Guest Post: “Fifty Shaders: Welcome to FetLife!”

Posted: February 20, 2015 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Guest Posts, Learn Something, Philosophy

Editor’s Note: We LOVE Fetlife. If you aren’t on it, yet, we highly recommend it. However, be aware that it is not a dating site and is not a good place to hook up with partners. Instead, you should use it as a way to find gatherings and classes where you can learn more about kink, how to do it safely, and meet potential partners. 

Fifty Shaders: Welcome to FetLife!

By ScottH (Fetlife)

So you went and saw Fifty Shades of Grey this past weekend, and it made your panties wet. Then you went home and did a google search, and now you’ve discovered FetLife. Congratulations! You’ve definitely found the right place to start learning about what erotic domination and submission are all about in real life. The journey you’re just beginning may very well change your life in ways you can’t yet imagine! This lifestyle has certainly had a profound effect on mine.

But there’s just one little problem. People whose interest in this stuff began with the book or movie Fifty Shades seldom realize at first just how much there is to learn, or how much knowledge and wisdom exists within the community of people who have actually been doing this stuff in real life years before the book and movie came out.

The BDSM community went through this when the book first got popular, so we already have a sense of how newcomers who start with FSOG (Fifty Shades of Grey) tend to at first have misconceptions about real-life BDSM.

The purpose of this post is to help you understand that there’s a whole lot more to this than what you saw in the movie, and to acquaint you with some really excellent resources available to help you learn about real-world BDSM. So far, all you’ve been exposed to was a movie, and frankly, it wasn’t a particularly accurate representation of how we do this stuff in real life.

Why am I writing you this Welcome Note?

When I first got involved in “the scene” 14 years ago, I had absolutely no clue how much I didn’t know, or how much there was to learn. At first I dismissed the so-called “public scene”, because I had no desire to have sex in front of an audience, so therefore “play parties” didn’t appeal to me.

I had no idea that there were organized classes and weekend conferences entirely focused on teaching people what kinky sex is all about and how to do it safely. I read just one book (called SM 101) and figured “Hey, I read it cover-to-cover, so I must know everything now, right?” As it would turn out, it took several years just to gain a full appreciation of how much there is to learn about this, how much it would change my life, and how little I knew in the beginning.

In case you’re wondering, no, I’m not here to sell you anything. Although I do teach classes at BDSM conferences, that’s something I do on a volunteer basis, as an act of community service. You see, this lifestyle has had such a profound effect on some of us that we feel obliged to give something back by paying forward the gift of the knowledge we’ve gained from the kink community over the years. It’s an amazing community, and I’m honored to welcome you to it.

No, I’m not some big-wig in the world of kink or anything like that. I’m just a guy whose entire life changed completely when I learned about this lifestyle. And I’m passionate about inspiring others to embrace kink and learn what I’ve learned about it. There’s a whole lot more to this than what you saw in the movie, and it will take a while to get your head around all of it.

For the first five years I was in the scene, I had no fucking clue what I was doing. I tied girls up and fucked them and that was fun, but I didn’t have any concept of how deep an emotional connection I could discover with a woman through Dominant/submissive (and later, Master/slave) relationship dynamics. It literally change my life.

But nobody ever reached out to me in the beginning to say “Scott, let me show you the way. There’s a lot to learn here, and I want to help you find your way to it”. As a result, I wasted five years of my life before I finally figured out who I truly am as a human being and how I truly identify with kink. I hope to save you from wasting those five years by pointing you in the right direction straight away, so you can start learning from sources that were there when I started, but sadly nobody told me about.

You need to know about FSOG’s reputation in the scene!

You might reasonably assume that Fifty Shades is our community’s pride and joy, and that we all idolize the book and movie as the “bible” of our lifestyle. But that assumption would be wrong. Dead wrong!

To the contrary, FSOG has a horrific reputation in the scene. You might be surprised to learn that if the Christian Grey character as depicted in the original book were a real person, he would be exiled from the BDSM community instantly for what we call consent violations. More on that later.

In the movie version, Grey was a much more ethical guy, but still fell way short of what most of us would consider a worthy role model. I’d like to think that the absolute outrage the book caused in the kink community must have inspired the producers of the movie to clean up the writing a bit and make Grey a little less offensive to people who actually do this stuff in real life. Keep in mind that the author of the book isn’t actually in the scene herself. She’s a fantasy writer who knows relatively little about BDSM as it’s practiced in the real world.

