BDSM community. Although I am a woman, I can say that my submissiveness is not BECAUSE of my being a woman. I am submissive because it fits my personality. I am a very confident, strong individual and BDSM has made me even more so.

    To be a submissive or a dominant in a (successful) BDSM relationship, you have to be confident, trust worthy, and trusting. You have to care about your submissive, and visa versa, to make it work. If you do not take your sub’s health and safety into consideration, the relationship will crumble because you’re likely to accidentally hurt your sub. If you’re the sub in the relationship, you have to trust your dom. If you can not trust your dom because of what they have done or because of something that has happened in the past that has hurt you, then the relationship WILL NOT work. You also have to consider your dom’s limitations. Yes, dom’s have limits. If they don’t feel comfortable doing something because of any reason, then you have to trust that they have their reasons for not wanting to do this. Maybe they’re afraid that they’ll accidentally hurt you or that they can’t trust themselves to perform the act that you’re asking for. Both partners have limitations.

    BDSM isn’t only whips, chains, and sex. It’s about trust in your partner that they will not purposely put you in harms way, regardless of their role in the relationship. Although Fifty Shades of Grey has put BDSM in a bad light, I’m glad that it was published. It has put BDSM into the main stream and that, my friends, is progress. Now, if we could put a good book about BDSM into the mainstream…

  • Klohappy

    December 31st, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    I came to this sight researching the bdsm topic. I have recently discovered a dear friend of mine is into it, and because I love my friend dearly, I want to try and understand this huge part of his life. As I have been reading though, most people are either one side or the other and their only purpose in writing is to oppose or convince the other side. Is am not looking for confrontation or argument, I want to truly understand. I have questions I would like to ask in a non public forum. Your response seems to be the one that has no agenda, so i thought I would ask you. Is there any way I can contact you via email to ask some questions?

  • Hedera

    December 11th, 2012 at 12:24 AM

    Ha…ATYPICAL? 50shades is much frowned upon by many in the kink community. It’s the poster book for abuse using BDSM as a cover, just like a predatory Dom.

    submissives CHOOSE to give up their power. You can’t give up something, unless you have it. I actually feel that my kink relationships, which rely so much more on explicit, concise and constant communication (not to mention trust) to be more intimate than my vanilla ones.

  • S

    December 25th, 2012 at 5:43 PM

    @Mike you couldn’t have put it better…as a guy raised in a very pro-feminist liberal household I was always told that to respect a women meant to treat her like the boss. My own individuality often got thrown by the way side…but I am working on this to assert myself now. Personally the feminist movement needs to just go to Saudi Arabia or Africa if it truly wants to make a difference because it has seriously began to eff up a lot of guys, starting with me.

  • Noe

    January 27th, 2013 at 3:08 AM

    That book is an abomination and portrays an unhealthy, abusive relationship. Not a healthy BDSM relationship. The author is a misinformed, ignorant, Twilight fangirl and the book is actually a Twilight fanfiction (Master of the Universe) with the names replaced.

  • Candy

    February 2nd, 2013 at 2:21 AM

    @ Mike:

    “Did anyone ever stop to consider that maybe women don’t want to be burdened with the responsibility of making life-determining choices, and that in most cases the men will take this burden on?”

    Are you saying women are naturally submissive and incapable of taking on responsibility as well as a man? I’m perfectly capable and I enjoy autonomy, thank you very much.

  • Anynomous

    February 24th, 2013 at 12:06 AM

    What I think is even harder to deal with is if you are a male and have submissive fantasies to be controlled by a woman. I am a male with that fantasy, and I find it hard to overcome the stigma of the male needing to be the dominant.

  • BELLE DE SOIR

    June 4th, 2013 at 9:25 PM

    There is a very basic thing that is forgotten here.

    People who see and enjoy horror movies don’t want to be chased down hallways and stabbed with knives.

    People who enjoy tearjerkers don’t want to experience the loss of a loved one or to see their cherished horse be put out of his misery.

    We enjoy make-believe as a way of dealing with painful experiences. It doesn’t get rid of painful emotions, but, for a moment, it converts them into pleasure. This is all BDSM is. That’s a lot, but that’s all it is.

