(This is not a blog about my reaction to the newly released movie that I’ve yet to see, but rather my own real life experiences years prior falling in and out of love with the lifestyle it tries to portray)
Submissive. The term means different things to different people. It is literally, biblical. As in Man should be submissive to God, and Woman should be submissive to her Husband, and God. Many men and women still hold certain traditional beliefs about a man’s role in a relationship, but don’t cross over into any of that ‘other’ territory sexually. Does that make her submissive, or him dominant? Or her less submissive, or him any less dominant? It’s something I don’t have the answers for, which is amazing considering I used to spend far too much time thinking, and pondering about it.
Instead of the more traditional definitions, most get their definition of those terms from a book series called “Fifty Shades Of Grey” which boils down to essentially an unrealistic stereotype of a Dominant/Submissive (D/s) relationship. The male main character is a billionaire who never seems to work, modelesque, extremely successful, and described as extremely smart although never doing anything particularly intelligent. He’s a self-made billionaire (quite the panty-dropper no?) who runs a company where thousands of people engaged in the field of doing some kind of vaguely business things in accordance with the businessy-sounding orders given by Christian over his phone. None of it really matters. He’s also an expert piano player, dancer, and glider pilot. That matters slightly more. The perfect man gains the inexperienced female narrators submission through seduction, manipulation, and stalking. Even attempts to get her to sign an absurd and legally unenforceable sex slave contract. He becomes obsessed with her, and they have sex in the kind of odd, uncomfortable locations women love the idea of having sex in, but not actually having sex in practice. What is it about elevators? Naturally, we later find out this main character only likes to hurt women during sex because he was—-abused himself. Wah. There may have also been something about his mom being a prostitute. Double Wah. The woman of course manages to rehabilitate him on some level(Seemingly the only more appealing fantasy for women today than being dominated) although he doesn’t really change his ways in any noticeable manner at all. Instead of the seemingly unavoidable bad ending this story would have in real life, he proposes to her, they marry, and live happily ever after. How do I know all this? Because I once had to suffer through comparisons to this female imagined caricature of a dominant man for months at work, until I got so mad that I read the damn books myself. I was young, professional, and openly dominant, and it didn’t take long for the whispers around the office to spread. That probably was the first seed of my eventual disinterest in that whole lifestyle. I’ve always hated the feeling of being lumped into a category. Put into one of those boxes everyone wants to place people. And here I was unknowingly becoming a living embodiment of this fictional character, that more and more ladies were becoming aware of through the plague-like spread of this tacky erotica turned best seller. I at least was “normal” compared to the damaged book character, at least that’s what almost every woman I had met told me. But the mere participation in the lifestyle and the small grip it had on me was slowly changing that. I no longer felt like myself, and I was no longer happy.
The success and popularity of the book series only proves what has almost always been true in modern American entertainment: You dumb things down for the masses, you reach a massive audience, and make a shitload of money. Sure, not everyone was in love with the series, and the BDSM community I at the time was very loosely apart of, but keenly aware of, seemed to delight in pointing out the authors obvious and admitted complete inexperience or research in the topic she was basing the bulk of her novel on, evidenced in the way that she ignored key aspects, and completely misrepresented others. They hated this damn thing. Other groups focused on making a strong case for what they felt was offensive misogyny in the book. There was “Fifty Shades Is Abuse” petition in support of standing up against a book that they felt promoted and romanticized domestic violence toward women. Of course, because it was written by a woman, those things generated no real harmful controversy. In fact, it sold even more.
It was a kind of an odd thing. The more experienced the reader was with the theme, the more they seemed to hate the book. Whereas moms, and teenage girls who didn’t know a whip from a washcloth seemed to love it. The ‘experts’ were right. It wasn’t an expertly written, carefully crafted novel, responsibly exploring the unique in’s and out’s of a BDSM relationship. The origins of the book itself started out as a sensualized ‘Twilight’ Fan Fiction, by a middle aged woman who was a fan of the book series and had written many other Twilight Fan Fictions. It was in essence written, for the inexperienced, by the inexperienced. That was the art of its appeal. And it was unintentionally brilliant. She took her apparent BDSM fantasy, and dressed it up with every romance cliche girls always fall for, and presto, she had this “unique” scandalous novel on her hands that wasn’t really all that unique or original save for the nature of the sex scenes. And because the size of the population that actually permanently exists in this BDSM themed sect lifestyle is so small compared to those who are merely curious, and like sex and romance infused novels, the potential audience was for it was far more massive than it would have been for a book the ‘BDSM community’ would have raved about.
