The steamy new Fifty Shades of Grey trailer has whipped up a frenzy of interest in the local fetish scene as couples seek to emulate the eroctic romance.
But the reality of the alternative sexual lifestyle is far from the fantasy portrayed in the adaptation of the E L James erotic novel.
Those well-acquainted with New Zealand’s extensive BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) scene say the books and now movie, which romanticises sexual dominance and submission with a bit of bondage and discipline thrown in, gives people a skewed idea of what’s really involved.
Owner and operator of Club Sparty, one of Auckland’s three BDSM clubs, Rod Jackson, said a lot of young people came into the club on BDSM party nights after reading the Fifty Shades of Grey books and were shocked at the extent of how people ”dealt to” each other using everything from whips to batons.
In reality when a dominant ”played on” a submissive by using bondage and punishment, which could include anything from a light spanking with an open palm to a thorough spanking, it was quite violent, Jackson said.
”[Fifty Shades of Grey] does romanticise it a little bit and some people are not ready for the full reality.”
Jackson said 90 per cent of the population were not into BDSM, even if they thought they were.
However, those who were actively living out the BDSM lifestyle enjoyed the different aspects, including the pain, he said.
While Fifty Shades of Grey had brought BDSM into mainstream media most people who were into alternative lifestyles were already aware of their kinks and it was unlikely reading the books or watching a movie would turn you into someone who was into BDSM, Jackson said.
”Most men are brought up to not hit a woman but there’s a small percentage of women out there who want to be hit.”
People from the BDSM community partook in a range of activities and they did not always involve sex but there was always an element of arousal and satisfaction.
Jackson said about one in seven Kiwis were into the lifestyle, whether they were public or private about their preference.
If people were curious about trying BDSM they could learn about it online and there was a range of clubs in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and a few special Bed & Breakfasts that catered to those who wanted to play with BDSM.
However, the BDSM community largely wanted to be left alone and not judged by people who did not understand the appeal, Jackson said.
The 55-year-old male dominant said he had always been into BDSM and had been running Club Sparty for eight years, following nine years of hosting private BDSM parties.
Auckland domme Mistress Shazza said ”an awful lot of people” had gone into Club Sparty after reading the books and wanting to give BDSM a go.
They had a preconceived idea of what BDSM was about but they were often surprised by the reality.
One of the most important aspects of BDSM was consent, which was not clearly explored or explained in Fifty Shades of Grey.
It was important to give clear verbal consent every step of the way so no one was injured during play and the submissive only experienced what they were comfortable with, she said.
If people wanted to give it a go at home they did not have to fork out for expensive equipment like leather whips and spanking benches, an old tie and a rubber spatula would do the trick, she said.
Mistress Shazza’s submissive Maid Yvette, a cross-dressing male, said different people had different pain thresholds and she used the traffic light system to tell her dominant when she needed a break or wanted to stop.
The relationship between a dominant and a submissive was based on trust and understanding of what the other person wanted and what they could tolerate, Yvette said.
BDSM-er from Christchurch alternative lifestyles club Uncommon Bonds Steve K said Fifty Shades of Grey had certainly raised the community’s profile.
The club held a party with a Fifty Shades of Grey theme and twice as many people attended as usual, he said.
But the BDSM community found Fifty Shades to be ”rather unrealistic” and ”very tame”.
”I get bored with Fifty Shades.”
Steve K said there was an even mix of men, women, young and old who partook in BDSM and the community included people who were straight, gay, cross-dressers, and transsexuals.
The community tried to ignore any negative attention and kept each other safe by turning away anyone with criminal convictions of a sexual nature.
Clinical psychologist and sex therapist Robyn Salisbury said Fifty Shades of Grey had engendered discussions with her clients about trying something new, pushing the boundaries and using erotica as a turn on.
If people wanted to try any new sexual behaviour, especially those involving dominance or pain, it was important to clarify in advance where the boundaries were and a clear way to signal stop that would be heeded no matter what, she said.
While some groups took BDSM very seriously, Fifty Shades of Grey had also prompted some light-hearted discussion around the topic.