  • An

    January 9th, 2016 at 6:29 PM

    Thank You Belle de Soir,

    Your comment about people watching horror flicks and tearjerkers is right on.
    That’s really what healthy minded, well-adjusted people understand about such things, I believe
    -whereas there have been too many people I have encountered who don’t.
    It makes me wonder if I’m doing something to attract the wrong people to myself and why?
    I have always been very honest with myself and others so why I have had such difficulties finding lasting, genuine friendships and relationships is still a mystery to me.

  • Chuck

    June 15th, 2013 at 4:09 PM

    Before I met my babygirl slave I bought into most of the feminist crap that society has generated. When I met her I began to explore more aggressive modes of sexuality and found them to be more satisfying.

    Oddly, as much as I enjoy being more expressive with the aggression, I find I enjoy the open communication and the feeling of closeness we share in pursuit of the activities we enjoy. What also is beneficial is the training involved necessary to excel in these different activities.

    While different strokes for different folks is definitely at play, so are the narrowminded responses both in and out of the bdsm Community to those interests and activities that are different from those held by those expressing opinions. This is cafeteria bdsm. Take what you want and leave the rest. Keep naysaying and critical opinions to yourself, your truth and mine may not be congruent. Just my two cents.

  • Laine

    March 31st, 2014 at 2:56 AM

    May I just applaud and shut my mouth?

  • Danny Tyran

    August 10th, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Sexual masochism and sadism have been removed of the latest DSM. So, this paper is not accurate. And by the way, Fifty Shades of Gray is awful.

  • admin2

    August 12th, 2013 at 11:01 AM

    Hi Danny,
    Thank you for your comment. Sexual masochism and sexual sadism are now listed as subcategories of paraphilia in the DSM-V.
    Kind regards,
    The GoodTherapy.org Editorial Team

  • Anastasia B

    November 28th, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Feminism does not mean dominance, it means equality. Feminism is women’s right to live the way they choose and if it is in submission, then so be it. Do not think that ALL women desire to be dominated, and if a woman does desire it – she should be able to make that decision without such judgmental heaving eyes.

    “A lot of women are codependent and are what I call ‘daddy hungry,’” Mrs. Tabag, I applaud you for this over-generalization and presumptuously hurtful quote. There is nothing evil in BDSM but there is no pride in it either. (Paraphrasing Tiffany Reisz here)

  • Amy

    January 2nd, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    I’d like to go a little further here. It’s disturbing that the assumption is that ‘all’ women like to be submissive, or ‘all’ men like to be dominant. Almost anytime a statement involves the words ‘all’ or ‘none’ it’s incorrect. I’m the dominant partner in a vanilla relationship now. My husband has some really distressing anxiety issues. He is not emotionally capable of being the dominant partner. Does this mean I do whatever I want and never ask his opinion? Does this mean he does everything I want and never offers an opinion? Of course not! I encourage and love him with all of my being, and I try to encourage him to develop more skills that will help him get rid of his anxiety. He, in turn, is currently attending college to change careers so that he is not stuck in a job that requires as much emotional and interpersonal involvement so that he can stabilize his anxiety situation (he’s currently a nurse, and sometimes every day is a bad day for two or more weeks.) It can be exhausting to be dominant, and it can be very angsty to be submissive. There are days that he is sure that I am going to stop loving him because of his problems. I have to be there to reassure him that I’m not. It’s very much a give and take. There is power in both sides of this equation. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from watching him be able to go to the mall without being so anxious that he can’t function. Life is good.

    Yeah, I’d like to be spanked every so often. Who wouldn’t? But does that mean I’m less dominant? No, it means that occasionally I’d like a break from my own dominance and be able to submit to someone that understands my need to be free from everything for a short length of time so I can get my head on straight and go back to real life.

  • Lapsus A

    April 18th, 2017 at 8:46 AM

    This was an eye-opening comment (specifically the notion of “dominance in a vanilla relationship”), thank you.