Just as the book faded into obscurity like the other fads from 2012, it was announced that a theatrical version of the book was scheduled to release in 2015 and put it back in the mainstream for at least a little while, and most likely the next painful several years of sequels. Because just as sure as you seemingly can’t have a popular book without it turning into a book trilogy these days, you also can’t have a popular book trilogy without an ensuing movie. And you can’t have a popular movie without a movie trilogy. And so on. The movie is scheduled to release on Valentine’s Day, of all dates. As strange as the date might seem, I think it’s actually a smart choice, because there is always the non-couples movie that does well around Valentine’s Day that singles go to see, and this should be perfect for that, as a confused generation of post-feminism women young and old are now compelled, and encouraged, to soak themselves at the mere presentation of abstract concepts of masculinity, rather than the romantic stories and traditional characters of yesteryear. These are replaced with: Physiques, Authority, and Money. And yes “kinky sex”, which for most of America basically covers anything besides a brief few minutes of missionary. This traditionally has always been a genre for people who are out of touch with their desires, and who aren’t getting to live out whatever their personal fantasy of being with a real man is.
A friend of mine once described his first BDSM experiences to me like this: After clicking immediately, then meeting, he and this sub fell promptly into their respective roles, and disappeared into her apartment in Manhattan, sustaining their kinky dynamic around the clock. (Neither of these two had jobs mind you) After several days, they somehow surfaced back to their respective vanilla modes, and promptly discovered that they had nothing in common, besides that they now were carriers of the same strand of STD. True story. Maybe they were meant to be, maybe they weren’t. They will never know, because the D/s aspect colored everything before the relationship got to take hold of its own accord. The relationship ended, as abruptly as it began. This was another aspect I thought Fifty Shades portrayed poorly, even irresponsibly. The book seems to give this false impression that two people can connect, and fall in love, and remain in love, strictly on sexual chemistry and passion.
With all that said, I feel that I’m probably a little too hard on it, and that’s directly because of my own real life experiences, and feeling typecast by it. I love reading, and it’s hard for me to hate any book. I’m also impartially a fan of tales of romance and passion, regardless what the theme is. So I didn’t hate the entire book when I initially read it, I thought it was okay all things considering, just a little silly at points. With a few tweaks, I may have even enjoyed it on some level. Though probably not on Valentine’s Day, I’ll certainly have to see the movie for myself. The movie very well could be better than the book, since everyone seems to feel the book was ‘poorly written.’ Regardless, there is no way it could be a flop financially with the size of the book audience. Even if it reviews horribly, people are still going to turn out to see it, similar to Twilight. But for me flashing back to those years, it just seemed like everyone wanted to relive their book fantasy because I fit the basic description, and I just wanted something real. I wanted someone to actually understand me. I realize people meant the comparisons to be a compliment for the most part, some even tried to explain in detail how there were deeper, romantic aspects, but they simply stopped being a compliment for me. I saw the main character as a damaged, selfish person, and I was trying desperately to shed any similarities to that in my real life character.
It was during this odd stage in time that my girlfriend first came into my life. After an endless string of damaged people intent on living out their fantasies, perhaps none more damaged than myself at the time, she couldn’t have come a moment sooner. As she pointed out, she was nothing like what I said I was looking for, and that was beauty of it. Best of all, not only was she not trying to frame me as the books main character, she hadn’t even read the book! All of these things allowed for us to connect with each other on a real level, not just sexually, and I soon became so interested in her as a person that kinky fuckery almost became an afterthought, or at least a less important priority.
