Fifty Shades of Grey: As a former dominatrix, I'm going to boycott the film because its quality offends me, not its content

A misguided campaign by domestic violence activists has mistaken women's fantasies with their victimisation

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When I heard about the campaign to boycott the Fifty Shades of Grey film, I laughed. Hard. #50DollarsNot50Shades has been set up by activists to encourage people to donate to domestic violence shelters rather than paying to see the film. According to them, the film glorifies abusive relationships and sexual violence.

Of course, I agree that “Hollywood doesn’t need your money; abused women do.” But then why not encourage filmgoers to boycott Game of Thrones: The IMAX Experience, which also encourages and glorifies rape and violence against women for entertainment’s sake? Why not The Boy Next Door or American Sniper?

If Hollywood films with obscene budgets and questionable moral content are to be held responsible for the ails of our society, then why target this flaccid attempt at representing one woman’s sexuality?

As a former professional dominatrix who has published a memoir about my BDSM experiences, I've been asked to comment on the phenomenon a number of times. I was offended by the books’ poor artistic quality, but I didn’t oppose their existence.

I found the story a reductive misrepresentation of virtually everything it touched on, and also kind of a turn-on, despite my intellectual disgust. Basically, it compared with every other commercial blockbuster I’d ever experienced.

But there's one thing that you can't argue with: Fifty Shades of Grey is a film whose screenwriter and director are both women, adapted from a series of books written by a woman that sold over 100m copies, mostly to female readers.

As a feminist, I am loathe to publicly criticise any attempt to progress a feminist agenda, and am deeply bothered at the tendency of marginalised people to waste resources criticising those who share their ideals. However, I still can't get behind #50DollarsNot50Shades.

To support of its cause, this campaign boasts that BDSM practitioners are offended by the movie. Of course they are! They were offended by my book, too. High profile depictions of marginalised experiences are always hated by the people they're supposed to represent.

We don’t expect that crime thrillers be faithful to the reality of detective work, or romances heed the complex nature of real relationships, so why should an erotic film be held to a higher standard?

Nobody cares if it represents the BDSM community; it’s not trying to represent anything but a way to make a mountain of money by getting people off.

What’s worse is to suggest that this film has the power to increase violence against women. The success of Fifty Shades proves that some women fantasise about being dominated. Of course we do! We have all been socialized by a culture that fetishises submissive women. It would be impossible to avoid internalising those unrelenting messages.

Are we to boycott the fantasies of women? To tell them that these fantasies are dangerous and possibly responsible for domestic violence? The suggestion that these filmgoers suffer from an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality is infantilising and sexist.

It employs an age-old tool — the punishment of women for their sexuality, and the suggestion that their sexuality is not only wrong, but dangerous, and responsible for their own victimisation. "Are you a woman who enjoys being sexually dominated? Well then you need our help" is what #50DollarsNot50Shades is effectively saying.

I will give $50 to victims of domestic violence because I believe in the education and social services that support them. And I will boycott Fifty Shades of Grey because, if the trailers are anything to go by, it’s bound to be a terrible film. But I won’t assign it any more power than it deserves.

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