Sadly, a lot of people in the BDSM community have a very negative attitude toward FSOG, and tend to be dismissive of anyone who’s a fan of it. I think that’s really sad. We should be celebrating the fact that this thing went viral and made so many newcomers aware that our lifestyle exists! And then we should be constructively, respectfully working to re-educate y’all to understand that a lot of what FSOG depicts just isn’t cool with us. Don’t get me wrong – the hot kinky sex is what we’re all about. But we have etiquette and rules about consent that were very badly disrespected by the book, somewhat less so by the movie.

Kink is many things to many people: The Ice Cream Analogy

What you saw in the movie was just one flavor of kink. But kink is many different things to different people. For example, some kinky relationships are entirely about power exchange, meaning one person has absolute authority over the other, but they don’t involve any of the pain play depicted in the movie’s “Red Room” whatsoever. For other people, it’s entirely about the pain and impact play, but there’s no power exchange. Still others explore authority-based relationships where there is no sexual intimacy whatsoever. There’s a lot more to this than just “kinky sex”!

Even within the realm of pain play, it means very different things to different people. For some, the whole point of receiving pain is that it feels good to them, especially when combined with sexual arousal. For this flavor of kinkster, calledendorphin players, it’s all about the drug-like high they can experience when stimulating their body to hurt so good! For others, it’s entirely about the emotional connection that comes from submission. This category of pain submissive may not enjoy the sensation of pain at all, but immensely enjoys the feeling of proving through their submission that they’re willing to go to extreme lengths to please their partner.

One of the oldest and best-known metaphors in the scene is what we call the Ice Cream Analogy. It goes like this: Imagine you’ve been transported to a parallel universe. Everything seems the same – the people seem normal, the cities are just like here on planet Earth, and you hardly notice any difference. Except for just one really bizarre thing: Vanilla is the only flavor of Ice Cream served. Anywhere. No exceptions. When you speak up and politely suggest “Hey, how’bout making this more interesting with some chocolate syrup on top”, people freak the fuck out and start talking about the need to protect their children from PERVERTS like yourself who would propose to do something as UNNATURAL AND IMMORAL as to put hot fudge on top of Ice Cream! They start talking seriously about lynching you in public ceremony for the good of society!

Guess what? That’s exactly how mainstream society appears to us in the kink world. They practice sex the way their church told them to, with no variation. It’s all the same flavor: plain vanilla. For this reason, we refer to “normal” sex asvanilla sex and to people who are not interested in BDSM as vanilla people.

My point is that the movie only introduced you to one particular flavor of kink. Think of it as Mint Chocolate Chip. It might or might not be for you, but there are lots and lots more flavors to sample. I’ve never met a single person who enjoys them all, and it literally takes years to learn about all the flavors on offer, as you decide along the way which ones you want to taste yourself. Furthermore, your taste is likely to evolve over time.

Consent is utterly paramount to our culture!

The activities some of us engage in with our intimate partners could literally be described as rape or even aggravated assault if they occurred without the full informed consent of all participants! This is not a game; it’s fucking intense stuff, and it’s extremely unethical to impose the kind of things we do on another human being without their express consent.

I know, I know… It seems sexy as hell when Christian Grey somehow just magically knows that deep down inside she really wants it, and it seems hot when he just forces himself on her in the book version of FSOG. But that’s in a fantasy novel, and it’s not real life. We don’t do it that way in real life, and when people try to, we consider them to be really bad actors, and we exile them from our communities.

But maybe what turned you on in the first place was the very thought of not being given a choice? Don’t worry, we have a system for satisfying that desire. It’s called consensual non-consent. It means that two adults sit down and agree ahead of time on the scope and extent of activities one person grants the other advance permission to do to them by surprise, when they’re least expecting it. This system makes sure the person on the receiving end of it really did want it.

We also use a system to add a safety valve just in case something goes wrong, and we call those safewords. That’s a special phrase that works like the emergency stop button on a train. It tells the other person that you really and truly want whatever kinky play is going on to stop.

Another important concept to learn is something we call aftercare. It refers to the Dominant’s responsibility to care for the emotional needs of the submissive after an intense scene. Counter-intuitively to some, what can be most rewarding to many submissives is the combination of a very rough play scene followed by a session of very tender care and affection (aftercare) from the same person. Christian Grey’s refusal to provide his submissive with the aftercare she needed and deserved was one of the big criticisms of the book when it came out.

It’s really important to learn this stuff before you start to engage in kinky play for real. One of the biggest criticisms of the book was that it had practically no mention of such precautions. The movie was better, probably because of the outrage the book caused in the kink community a couple years back.

There’s a LOT to learn!

