BDSM and Consent: Relationship issues in Fifty Shades of Grey novels


Vivian Englund – Copy Editor 

Fifty Shades of Grey has left a mark on pop culture as seemingly one of the only pieces of erotica become so popular, so fast. With countless of daytime television shows featuring the novel as an indulgent, decadent read sales soared through 2012 to present day.

However, something seems to be swept under the rug with Fifty Shades.

The problem starts with the characters themselves. Christian Grey, a stereotypically physically attractive, powerful and rich CEO. Anastasia Steele an average, virginal college graduate with no outstanding qualities.

A common theme throughout the novel is BDSM, which rarely seems to make an appearance in the realm of mainstream novels. However, the novel abuses stereotypes that the BDSM community faces.

In the novel, Christian was molested as a child and was born of a crack addict. This plays into the popular idea that people in the BDSM community are tainted or tortured souls and ‘must have something wrong with them.’

I was disappointed that this trope was carried out in something I expected to celebrate a community rather than demonizing it.

Anastasia’s goal or mission in the novel becomes clear; she is setting out to heal or fix Christian’s ‘flaw’ that is being interested in BDSM. This bastardizes the community and the erotic practice itself.

So this is to say that in the midst of all of the constant arguing, passive aggression, and lack of proper communication—you can ‘fix’ your partner. This of course is only demonstrated if you cautiously say or do ‘the right thing’ according to the novel’s ideas.

With that said, whichever way you try to twist it, Christian and Anastasia’s relationship is nothing short of dangerous. The fine line of safety in a dominant and submissive relationship is broken in many parts of the series.

The forms of consent were blurred, as Christian literally hands Anastasia a contract to say that she consents to whatever sexual acts her subjects her to.

Now, consent is supposed to be the notion that both parties unanimously agree to engage in whatever activity. A contract that was designed by one party and not the other, is not consent.

Consent tends to work better when you have an open conversation about it, this includes things like boundaries, which should especially be taken into account in BDSM.

This is especially including the fact that Anastasia had no clue as to what half of the sexual acts on the contract even are.

Realistically, consent was only given in some situations in the book. Certain parts definitely were more close to assaults, rather than a practice with consent.

On a similar note, Christian often seems to push Anastasia’s boundaries by forcing her and sometimes even physically pushing her into things that she clearly is not ready to do.

Some of the other things Christian has forced upon Anastasia were: performing a sexual act over and over even when she had a negative reaction to it, yelling at her, leaving her, and isolating her.

In general, I hope that Fifty Shades does not stand as a resource for those whom are new to or interested by BDSM. It does not serve as a healthy or reliable way of communicating with a partner or set a good example for the community as it stands today.

Photo Credit: Scott Crawford 

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