A lot of people have attacked the fictional character Christian Grey for being a bad dom. Of course, he’d be a terrible dom if he was real. He stalks lip-biting inner-goddess Anastasia, spanks her and takes a strap to her arse, all without her consent.
I’m sure he behaved badly in the second two books as well, but I haven’t been able to read them. Call me a snob and call me a cab, but after skimming Volume One I was out of there.
If Christian Grey were a real person bdsm communities would have warnings about him, for his weird, unethical and non-consensual behaviour. He’d finish up getting charged with assault and being in the centre of a massive media scandal: “Billionaire in kinky love-nest rape!” That sort of thing.
However, as a fictional character his behaviour is a lot better. He’s made a lot more women come, with Fifty Shades in one hand and their bits in the other, than any thousand real doms combined. Even if you include me. That’s a significant contribution to human happiness, and you can’t ignore it.
As a fictional character, my main criticism of Christian Grey is that he doesn’t do nearly enough spanking and commanding and binding the Anastasia of Steel. I skimmed Fifty Shades Freed looking for the bdsm scenes so I could critique them, but I never found any. I’m sure I just didn’t look hard enough.
In the interminable schoolgirl spanking saga I’m writing, there are two headmasters, and they initiate certain of their students into various kinky sexual practises. Obviously, if they were real and lived in our world, they’d both belong in jail.
They’re not breaking age-of-consent laws, and the age gap between them and their charges isn’t all that great: about eight years.
But they’re in a position of authority and there’s no question at all that they’re misusing their authority in ways that, uh, conflict with the criminal code in any civilised society.
On the other hand, these two imaginary men are written to give pleasure to their readers, and my impression is that my spanking headmasters, like the “naughty schoolgirl” scenario itself, appeal particularly to a female audience. I am that audience’s humble servant.
There is, eventually, a happy ending to the Jennifer-and-Maddie saga, but at the rate at which time moves in my stories, that ending will probably arrive some time in 2021. In the meantime, my point is, I’m happy to write it and make it as sexy as possible. While being fervently against corporal punishment and sex between teachers and students in the real world.
I’m not saying that fictional characters have no ethical requirements at all. We erotica writers who consider ourselves to be on the side of the angels (especially the sexy, spankable, fuckable angels) don’t write bestiality, or eroticise rape, or write scenarios involving people under eighteen, though the age of consent where I live is sixteen.
But still, there is a difference, a space, between fantasy and real life, and it’s a space that erotica writers spend a lot of time in. It’s fluid and it’s complex, like the best sex, and we need to defend our freedom to have erotic fantasies that are perfectly sexy without necessarily being perfectly ethical.
We know the difference between fiction and fantasy, on the one hand, and the real world, in the other.
We need to take action in the real world to challenge the beliefs and indulgences that make it far too easy for men to rape and get away with it, and to give support to organisations that support women who’ve been subjected to rape and other violence.
At the same time, we need to defend our right to have erotic fantasies, and to share them with others.
Erotica is a powerful tool for improving human happiness, and for helping people to find and explore their own erotic selves without censorship or condemnation.
Pleasure is, at least, undervalued. It shouldn’t be shamed.
I have read all three books and I found it was less about BDSM and more to do with the emotional growth of Christian. Yes there were sex scenes in all of the books and for fantasies they work fine, however, I never masturbated to any of them lol. Basing yourself as a Dominant on Christian Grey’s behaviour is not good.
I am submissive myself and am very fortunate my man is a very good Dom for me. I doubt he would be a good Dom for everyone. Some of the things he does are not very Dominant. He likes me strong, independent and his equal so no not all Doms are the same. Also consent, even after all these years together, is still very important to him.
Sorry for the long comment but I wanted to leave this plus saying thank you for your wonderful post.
I do know some women who have masturbated using the sex scenes in 50 Shades. So it’s not only possible, it’s probably not uncommon.
I’d have thought the sex/bdsm scenes should be bit longer, and more common. But publishers say the mix is probably right for sales: a lot of romance, and only a bit of sex.
And yes, indeed, I don’t think there’s anything Christian Grey does that I’d want to incorporate into my domming style. Well, not in the _way_ he does it.
I take the piss out of the 50 Shades books from time to time, because I think they really are very, very badly written. But I can’t deny the impact they’ve had, and that that impact has been good, both in increasing bdsm awareness, and in causing orgasms, so it’s got to be doing something right.
Kudos to your dom, by the way. It sounds to me like he’s got the right idea.
This is a great article Jamie – I get a little bemused when writers want fiction so like reality as well as being politically correct. Surely this should be a space that a writer and a reader can lose themselves without the worry of censorship
Most of what I write is true tales from bdsm life. I like realism, especially psychological realism.
But the schoolgirl series, “Jennifer’s pleats and pleas”, isn’t realistic. No such schools exist. They never have existed, never will and never should. I tend to think of it as science fiction: it’s set in an alternate universe, in which ideas of sexual ethics are very, very strange.
In the first couple of episodes I wrote, I was thinking of the headmaster as the villain. But I found it impossible as a writer to not humanise him, showing that from his point of view he’s acting decently. So I moved the story off-world, in my mind, into some realm that resembles ours but has very different sexual mores.
There’s now a kind off tenderness between him and Jennifer, as well as with Maddie, as they move into forming some sort of stable romantic multi-partnered partnership.
So it gets complicated. The rules the characters live by are wrong, but the characters themselves are good people, within their own frameworks. The story framework gives both the dominant and submissive characters a kind of innocence.
Still, my headmaster/schoolgirl will never be a guide to living ethically, or a proposal for education reform. But it will, I hope, be sexy.
People who don’t think “but it’s sexy!” is important are idiots or puritans. The positive benefits of sexual fantasy are not taken nearly seriously enough.
Sex is a human necessity, nearly as much as water is. In fact we’re made of sex and water, which might be a good name for a cocktail.
Sorry this is so long.
Thank you for this article. I’m a novice writer. ( old but still a novice at writing). Last year I started writing erotic fiction, which I’ve published on Literotica, as HappilyLockedMan. I have gotten to really enjoy my writing. Even when I’m not at the keyboard my mind is working over the plot and the motivations, always trying ways to make it feel “Just right.”
For me, writing is a way to look inside myself and to bring parts of myself into the light that seldom see daylight.
I love it when other people praise my stories. It means to me that they’ve understood, appreciated and liked those parts of myself that I revealed in that story. And, of course, that the story got them hard or wet. 🙂
As I’m writing I know that I’m doing well when I’m hard as I’m wring.
So, these are very personal valuable characteristics of erotic fiction.
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Agreed. If you look at non-BDSM fiction it’s full of sorts of awful things. Martin Amis. Anthony Burgess. Margaret Atwood. Just to pick a few random examples!!! We don’t try to copy their stories into “real life” and so I seems to me that the same should go for kinky stories but you’re right that there’s sometimes a different expectation.
And yes, tge 50 shades books were poorly proofed and clumsily written. It drives me crazy although I did get excited reading them. Mostly I just try to deal with it by sticking with quality erotica. Anais Nin is a classic but there are so many.
This post was good – an interesting valuation. I like how you weighed up the fantasy sexiness versus real life sexual interplay. Reality can be skimmed in these fantasies, normally taboo topics and concepts can be explored and people can get off on them. If real life intrudes too much it could dampen the eroticism.
I found some of 50 Shades hot – because I did not try to look at it as real, just a collage of sexy ideas, moments. It is a shame that so many uninformed people took it to be a portrayal of real BDSM, because it has thrown shade on some areas of the fetish.
Great post Jaime.
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