A little more on Fifty Shades

As I’m hearing more and more about Fifty Shades of Grey—again, I have no plans to actually read or watch it—I’m becoming more and more unhappy with my waffling in the previous post. The movie sounds horrible; not only do we lack the apparently comedic effect of Ana’s narration, but Ana also is never actually shown having an orgasm. I mean, what is even the point then?

The more I think about what I said about Fifty Shades of Grey, the more I realize that my own perspective was clouding my analysis. I wasn’t imagining the perspective of someone who is naturally submissive.

You see, I do not have a submissive personality in the slightest.

As an introvert who has suffered from social anxiety, I have behaved in ways that could be called submissive many times. But it makes me chafe. I like being in control. Years and years ago, when Sean and I were first dating, we were in a play-by-post RPG together. I was the GM, meaning I should have been in charge, but Sean, who also has a strong personality, and who had been playing in and occasionally running the game far longer than I had, argued hotly against a story decision I had made. I ended up changing the story to please him, and this lost me one of my favorite players.

I have despised having made that decision ever since. It was my game, my decision, and I rolled over. I didn’t want to fight with Sean, so I just did what he wanted.

(Thankfully, I eventually learned that this is not the way to behave in a relationship, and I have been much happier since figuring out how to actually have discussions. Sean has too; my unwillingness to fight for my position had been a source of frustration for him.)

I don’t want to mischaracterize submission here. Being submissive doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you don’t stand up for yourself. It just means you are relinquishing control willingly. You’re demonstrating absolute trust in another person. This is something that is extremely difficult for me to do. I’ve tried it, and I’m very bad at it. When I wrote my original post about Fifty Shades, I wasn’t coming from that perspective at all.

Now, I’m reconsidering. If you crave a dominant to take care of you, if you’re actively looking for someone to make decisions, you might miss the warning signs of abuse. Stories that paint abuse as romantic make it harder to see the difference between a loving, trusting relationship and a relationship in which one person abuses the other.

I would never want to abuse a partner. If I were the dominant in a BDSM relationship, my purpose—the thing that would make me enjoy it—would be pleasing my partner. I would never want them to be afraid of me or to feel like they couldn’t say no. I would be so thankful that they were willing to indulge my controlling nature. I would want to reward them with whatever treatment they desired.

Sex can be wonderful, but it’s so vital to actually communicate. You have to tell the other person what you like, and ask them what they like. Ask for what you want. Or demand it, if your partner likes submitting to your demands. Every relationship is different. But you should never feel afraid. You should feel safe, and happy, and excited. You should be enjoying yourself.

Making yourself vulnerable to a person who loves you is absolutely romantic. Having an abuser take advantage of your vulnerability is not.