  • Ruby

    March 22nd, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    I recently got out of relationship with a man who was into BDSM, he was not honest with and manulapitied me to the point where I never knew what to expect. Once I thought i knew what he wanted, he would do something else, like slap me and call me bitch even outside of the bedroom. When I told him I didn’t like that, he would just tell me to be more open minded and that most women like to be called bitch. The sad thing is that I still love him, but cannot allow someone to treat me like that. He does admit that I did all of the changing for him, but he refused to even bend for me. I was open minded and let him do things to me I never would have thought I would, but love makes you do crazy things. Needless to say, this has made me feel that BDSM is closer to abuse then not. Oh and the way i found out about his needs was when I found out that he cheated on me with someone who was into it. we tried to work it out, actually it was more me who tried and i tried lot of new things with him, before i had to say no. so like I said before, BDSM seems manulipitive and abusive to me and not an honest way to have a relationship.

  • estelle

    September 26th, 2014 at 1:21 PM

    Hi ruby!
    Just read your comment on bdsm. Go girl! Stay strong. Bdsm aside, abuse is not ok. Being treated badly without love respect and trust is not ok. You are all you have, so look after yourself. Some people can talk of the love they have for you, but if their actions dont show it…they dont!Better times and better relationships are head of you. Best wishes Estelle :)

  • Dave

    April 14th, 2014 at 9:46 PM

    I’m looking for someone who can tell me how to help my father meet some one or learn how to meet people like himself… He’s feels like there’s no one out there and that he’s never going to have anyone who understands this aspect of himself. He’s just about givin up on happiness and I can’t stand to see that in him. I don’t know the questions to ask or how to do this but if there’s anyone reading this that can help me help him, please… He’s all I have and I need him to pull out of this.

  • Robert R

    July 28th, 2014 at 5:16 AM

    Praising CEO’s who are Sadists, is a very odd thing indeed . In the real world, they get no respect. My problem with this book(I read a copy my wife had been given), is that it sort of OK to be a cruel manipulative somewhat despicable human being in the Office. Not a great message to convey.

  • Ivy

    January 31st, 2015 at 1:14 PM

    This is true Robert and while I’m fasinated by some aspects of it, I also must strongly agree there were some occasions where it just went way too far. I was shocked a friends tween knew intimate details of the books and when I made a gentle reference to this I was told and later saw for myself, that you could buy it from your local Coles supermarket. Is it just me when I feel our kids these days have way too much exposure and easy accessibility to thinys these days? I never, ever thought I’d sound the ‘Old fashioned’ type, but here I am! Lol

  • RKE

    August 3rd, 2014 at 6:30 AM

    I have seen these arguments go on and on and wind up nowhere. I am a dominant male and I am in no way ashamed of what I do as such. I am what I am and the women submissives are what they are. We are two sides of the same coin. One is totally necessary for the fulfillment of the other. Not every man and woman enjoy this kind of activity just the same as not every person likes the color green. What it comes down to is each person has the right to make their own informed decision as to what they chose to participate in. I am assuming here that it goes unsaid that we do not include the criminally insane or those who for whatever reason are incapable of making informed decisions for themselves.

    Informed decisions must be made on both sides of the coin. BDSM covers such a huge range of psychological and physical elements that different approaches must be tailored to each individuals needs. Both sides must have strength and honesty both to themselves and to the other party involved.

    Much of the strength involved comes from accepting what it is that society has told us what is the right and the wrong way to be as something to question and explore. The strength comes from looking deep within and honestly looking at what we have been made to bury there. With me those buried needs unknowingly have been secretly gnawing at me all of my life. They bothered me and made me feel as if I was some kind of a sick monster.

    Then to my relief in the early 90’s and the chat rooms of AOL I found that there was an entire world of others just like me. In life they were seemingly normal hard working people living good honest lives. But the important thing was there were people that needed to live both sides of that coin. As their own choice they chose to explore all of those buried needs that they were forced to hide and carry for many years. It took strength and courage for the to pursue this life but many did.

    Don’t condem others for wanting something that will not hurt others only because it is not something that you would chose for yourself.

    I enjoy discussing this and would love to converse further about the benefits and pitfalls involved.

