There is no shortage of opinions on the highly controversial book turned movie that will be hitting the big screen this Valentine’s Day weekend.
There are arguments that are sure to point out its pornographic nature and the tendency of porn to dehumanize women, normalize violence against women and interfere with true intimacy in relationships.
Others scoff at what they believe to be the opinion of uptight conservatives and take the stance that this is a movie that will bring sexual liberation to the average woman.
Then, there is the study published in the Journal of Women’s Health examining themes in Fifty Shades of Grey, with the help of abuse and sexual practice experts. The results indicate that the book has extensive instances of emotional abuse, sexual violence, and reactions by the victim (Anastasia) that are typical of abused women. It concludes that the content of Fifty Shades reflects pervasive intimate partner violence—“one of the biggest problems of our time” and is a part of a growing body of literature perpetuating standards of violence against women in pop culture.
Still, there are others who are simply looking for a fun Valentine’s date movie and are “curious” about all the fuss.
I recognize that there are people reading this blog who are currently involved in BDSM (Bondage Discipline and Sadomasochism) work. There are readers who have journeyed through sexual addiction, and others who have experienced the pain of failed relationships as a result of sexual brokenness. We are not here to point fingers or to rehash the arguments noted above, but to share personal story—which is, and always has been the heart of Treasures.
It is in this spirit that I invite you to read my friend Andee’s story as she shares some of her experiences as a dominatrix.
How about you???
Do you think it is perpetuating standards of violence against women in pop culture? Or do you think it is harmless entertainment?
True Love… and the many shades of grey I’ve known
by Andee Flynn
This weekend, a movie is being released that deals with a dominant/submissive relationship. It is based on a book that has gained much popularity, even among audiences that wouldn’t typically be drawn to that sort of topic. I haven’t seen, or read Fifty Shades of Grey, but I have lived my own experiences in that world.
I have certain specific memories that bubble to the surface when I think of the dominant/submissive exchange. One in particular relates to how intoxicating it all was. I remember needing that relationship with my client the way it felt like I needed air. And I remember how it seemed like it worked.
If this is all a foreign language to you, let me explain a bit. I worked in the sex industry for five years in what is referred to as a dungeon or BDSM house. This is a place where clients would come to do sessions, in which we were not having sex, but rather enacting one-on-one fantasy role-play scenarios.
In a dominant/submissive encounter, each person plays a particular part. The dominant is the one who orchestrates the scene and is in charge. This person may choose to inflict physical, or mental pain and discomfort. The submissive is the one who complies with the wishes of the dominant.
As was customary at the house in which I worked, I started as a submissive. Once I paid my dues, I spent the rest of of my time working as a dominant.
I was first drawn into work as a dominatrix by the fantasy clothing and the idea of taking on a new identity. It seemed fun to dress up and be someone else. In my work persona, I wore towering high heels and somewhat menacing costumes. I felt strong. I felt powerful.
My desire to be someone else was motivated by a need to escape reality. On the surface I had circumstances I wanted to run away from. I was having a hard time taking care of my dying father and facing my troubled marriage.
What I was unaware of at the time were the deeper issues that plagued me. It actually wasn’t until I had been out of the business for two years that memories of familial sexual abuse surfaced. All I knew at the time was that I liked the power and control. In the latter part of my industry work, I was shocked at the level of physical pain I was capable of inflicting upon my clients.
Looking back now, I can see that the the rage I felt towards my father was the source. After being the helpless victim of abuse, I felt a certain sense of power was reclaimed by being the one in charge of the situation.
In 2001, well after I had worked my way up the ladder from submissive to dominant, I found myself doing a session, or rather begging to do one, in which I was on the receiving end of the physical punishment.
I still remember the way the gravel was digging into the skin on my knees that day. Why on earth was I doing this? I didn’t recognize myself. But there I was, bare legged, kneeling, and begging this guy to do a session with me.
I was being pulled in as a submissive and it was intoxicating. It was especially strange for me because in my time in the BDSM world, I had never before been drawn to this side of the coin.
I hated pain. And I was not submissive in the least.
So what was it?
Far beyond the dynamics of physical pain being acted out, there was something happening in me on a deeper level.
I did sessions with this client for hours and hours on end. He would hit me, and hard. He would order me to do things like hold my arms up for what felt like an eternity, and then he would say things like, “Good girl, I am so proud of you.”
Somehow, the juxtaposition of being hurt by him and then affirmed by him created a need in me. I needed more. I craved his affirmation. This bond that was being created between us was reminiscent of a trauma bond.
I distinctly remember after one session, he rocked me as I sat in a fetal position crying and he told me that he was “so proud of me.”
In that moment, I felt like years of looking for, and never really receiving, the approval I so wanted from my father were somehow being washed away.
But this feeling never lasted. And so I would do things like kneel in the gravel and beg.
As I sit and remember this time in my life, I am struck with such compassion for the woman I was. In all honesty, it breaks my heart to remember these days because I can see how desperately I wanted to feel real love and acceptance. And in that desperation, I was willing to take anything that seemed to fill the void, even if it was only temporary.
If my life were a tapestry, with threads woven together to reveal a beautiful rug, the threads that would be woven and interlaced over the memories of those days in 2001, would be the threads of a time that began two years after I left the industry, in 2008.
I was repeating a pattern that had plagued me for most of my adult life. Even after I left the industry, I was once again looking at a man to validate me, this time in a typical dating relationship.
I was looking at myself through another man’s eyes. If he thought I was valuable, then I was, but if he didn’t, I felt empty. Once again, I was chasing after approval, looking to someone else to make me feel special.
I finally began to recognize this pattern and realized I wanted it to stop.
I cried out to God and begged Him to show me who I was in His eyes. I didn’t know all that much about God then. But I did know that He was lasting, and these guys I kept dating weren’t. I wanted to know what God thought about me. So I asked Him to show me.
And it was then that I began to fall in love. Not the silly little impostor loves that I had had my whole life, but real love with a capital L. I fell in love with Him as I found out how deeply He was in love with me.
In the weeks and months that followed, He would fill my heart with the truth of who I really was.
That I am more valuable than rubies or pearls…
That He would never leave me or forsake me…
That He loves me with an everlasting love.
In the tapestry of my life, there are parts that might look to one person’s eye to be jagged and torn, but to His eyes, it is a perfect work of art. He uses all things together for good. He makes all things new.
After leaving the sex industry in 2006, Andee heard Harmony speak at her local church and reached out to Treasures herself in 2007. The materials and support she received were invaluable to Andee on her healing journey. After working as a director of a non-profit sexual integrity program for teens and young adults, Andee left to marry and follow her dream as a writer and stay-at-home mom. Andee is the author of the book, Talking to God. She serves on the outreach team and as the Care Team coordinator at Treasures. She and her husband, a pastor, have one child and live in Los Angeles. –