Whether Fifty Shades makes your "breath hitch" or your stomach turn, the pop culture phenomenon that is the the trilogy by E. L. James isn't going anywhere anytime soon. With the first of the Fifty Shades of Grey movies scheduled for release on Valentines Day this year, the airwaves will continue to be dominated by the "love story" of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele...like it or not. Most of us, if book sales and box office estimates are any indication, don't just like it... we like it an awful lot.
But how is Fifty Shades changing the way we think about sex and BDSM? To gain some perspective, we chatted with experts, including our very own in-house expert & CEO Katrina McKay about the ways the trilogy is affecting us as a society...for better, or for worse...'til kink do us part.
"Ohhh Canada's whole MO is to meet people where they are at," says McKay. "So if you love Fifty, then that's great - we're happy to help you find some light bondage toys to live out some of your fantasies. But if you hated it, and you feel... like many of us do, that it's a misrepresentation of the BDSM community, then you have every right to that opinion, too. Our goal is to help you express your sexy in ways that are happy and healthy for you without judgement."
Speaking of meeting people where they are at, the books do just that - offer up some mainstream fiction with a sexy side. And that might be good for erotica as a genre. Jon Pressick, editor of Best Sex Writing of the Year admitted that he had fun with the books even through they weren't a "great read." But where the art of erotica is concerned, Pressick sees how the books have introduced a whole new audience to the genre; moving it from a "dirty little secret, to a legitimate...publishing venture. With people reading all these sexual words, I think it's inspiring great sex and exploration!" We couldn't agree more.
Similar to Pressick, our fave Canadian sexologist Dr. Jessica O'Reilly notes that the series has "started more conversations about sex, consent and kink than any book in [her] time." And notes that "dialogue is always a good thing." (Editor's note: for more from Dr. Jess, check out her book Little Book of Kink.)
But are the Fifty Shades books really having that much of an impact? Or are we all making a big deal out of nothing? "I do think the book is important," says Simone Paget, a nationally syndicated sex & relationship columnist and author of the blog Skinny Dip. "Despite being a culture seemingly obsessed with it, we don't have enough honest conversations about sex...in the very least it's opened up the conversation - which is never a bad thing."
Sex educator Kate McCombs is similarly hopeful that the books and movie are opening up new conversations, but was quick to add a caveat; "the book is problematic because it misrepresents BDSM best practices and portrays unhealthy relationship dynamics between the main characters."
And that's where things to to get, well, grey.
Real relationships involve "mutual love, care and respect," says Dr. Warren Sheppell. He offers up his own compilation of short stories, "A Woman's Pleasure," emphasizing mutual pleasure for both partners, as an alternative to E.L. James' series. Not only is Sheppell not a fan of Fifty, he's also not a fan of kink generally, it seems: "Couples may think that BDSM will add spice to their lovemaking, but my professional opinion is that it leads to more controlling behaviour, less intimacy, and in the long run damages otherwise reasonable, caring and loving relationships." The kink community we know just wouldn't agree.
McKay adds, "My area of focus is really on kinky words - my upcoming book on dirty talk focuses on cerebral stimulation more than physical stimulation. And I can tell you...for many people they aren't living out their Fifty Shades fantasies. It's the reading of those sexy words themselves that's the kink in their lives." McKay admits, though that those who contact us here at Ohhh sometimes seem a little misinformed. "We try to point them in the right direction," she adds. "Whether that's a light flogger that won't leave marks and is suitable for beginners when used softly...or to sign up at FetLife to learn more about what they're getting into."
Samantha Fraser, Canadian relationship coach and author, takes a similar stance - "It's a good thing that people are expanding their sexuality, but I think it's a very dangerous thing if people are using Fifty Shades as their only example of this type of relationship." She goes on to explain that the books romanticize sexual and emotional abuse, and "people need to be educating themselves on kink and BDSM so they don't end up in stations that aren't good for anyone." We here at Ohhh wholeheartedly agree.
Sexual educator and empowerment coach, Heather Elizabeth notes that since it's a fictional book you can't rely on it for practical information on BDSM. "No fictional BDSM book is going to be without it's problems, but the same goes for Harlequin Romance Novels - why apply a double standard?" Good point.
So in general it seems the pros think it's good for opening up the dialogue on all things kinky, but it's not an accurate portrayal of the kink scene. So here's our advice to you... enjoy Fifty for what it is - a sexy twisted little love story, educate yourself (perhaps come into our store or connect with us online?) and tread carefully. After all, sex should be fun, safe and consensual for all involved.
About Ohhh Canada
Ohhh Canada is your favourite store for everything you need to "express your sexy." Founded by Kat the Sexpert, Ohhh has an unapologetically girly and flirty approach to lingerie, sex toys and bondage. Based in Toronto, Canada, Ohhh Canada ships all across Canada and to the US. Products are carefully chosen, and Ohhh's staff are obsessed with delivering the very best customer service. Stay connected - sign up for our newsletter, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.