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"50 Shades Of Grey (Matter): How Science Is Defying BDSM Stereotypes"

on Thursday, 31 May 2012. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Huffington Post

It seems that no one is immune to E L James' controversial novel, 50 Shades of Grey. Television shows, magazines, popular blogs, even side conversations outside the school pick-up line are filled with talk about how hot it is -- and how it may be solely responsible for jump-starting the sex drives of bored housewives across the country. While I agree that some of the sex scenes are quite titillating, I find myself annoyed at the overt Bondage/Discipline/Dominance/Submission/Sadism/Masochism (BDSM) stereotypes advanced by the book. Especially since the latest scientific studies concerning sexual behavior do not back them up.

Handsome, charming and incredibly wealthy, 50 Shades' Christian Grey is considered Seattle's most eligible bachelor, the kind of man that no woman can resist. But readers soon learn that Mr. Grey has a dark side: He is a Dominant who likes to tie up and whip submissive brunettes like his innocent new conquest, Anastasia Steele. And when Anastasia digs deeper to understand his strange sexual predilections, she learns that he had a violent early childhood, was neglected by his "crack whore" mother and abused by her pimp. Grey tells Anastasia that his perverse desires stem from being "50 shades of [effed] up" -- hence the provocative title.

Whether we are reading about Mr. Grey, appreciating a young Mickey Rourke in 9 ½ Weeks or being horrified by the latest potential perp on Law & Order: SVU, we have, as a culture, hooked into the worst kind of BDSM stereotypes. We are conditioned to see those who practice the lifestyle as imbalanced, damaged and potentially violent. We believe they are incapable of building or maintaining successful sexual or emotional relationships. We think these are people to be both pitied and feared -- but mostly feared. And most dangerously, we think these are people who need to be fixed. As one acquaintance told me, "I admit that 50 Shades was kind of sexy. But I think that kind of sex is just really, really wrong and dangerous." I've heard more than a few folks, some of them with lots of letters after their names, wholeheartedly agree with her.

But is BDSM really wrong and dangerous? While there is an overall lack in the study of sexuality in general, new studies across the globe are defying some age-old casts -- and helping us to reassess the way we look at BDSM culture and what we consider "normal" sexuality. Here are a few of the most brazen stereotypes seen in 50 Shades of Grey -- and what science has to say about them. ...

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