Getting the Kinks Out: The Rise of BDSM in Pop Culture

Valentine’s Day is a little over a week away, and we all know what that means: the Fifty Shades of Grey film adaptation will finally hit theaters after months of eager anticipation by millions of fans worldwide.

BDSM collar

A once taboo topic, BDSM has become a mainstream subject in recent years, infiltrating pop culture in almost every way. Songs, movies, books, and even morning talk shows are openly discussing all things bondage. And while sex in pop culture certainly isn’t new, divulging our most personal sexual fantasies and fetishes—especially those commonly considered “abnormal”—is simply not something that was often done. That is, of course, until now. According to SmithsonianMag.com, a Durex survey found that 36 percent of adults in the United States use masks, blindfolds, and bondage tools during sex. Whether you view it as a sign of the end-times or as one of progress, one thing is for sure: kink is in, and in a very public way.

Although some may cite Rihanna’s hit song “S&M” or E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey as the catalyst to BDSM’s rising fame, the truth is that BDSM, like most sexual preferences, has been around for as long as sex has been happening. AlterNet.org points out that the shift in public perception of BDSM is one of those seemingly overnight changes that was actually centuries in the making. Kink has had a place in entertainment for decades. However, it was not catapulted to the center of mainstream pop culture because the references made were vague, indirect, or perhaps not relatable enough.

And then there came Christian Grey. Think what you may about the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but there’s no arguing with numbers. Over 100 million copies of the trilogy have been sold worldwide in 52 languages. Also, Time.com reported that the first official trailer for the film adaptation of Fifty Shades, released this past summer, was the most-watched trailer of 2014—it received over 100 million views. It’s worth mentioning, too, where the racy trailer premiered. The peeks of scenes featuring bondage were not first shown on late-night cable or adult-only websites, but on the cheerful morning-time show Today.

In the past, BDSM has generally been depicted in entertainment and the media not only as a taboo sexual fetish, but as dysfunctional and dangerous (all untrue). Fifty Shades has uprooted those notions, casting a more positive, even romantic, light on the kinkier side of sex.

According to a survey on Uproxx.com, 68 percent of those surveyed said they thought Fifty Shades of Grey has made BDSM more mainstream or acceptable. Spanking and handcuffs, once viewed as rare occurrences in the average bedroom, are now typical aspects of the everyday sexual landscape, enjoyed by healthy individuals in healthy sexual relationships. To that end, Adameve.com explains that re-enacting favorite scenes from the popular Fifty Shades of Grey series is an activity an overwhelming number of couples are increasingly interested in. And it’s not just because they can use items hanging around their homes, either—there are now numerous Fifty Shades-themed toys and devices available to fulfill your BDSM needs.

While some practitioners claim Fifty Shades isn’t an accurate portrayal of what BDSM is about (per TheDailyBeast.com), it has given a great number of people the much-needed freedom to explore their kinkier side without fear of judgment or rejection.

Editor of Flush the Fashion and Flush Magazine. I love music, art, film, travel, food, tech and cars. Basically everything this site is about. You can follow me on Twitter HERE or on Instagram HERE

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