Fifty shades of Ferris

BDSM emerges in popular culture and people are loving it

Graphic by Kaila Parent.
Graphic by Kaila Parent.  

Our society has recently seen a rise in acceptance of many different sexual preferences, some of which might even be considered taboo.
Ever since the success of E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, pop culture has been booming with undertones of BDSM, and modern society is eating it up.
BDSM is an overlapping acronym for bondage and discipline (B&D), dominance and submission (D&S), and sadism and masochism (S&M).
“Research in this area suggests that some individuals practicing BDSM, broadly speaking, view it as just an occasional form of sexual expression, while others see it as a lifestyle – possibly even as a sexual identity or orientation,” Ferris Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Christopher Redker said.
The Fifty Shades trilogy is the only exposure that modern society has seen of the lifestyle, but it has created more misconceptions than anything about BDSM.
“It is a common misconception that all BDSM activities involve pain,” Dr. Redker said. “Rather, many activities are focused on a psychological power exchange [where] one partner plays the “dominant” role, [and] the other plays a “submissive” role. Also, it seems BDSM does not always involve sexual contact.”
While Fifty Shades was generally successful, some readers felt that the relationship between Ana and Christian was emotionally abusive.
“Fifty Shades of Grey has become so popular because of both the negative and positive feedback that it was given,” Public Relations freshman Tony Whitney said. “People attacked the first novel because it seemed abusive, but what it really was is just a culture shock, and because of that it gained the publicity needed for it to become as successful as it did today.” According to veteran member of the BDSM community and sex therapist Dr. Gloria Brame in Women’s Health magazine, “the true BDSM community is all about consensual play, and the books project an unclear picture of that.”
“I love the book. Personally, I’m into that stuff,” a Ferris freshman who wished to remain anonymous said. “That’s why I love it so much. I wish I could find a Mr. Grey for myself.”

The lifestyle has often been referenced in music, such as in Rihanna’s song “S&M”, as well as many TV shows including American Horror Story.

“In today’s world, we see the LGBT community openly discuss their lifestyles and struggles,” integrated studies senior Rebecca Young said. “Americans are becoming  open to ideas and concepts  that were hidden only a couple of decades ago. This leads me to believe that the receptiveness of our populace to openness in sexuality has a great deal to do with a collective shift in the norms and values of our society.”
Despite the negative misconceptions attached to the lifestyle, the general public seems to be captivated by it.
According to Dr. Redker, it is hard to speculate as to why people might be interested in the topic, other than “it may be a function of the fascination people have for what’s bizarre.”

“I feel that the idea of BDSM is one that is intriguing to many of us,” Young said. “In fact,  I am rather confident of saying that a startling percentage of our population is either active or have experimented with this lifestyle. The days of hidden sexual desires being unfulfilled are gone, being swept away in the tide of sexual confidence and candor.”