Fifty Shades of Consent


I’ve previously mentioned some of the negatives of Fifty Shades. However, I did think it approached sex originally. Specifically, I like how it addressed sexual health and consent.

Firstly, let me talk about the sexual health aspect. Generally, sexual health doctors like to see everyone who’s having sex — heterosexual or not — appear at their clinics every three months if they’re changing partners or when they’re symptomatic. In the book, that’s set at six months which is not bad. Even then, there’s a significant general possibility that partners are unfaithful, so it may be better to just check one’s self out routinely.  Grey had a clean bill of health before starting a relationship with another partner. Condoms and contraception are used consistently. They’re placed at high importance.

One oddness/inaccuracy is the choice of a mini-pill (progesterone-only pill); it’s normally to my knowledge only used when there’re quite specific contraindications to The Pill (combined oestrogen and progesterone). There’s also a newer mini-pill which doesn’t have to be taken at such precise times.  In addition, we’re moving in the UK to recommending long-acting reversible contraception where possible. After perhaps a trial period of the mini-pill to check for side effects, Anastasia could have a progesterone-containing coil (the Mirena, which acts more locally as well in terms of hormones) or depot injections lasting three months  or other possibilities; these are much easier methods that I’d recommend readily (with more detailed discussion about them of course) and much less prone to user-related failure. I thought perhaps the choice of the most awkward method of contraception was for the sake of plot or the author’s familiarity with it. Certainly it doesn’t befit the best ob-gyn in the whole state or whoever she was. It was a real missed opportunity as far as I was concerned for LARCs and their safety/ease of use.

There was a very detailed treatment of consent in Fifty Shades, with concepts such as soft and hard limits. X and I have talked about how some principles derived from BDSM could be applied to sexual relations in general. There is a level of comfort and trust that both parties establish. Mutual signals that are agreed on beforehand are used, with their meaning and what action those meanings have. The stoplight system is quite popular. (Here’s an article explaining the stoplight system and safewords, though I don’t necessarily agree with it on its commentary about other things.) Despite the use of safewords, there’re still states where it’s not easy to remember them or be verbal. A submissive might push themselves too hard. It’s okay to stop if you want to be sure what signals your partner is sending you.  Before I started my current relationship — before there was even a kiss — we’d discussed our attitudes to sex, relationships and the safe limits we wanted. There was no room for making each other uncomfortable or going anywhere we didn’t want to go. We were friends beforehand and very comfortable with communicating honestly with each other.

I’m not a person who approves of promiscuous behaviour. I view it as a fairly high risk behaviour or lifestyle that I could not be comfortable engaging in. What I mean by promiscuity in this context is having sex with someone you’re not comfortable communicating with, i.e. someone you don’t really know or reasonably trust. One of the risks of this is misunderstandings about consent. However, if you negotiate beforehand, you ameliorate that risk.

Can negotiating consent be sexy? The idea of it brings to mind often something ludicrous. Like presenting a contract to the other person, with liabilities and disclaimers written in. You might as have lawyers in the room!  However, a book like Fifty Shades goes some way to show how consent can be erotic. Grey — a source of general apparent lust — did present a contract fairly early on. The first concept is that you are sending out signals that you’re not needy about sex: you’re absolutely fine about not having it right now and hey you’ve got options. Your partner probably wants it more than you do.  The second concept is that you are consciously talking about potentially kinky sex; it creates an erotic kind of thrill or danger to the situation without the risks of actually trangressing on each other’s freewill. Honestly being able to discuss sex and fantasies is something I find hot. I like the build up and anticipation drawing it out with talk first creates. The mind is the most important sex organ.

Being quite cautious about consent is really important in this day and age. It protects both parties involved in the interaction. Even if it delays or removes gratification in the setting you’re in, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I don’t mean this just in terms of legal implications, but for the psychological, social and sexual implications to both partners involved. I’d say with any partner you’re involved with, try and get an idea of their attitudes about sex, their previous experiences and, ahem, whether they’ve got any specific ideologies that make them more fundamentalist about this.

I think negotiation actually allows for much more fun as the end result, because you’re much more comfortable experimenting in a safe space. However, there needs to be patience involved.

Enjoy the anticipation.

3 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Consent

  1. Hi Bhetti,

    Glad to hear you renounced Islam. That and Christianity are two of the world’s silliest, most harmful and anti-scientific religions. And I say this as a practicing Buddhist.

    • I haven’t renounced Islam. I no longer believe in divinity as any known Islamic sect seems to conceive it. However, I still embrace the values and traditions I regard as Islamic. I’d still label myself a muslim.

      I find the labelling of Islam and Christianity as monolithic yet even more puzzling with the lack of belief, knowing how diverse they are. With scientism/empiricism being its own philosophy, all other philosophies are incompatible in the strictest sense.

      Religious beliefs and spirituality have given birth to many things beautiful and terrible. They make up the foundation of any sense of morality today. I won’t be intellectually dishonest and reject that. I love the world and life in all its horror; that means loving religion.

      • I also love certain religions. Islam and Christianity not being amongst them.

        Sexual Marxism: the Manospherian belief that Obama owes me a girlfriend. From each according to her ability, to each according to his need.

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