    To all here and everywhere I ask that you seek what it is that is within you (whatever it is) and pursue it. They key to this being that you don’t harm others or yourself

    RKE

    L

  • Jessie

    August 9th, 2014 at 8:33 AM

    I am newly experimenting with underlying urges and fantasies. I have recently accepted that a vanilla relationship has never suited me and my attempts at conforming were draining to say the least. Societal pressure made me feel as though I must push those wants away. Because I accepted the societal norm I never was satisfied both physically and mentally.
    It is frustrating to say the least that judgements are quickly passed about bdsm. FIFTY SHADES has at least brought the issues up for discussion. I found the relationship between Christian and Ana to be a beautiful journey. Those that think bdsm is abuse don’t understand the difference. My vanilla relationships were not satisfying and some were abusive.
    I am submissive and the gratification of accepting what I want and need from a dom is completely liberating. I want to be dominated because for me it fulfills my needs. The question isn’t why I as a women want to be dominated. Last I checked women still have the right to vote- regardless of whether I allow my self the satisfaction of being dominated. The question is why does society feel the need to judge?

  • Ivy

    January 31st, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Dear RKE,
    I find this particular scenario fascinating and I wanted to particularly make the time to thank you for your very detailed opinions and to compliment you on how well articulated this post was.

    It was both an insightful and honest viewpoint on the topic.

  • An

    January 9th, 2016 at 6:08 PM

    Haven’t read any comments on this site in awhile and received a new email “alert” today that someone added a comment, so as I was reading through some of the posts, I noticed this one from RKE – I just wanted to say that its refreshing to know there’s someone like you willing to discuss these topics openly, granted as all people on this site are- but especially to hear someone mention the importance of “no harm”!
    I have yet to really explore my own boundaries sexually as I’d like to, aside from fantasy – but I am in a situation now where a man I was in a relationship with for 13 years, whom I agreed to move with to a little rural town, to start a family -has since become a stranger who I do not recognize most days. Our son is now six years old but two years ago his father had decided to move out of our home here together bc I had a problem with the way he had begun to behave like he has “multiple personality disorder”, besides the fact that he was bringing around “spiked marijuana” (for lack of a better description) that seemed very responsible for his change in behavior.
    We had a pretty great sex life previously but since moving to this small town six hours from the city where I grew up, his personality has changed so drastically that I’ve been beside myself not knowing what to make of it.
    He has treated me like he decided I had become his “property” -which he had never done before.
    When I refused to tolerate his abuse he tried to sue me for custody of our child and succeeded in stealing “joint custody” from me though I am our son’s only stable parent. Now my little boy is forced to go back and forth readjusting to a very different home life every other week which is mostly unheard of as far as what is usual for typical custody situations where a still very young child is placed with his mother, especially when the parents were never married.
    I had no idea that this person would be able to gain the control over my life he has bc he could afford the high priced attorney he hired to paint a picture of me that was all lies and nonsense only to gain the “upper hand”. He grew up in a town 70 miles away from here, where the “Judge” had to come from “to “hear” our case” and its all been a little too “convenient” for him the way he managed to seemingly have every aspect of the situation under his control. I have always been told that I was “too nice”,” too giving” and “loving” and needed to “to toughen up” but I’m also a very sensual creature and this has often been misinterpreted somehow.
    What has happened since moving away from the life I once knew as the only child of parents who have been together almost 50 years has astounded me. I’ve always had troubles maintaining relationships, even friendships for varying reasons – but now I really do find myself alone and at the mercy of this person bc I won’t abandon my only child, otherwise I’d be long gone.
    Although I am a fairly strong willed individual – the fact that he has managed to trap me here and seemingly wants me to believe he’s involved in all sorts of “sexually adventurous” relationships with others in town, has taken its tole.
    This is a very small mining town with only a few hundred people and not only are there few opportunities to meet anyone new – he seems to be trying to “block” my every attempt to make any new friends. This is extra difficult for someone like me who has the kind of personal circumstances that are a somewhat unique situation, which I won’t go into at the moment but suffice to say, this makes it even more unbearable to tolerate his behavior toward me.
    Anyhow, I think what I’m trying to say is that I do not know if this is some crazy attempt at “domination” over me or if he’s literally mentally ill – but the harm he has caused is absolutely no joke and I wish there were more people like you who seem to understand that bringing harm to ones-self or others is not any way to experience life or learn about each other.
    So thank you for what you said along those lines, it is very much appreciated.

  • jim s

    May 27th, 2016 at 1:40 PM

    Insightful comment.

