What a Real Dominatrix Thinks 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Got Right – And Way Wrong

by Damon Brown 4:55 AM PST, February 12, 2015
Photo: Focus Features

Finally, Christian Grey's steely eyes will be penetrating theaters nationwide in Fifty Shades of Grey. No one's saying the film could be confused for a Real Sex documentary, but how true to life is anything about its portrayal of sadomasochism?

ETonline chatted with San Francisco-based dominatrix, author and kink educator Mistress Minax to get her take on key moments in the original best-selling book. (Our own reviewer clarified which of these examples may be handled differently in the film.)

In 50 Shades, Christian warns, "I'm fully aware that this is a dark path I’m leading you down, Anastasia, which is why I really want you to think about this."

Mistress Minax: Hilarious…and definitely judgmental. There’s some self-loathing in there: "This is a dark path and I'm a dark person. [Imitating a spooky ghost.] Ohhhhhhhhhh!" Of course, the clear word that stands out is “dark.” It is unfortunate, particularly in mainstream society, that [BDSM] gets called “dark arts.”

Anastasia gets liquored up before committing to Christian, telling herself, "Alcohol – this will make me brave." (In the film, Christian criticizes Anastasia for drinking so much.)

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Mistress Minax: Anybody who is clean and sober is going to really hate that part! It's kind of silly. I think there is a certain amount of courageousness to moving ahead on something you're unknowledgeable or trepidatious or excited about. I think any relationship requires a certain amount of courageousness, as you never know what you’re going to get.

If [a potential partner] had a glass of wine while we were negotiating, I probably would not do much with them immediately and probably let them sit on the idea [for a while]. Even if they didn’t have a glass of wine, that’s probably what I would do: Say, “This is what I’d like to do with you,” and call it a night! Let them sleep on it.

When Christian is laying down the, ahem, law, he says, "I have rules, and I want you to comply with them. They are for your benefit and for my pleasure. If you follow these rules to my satisfaction, I shall reward you. If you don’t, I shall punish you, and you will learn."

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Mistress Minax: I would say "discipline" rather than "punish" in that moment. There will be discipline and there will be expectations of you. I usually put them in writing, and then we have something to refer to.

Christian, not Anastasia, decides what her personal boundaries will be in the bedroom. (In the film, Anastasia draws a hard line on some sex acts, and does have a safe word.)

Mistress Minax: She should be able to have some say. There are a lot of people who do the full-on Master/Slave relationship where the Master or the Mistress gets to decide everything for them, but most people I know who have real-time, long-term relationships [don't have the time] for that.

In general, they always have the right to call "red," "time out," or another safe word. I work it like a contract. My DS [dominant/submissive] relationships very rarely involve sex – let me make that clear – but they could absolutely say where their "hard lines" or "no go" zones are. We would have it right in the agreement.

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Would I honor those lines 100 percent of the time? In a way, yes, and in a way, no. I will push their limits…but they could always use their safe word.

Then, in the middle of sex, Christian begs Anastasia to be his Submissive.

Mistress Minax: First and foremost, as a Dominant, I do not beg. That, in and of itself, is odd. The real-life issue here is that people say things in the moment that they do not mean. I am always clear and careful to, after the moment, ask, "Hey, when you said 'I owned you' at that moment, did you mean it or did you mean it just in that moment?" Sex is a very intoxicating drug and can, more than alcohol, get me to say things and do things I wouldn’t normally do.

Christian also gives Anastasia spankings for "punishment."

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Mistress Minax: More often than not, giving spankings as a form of punishment is kind of backwards, because the [Submissive] is usually seeking some form of corporal punishment. It often doesn’t work as a punishment, but more as a reward.

Fifty Shades of Grey opens nationwide on Friday. For more BDSM background, go to (NSFW).