Yet what I also know is that I met my then girlfriend under the premise that she too was “submissive”. With the benefit of hindsight, I know that for her to describe herself as being ‘submissive’ is as big an example of false advertising as ‘Lucky Strike’ cigarettes saying smoking was good for your health! And that’s nothing against her. In fact, I don’t know if at the time I continued to love her in spite of that, or because of that. I don’t think I could have loved the type of women I wrote I was seeking during that time period of my life. Regardless, her personality, her essence, is not submissive. Now that doesn’t mean she’s a feminist, it doesn’t make her a bitch, someone who didn’t take care of me, or who is overly combative. Her chemistry with me was perfect from the start. She just was not simply submitting for anybody. She had far too much spirit, and life. Like many, because of life, she has a hard time trusting, let alone submitting. You have to gain alot of respect, and you have to pass alot of tests to even cross over to that other side with her. I’ve happened to have always been able to do that. But like I have joked with her, I had to fight, scratch, and crawl for every inch with her over the years as our bond developed as it did early on. Nothing was given, or offered up on a platter in “submission”.
If that lifestyle had become a side addiction for me, meeting her was the equivalent of being able to quit something cold turkey. The nature of the first thing she ever read me write, on that personal, was in complete contradiction to the fact that came at a time where I wanted out from that life and that person. I’m probably at fault for having not properly explained this transition to her. For the first few months, you could notice her occasionally having those almost insecure sentiments of, ‘You did this stuff with other girls, why not me?’ The reality is it wasn’t from lack of anything in her, it was merely lack of desire from me by that point. I was interested in, beyond interested in, starting a new chapter and phase of my life, with her. It was a breath of fresh air. I was thankful. But as fate would have it, due in part again to this book, I still could not shake it completely, and leave it in my past.
After eventually reading the book for herself, there became the idea early on of her wanting to experiment her curiosities with me because she trusted me, which inevitably went out the window forever, when it was decided after only a few months together that whether I was ready or not, she would have her own experimenting, without me. Like the book, it became less about trust and intimacy, and more about individualistic fantasy and desires. This confirmed what I had already known for a long while, and only gave me more reason to steer clear.
Even after the whole ordeal, and after deciding to move forward and still pursue a relationship, there was still sort of a dilemma on my shoulders. Or at least it was a potential dilemma. Because I could either deal with it by sort of jumping back in, competing with this lifestyle that really had passed me by, that I had lost interest in, and in turn push her deeper into it, or I could go on continuing to be the person I had already become, let our relationship (amazingly, we had only been together for two months at that point) keep developing naturally, be the light, and let that be enough. Together or alone, this was the path I was heading. I’m not a fortune teller but I’m aware enough of what the other path would have entailed. Becoming this performance monkey who had to act a certain way, or have sex a certain way. Ironically, I was way too “dominant” for that crap! I didn’t hate being thought of as dominant in particular; I’ve just never wanted to be put into any sort of box, regardless of what it was. I’m not going to run someone else’s race. It felt like spice for a relationship that after only months together I didn’t feel needed any spicing up frankly. Just seeing her with her clothes off was still a thrill for me. I wanted to put her on a pedestal, not tear her down. And most important of all, it would have been trivializing the loving part of sex during a time when we were especially meant to be developing that bond. That was the last thing I wanted to do. I certainly wasn’t at the level where wanted to be early on when it came to that. I had alot of bad wiring to undo. I had done my experimenting, and came to my conclusion. It was more than a book for me, it was my life, and it became all too real for me. After so many months of those hookups, and where it had left me emotionally, I had no interest in hitting that bottom again. It didn’t mean we couldn’t take things wherever we wanted in the future. I just knew I wanted something real, with her. Something genuine, something completely our own.
Still, the ball was in my court to make the decision. I was looking at a “relationship” that I was aware had a shelf life of about two or three months (best case scenario), or a relationship that could have been lasting, or nothing at all. And I’m not going to say that in the confusion of how I still felt about her that I didn’t consider each option. It may well have been a fun two or three months of fun with her allowing me to have my way with her like other girls before her, and burning through every crazy sex idea out there. In fact, I’m sure it would have been. But once I realized that I did love her, there wasn’t even a choice. We had an entire life ahead of us. If it was meant to be, she would catch up to where I was. I knew where I had to go. I knew where we had to go.
Years later, I can say with certainty not only that I chose the right path, but that it was one of the most important decisions I’ve ever made. Because regardless of her “submission”, I eventually gained something from her that was much, much more valuable: her trust, her love. Never confuse one with the other. They are not equal, and they are not one in the same.
– Nick Dee