Someone asked me this weekend why I thought 50 Shades of Grey was so popular. Let’s face it, 50 Shades of Grey is to BDSM what Twilight is to vampires. It does the BDSM community no favors and actually does some harm. So why is it popular? Why are its fans flocking to the theatres and scooping the book off the shelves in droves?

To those not involved in the BDSM or kink lifestyle, it’s a dangerous and mysterious practice that only those with some deficiency practice. As a friend asked me, “why would you want to be hit? No one in their right mind wants that.” Yet, here I am. Not only do I want it, I crave it. That’s something those outside the lifestyle can’t understand and needs no explanation to those in the lifestyle.

Yet, that dangerous and mysterious nature is the very thing that appeals to the vanilla crowd (those outside the lifestyle). These are people whose sex lives are lived within acceptable boundaries and rarely venture into anything beyond those boundaries. 50 Shades of Grey gives the kink lifestyle an air of acceptability by watering it down and lathering it over with a reflection of the misogyny that prevails through the media. Suddenly kink becomes acceptable and palatable.

So why do people who claim they’ve never had any interest in kink before now want to go and see a movie or read a book about the watered down version of kink? Part of it is the titillation. This watered down version is acceptable enough to the masses to admit to an interest in it and even to allow it to be exciting. However, that’s not all.

I want to say that everyone has that part of them that wants to experiment with kink but that’s not true. Kink is not something that everyone wants. What 50 Shades of Grey gives is not kink but the expansion of boundaries. Boundaries are great but they can sometimes be confining. Speaking as someone who likes being tied up, it’s great but it loses its appeal if done for too long (and you begin to lose circulation in the limbs). This movie and book lets people know it’s okay to loosen those boundaries and to play with their limits.

And there lies the danger.

Kink is never an easy or simple game to play. It is a balance between two (or more) people that requires respect, negotiation and an understanding of limits (emotional, physical and psychological). Yes, a quick spanking can add a bit of spice but spank wrong or too hard and you can do some serious damage. The danger here is someone sees a movie or reads a book and thinks it’s just a game or a simple titillation and doesn’t take the proper precautions.

If you’re thinking about adding some kink to your sex life, it can be a great deal of fun and it can add dimension to your life. However, please don’t take 50 Shades of Grey to be your gospel. It’s full of misconceptions and misinformation. If you want to venture into that world (however lightly) read something that gives you some real information or, better yet, talk to those in the lifestyle. We’re always willing to answer questions so everyone can play safe.