Real Members Of The BDSM Community Tell Us What They Think Of 50 Shades Of Grey

When I first learned about “mommy porn” sensation 50 Shades Of Grey, I immediately wondered what actual members of the BDSM community might think of it. On the one hand, it’s gotten people talking about BDSM on an unprecedentedly massive level; on the other, it spreads misconceptions about kinky people that are potentially quite harmful. So I asked some non-fictitious, practicing members of the BDSM community their opinions on the book. Their answers varied somewhat, but most of them came down on the side of “kill it with fire.” (I’m using images of flowers to represent them because nothing says “Twilight-y sexual euphemisms” to me like some flowers.)

Main image: SomeECards.com

Flower images: Flickr Commons

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    • KateS

      I couldn’t agree with those ladies any more than I already do!!! I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Thank you for this!

    • lucygoosey74

      Cool, thanks for getting some insight from people who really live the bdsm lifestyle..well played.
      I haven’t read 50 shades and have no desire to, primarily because of all the informative posts I’ve read about it.
      Also, the term
      ‘mommy porn” just grosses me out. Those are two words I never want to hear togather
      Mommy.
      Porn.

    • endn

      leslie & jane’s “it rubs me the wrong way”, teehee!… yes I am a 12 year old

    • Sarah

      Ohhh thank you so much for actually talking to people in the BDSM community! I’ve been really peeved with a lot of the articles about 50 Shades of Grey (*cough* Crushable *cough*) because they are basically like, “THIS IS BAD BECAUSE BDSM IS BAD AND IF YOU DO IT YOU ARE IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP AND NEED HELP.” This was so refreshing to read.

    • Tania

      Is there fisting? I read a chapter-by-chapter recap of it, and it said the female protagonist was against it.

    • Colleen

      Am I the only one who thinks being referred to as “vanilla” is insulting?

      If you want to get super kinky and get your freak on with toys and straps and whatever gets you off, I don’t judge you. More power to you, whatever works. But don’t call me “vanilla” as though my dis-interest in the same sort of thing means I’m not having sex right, or that I’m boring.

      Remember, when vanilla was first discovered, it was considered one of the most exotic spices in the world.

      • Sarah

        I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think it’s meant to be insulting (which, of course, doesn’t necessarily make it less insulting to you). It’s just the term that’s used to differentiate BDSM people from non-BDSM people.

      • Lemona

        Of course it is meant to be insulting, as “vanilla” is largely a pejorative term.

        I am somewhat insulted both for non-BDSM folks and for the flavor vanilla itself (which is a delicious, unique, and adaptable flavor).

        Not being a practitioner of BDSM doesn’t mean a person is doing only “boring” things (whatever that would mean), or doing the same things over and over. There’s a whole spectrum of experiences to be had outside of BDSM.

      • Lo

        It did make me laugh, kind of like the term ‘mundanes’.

      • Sarah

        I guess I say that I don’t think it’s meant to be insulting because I am in the BDSM community and I have never used it insultingly. Maybe I’m naive and everyone else is looking down on people who are vanilla, but I’m not. I don’t care how other people have sex. I don’t think that vanilla people are boring or doing it wrong. It’s not what I enjoy, but, how is that my business at all?

        Oh, and Andrea, up there, with your “Yeah, we are the ones with a screw loose in the sex dept. *eye roll*” comment? Yeah. THAT’S insulting.

      • Andrea

        Sarah: is it? Oh gosh I didn’t mean it in an insulting way (bats eyelashes). I hope I didn’t offend you! (clutches pearls). Just like you didn’t mean to offend me by calling me “vanilla”

      • Sarah

        Andrea: Yeah, because implying that someone might be boring and implying that they’re insane? Totally the same thing.

      • Andrea

        Equally insulting and offensive anyways.

      • Lemona

        I don’t think BDSM is insane or creepy or wrong. I would define it as “a thing some people do.” Why not call non-practitioners “nons”? That isn’t insulting because it doesn’t have any implied judgment, whereas “vanilla” does imply a judgment. What if I called BDSM enthusiasts “creeps” and then said I didn’t mean anything insulting by it? Regardless of my feelings about BDSM (not creepy!), using the term “creeps” would imply obnoxious judgment.

        That’s why “vanilla” bothers me –it lumps vastly different practices (anything non-BDSM) together as inferior. I want people to be more open-minded about BDSM, and I want BDSM people to be more open-minded about non-BDSM practices.

        Portraying non-practitioners as boring (or timid, as vanilla might imply) is insulting, just like James’s inaccurate portrayal of BDSM as linked to childhood abuse is inaccurate, generalizing, and insulting.