  • Geoff

    November 28th, 2014 at 7:57 AM

    I know this is an old thread, but I am hoping that someone might still be reading it. I have just found out that my partner of nine years has been engaging in a BDSM relationship with a work colleague. I allowed her to have a “special friendship” with this guy as I have a degenerative disease and wanted to give her time away from me and my caring demands. I was led to believe he was some quite fragile character, that they were mainly just wanting to do movies and coffee and that he was no threat to me. From the point that I agreed to this thing, I have felt that I have been subjected to this ongoing mental torment, as if they were playing a game with me. Nothing was quite as it seemed, technically they never lied to me (a point that is repeatedly made to me, as if it were one of the rules of their game to be “honest”) but I had to find out the progression of their relationship by direct questioning every step of the way. I was baited with ridiculous circular arguments that seemed quite contrived and exhausted me (I’ve got Parkinson’s Disease, so am not too strong mentally) and eventually when I cracked my breakdown was used as an excuse to end the relationship. My partner is now in a relationship with this guy, and as a parting gesture I was told of their BDSM affair which had been going for the full “friendship” they had. They claim I agreed to the BDSM indirectly when I encouraged them to explore their relationship
    I was wondering if there is any literature or research into maybe a referred abuse, where the BDSM couple use their knowledge to mentally abuse a third party? I feel as if this was the case in my case, as my partner was hanging onto some grief about some injustices earlier in our relationship.

  • E

    September 6th, 2016 at 7:57 AM

    Ok, so years and years ago, buy whatever. I’m reading it, someone else might.
    Anyone in this pisition should look in to polyamoury, not bdsm. This is an unhealthy abusive dybamic. Essentially a coercive affair.
    Yoy can be ok with outside sex or other relationships but communication shoukd be open and your hurt and fears should never be turned on you but instead openly adressed.
    It’s effectively an affair if consent isn’t freely given and enthusiastic.

  • Geoff

    November 28th, 2014 at 8:07 AM

    By the way, the partner’s new bloke seems to be the one with the past form as he is training her. I am the vanilla I guess, and feel that this bloke used his knowledge to train my partner into manipulating me away. Some of her behaviour seemed quite theatrical and rehearsed at times, especially when we were arguing

  • John D

    March 22nd, 2017 at 10:12 PM

    No one who truly loves you will be dishonest and hurt you. Don’t waste your time missing her or wishing she was back…….you’re better off without her when she ignored your feelings and was deceptive and manipulative. You are only in love with who you THOUGHT she was or WANTED her to be. Clearly that was an illusion and a dream, on your part. Be glad to know the truth and heal, then find a quality person who will REALLY love you and treat you right. Good luck!

  • Aria

    December 22nd, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    while its true that many people both male and female have BDSM fantasies, it often seems that in mainstream studies: Women who are sexually dominant/enjoy acting out sexual foreplay as dominatrixes are overlooked (as well as submissive males being overlooked.) What many people don’t know is that there are women who aren’t “bossy” in everyday life buit prefer to take the lead in the bedroom, and there are “Alpha males” who enjoy being submissive in the bedroom but you would never know it from looking at them. What I’m saying is that even though there are definitely women who prefer to be sexually submissive and men who prefer to be sexually dominate there are many other people who prefer the opposite; but often these studies seem to deliberately pander to “traditional” gender stereotypes (male: aggressive female: passive) and as a result it alienates those who don’t fit within that norm.

  • Leather Kate

    December 31st, 2014 at 3:50 PM

    Love this, feel the same. Involved in polyamory and bdsm.

  • kala

    March 1st, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I always enjoyed rough for a long time i became uninterested in sex. Then this movie came around , i seen it and my drive came back, like a ballon pop! To be strait forward im not concerned what others think, now i am highly interested in pushing my limits. I am aroused by both being dominate amd susubmissive depends on the person, i laugh now bc i look at every one with the ideal. i started reading the 50 shades book and was disgusted at their romance really it was fraud, marriage a baby really ? And they even hardly understand themselves. I stopped reading the book lol, but i am thankful for this in a way i am not. I have a hunger sensation for what i seen and felt watching it. Things i have been feeling just needed to vent ;)

  • Cat S.

