50 Shades of Sex Ed

This is for people who have read 50 Shades of Grey:  it contains spoilers and, like the book, also has some content which is not for you young uns*. So only read this if you’re over 16 please.

(*What age exactly I can’t say. There seems to be no age limit on purchasing this book)

50 Shades of Sex Ed

50 Shades of Grey is an erotic novel/love story about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele written by E.L. James. It’s the first in a trilogy (I haven’t read the other two) which depicts the ups and downs of their romance. It also features a lot of sex, a lot of which features spanking, hitting, restraint, punishment and exchange of power.

A LOT of people have read it (40 million copies of Shades books have sold worldwide), so lots of people must really like it and some ‘young people’ are reading. Usually books like this are not so popular – they’re usually found in the ‘adult’ section of your local bookshop – but this is so popular that it can be bought in supermarkets. Another reason this is so popular is because so many people have bought it to read on their ebooks: this is because a) it’s so long and heavy in print b) it means no-one can see that they are reading a sexy book.

However it’s had a lot of criticism from some people for the way it portrays sex, power, gender and BDSM. Some people think that it sends out messages to its readers that might harm them.

I’ve read the first one (mainly so I know what everyone is talking about). I’m going to share a few of my thoughts about it here however I’m not going to give a massive lecture about it. There are a few factual things that I want to point out, because you might not have been taught about them elsewhere, and I’m going to flag up a few things to help you to consider the book critically, but I’m not going to tell you what to think cos I think that’s your job.

50 shades of sex ed

How healthy do you think their relationship is? As a bit of fun, think of how Ana and Christian would score their relationship on the Bish Relationship Graph

  • What did they score highly on? Which got low scores?
  • How did these change through the book or the trilogy?
  • Could they have worked on some things?
  • Which areas were the most important for Ana/Christian?
  • Were Ana’s limits respected? Were Christian’s limits respected?
  • Visit this page about abusive relationships: in what way is this relationship similar or different?

50 shades of sex ed

The way that BDSM is portrayed in 50 Shades has led to a lot of discussion. Whilst some people think that it’s great that BDSM is now talked about, others are upset that it suggests that people who do it are ‘f****d up’. I’ve not talked about BDSM yet at bishuk.com so I’ll give you a quick guide to it.

BDSM is quite a general term which includes lots of ways of having sex which are outside the ‘norm’ (hate that word). Some people also use the term ‘Kink’ (the opposite term being ‘Vanilla’). BDSM can involve lots of things, but can include a consensual exchange of power so that one person agrees to submit to the other person and do what they want – this may or may not be sexual. What these people do is usually agreed in advance but it can involve physical control, sensory deprivation, restraint or pain or it might be just about control that is non-physical.

The most important thing to know is that BDSM and Kink have to be consensual – that is, people taking part in it (like any sex) have to be agreeing to it. It is completely different to violence or abuse in relationships which is not agreed to in advance.

The person in control is dominant and the person being controlled is submissive. People can be a bit of both, or can switch between the two (a ‘switch’) or not really either. There is no evidence that people who are into BDSM or Kink have had difficult, traumatic or abusive upbringings.

If you’ve read 50 Shades you’ll know that there is a lot of this kind of stuff in it. In 50 Shades of Grey, Christian (a dom or dominant) wants Ana to be his sub. Lots of the stuff that they did in 50 Shades of Grey would not be recommended by people who take part in BDSM: for example

  • Christian threatened to punish Ana when he was angry with her. The boundary between him being annoyed with her and him spanking her seemed too blurry, especially so early in a relationship (with someone so inexperienced).
  • He shocked Ana by exposing her to his playroom and very extreme forms of BDSM too soon.
  • The use of cable ties in restraint can cause damage.

So, like a lot of porn, it’s not meant to be used as a manual on how to have sex. As Christian himself implores Ana, if you are going to do it you need to do proper research. If you are interested in learning more about BDSM and Kink (and are over 18) try visiting informed consent.

But about Ana and Christian.

  • What might have attracted Christian to BDSM and being dominant?
  • Why did Ana choose to get involved in BDSM?
  • Were Christian’s sexual and emotional needs being met?
  • Were Ana’s sexual and emotional needs being met?
  • Was the control in and out of the play/bedroom? Was that a problem?

50 shades of sex ed

Like a lot of sex scenes in porn and non-porn films, the sex in 50 Shades was not a realistic representation of sex for most people. For example

  • It’s pretty unusual for people to orgasm that quickly (men and women)
  • It’s pretty unusual for people to come at the same time (simultaneous orgasms)
  • It’s pretty unusual for penises to be able to get hard again so soon after ejaculation (males have a refractory period, more information about this at the bottom of this post)

Between page 118 and 122, in what appears to be a matter of only a few minutes, Christian and Ana had two lots of simultaneous orgasms. There was also not a lot of foreplay going on and this was probably why Ana reported vaginal soreness after sex. Foreplay is really really important before sex, particularly for vaginal sex as the vagina needs to be relaxed and lubricated.