Vanilla sex is pretty much self-explanatory. Just about any 17-yr old kid with a hard-on can find the hole and stick it in. Of course having some technique can markedly improve the experience for both people, but aside from safe sex practices, you don’t have to learn much to be safe.

Kink is totally, completely different. The biggest mistake newbies make is thinking it’s ok to just start experimenting without learning anything about this first. People get seriously injured that way, so you really need to take this seriously.

Maybe you’re a woman and the thought of having your partner slap you across the face during sex seems really hot! Ok, fair enough… But do both you and your lover know that the most common serious injury to result from face-slapping scenes is actually a perforated eardrum? It happens when just one finger hits your ear at the wrong angle – it’s an air pressure thing. And in severe cases it can cause permanent hearing loss. Do both you and your lover already know that the risk of injury to your temporomandibular joint increases exponentially if your jaw is open when you receive the slap, and that for that reason, you should keep your jaw closed but not clenched when receiving a face slapping? No, you didn’t already know these things? Then you really ought to stop and learn the involved risks and how to mitigate them before proceeding with an actual face-slapping scene of your own!

We use the acronym RACK to describe an ethical test of sorts that’s used to determine whether a certain kind of activity is OK to engage in. It stands forRisk-Aware Consensual Kink. What it means is that for any kind of play to be ethical to engage in, two tests must be satisfied. First, all involved participants must understand what risk(s) they are taking, and second they must consent to taking those risks as mentally competent, informed adults. The idea is that we all have the right to engage in risky activity if we so choose, but it’s only cool to expose another human being to risky play if you’ve done your homework and learned what not-so-obvious risks might be involved.

Of course it’s never possible to know all the possible risks, and people do experiment in new areas. But the point is, we don’t just recklessly go do crazy shit without thinking about it. We learn as much as we can about the involved risks and take whatever steps we can to mitigate them.

Don’t worry, if the face slapping still sounds hot, you can sign up for a 2-hour “Headplay Class” and learn all about the safety precautions, get some instruction on how to give or receive a really good face slapping, and meet some other people who share your interest in kink at the same time. It’s a shitload of fun! But you gotta take it seriously.

Great news: There are classes, books, and conferences for this!

There are literally dozens of books, classes, and weekend conferences where you can learn all about this stuff. Please see my list of recommended books, classes and events for some ideas on where to start. You need to be willing to put the time into reading a NON-FICTION book about it, at bare minimum, before you start experimenting. The book Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns is probably the best place to start. It’s an oldie but a goodie. The parts about how to meet partners are out of date thanks to the Internet, but the rest is as relevant today as when it was written 25 years ago. Click the above link for a whole bunch of other recommendations.

The point I want to impress upon you the most is that you’re entering a culture where we take safety and consent seriously, and we look down on people who “just experiment” without first learning how to do this safely. It’s not like vanilla sex where you get better through random experimentation and practice. It’s something you can and should actually go to school for, in order to learn how to do it safely. Think of it like going to night school, except the homework is a lot more fun! 😉 Live out in the sticks? They even have online (video on demand) classes on kink technique now. See the above link for details.

We have a name for you, and unfortunately, it’s not always endearing

Many people who have been involved in BDSM for many years refer to FSOG fans as Shaders, and unfortunately, it’s sometimes used in a disparaging way, e.g.“She was just another ignorant shader”, and comments of that nature. I think it’s really sad. We were all new to this once, and most of us had no goddamned clue what we were doing for the first few years. We should be welcoming you newcomers with open arms, and we should be polite and respectful in the process of informing you that for good reason, the book and movie don’t exactly have a stellar reputation in our world.

Sadly, some of our community members lack the patience and humility to remember that all of us were “ignorant newcomers” once ourselves. So please, try not to be offended by the FSOG-bashing you’re going to encounter here on FetLife.

I want to make one point very strongly: What you saw was a movie. It wasn’t real, and it didn’t accurately depict how kink is practiced by responsible consenting adults in real life. Furthermore, the movie and the characters in it should not be your role models. If you want to do this stuff in real life, you need to first learn what the real-life version of BDSM is all about, and you didn’t learn anything worthwhile about that from the movie. Really, you didn’t. That’s not meant to be condescending. It’s just that movies are all about sensationalism at the expense of realism. The stuff we do can result in serious injury if you don’t focus on the realism!

Suggestion: Don’t frame your questions and discussions around movie scenes

I know, I know… You’re really excited by what you saw in that movie, and it seems natural to you to describe your own kinky fantasies and desires in terms of scenes you saw in the movie. But what you may not yet realize is that the book and movie have a pretty bad reputation in the real-world BDSM community, and most of us have never even read or seen it. Those who have sometimes prefer not to admit they have because the book’s reputation is so bad people don’t want to be associated with it!

