'Only Three Spanks?!' We Took Some Kinksters To Watch Fifty Shades of Grey
The Debrief: 'I'm not looking forward to this in the slightest.'
When I escorted a few kinky folks to the cinema to give their views on what we collectively call 'That Bloody Film', the general consensus was that I was wasting two hours of their lives. Still, I promised them booze in exchange for their participation, and they were sold.
During the screening, they occupied themselves by tutting, shaking their heads, and in one instance live-tweeting. So it's safe to say that none of us really enjoyed it. But why?
Norah describes herself as a 'bedroom submissive', and she's the one who felt most strongly about the relationship in the film. Towards the end, after a tortured discussion about how 'fucked up' Christian Grey is, Ana demands that he take her into the red room and 'do your worst.' It was at this point that Norah had enough, and left the cinema in disgust.
'It was horrible. When Ana tells him to do his worst and then you see his face? I mean, he acted it really well, but her face! He knows he's doing something really bad – really horrible – he's hitting her the way he knows she won't like it.'
Jessica, who had spent the night before the screening being tied to a coffee table and beaten by her Dom, is less passionate about the film, but certainly no more forgiving: 'I was really bored. Once you take all of the sex out you realise that there's no real story. Some bits were kind of hot, like when he tied her to the bed and then suddenly flipped her over and fucked her, but it was mostly just quite tedious.'
Exhibit Unadorned - a fellow sex blogger and writer of filthy kink stories - points out that there were plenty of missed opportunities: 'Given that a lot of the movie is spent in his nice penthouse apartment with big windows, he could have done some really good humiliation stuff. He could have got her to stand naked in the window and then used toys on her, or given her a spanking. It's hot. I've done it before in... less glamorous settings. Holiday Inns in Brighton and the like.'
The red room of pain
We spent a while exchanging tuts and sighs about the storyline, before getting down to the detail. Christian Grey gives a massive shit about his kink kit – that much is clear. What of his red room of pain?
Jessica: I didn't see ANY sex toys in the red room. No magic wand, for instance – that's a pretty standard bit of kit.
ExhibitA: Yep. They mentioned dildos, butt-plugs, all that stuff in the contract, but none of it was on display in the room.
Jessica: And the canes. They were nice canes, but they were all the same width – what's the point? Slightly different lengths, but that wouldn't make much difference to how they felt, to be honest.
Personally I'm a fan of Christian's ceiling rig – a metal grid that he can pull down and adjust to use for suspension and handcuffing. But does he make the most of it? His ropework got a fairly good review – ExhibitA and Norah admitted that he clearly knew his knots. Jessica was less impressed, pointing out that there's some fantastic stuff you can do with ropes – hogtie, Japanese bondage, intricate corset-style body ties - but all Christian could think to do was tie her wrists to the bed hoops and blindfold her.
ExhibitA: Also, the blindfold was clearly not adequate. He just lightly draped it over her eyes.
Jessica: She'd blatantly be able to see.
It turns out that Jessica is quite a stickler for BDSM standards:
Jessica: When she's kneeling down in the red room of pain and he directs her into the 'submissive' position, her hands on her legs – they're supposed to be PALMS UP.
Norah: But she wouldn't have known that though.
ExhibitA: Ah, but he would. You can bet he would. He's quite a stickler for rules elsewhere.
Jessica: Exactly – he'd have directed her to kneel palms up. He just would. I know it's a really pedantic, small thing, but if you'd had me as a consultant on the film I'd have said 'there's a standard way of doing that.'
The shagging/spanking/dirty bits
So, were any of these bits hot? I agreed with Jessica about the 'flip-over' fuck, but as a spanking conoisseur I didn't think much of his 'over his knee' – a fairly tame three spanks as Ana knelt in front of him. We agreed that three spanks was pretty pathetic.
Norah: If that were me I'd get excited like 'something really hot is going to happen and then.. three spanks.'
Jessica: If that was me I'd have had the first thought – I've got off really lightly here and the second – OH. That was a bit shit.
ExhibitA: I wonder whether that was something to do with getting it past the censors? Maybe there's a limit on the number of whacks if you want to achieve a particular certificate?
If there was one thing we were all agreed upon it was that the sex scenes were far too short. Not just screen-time-wise, but they gave the impression that the play itself never lasted that long.
Norah: Everything ended too abruptly.
Jessica: Makes you wonder why he bothers with all the kit because he only ever uses it for about a minute. Even if you compress all the sex into one evening it's still not that much. If I went round to my Dom's house and he did that to me, I'd be like 'what? I shaved my legs for this?'
The introduction to kink
One of the things I was most curious about was what people thought of the way kink was handled. 50 Shades of Grey has taken a lot of stick (much of it justified, I think) for the way it presents the BDSM 'lifestyle' – so does the film do this any better than the book?
