Whether you love or loathe it, Fifty Shades of Grey has changed things. While a certain kind of feminist has often argued that BDSM is abusive objectification, others are beginning to understand how sexual fantasy operates: If partners consent to an act that makes them both feel wonderful, they often feel empowered and sexually fulfilled. And individuals who are fulfilled in this way are less likely to be non-consensually violent or damaging. In other words, just like other forms of desire and release, consensual BDSM can make for a more peaceful, loving, authentic world.
Plus for people who say that BDSM does cause harm, even if the partners are consenting, my answer is this: it depends on how you define “harm.” After all, eating spicy food also causes us “harm.” The chili peppers directly trigger the pain sensors in our mouths, briefly burning us and causing us damage — damage that can become very addicting. Same goes for spanking. Simple, really.
In short, we don’t force-feed people curry. Yet when someone enjoys Thai food, we say, “Good for you.”
What amazes me, however, is the inability of critics of erotic fiction to understand that it is fiction. And I think part of this has to do with a certain perception of the popular/literary divide. “High culture” usually isn’t criticized when it is violent, sexist, abusive or judgmental. We don’t assume it models violence and abuse. Why? Because we’ve come to assume that “high literature” creates some spiritual miracle that only the intelligent can access. Now, I often love literary fiction. And I love popular fiction too. But who goes around saying, “Othello shows you how to use racism to destroy individual lives,” or “Mansfield Park is a how-to manual in allowing other people to walk all over you,” or “Madame Butterfly was written by a racist asshole…”? I have a theory about this: People who enjoy high art see themselves — and are seen — as capable of understanding the difference between fantasy and reality. Whereas people who enjoy popular page-turners, are too often treated as if they can’t.
At Go Deeper Press, we go deeper than that. We know that when someone reads a BDSM page-turner that is hot, fun, compelling and imaginative, they are doing society a whole heap of good, because happy, sexually fulfilled people are peaceful people. We also know that when you feel as if you are the only person who enjoys being spanked (or indeed spanking another) you are far more likely to be depressed, and therefore less capable of helping the world. Erotic fiction embraces us all by showing us that we are not alone in our desires, even when they run truly dark.
And that, folks, is love.