    March 21st, 2015 at 3:45 PM

    An often overlooked fact that gives a more accurate understanding of the situation: Men have as many fantasies of being submitted as women do, and while men tend to have more dominance fantasies than women (though women also have these), men are more likely to have submission than dominance fantasies! In fact, some studies show men get more pleasure from fantasies in which they are submitted, spanked, etc. than women do. It’s actually all related to the brain and how fear/pain and arousal/pleasure are located in the same areas. So roughly half of all men and half of all women (depending on exactly what study you look at) will experience excitement at being submitted.

  • stephanie

    April 11th, 2015 at 11:56 PM

    I want my husband to dominate me in the bedroom. I love and trust him completely. I want to take him to our bedroom look him in the eyes and tell him I need him to take control I need him to want me to submit to him

  • An

    May 20th, 2015 at 9:20 PM

    I strongly disagree with this “blog/website’s” opinion of the movie
    “50 Shades of Gray” – I read this article before I watched the movie but after I had begun to explore BDSM practices through literature and other on-line sources, though I personaly have never experienced such physical or sexual interactions with another person.
    I have studied meta-physics and philosophy, as well as psychology for the better half of my life thus far, mainly due to a “chemical imbalance” that I was wrongly diagnosed with 16 years ago but only discovered recently. I have also studied many spiritual systems through the years including Tantra Yoga and I feel that your interpretation of this movie “50 Shades of Gray” fails to recognize many aspects of the human condition that simply reflects the fact that people in our day and age are ready to go further in their exploration of emotion and sexual boundries especially between the opposite sexes.
    Everyone has their “hang-ups” and many people have been through sexually and emotionally abusive ordeals, but it is far better to explore these feelings than suppress and push down what we fear. This only causes such powerful forces to “project” out into the world at large and show up in other disasterous ways. I remember being completely enthralled as a teenager by movies like “91/2 Weeks” that explored even darker representations of “sexual psychological disorders” than “50 Shades”. This is just my opinion and I mean no disrespect, but I think the movie “50 Shades of Gray” is a much “lighter” exploration with much more well-adjusted characters than that of the example I give in mentioning “91/2 Weeks”. We have come a long way in regards to such subject matter since then in my opinion.

  • Jaqueline

    September 11th, 2015 at 6:31 AM

    Here is my story and struggle. BDSM is abuse.

    genderapostates.com/trans-activism-and-the-promotion-of-sex/#more-445

  • Carl

    September 26th, 2015 at 3:55 AM

    I am definitely submissive male fantasist and have lived out some of them. I have encountered female polyamory by an ex-partner but we did not stay together – I’m not sure how comfortable I was with it and we were not married or mature enough to have agreed this scenario – I have moral questions about it anyway. I am quite a strong male in everyday life and have often taken roles of leadership. I cannot seem to escape psychological domination fantasies and often want a dominant women to satisfy my desires, I am not sure how this would play out physically and I was not as satisfied when I went for some sessions to professionals years ago – I also have moral questions over this? It did however help me move on from that particular craving. It’s great that we can talk about these things on this blog. I’m married now and my wife is quite controlling and assertive but we have a good balance in the bedroom and can be mutually submissive – I’m not sure she is the type from my domination fantasies. I love her very much and am completely faithful to her. Perhaps I will encounter a dominant female to share psychological chemistry in everyday life. I’m not sure where this all ends?

  • J

    September 30th, 2015 at 11:51 AM

    People need different things and have been through traumas that the mind heals with sex….Im a sub and i love it…I trust my Dom and he treats me well 😉.

  • Andrew

    January 8th, 2016 at 10:32 PM

    Can’t speak for the book…didn’t read it and not interested in fiction anyway…..However, it makes total sense that most women [and many men]have submission fantasies…as explained above, …many, very high functioning people [housewife, mother, breadwinner…etc…etc} will desire to have someone take control..it allows the person to let down, not have to be responsible [for once, …..understand, this is about people who are often overloaded in daily life with responsibility], …now they can let loose, it makes total sense to me….why it is considered in outdated psych journals as problematic is really quite hilarious……its just sex people!!……….. adult play…have fun…do what you want…

  • An

    January 12th, 2016 at 3:34 PM

    I agree with this, I think people have become far too over-serious about such things.
    Its necessary to keep things in proper perspective of course and cause no harm as RKE has mentioned but keeping it light-hearted is best.
    “Playing” with like-minded adults is the point, right?

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