Norah: Why do they call it BDSM when it's not? Like, he actually says 'I'm damaged and I do this because I'm damaged.' That's not BDSM
ExhibitA: Yeah, the thing I really had a problem with was the little scene where he's explaining that he does these things because he's fucked up.The only angle on it was 'I do these things because I'm fucked up and if you want fucked up me you have to have these fucked up things as well.'
Norah: And when he says he's fucked up, it's a really horrible thing for her because she's been saying 'ooh maybe I like this.' After all that, to hear how disgusted he is with himself, it's like – are you that disgusted with me for joining in then?
General agreement all round. And there's definitely something burning here – kinky people are genuinely pissed off that their passion is being presented as a flaw. I don't think I know anyone kinky who has anything close to Christian Grey's level of self-loathing. My main issue with the film was that at no point did Christian really talk about it as if it was fun. He gives Ana a contract, and numerous warnings, and occasionally makes passing remarks to the fact that some things will be done for 'her pleasure', but there was no sense of gleeful delight. Listening to Jessica, Norah and ExhibitA, BDSM sounds fun and exciting. Listening to Christian Grey? It sounds like a chore. So what's better? How would our kinksters introduce a new partner to their fetish?
Norah: Well he never asked what she wants. I'd start with that.
Jessica: He makes her research it on the internet rather than explain it to her. If he'd got all the stuff out and talked through it, like 'this is how you use this', this is how you do that, it's a bit more personal. If he talked you through it a bit rather than going 'JUST READ THE INTERNET' and then leaping straight in.
ExhibitA: I though the suggestion that she researched it on the internet was fine, just telling her to google 'submission' was... less good. The internet's got so much good stuff on how to do BDSM - I think it could be quite good to say 'these are the things I'm really into, rather than having me explain it through my self-interested way, do some research on your own and then we'll talk again.'
Bloody good point – it's implausible that Mr BDSM Know-It-All Christian Grey wouldn't have a couple of great kinky blogs bookmarked, and he could have pointed Ana towards one of those rather than just asking ger to google 'submission.' But then Christian's an implausible guy – instead of going through the rigmarole of recruiting Ana, he could have just set up a FetLife profile and found someone who wouldn't strike anal fisting out of his precious contract.
So what would make the film hotter?
Norah: You know what I think it needs? Her asking for it. Like, she would say 'please do this.' It's hot, you know? When a dominant person makes you ask for it. Makes you beg. And the sex scenes needed to be longer, definitely.
Jessica: Or at least FELT longer. You know what this needed? A montage.
ExhibitA: Yeah. A face-fucking montage.
There are blow jobs in the book but sadly none in the film, an issue that caused a fair bit of disappointment.
ExhibitA: When she's getting ready to go out with her flatmate they make a big deal about her putting loads of lipstick on. Why do that if at some point that lipstick isn't going to be all over her face?
Norah: That's a man talking there.
Jessica: Oooh, another thing I'd have added: him telling her that she has to ask when she comes. That's REALLY hot. I felt like that should have been outlined. But then they'd have to show her orgasms.
Norah: Yeah, it would have been hotter if they'd shown her coming. But I don't like the generally accepted thing in BDSM that women can come really easily. I once had a guy count me down to orgasm, but then I couldn't come, and I felt awful. Why is it a BDSM thing that people think women can come really easily?
It's fair to say that none of us were impressed. If you're into BDSM, there are flashes of sexy potential in 50 Shades, but ultimately this is a film about a man who hates himself for liking the things we do, so we were never going to be shouting for an encore. On the whole, I thought the film had made a fair few concessions to some of the criticism that was levelled at the book. While the book has Ana umming and erring about whether to get into kink, the film has her teasing Christian with her decisions, and giving pretty unequivocal signs that she's really enjoying what's happening. Until the end, of course, when even Norah's intense crush on Jamie Dornan couldn't get her through the final scene.
Jessica was bored and fidgeting by the end of the film, although most of her criticism came down to the fact that the scenes just weren't kinky enough. She explains that one of her personal hottest moments was when she was strapped to a St Andrew's cross, being alternately spanked and vibrated, so you can see why scenes with perfunctory oral sex and Anastasia being stroked with a peacock feather didn't really press Jessica's buttons.
And as for ExhibitA? Well, while everyone was quite worked up about the misrepresentation of kink, he made the rather salient point that it's not just the spanking that's unrealistic:
ExhibitA: There's no way her flatmate could steal her sandwich like that without causing a major argument for weeks.
Me: And don't forget that bit when they went for coffee, then just left the coffee and a muffin unconsumed on the table.
Jessica: And he cares about third world hunger?!
ExhibitA: What a c**t.
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