So Bruce and I finally caught up with the rest of America and watched 50 Shades of Grey (the first one) last week. Many D/s couples didn't like the films, so we went into it expecting to see a glamorized, dramatic, and inaccurate representation of the Dominant/submissive lifestyle. Maybe for that reason we actually kind of enjoyed some of it. The acting was badly overdone at the beginning, but they seemed to get into a groove and eventually it was kind of fun, if only superficially. In my opinion the highest point of the film was the recurring theme of flying- the symbol of trust, abandon, freedom, etc. was a surprisingly sweet and clever subtlety that pervaded throughout the film. We both honestly found it somewhat entertaining until the last few scenes, at which point our reaction to the film totally changed.
By totally changed, I mean that even our physical posture shifted from being cuddled up on the couch to a sort of uncomfortable stiffened disgust. I can't remember my specific outward reaction but I remember that Bruce eventually uttered, half to himself, something along the lines of "what the fuck?" Wtf indeed.
At the end of the film there is a weird, disjointed escalation of events; Christian comments that he wants to punish Anastasia (the reason is unclear- maybe because she won't commit to his clear, specific, and admittedly bizarre terms...?). She says she wants him to punish her then, to show her how bad the worst can be so she can better understand him. Ok so it's already getting a little weird, but from this point on it just became so unclear and disjointed that it was actually offensive. I grant that Bruce and I may have felt that way because of our specific use of DD/Ds but for the sake of him and me (and others who have a similar dynamic), allow me to break it all down:
1) He tells her he is going to hit her six times, and he expects her to count... and then he just starts doing it.
No lecture, no reiteration of how he cares, no stating the value of punishment. He doesn't even offer any clarification on why he is upset. He just starts punishing her. [And not at all central to the point, but he's so hardcore that he has written contracts and a special room, yet his worst punishment is six strikes with a leather implement? The strikes are supposedly horribly severe, but I can't imagine any real life submissive identifying such a punishment as severe, much less 'the worst']. Anyway the whole punishment scene is a terrible example of what I've found to be both the hardest to swallow and the most meaningful part of a D/s relationship. Of course every couple is different, but as Bruce and I do take things to the point of harsh, not-so-erotic punishments, I believe this is the heart of it all- it is in these moments of "wow I really hate everything about this" that the concept of true power exchange becomes very real for me. Trust is built, we're both pushed farther in our roles, and the whole relationship changes in an almost tangible way. With the movie, the relationship debate raging throughout the entire film is explicitly addressing such a power exchange, and yet it is at this point that things become the most vague, conflicting, and meaningless. Seriously?
2) He finds gratification in the actual strikes, like in the pain itself.
I'm obviously not on the pain-inflicting end of things, but from what I understand and from what Bruce articulates to me, sadism so not the point of any of it. Maybe a little pain is erotic, but really hurting the one you love in the context of something serious like this? I feel strongly that the pain is a necessary by-product of the power exchange- by itself it lacks meaning and it certainly lacks eroticism. In example Bruce has never initiated intimacy after a severe punishment, and after severe maintenance (ahem, both of which he clearly articulates the point and value of before finishing) our intimacy holds a pointedly more intense sort of affection. Again, every couple is different, but for Bruce and me the motivation and symbolism behind the pain is the point. In Bruce's words "The infliction of pain is not for my benefit, but for yours"- the idea is for me to eventually benefit from his direction, which is logical and at the same time erotic to each of us for different reasons; for me because I can see that he so strongly desires to lead me, and for him because he can see that I trust his direction so completely. The giving and receiving of pain feels like a very innate aspect of the dynamic- I have to say that when the movie was over we both found it challenging to articulate what we knew and felt to be true. Still, I know very few couples who would say that the pain itself is the point.
3) Even after endless discussion defining dominance and submission, she is horrified at the seriousness of the punishment.
Wow. So the movie sets up dominance and submission to be acceptable if unconventional, but only on an erotic level. When things get serious, a line is apparently crossed and the whole thing becomes morally reprehensible. I guess the suggestion is that one size fits all- eroticism laced with dominance and submission is okay, but serious moments of dominance and submission are only for messed up people- specifically those that have suffered child abuse and are "fifty shades of fucked up." Ouch. Even worse, the movie ENDS this way. What? Yeah Christian, I was okay when we explored the concept of dominance and submission at length and to extremes [i.e. sleeping alone, anal fisting... whew...], but now that you spanked me really hard and without foreplay It. Is. Over. Society is already full of people that find dominance and submission to be morally reprehensible; it felt pretty awful that even 50 Shades of Grey portrayed some really valid aspects of D/s in the same way.
I actually feel a lot more lonely in the lifestyle since watching it. I guess it just seems like a great opportunity was wasted, and that the chasm of misunderstanding between the D/s and Vanilla community just grew so much wider. It makes me want to go on a talk show or something and explain how they got it all wrong. Haha, now that would be sure to earn me a true punishment! But I guess as awful as punishments in our house are, I can at least be grateful that they are far deeper and more meaningful than those of the 50 Shades variety.