        So what I’m saying is that everyone on the planet should try to be better, and I wish crap books would not get published.

      • Amy

        I find it strange that someone would feel that the term ‘vanilla’ is a slight!! It simply refers to the fact that vanilla is the flavour that most people choose – it’s the ‘norm’, the most common, what most people do. There’s absolutely no slight in there. Vanilla is the most popular because it’s a taste that most people love and enjoy. It works for everyone. Kink is a bit different, a bit less popular, a bit more unusual, not to everyone’s taste. That’s all there is to that analogy. I certainly would never use it as a slight and I’ve used it to describe myself on more than one occasion!!

    • Colleen

      Am I the only one who thinks being referred to as “vanilla” is insulting?

      If you want to get super kinky and get your freak on with toys and straps and whatever gets you off, I don’t judge you. More power to you, whatever works. But don’t call me “vanilla” as though my dis-interest in the same sort of thing means I’m not having sex right, or that I’m boring.

      Remember, when vanilla was first discovered, it was considered one of the most exotic spices in the world.

      • Andrea

        No, you are NOT. It’s a very common term thrown around by the BDSM community to describe non-practicers. Not only it is condescending and insulting, it implies it’s not real sex unless kinky pain is involved.

        Yeah, we are the ones with a screw loose in the sex dept. *eye roll*

      • Steph

        Uh, Andrea, you know that implying that those who practice BDSM have “a screw loose in the sex dept.” is also rude. There’s nothing wrong with them, just like there’s nothing wrong with you for not partaking in it.

      • Andrea

        Steph: I know. I was just “not” being condescending and/or insulting. Just like they “don’t mean” to be condescending when the call non-practicers “vanillas”.

        I know several people in the BDSM community. And trust me, they mean it condescendingly. They think people that have non-BDSM sex ARE boring, prudish, and mundane.

        Well if they get to be rude, so do I. After all, if everyone else called them “freaks” as a matter of course, for sure they would be screaming about it.

    • Kim

      I read this when it was still just fanfic, and it was just as terrible then as I assume it is now.

      Anyway, his behaviour always read to me as more dangerous and abusive than that of a dominant.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lindsaychartman Lindsay Cross

      I haven’t read 50 Shades, but after reading this… I had to google what a flogger was. Apparently I’m “vanilla” too. (And yes, to the other commenters, that did seem a tad insulting to me as well…)

    • Quvonda

      I also refer to peoole outside the BDSM community as vanilla. We don’t use it as an insulting term, well those I know don’t. It just means yall are not us if that makes sense. This BDSM is wrong shit is pissing me off. If i can take my time to look up something for a story that I’m writing AND I intend to publish it, I’m going to try my hardest to make the info as accurate as possible regardless if it’s fiction or not. I think James got lazy and she doesn’t know any real 21 year olds because Ana seriously sounds like a preteen! Just sayin

    • lucygoosey74

      I can appreciate other cultures and other ways of doing things, but yes, I did find the term “vanilla” a tad bit insulting. While I am not into BDSM believe me, I know how to get my freak on.
      let’s just respect the fact that there are LOTS of ways of doing things, or doing “it”, and as long as everybody’s having a good time, you’re doing it right!

    • Steph

      This is pretty cool, thanks for the article. I’ve never read 50 shades and now am super glad I didn’t.

    • Jenni

      Fair warning: TMI ahead.

      Ok, my husband and I have a fairly regular sex life, multiple positions, mild spanking and breast pain (sucking, leaving bruises, but no biting or drawing blood on purpose). I consider us to be vanilla. Is that insulting to our sex life? No. Because I am not wanting to be spanked with a paddle that will hurt me for a few hours after sex, nor do I want to peg him (if you don’t know what that is, you are very “non”.)

      I consider us vanilla because we do not participate in BDSM practices. Just because I like to be given an intense sensation in some nerve-dense areas, that doesn’t mean that I want the power play of BDSM. This doesn’t make my sex any better or worse. It just means it works for me, and that is all I give a shit about while my husband is busy boning me.

      If you have such a reaction to being called vanilla, maybe you should think about why you are so sensitive about “judgements” about your sex life. Are you feeling like it has plateaued? Dropped off the face of the earth? If so, don’t lash out at a simple label.

      Also, vanilla isn’t the a lesser flavor. It is my favorite ice cream; the types of toppings you can add are endless :)

      • Andrea

        And THAT, right THERE is the implication. How dare we get offended. It must be that our sex life sucks.

