• Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades of Grey (2015).
In a two-part series, we speak to those in the know about the movie’s depiction of a BDSM relationship. First up: a submissive woman’s take on Anastasia Steele.
Stephen A. Russell

SBS Film
17 Feb 2015 - 3:04 PM  UPDATED 18 Feb 2015 - 11:22 AM

When E.L. James’ ‘mummy porn’ best-seller Fifty Shades of Grey wracked up its 100 millionth sale, it was inevitable the sexual escapades between naïve young college virgin Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey’s billionaire be-suited bondage and discipline, sadomasochistic (BDSM) top would make it to the big screen.

The Fall’s Jamie Dornan dons said suit, with Melanie Griffith’s daughter, Dakota Johnson, under the whip in director Sam Taylor-Johnson’s depiction of their adventures in the red room of pleasure and pain. But just how representative of the BDSM community is it?

Going by her submissive name, ‘Girl’ is a 44-year-old, Melbourne-based senior healthcare manager who has been a BDSM practitioner for almost 15 years and spent more than a decade in a 24/7, master/slave relationship with her former partner. While she thinks Johnson’s Steele is “a fair portrayal of a vanilla virgin who had no idea what she was getting into,” she nonetheless found her frustrating, and pushes back against those who brand their relationship as sexually violent.

As Girl sees it, Grey’s completely upfront about what he expects from Anastasia, clearly negotiates her boundaries, and tasks her with researching what she’s comfortable with long before they set foot inside the red room. “He did everything right, but she was very wishy-washy and I think she was playing games.”

[ Read: a ‘Dominant’ reviews Fifty Shades of Grey ]

While some have decried Grey as something of a stalker, harassing Anastasia to sign on the dotted line, Girl has another view. “If she’d said, ‘I need a month’ to think about the contract and put a time frame on it, that would be different, but she just doesn’t respond. I don’t think she realised just how serious it was for him. You don’t want to be mucked around. Someone’s either interested or they’re not, and if they’re not, that’s okay, I absolutely respect that, but don’t just keep dangling it.”

Discussing Grey’s approach with fellow BDSM submissive women, they all agreed they’d be very happy with his firm hand. “It would be great to have a dominant master who was that awesome and was willing to negotiate,” she says. “I saw his frustration, and my mates joked that they wanted to slap her, but females do that to each other. We’re very judgmental.”

[ Review: Fifty Shades of Grey ]

First introduced to BDSM at 31, Girl acknowledges that Anastasia is just 19. “When I was her age, I wasn’t thinking about any of this, but these days there are so many young people getting involved. Young adults are much more confident now. They’re finding themselves a lot quicker, aren’t afraid to ask questions and know what they do or don’t want.”

As for the 22 minutes of bonking in the film’s two-hour-plus runtime, Girl says that, despite being a wee bit Hollywood, she wasn’t troubled by anything she saw, including the climactic, “do your worst,” scene.

“That was the funniest bit, because I turned to my friend and said, ‘That’s Friday night at my house.’ After all the fuss, I was ready to be outraged at how abused this woman was, but I found myself going, ‘That was nothing.’ I get it, for a newbie it would have been intense, but she also requested it. He checked with her beforehand and very clear about what it was going to be and what was expected of her.”

Girl thinks some folks bashing it in the BDSM community can be a little pious, too.

“Anything that brings what we do out there a little bit more and shows it’s okay to explore this stuff is a good thing. Grey kept telling her to research, and that’s fantastic. If you keep kicking a stink up about it, that’s going to set the BDSM community back.”

Fifty Shades of Grey is out now. Watch the trailer below:


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