Monday, February 16, 2015

'Fifty Shades of Grey' : Why It's Nonsense - And Could Be Harmful

Female elementary school paddlers - could incite 'flashbacks' in later years if students are subjected to the wrong visual stimuli. '50 Shades' may be one such example.

It seems that millions of women are ready to pile into movie theaters to see the cinematic version of the SM tale, 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Why so many have a yen to see a movie about the submission of a young female college student is beyond me.  Let's just cite the multiple times the poor waif "Anastasia"  is flogged, why would any woman of sensitive temperament wish to see this? Moreover, why would a woman of refinement or one who might have suffered past physical abuse, i.e. in the form of corporal punishment (e.g. paddlings) in secondary school,  want to risk flashbacks that could wreak havoc on her mental state?

This isn't just blowing smoke. It is well known that high school paddling is  rampant  in at least 19 states, which has been brought to attention by anti-spanking activist and former teacher Jordan Riak.  I myself hadn't been aware of the extent of paddling, for example, until attending the American Atheists Convention in Orlando, in April of 2000, which featured Jordan Riak as one of the keynote speakers. He has unabashedly compared paddling to rape and been a consistent thorn in the side of paddlers across the nation. A print interview with Mr. Riak can be read at the link below

Youtube interview with Riak (starts 4:53 into the video)  can be viewed here:
An essay by Riak which follows closely the talk he delivered at the American Atheists Convention is found here:

Imagine my shock and surprise then when I encountered a Wordpress blog (or rather former blog, 'Teachers Who Paddle') :

sponsored by four female teachers in their 20s ('Renee', 'Michelle', 'Jenny' and 'Wendy') each of whom supports use of the paddle at the elementary school level. And not just any old paddle, but one 16" long, by 3 ½”  wide by  ¼"   thick.

While it is true males are the most likely victims of such abuse in the elementary years, girls often 'catch up' in high school and some infamous cases have been reported by Riak and others, e.g. one of the most vile paddling cases concerned Shelley Gaspersohn in NC,

See also this link for the prevalence of paddling:

Riak, in his American Atheist Convention address, did allow questions at the end, and one concerned the worry of how many of those poor paddled kids might later mutate into spanking freaks, or 'spankos', i.e. who fetishize paddling or seek it out as a form of adult sexual release. He allowed that a significant number could because - as he noted (also in the essay link above) - the nerve areas directly impacted in a paddling, say, are also involved or near the sexually sensitive regions of the buttocks.  But another equally large fraction might be averse to this but be susceptible to "flash backs" if the right (wrong?) triggers presented themselves. These might come in the form of seeing someone else punished in a given similar circumstance or via media stimuli including books and films.

Thus, a young woman who perhaps even buried such experiences in  (unconscious) memory might suddenly have them triggered and suffer flashbacks, after witnessing the harsher (flogging) scenes in '50 Shades'. Why on Earth risk this?  There's no good reason to.

But let's leave this for the time being and go on to why the whole premise of '50 Shades'  is nonsense. I won't belabor all the blowback- already reported in several articles in,  see e.g.

But focus on one aspect salon's authors touched on, the outcry from the "BDSM" community.  These are mainly couples into some form of kink, usually light bondage and spanking - perhaps with some occasional exotica erotica aspects (like enemas) tossed in.  They have rightly taken umbrage at '50 Shades' on two fronts for its depictions, i.e.

1) Depicting any form of bondage, discipline and S&M as totally perverted and debasing, and

2) Depicting Christian Grey - the B&D starboy - as a broken and damaged piece of slime that needs repairing,

Both of these are inimical to that community which comprises perhaps ten percent of American couples and where consent is implicit.  Various experts on the subject , e.g. Gini  Graham Scott, Ph.D.,  in her monograph, 'Erotic Power: An Exploration of Dominance and Submission' , have repeatedly reminded us that no BDSM (or D&S as she calls it) scene is acceptable for portrayal unless 'safe' words are first noted and all parties agree.  If your partner gives a nod of her head - designated to mean 'Halt!'-   after fifty lashes, then that is when her whip-wielding playmate halts. Not one lash later!

Scott provides a panorama of venues for the experiences which would boggle the mind of any "vanilla" or non-D&S person, perhaps even more than '50 Shades' - but Scott's book is based on facts gleaned from real interviews with practitioners, not surreal fantasies. She notes that S&M parties are a source of such experiences, as well as the usual personal, intimate settings for couples - who want to keep their D&S play to themselves. She even references an "SM Church" in the SF Bay Area - which is centered on 'worship of the Goddess' and an emphasis on female dominance with the central icon being the whip - the "symbol of purification".  The ritual follows that of most Christian churches but then diverges where ....well....the purification aspect commences.

Her examples are important because they give voice or empower the concept of female dominance and male submission, as opposed to female submission and male dominance as portrayed in '50 Shades'. But this is one reason D&S'ers complain about the film which depicts only one side of the D&S equation. E.g. Why isn't Anastasia whipping the crap out of Grey part of the time? At least to balance things out, distribute the dominance.

"Submission" also has its rational limits! You, as the domme (analogous to Christian Grey's character) cannot order your 'sub' to ingest a certain diet as part of the domination process. That is way whacked! Nor can you order her to wear a 'butt plug' like Grey does with Anastasia.

But even more egregious than the absence of rational limits on the domination is the film's depiction of BDSM folks as broken people ripe for a therapist's couch. This is a dreadful carryover from the Richard von Kraft -Ebbing brand of negative psychology embodied in that classic, Psychopathia Sexualis, where we are led to believe and accept sadism and masochism in any form are sick perversions that must be treated.'

But say one thing say the next, on p. 141 of the 'Psychopathia' (1965 translation by Franklin S. Klaf), Kraft-Ebbing does concede the emergence of these sadist- masochist predispositions could issue from "accidental associations" that collaterally arouse lust, e.g. an adolescent receiving school corporal punishment and experiencing unbidden arousal (as per Riak's mechanisms) which carries into adult life. He also concedes the predisposition could arise also under "normal circumstances", from hyperaesthesia. i.e. an abnormal sensitivity to touch or pain.

Nonetheless, Kraft-Ebbing gives no quarter for any who hope to escape abnormality,  asserting the above are the "rare occurrence" vis-a-vis perversion. In other words, in nearly all cases D&S practices are perverse.

Now, in the 21st century we understand that the human interpersonal dynamic cannot be so rigidly constricted and that D&S can indeed be an integral part of a couple's healthy relationship - with no "perversion" dimension at all. Sadly, this has not yet filtered through to most Americans, who now stand to have their perceptions even further distorted by this film.

Women who flock to see the movie ought to bear these points in mind, and if they remotely suspect any scene might induce flashbacks to traumatic events in their past, they probably shouldn't see it at all.

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