        If the roles were reversed, and the BSDM community was the one with the demeaning term (say “freaks”, maybe?), you would be equally offended. And we could go on to imply that if you took it so personally, maybe you are the one with hang-ups, right?

      • Maggie

        Actually Andrea, people in the BDSM community are called “freaks” pretty often, probably way more than you or anyone else is referred to as “vanilla.” It doesn’t bother us at all, because we are happy with ourselves and also having spectacular sex (at least I am, Subs say whaaa!). I understand why the term “vanilla” and the implied judgement would upset you, but I assure you that 90% of people practicing BDSM (at least the ones I know) don’t use it with any negative connotation. Also, there is a lot more offense and insult behind a loaded word like “freak” than there is with “vanilla.” Now stop worrying and go have awesome sex in whatever way you see fit!

    • madasHamlet

      Okay, two things: One, “vanilla” is merely a term used to define ANYONE–no matter how kinky or not–who is not a part of the BDSM world. Would you prefer the term “chocolate” or “strawberry” were used?

      Second: Christian Grey is a SADIST. Not abusive, and not merely a dom. SADIST. Ana strikes me as, at the beginning, a masochist is some ways leaning towards being a Switch. I read them because the fact that a version of BDSM was going mainstream was interesting, and I was very annoyed at how bad the portrayal was. Thank you for actually getting actual people in the BDSM world to comment. I’m not the only one who thinks that way about the series. :)

      • Andrea

        I’d prefer no term at all. After all, must we have a term to refer to the BDSM community? Would you like to be called “freaks” or maybe “whippers”? Creeps? Even if we didn’t “mean” it to be insulting?

    • courtney

      I’m right there with them. Y’all get the gasoline, I’ll get the matches!

    • Kj

      Wow, now I know a) never to read this book, and b) a bit more about BDSM.

      PS – I happen to like vanilla. It is subtle and delicious. Therefore not an insulting comparison, IMHO.

    • Juliana

      I can understand where those from the BDSM community are coming from when they say that “vanilla” isn’t meant to be insulting, but at the same time, I can also understand how “vanillas” could take offensive. Often times in our society, the term vanilla is used to describe something as ordinary *insert negative connotation here*. An example of something I’ve heard before would be, “Oh, wow. That’s so vanilla.” *grimace* So though I don’t doubt that many of the BDSM community mean it in a harmless way, I also believe that some BDSM people might do well to try and understand the hurt feelings a little better… I like the idea of calling non-practicers “nons.” There is absolutely no way to skew that term into something negative, unlike vanilla… it’s almost like politically incorrect terms… even if you don’t mean it in a negative way, if can be SKEWED as being negative, you should probably just not say it.

      And the idea that vanilla is the “typical” ice cream flavor isn’t cool either. I’m a chocolate fan! Haha.

    • Jamie Peck

      Whoa, dudes. Author of the post here. I’m not sure why everyone is getting so pissy and defensive about the term “vanilla.” It’s just a descriptor for regular, non-BDSM sex that isn’t seasoned with spicy, Mexican hot chocolate-y pain. I’m quite “vanilla” these days and I’ve never thought twice about the term. Maybe because I am secure about the quality of the sex I am having, or maybe because I roll in sex positive circles and am just so incredibly used to it that it’s basically an empty, value-free signifier to me. Not dissimilar to “cisgender.” (A value-neutral term for “not transgender.”)

      I also think it’s pretty obnoxious to go into a marginalized community and complain about how they refer to the majority. Like white people who get inordinately angry over the term “cracker.” It’s like, really? Wanna switch places? Didn’t think so. Enjoy your privilege!

      • KateS

        “I also think it’s pretty obnoxious to go into a marginalized community and complain about how they refer to the majority.”

        THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *mwuah*

    • Ava

      haha at the vanilla people getting all pissy. The BDSM community is used to be called offensive things such as freaks. I prefer to refer to us as kinksters, whereas anyone not in the BDSM/fetish/kink scene is vanilla. It is not meant to be insulting, it is a simple description. Feel free to be offended and call us freaks, we are very happy freaks.

    • Verna

      I DO practice BDSM and I think this book was a terrible represetative of the lifestyle I live. I was so excited to think that perhaps BDSM might become more mainstream and better accepted and I would be able to answere the question…”what did you do on the weekend?” with a real answere..(I enjoyed two fantastic scenes. One a full on flogging and one suspention.) ..instead of “oh, nothing much.”
      But the book portrays a control freak with a tragic past, which gives the impression that all Dominants are controlling bad guys working out some childhood stuff at the expense of a super-niave girl. Submissives are not weak, doormats.
      As to the term ‘vanilla’. . . It is not meant to be an insult. It is a term that differentiates the two styles of interaction. I absolutely enjoy vanilla sex and vanilla activities on a daily basis! who wouldnt? it’s a great flavour! And i do enjoy my non-vanilla sex and activities as well. Do i get upset when people say i am a freak? nope. i say..come on..get your freak on at least once in your life!
      Terrible book. Great topic. Excellent marketing!!!