More to the point, we don’t think that movie portrays our lifestyle responsibly or realistically, and we’re often offended by people who try to equate us with the characters in the movie. Christian Grey is definitely not a role model we respect, and you’ll find we’ll be a lot nicer to you if you frame your questions and discussions around what turns you on, without drawing analogies to the book or movie.

The Movie may have left you with a lot of misconceptions

I wrote 5 doses of reality for women who read Fifty Shades after the book “went viral” to debunk some of the misconceptions it left people with. You may enjoy that post as well.

Don’t dismiss the “Community” aspect of this

The single biggest mistake I made in the beginning was when I read about how there is this “BDSM Community”, I was completely dismissive… I don’t want to join some stupid fucking community – I want to meet kinky girls to play with! Yeesh! Furthermore, as much as I read about how friendly and welcoming this “community” supposedly was, my experience was the opposite when I attended a play party at a BDSM club for the first time. I found everyone to be anything BUT friendly. Stand-offish and defensive was the attitude I got from the women there, actually. “Fuck this!”, I thought… I don’t need this crap and I don’t want to hang out with a bunch of yokels who all dress up in silly leather costumes anyway!

That attitude literally cost me five years of my life. What I badly failed to grasp was that the community thing is really important. In the beginning you’re just learning about skills – how to tie rope bondage ties, how to throw a flogger, how not to tip a cane, and so forth. But as you get deeper into this, it’s all about the profoundly deep emotional connections. Participating in live discussion groups, attending classes, and listening to keynote speakers at conferences who literally bring decades of experience to the table has enhanced my life dramatically. But I wasted five years before attending my first national-level event because of that first experience at a play party, where I felt anything but welcome.

Note to single men who identify as Dominants: Here’s the part they usually don’t tell you about the “welcoming and loving” BDSM Community: it is all those things and more once they get to know you and believe you have good intentions. But unfortunately, a shitload of single male newcomers to this lifestyle have all the wrong ideas and intentions. They think “submissive” is synonymous with “easy”, and they often offend women with their aggressive cruising. The sad truth is that you’ll be considered guilty of being a creeper until proven innocent. No, it’s not fair, but that’s how it works.

The solution is to attend classes and munches first, not just play parties, andfocus first on introducing yourself to other men and couples who are more experienced than yourself. Then let it become clear to them through conversation that you’re serious and have sincere intentions. The girls are watching. Trust me on that. The guys who keep to themselves and don’t talk to anyone except the girls they hit on are considered creepy and dangerous until proven otherwise. But when they see you engaging in conversation with other men and asking intelligent questions, their attitude changes dramatically. It took me over a year to figure this out!

Please approach this community with a sincere desire to LEARN!

We really are a very supportive, welcoming bunch. But we get really turned off when people show up in our discussion forums acting like experts in this lifestyle just because they read Fifty Shades cover to cover. There’s a whole lot more to it than that!

If you come with a sincere interest in learning what this lifestyle is about, we’ll be glad to help you find your way. For many of us, this changed our lives so profoundly that we take a sincere “community service” interest in helping newcomers find their way. But it’s SO frustrating when people who know next to nothing show up acting like experts.

So please, recognize that some of the people on these forums have made this stuff a central priority in their lives for decades. We’re happy to share what we know with you, but we do ask for a little respect. Most of us would also prefer not to discuss matters in terms of how they relate to scenes in the movie that we didn’t see (or don’t care to admit that we saw on these pages).

Thanks for taking the time to educate yourself, and welcome to the amazing world of kink!

Give me some LOVE!

Whether you’re a newcomer to our community or a multi-decade veteran of the scene, I really hope you’ll take a moment to click the “Love This” button on the right side of the original post (FOUND HERE) near the top of the post and/or post a comment in the discussion thread. I’m not asking you to do this to placate my ego (it’s already quite big enough, thanks!). The point is that millions of people saw the movie this weekend, and will be finding their way to Fetlife very shortly. Your “love” is what will keep this post prominently visible on K&P where the newcomers will see it and hopefully learn something. Thanks in advance for your support!


p.s. YES, you can re-post this on social networking sites with attribution

To answer a question I’ve now received several times: YES, you have my permission to post links to this post anywhere, and you also have my permission to re-post the full text on other social media, provided that you attribute “Scott Harrington (ScottH on” as author.

I particularly encourage you to re-post this on FaceBook and other vanilla social networking sites. We should all do whatever we can to help all the people who became fascinated with what we do to discover it safely!

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