SARC Tara Misra restrains the myths around BDSM and “Fifty Shades of Grey”

While the “Fifty Shades of Grey” release brought in $85 million over Valentine’s Day Weekend, the effects and consequences of the series’ cultural explosion aren’t so pleasurable.

On Wednesday, Feb. 18, Colorado College Sexual Assault Response Coordinator Tara Misra brought in a crowd to her programming event, “Show Some Restraint: What 50 Shades Gets Wrong About Consent and Kink.”

Critically analyzing the text and “Fifty Shades” characters, Christian and Anastasia, Misra presented on how the couple’s relationship, both in and out of the bedroom, raises concerns from both violence prevention educators and BDSM/kink communities.

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“One of the big myths that is emphasized in the book is that Christian Grey participates [in BDSM] is because he experienced all this abuse as a child,” said Misra. “And truly, that is a really tired stereotype of people who participate in kink or BDSM.”

BDSM is a form of sexual activity that can be explained as Bondage, Domination, Discipline, Sadism, Submission, and/or Masochism.

Although commonly misinterpreted, sexual health educators often describe BDSM and kink as the most safe and consensual forms of sexual activity because of the heavy emphasis placed on consent and communication.

In a Huffington Post article critiquing “Fifty Shades,” a dominatrix by the name of Mistress Couple described BDSM as “creating vulnerability [and] opening yourself up to your partner in a way [where] you can trust them to take you to some of these dark places that are considered taboo overall, but in a loving way.”

However, when Misra explored the sexual activity between Christian and Anastasia, she found there to be a lack of consent and respect, as well as very little to no communication, and inappropriate and manipulative uses of alcohol. She described Christian’s behavior as abusive, sociopathic, and completely inaccurate of BDSM dominants.

Besides the sexual activity, Misra also described the unhealthy relationship dynamics of the couple that happens outside the bedroom.

Some of her main points included Christian’s power and control over Ana, manipulation, and stalking behavior.

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Misra then sponsored a presentation on Monday, Feb. 23 from the Colorado Springs Police Department looking at stalking and a specific case study in Colorado Springs.

“One of the reasons why we need to be critical of “Fifty Shades” is because stalking disproportionately impacts people the same age that Anastasia is represented in the book,” said Misra. “College-age populations are particularly vulnerable.”

Negative cultural effects of the film have already begun to surface and garner attention.

Earlier this week, a student at the University of Illinois brutally raped a 19-year old woman while engaging in BDSM play. The student then used “Fifty Shades of Grey” as his defense.

If students are looking for more information on BDSM, healthy sexuality and relationships, or healthier and sexier literary alternatives to “Fifty Shades,” Misra encourages students to chat with her. Contact her at Tara.Misra@ColoradoCollege.edu.

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