      • Cecilia ThereseRose

        Wow! I assumed people who actually chose that lifestyle would be very upset with the way they presented BDSM. I actually read somewhere, apparently she had a very close male friend that was a sadist and that is where she was informed about the BDSM… Interesting..

    • TonyTodd

      Good God. Lemona and Andrea, get your panties unbunched and have yourselves a wee calm down. Amy already explained what the connatations, implications and reasons behind the use of the word vanilla are.
      There is nothing sinister, judgemental, inferior, or derogatory AT ALL in connection with it.
      If you can find some gernuine, official and acknowleged negative implications of the term, and not just something you have made up or decided for yourself (because as it is, you are the people who have decided there is derogatory about it) then I’ll eat my own face.
      You offer the comparisson of calling BDSM participants “freaks” or “creeps” or whatever. And that would be fine if it was a fair comparisson. But in order for it to be a fair comparrison, BDSM practitioners would need to be reffering to those who prefer thier sex vanilla as “wimps” or “sheep”.
      Nudists and naturists refer to those who do not participate in clothes-free activities as textiles.
      Let me guess. This means they think clothes wearers should be used as materials to decorate walls.
      Grow up.
      Here’s something you may not have thought about: As you object to being refered to as vanilla, stop mixing in BDSM circles.Then you wont hear it anymore.
      Just as if there is something on tv you dont like, you should either change the channel or switch it off, stop deliberately putting yourself in situations where you are likely to be upset, because as it is you’re just making yourself sound whiney, petty and rediculous.
      I’m off for some ice cream. It’s white flavour (that okay with you and your desperately tender sensibilities??).

    • MissAndry

      There’s nothing sexier than a beautiful man all tied up and waiting to serve me.

    • Jessica

      1. BDSM community can do whatever they want as can people who don’t practise this.
      2. Seriously who cares about the word Vanilla… I cannot believe that people are that sensitive about a word.
      3. STOP JUDGING and accept that not everyone is the same!

      I am not in the BDSM community and I am proudly Vanilla ;)

    • Master Repo

      Lots of good bickering here. Makes My spanking hand twitch….NEXT….wink

    • Kim

      Firstly I have to say:
      I do not understand why you are all getting so upset by the term vanilla. It really is a ridiculous thing to get upset about. It is merely a simple explanation for a person not in the BDSM world. it is not meant to be insulting in anyway. I don’t understand why everyone is getting so upset, how often have you been told you are vanilla? Once maybe twice? i mean really it is not something you face every day of your life. in fact if this stupid book had not come out, you probably would never have heard the term at all.
      don’t get so tied up in knots over a mere classification of sexual preference.

      Secondly:
      I guess I am vanilla as I have never been in the BDSM world; however I am unable to stop researching the BDSM world. It explains a lot about why I have been so unsatisfied in my sex life.
      The best sex of my life has always been when my partner leans toward the kink. I think I am a sexual submissive, but I do not have the opportunities to explore it fully. I am from South Africa and we are a very sexually conservative country. I have never had the opportunity to explore this side of myself and lately it’s all I think about. I read fifty shades and at first thought it was awesome, however I then started to widen my choice of literature and started to read other BDSM novels, and found that fifty shades is actually rather pathetic. The novels I started to read were still based on romance (every girl’s preference lol) but were definitely written by the more experienced in the BDSM world. I look back at the partners I have chosen in my past and I have come to the conclusion that I look for a dominant man, but instead I seem to confuse dominance with arrogance and violence. I have therefore not had the best experiences. I really want to be able to find a dominant man I can trust that can push my boundaries and help me discover what I want, and what I enjoy. If anyone is from South Africa and knows of a BDSM community that I might be able to go and get “aquatinted” with, I would really appreciate your help.

