|Fifty Shades of Grey-the ebook|
Okay, that's the last joke.
|Men Can Stop Rape|
I bought the book months ago, needing an ebook to read while the nails dry. The problem with ebooks, however, is that if you lose your place (which happens, reading on multiple devices), you might never be able to find it again. Not being patient about such things, so much to read in paper, (you can fold over corners on these), I gave up on Grey. This turned out to be for the best because Understanding Mass Violence: A Social Work Perspective is much more interesting.
The poster above is from the Men Can Stop Rape organization. I bought a bunch of them.
Not that Fifty Shades of Grey is about rape, per se, but it is about hurting. And therapists deal with hurting pretty often, tend to wince when people intentionally hurt themselves. Doctors as a rule are down on self-harm, risky behavior. My father-in-law, a family doctor, called people who ride motorcycles organ donors. Knowing it is dangerous isn't a deterrent for everyone. Because you know, it looks like fun, riding that bike. So is it worth the risk? Maybe. Maybe not.
Risky behavior is expected at certain ages. There's a post on the blog about being crazy in college. Point being we often regret what we have done in the past, might suffer shame then and in the future, even when we know, rationally, that free from the watchful eyes of parents, kids push their own limits. Forgiveness is hard because these types of moments form snapshot memories in the brain, and often, body memories. We don't forget.
That should put informed consent into context. We can consent today, woefully regret it tomorrow.*
Quick recap: The 50 Shades story finds Anastasia Steele, an average young woman working for a very handsome, very rich business executive, Christian Grey. She falls in love with him at first sight. He likes her, too, and offers her a contract to begin a sexual relationship. He likes bondage, whipping, and other types of torturous sex, so he wants to be sure she consents to it. Keep things kosher. No consent, let's not even begin.
Five things to consider when we speak of informed consent for sex in real life:
(1) neither party can be impaired by drugs or alcohol in the consent process
(2) both parties must be of legal age
(3) both parties must be competent, understand exactly what is going on and why
(4) neither party fears personal injury or punitive consequences for refusing to have sex (in the sexual harassment literature, this is called fearing retribution)
(5) neither party is in a position of authority over the other, i.e., a supervisory position, a teacher, an older relative, because this could be interpreted as financial, academic, or emotional coercion
Now technically, because he is her boss, Christian Grey is guilty of sexual harassment, even with his signed contract, because he is in a position to coerce Anastasia. He can fire her from her job, suspend her without pay. Just bringing this up in case you're dating an employee or a student. Think twice because these cases can drag on and they cost companies, and perpetrators, millions of dollars every year.
But that's real life and this is the movies.
MamaMia reveals the ending. The handsome dom, Christian, changes, probably so that he doesn't lose Anastasia, his subdom, his prized possession. He learns the meaning of true love and the hole in his heart, the one suffered as a child, begins to heal.
Because that's how it always happens in real life, right? Relationships are so curative.
Let's just say, not usually. Don't marry (date) the man to change him, that old expression, spot on.
So Anastasia, without any pressure from her boss, signs a contract and agrees to let him whip her, hurt her, in the name of "great" sex. (You will love this, he assures her). She is sober, of age, of sound mental capacity, and isn't feeling coerced. She becomes his possession, agrees to let him tell her what she will eat, what she will wear, how she should bathe, the amount of sleep she must get, how many hours she works out per day, etc. She is to be there for him, when and where tells her to be there. She must sublimate her will to this perfect stranger.
15.21 The Submissive shall accept whippings, floggings, spankings, caning, paddling or any other discipline the Dominant should decide to administer, without hesitation, enquiry or complaint.
That, if she wants him as boyfriend. There is a time-limit to the relationship and she can complain if he kills her, we suppose. She is crazy for him, so she signs on the dotted line.
So you get it what it means to be a dom, versus a subdom right? He owns her.
|Courtesy of Relationship-Wise|
Oh, but these are loving relationships.
When I blogged about this many years ago, the dom-subdom community told me that these are loving, consensual relationships, not to worry. It is intimate, they love one another, and bondage, et al helps them work out their family of origin/childhood relationship dysfunction. Totally intimidated, I considered myself informed and dropped the conversation.
What I didn't say, but can say now, is that as a first year graduate student, one of the very first treatment modalities presented to us happened to be Joseph Moreno's psychodrama. In psychodrama, families act out what has happened in the family of origin, or what is still happening in the home today. They do this in the confines of the office. There isn't any real hitting, only shadow-boxing. This is play-acting. It feels good, too, very healing, and I sometimes still use it. So, if the purpose of the dom-subdom relationship is to master what happened in the past, we could say that it is overkill.
Remember styro-foam baseball bats? People whacked our sofas to their hearts content until expressing anger lost status. We also talk about things. Some of us prefer that.
There's this other thing, which I don't see talked about on any of the blogs. This type of relationship violence might start out with a slap, innocuous enough, maybe. But then more and more force is possible, whether intentional or not.
We have laws that prevent corporal punishment with children. It is considered child abuse, not because a child is irreparably damaged from a spanking, but because we never know when we'll lose control, hit one too hard. When a kid sees stars, it is too late to say you're sorry. Ditto when the symptoms of a concussion become apparent.
And here, in a dom/subdom relationship, defined by "corporal punishment" it might feel right to want it to become progressively more punitive, this from either partner.
I say this based upon experience with persons suffering from depression who cut themselves to externalize their pain. (What comes next is not for the squeamish, and it is not fiction, so it is a little scary).
Some people who cut themselves started with picking, or scratching, which felt good. Then the scratching gets harder, because that feels even better. The nails dig deeper, even more satisfying. Then a knife is introduced. The cutting with the knife starts with light cuts, which get progressively harder, and deeper, then deeper, and pretty soon we see ( therapists, because few showoff their scars to others, hide beneath long sleeves and pants), but therapists are privy to seeing deep, red, ugly, keloid scars that run up and down a person's arms or legs. It is the stuff of secondary trauma.
That's what some of us worry that not only will the memories of this type of relationship be snapshots, difficult to erase, and that the shame of what happened will damage self-esteem, but that the need to be hurt will become a deeper need.
What of the dom? He isn't getting hurt, and he's likely not a Jeffrey Daumer, a psychopath who murdered children as an adult, drowned cats as a child. More likely it just feels good to play the master, empowering. But is that good for his identity? Is this the person he wants to be? A master over another human being?
What I really want to know, is the answer to this: Is sex that important? If it potentially damages our identity, dings us emotionally (those memories) and literally scars us physically, is it worth it?
In therapy we're all about loving our bodies, loving ourselves, being cautious and kind to others, respectful, independent, and growing into the people we want to be..
So do I hate this stuff? You bet I do.
PS. Two more things.
(1) This is a system based upon fear. Fear is arousing, for better or for worse. What makes us afraid today, won't make us afraid tomorrow, which is why the stakes will get higher.
(2) It is true that some of us suffer low-self esteem and feel we deserve to be treated badly. We want to be treated badly. Negative self-messages, inhaled with mother's milk, can program a person to want and to accept punishment, to seek out partners who, like our parents, make then feel badly. A dom, also working out childhood abuse, will gladly accommodate.
In therapy we prefer to work on self-esteem and the feeling of deserving punishment with words. What is needed when one has low self-esteem is not more abuse, but a wider lens, a bigger family systems picture, insight and healing. It can take years to work through all the garbage, but a good therapy is also a good relationship, a therapeutic relationship.
* Just a reminder that well over ninety percent of all sexual assault is between acquaintances. Acquaintance rape is by definition not mutually consensual, rather, an act of force, power and domination.