About Christian and Ana

  • Think about the sex scenes: did Ana and Christian enjoy them?
  • Ana had penis in vagina sex for the first time with Christian: how was that? Was it realistic?
  • Apart from them really fancying each other, what else is important in having good sex?
  • Why are sex scenes in fiction not like real life? Would it be better if the sex scenes were realistic?
  • Unlike lots of porn and non-porn films they talked about contraception and safer sex: what did you think about that?

___________________________________________________________________________________

Please please leave your ideas about any of this in the comments section below. I’m really interested in hearing what you think.

For more bishness that is related to this post

How to Use Condoms Christian kept a lot of condoms on his person at all times

The Mini Pill Ana’s preferred choice of hormonal contraception

How to Have Sex  a basic guide to having entry sex

Brief Guide to Relationships My guide to how to deal with relationships

Porn A lot of 50 Shades is porn. Learn more about this here.
Massive thanks to everyone on twitter and in blogs writing about 50 Shades. Particular thanks to ***Pandora Blake*** :-D

Also thanks to Jess for lending me her copy!

© Justin Hancock 2012 (funny name for a sex educator) bishtraining.com

15 Comments

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15 responses to “50 Shades of Sex Ed

  1. jemima101

    From a BDSM perspective it is not just the practicalities many of us object to. In a BDSM relationship , just like any other, both parties should have their voice listened too, be respected and grow. Dominants tend to nurture their subs, it is a protective and empowering relationship. All this is missing from 50 shades.

  2. Great post, and I agree with you particularly on the ‘it’s porn’ thing. It does provide an interesting way to open up the topic of BDSM for discussion (and lots of the questions you raise are interesting, and well worth exploring if people are interested in kink but not sure whether it’s for them, etc). But I think my main frustration with the book is that it’s being held aloft as an example of how not to do sex. Well… of course it’s not the best way to do sex – it’s porn. Porn allows us to act out fantasies that are unrealistic or unrepresentative of how we might behave in real life. It’s crucial to recognise when something turns us on but isn’t something we’d actually do, and likewise it’s important to go easy on certain materials (i.e. erotic fiction) when they’re not 100% realistic. I think you’ve raised the issues without trashing the book in a far more mature way than I ever could – kudos =)

    • bishtraining

      Thanks GotN. Your considered thoughts on 50 Shades certainly helped me a lot, and I think if we look at it like we look at all other porn or sexually explicit material then it makes sense.

  3. Rachel

    It is really refreshing to see a balanced artical that does not say this book is wrong or good. This suggests unpicking some of the myths in the book with young people rather than brushing the book under the carpet. I have looked at music videos and soap story lines with young people to challenge some un healthy relationship messages and maybe this book would be an opportunity to look at others?
    Thanks
    Rachel

    • bishtraining

      I think picking out very selective (non sex) quotes might be a good idea: for instance there’s one about Christian talking about the benefits of Ana drinking alcohol. However I think we’d need to be very careful about encouraging young people to read it because this may be against the law (if they are under 18).

      Thanks for you comment Rachel
      Justin

  4. It’s a fiction book, not a “how to”. It gets people talking and maybe exploring ideas. Nothing more, nothing less.

  5. I couldn’t stand the books because they portrayed a very weak “dom” and an even weaker “sub”. E.L. James did a terrible job researching BDSM or healthy relationships for that matter. Most authors know to research your topics first to make the story more believable. If she had picked regular vanilla people who did this INSTEAD, it would have been just as popular because of the smut, but not as frustrating because of the lies.

  6. One thing that seemed really odd to me in this book (I only read the first also) is that from the get go Christian Gray is one hundred percent smothering and suffocating Anastasia. She goes to see her mother to get away — and he flies uninvited to see her. She emails him that she doesn’t want to see him again and he shows up at her bedroom with champagne. That kind of behavior was romantic to me — maybe — at 16. But as a grownup, just no. He emails her, texts her, sends her things, harasses her about signing this contract — and because he is “hot” and beautiful and a Billionaire (always such nice guys) she repeatedly gives in and then often has a cry. I understand she will tame his ‘brokenness’ in the end…. that’s why its the old fantasy of taming the rich rude/unavailable Darcy. But no, according to your standards not “fair.” Also her losing her virginity that way was laughable — who has ever had such a pleasurable experience being solidy F*d as she puts it, her first time. Anyway, it had me turning the pages, but I didn’t actually find it sexy. That was odd, too. No feelings of arousal for me here. I had more of a response to one page in good old Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying…

  7. terrible_ideas

    I can’t comment on the content of the book because it was so horribly written that I couldn’t make it ten pages in. Before trying to read this I thought Gor books were terrible. I now have a new standard of low.

  8. This book also has, in my opinion, an extremely destructive take on jealousy, which seems to feed into the power-play. Christian’s jealousy seems to drive him to want to possess her, and Ana’s jealousy seems to drive her to give him what he wants for fear of losing her. No experienced dominant would allow himself to be driven by that kind of emotion. When it comes to BDSM, the people doing it right are amongst the most thoughtful, considerate, and reasonable people I have ever met. Because they have to be.

    • bishtraining

      That’s a very interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. It’d be interesting to hear other people’s take on jealousy in the book.

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