When Fifty Shades of Grey first hit screens this past February, our friend and colleague Gwynne Watkins — who writes for Yahoo, often awesomely about movies — interviewed us about how realistic the kink was. In honor of the movie’s digital & DVD release this week, we’re publishing the initial, unedited and unabridged email questions we exchanged with Gwynne before the phone interview that drove her article.
Are Christian and Ana typical dom/sub types? It seems like a super-controlling guy like Christian might be a bottom in real life…
We tend to shy away from saying anything is typical, especially when it comes to kink and fetishes — everyone’s different. And remember, he was a bottom when he was younger, with Mrs. Robinson. Kink insiders often say that the best tops used to be bottoms, and the best bottoms used to be tops.
How’s the equipment in the red room? (And the hardware store?)
According to the production designers, the Red Room was top of the line all the way — and it looked it! Some of the rope work looked a little sloppy (but we’re not connoisseurs and we admit we were a little tipsy during our viewing). Thumbs down on the hardware cable ties — in the book it’s implied that he’ll use them to restrain her, in the movie he flat out states it — that’s bush league, never use cable ties to restrain someone’s wrists or appendages, it’s super dangerous in terms of potential physical damage. Use them to organize your rope, that’s it.
Is the contract negotiation plausible?
Yes and no. We love the idea of couples being very specific about what they will and won’t do sexually. A lot of emotional and physical pain could be avoided if more people did that together, very explicitly. And while people can agree on slave “contracts” quote unquote, and can have faith that they’ll each honor them, they’re not legally binding and we think it would have been cool if savvy business man Christian, in both the book and the movie, had been more clear with ingenue Ana that this wasn’t a real lawyerly doc, like the NDA.
How well do they handle the negotiation?
We loved the negotiation scene added to the movie, such a step up from the original badgering in the book. It was witty, funny and put them both on an even playing field, even giving Ana the edge, which is more realistic in terms BDSM relationships — you always hear it’s the sub who holds all the actual power because it’s up to them to decide what will and won’t happen.
Are people who love S&M uncomfortable with intimacy?
Like members of the vanilla community, some of them are, some of them aren’t. Again, let’s avoid sweeping generalizations.
Is S&M a way to take out your repressed anger at your parents?
That’s an unscientific question for Freud.
Does he use the riding crop correctly? How’s his rope technique?
Like we said, we were a little tipsy! He was pretty gentle with the riding crop, which is important when starting with a newbie. And probably a good idea in a mainstream movie, too — because using a riding crop can really injure someone if you do it wrong. We seem to recall him using the riding crop near her stomach area, which is fine when you’re being as gentle as he is, but when you get more intense, you really should stick to tougher areas like the butt.
We wish they could have been a little more explicit in showing how pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin — it was all very BDSM-light. Then again, it’s more responsible to err on the side of caution when you have so many people seeing this movie, getting inspired, and then wanting to try stuff at home — things can go very wrong very quickly if you try anything too advanced without the proper research/training. Still, during the erotic flogging mid-movie, Christian could have been using a couple of wet noodles, it was so tame. And when she’s tied on the leather bed, the restraints seemed way too loose, giving Ana way too much wiggle room — a case of cinematography winning out over authenticity.
What is with the total lack of foreplay?
We would have liked a little more physical teasing in that department, but it’s a short film, and there was a lot to pack in. But we really enjoyed Richard Brody’s take in the New Yorker which argued that the movie was chock full of foreplay in a way that other movies that explore romantic relationships totally lack — the entire Fifty Shades movie was extended foreplay and sexual tension.
Does carrying Anastasia out of the room like a baby count as aftercare?
Sure, we’ll count it. Could it have been better, in both the book and movie? Most definitely. And while giving Ana her own room seems a bit creepy and controlling in a regular relationship where you’re just a bit kinky on a Saturday night… in the context of an entire power-play relationship, such as Christian and Ana have — or at least, such as Christian would like — it’s kind of a nice touch.
Does a dom/sub relationship extend to an entire life outside of the bedroom like Christian seems to think it does?
For the minority it does — just read up on the disturbing “Taken in Hand” community — but for the majority it’s something that they do behind closed doors, something that happens in the bedroom (or dungeon) and stays in the bedroom (dungeon).
Why is Christian the only one who enjoys this? Isn’t S&M about both people enjoying it?
Yes, it’s definitely about both people enjoying it. If both people aren’t enjoying it, then they’re doing it wrong. In the book, Ana was way too conflicted for our tastes, which made Christian’s abusive behavior that much worse. They certainly toned down his stalker-ish tendencies in the movie, thankfully (though hello, he broke into her apartment and she didn’t say a word!), and they made Ana seem much more into the kink in the movie: every sexual encounter in the movie besides the flogging at the end seemed thoroughly enjoyable to her. In fact, we were kind of fantasizing they’d do something truly provocative and empowering and unexpected by ending the movie with a close up of Ana giving a little smile of ecstasy on the bench after her flogging, in spite of herself. That’s the “Secretary” ending we loved.