She was kneeling before me, prostrate and naked, skin glistening in the dim light of the hotel room. We were both panting, having just finished a particularly intense session of lovemaking. Parts of her skin (her butt in particular) had reddened almost to the point of welting, spanked so hard it might have hurt to sit down for the next few hours.
I made my way to her side and untied her wrists. She turned over to face me, her eyes wet with tears, and a satisfied smile across her lips. I brushed her hair, which was a mess from having been pulled and tugged on. I gave her long, soft kisses as she began to fall asleep against me, my hands caressing the parts of her that were still red.
This arrangement only lasted around six months. On days like this, I was her master, and she was my slave. It was around seven years ago, a year before the sudden boom in rope sales that followed the publication of the terribly-written fictional saga, Fifty Shades Of Grey, that launched a million sexual spankings.
We were introduced by a mutual friend. She was looking to transfer into my university from hers, and needed someone’s advice about it. We met up one afternoon, but the chemistry was so palpable that we could almost taste it.
From the day we first met, it took us only a few days to start having sex. Our bodies seemed to be drawn to each other like magnets, and every time we met up was just a countdown until we finally got naked.
BDSM is a dialogue
My earliest memories of her can easily be described as having been an indiscernible haze of sex, and I honestly do not remember when we got to talking about BDSM and roleplaying, but there was a particular conversation that still sticks.
“So ‘bitch’ is off the table?” I asked.
“Yeah,” she replied. “It just doesn’t have a nice ring to it.”
BDSM (a combination of the abbreviations of Bondage, Discipline, Domination and Submission, and Sadomasochism) became a conversation for us. Practicing it became a constant dialogue, where everything was decided together, contrary to popular belief that the slave only does what the master wants. In Fifty Shades, the titular Christian Grey presents Anastasia with a contract that she has no say in. The only thing she gets to change is her work schedule, and she is pressured into signing it despite her unease with the whole situation.
Responsible practitioners of BDSM will tell you that this is only the first of many mistakes made by the popular novel. The discussion of its terms should remain constant and flexible depending on those involved.
You have to fix what you mess up
Another important error is the total lack of aftercare in the novel. Aftercare is the act of providing both physical and emotional reparations after BDSM sessions. These are gentle actions like reaffirming statements, loving embraces and cuddles, and massaging and tending to possible injuries. It's the phase of healing and dealing with the hurt inflicted. BDSM, while a form of roleplay and fantasy, often blurs the lines of reality, and it's these blurred lines that must be dealt with in aftercare.
Aftercare with her, as I depicted earlier, was cuddling and falling asleep together. It was lovingly caressing the parts of her that I had reddened with spanking and striking, making sure she was not emotionally hurting from the things said in the heat of the moment. More often than not, if we tried something new, we would talk about whether she liked it or not, and whether we should ever try it again.
BDSM values consent above all
The most troubling aspect—and this, in the BDSM community, is seen as unforgivable—was the Christian Grey’s wanton disregard for Anastasia’s consent, to the point where he ignores her invocation of her safeword. This is no less than sexual assault or rape.
A safeword is something practitioners and participants of BDSM use to indicate a withdrawal of consent. It means that something has been done or is being done that they don’t like, possibly because it might be causing permanent bodily or emotional harm. More often than not, the safeword is a word that might never come up during sex, like “watermelon” or “carpet.” Invoking the safeword doesn’t necessarily mean that the roleplay should be stopped. Maybe it just means the submissive wants to talk about what’s happening and then offer insight on how to proceed from there.
Sometimes, however, there are cases in which the safeword becomes impossible to speak, such as when the submissive is gagged. In these cases, blinking rapidly, knocking on wood, and “tapping out” could be the marker of safety.
Responsible BDSM can be good for you
I think what offended the BDSM community the most about this atrociously-written trilogy was that, despite revolving around the world of BDSM, paradoxically presented it as an unhealthy side effect of Christian Grey’s abuse. Ana grows to love him despite it, in their all-too-familiar Stockholm Syndrome-heavy Beauty and the Beast relationship.
Studies have actually shown that the practice of BDSM actually improves the overall mental and psychological well-being of its practitioners, reducing anxiety and psychological stress. Studies have also shown that it is good for relationships. To engage in it well, it requires specific levels of trust, intimacy, and a good deal of communication. Studies even show that couples who practice BDSM are less likely to commit infidelities.
She hasn’t been my slave for awhile now and I haven’t been her Master in a long time, but she has remained a close and valued friend. And while I don’t practice BDSM as frequently as I used to, I still consider it an invaluable endeavor in my life, and one that I can see myself engaging in once more.