      • Allison

        Check out Venus in Furs, my very favorite bdsm classic. The dom is female, the male is sub, you might not be as into it, but it is still an incredibly beautiful read and short as well. The language is evocative and classic too, it was written at the turn of the century (I think). Good luck finding some healthy kinky men. Don’t allow yourself to be abused, but find someone to punish you just the way you like ;) Have you heard of making contracts prior the sex play, discussing what it is you want to see and participate in a scene? In these sex scenes the sub should have all the power, in the sense that the dom is doing to the submissive as he/she outlined. Make sure to have a safe word that will stop the scene. I wish I knew more about bdsm where you live, if you ever get a chance to visit the US, check out Seattle, we have an incredible and vibrant scene up here, esp The Center for Sex Positivity, long-standing community space set up for awesome scenes and people to meet.

    • Ara

      I think the term “vanilla” is a lot more condescending than it is insulting. It’s like when my ex told me I had “pedestrian” taste in music. That’s my problem with it.

    • kim

      Freak is a term used for anyone that is different not just people in the BDSM community. Freak has become a term of endearment in my house hold since everyone one of us including my children are considered freaks just because they are different. Who really cares if you are a freak or if you are vanilla as long as you are happy with whatever you are it really doesn’t matter. Freak in house is simply a term used to describe something that is different no negative at all.

    • Marise Whyte

      I’ve never had a taste of BDSM, but a friend of mine has (and still is going with it, as a sub with her dom of a year and a half), and, let me tell you right now, I’ve read a few pages of 50 Shades and it is very, very vanilla based. Yes, I am a vanilla, but this woman knows next to nothing about BDSM. It’s actually kind of funny–there’s not much “kink” in it. It reminds me of silk handcuffs compared to leather ones. (Hopefully you can figure out that one on your own.) It’s more like random sex (and I’m talking way random, especially when the guy just pulls out the girls tampon for the purpose of screwing her–Why, really) with a few “bondage” bits thrown in. Weird.

    • Kajira

      This book makes me so angry, I grew up in a lovely home with amazing parents but at the age of 10-12 I did not know about sex but I knew that when we played “princess” I wanted to be the slave. I am not in a happy relationship with my master and he also comes from a very good family. We are not sick people and because of this book I feel like I am and when people talk About around me I get very upset because I want to saw something but I can’t because I would get question and told I was wrong. For the people that saw they want to do this because of the book there crazy, life as a slave is not like this, every moment of my life is controlled, I love it but you won’t if its because of this book. I can’t listen to the music that I like, the shows that I like, the food, I don’t decide when I go to bed or if I will be allowed to sit on the furnature, my life is controlled and I love it.

    • SemperFiPhil

      I would like a source to learn about the dynamics of being a DOM. Any suggestions?

    • Cecilia ThereseRose

      Lol! I’ve always wondered what people who are actually into BDSM thought about the book….
      All I have to say is GET REAL, I can go on and on about all the negative aspects of the book. Anyways, waste of time. I don’t know why I read all three! ha. Oh and I actually think she made BDSM seem monstrous and abusive in a sense.. Which I do not agree with and would think upset the people who are into the lifestyle.

    • Just say’n

      A. “Kill it with fire!” Yes, please. The book itself is pretty laughable though. It’s received a huge amount of recognition. To me that’s sad. There are so many writers out there who actually participate in the subject matter of their material. And yet, they are barely known.

      B. Anyone who uses the term “vanilla,” as an insult is an ass. It’s like using someone’s eye color, or gender, or taste in music as an insult. Vanilla is meant to imply non-kinkster. That’s it. It might help to remember that every individual kinkster also has an intensity level. Some get deep into their fetishes, and or kink and some stay on the surface. So, if you enjoy the occasional slap on the ass in bed, you’re kinky.

      C. It is NOT, I repeat NOT all about sex for every kinkster out there. Yes, it can involve sex but it doesn’t have to. BDSM. Bondage, dominance, Sado-masochism/submission. And you don’t have to enjoy all of these. It’s an umbrella term. In some instances you can get your kink on by using your mind only.

      Personally, as someone who has over ten years of OFFLINE experience I can vouch that…

      I am not a victim.
      Consent IS required. Even in consensual-non-consent (that takes a bit more explaining)
      I follow R.A.C.K. Risk Aware Consensual Kink (There’s that consensual word again!)
      I am not causing harm, and no one is harming me. (I might enjoy the occasional hurt but not harm.)
      I am educated and continue to educate myself and promote education for others. (So you want to spank someone? Well, do you know the proper areas to hit? And how much pressure it can take to break a tailbone?)

      What I do does not effect you. I don’t parade around outside in full BDSM gear. Me getting spanked isn’t going to corrupt anyone nor does it hinder you in anyway.
      It NEVER EVER involves children!

      There is so much wrong in the 50 Shades book it’s laughable. Am I worried about the kink community at large? To be honest, no. It will come and go. We’ll deal.