As the voice of American kink, I have been asked many times over the past couple of weeks what my feelings are about the imminent unveiling of the film version of 50 Shades of Grey.
I will confess to having read perhaps three paragraphs of the book, and then stopped because I found the writing unworthy of further attention. From the trailers, I’ve gathered that the movie might be Son of 9-1/2 Weeks, except with a prettier leading man.
I’m expecting, when the film actually opens, to be asked, “Is this what kink’s really like?” I don’t need to see it to know that it’s highly unrepresentative in at least one way. The two leads are very young, and kink is generally the erotic province of persons in their 40s and 50s. Take a look at Alt.com, one of the leading online dating sites for pervs, and you’ll see that the average age is around 48. (Those who want to have a look, but are afraid their having done so will mark them irrevocably as perverts, may be assured that I will, for a nominal charge, provide an attractive Mendel Illness certificate affirming that their look was purely for research purposes, and that they haven’t a kinky bone in their whole body.)
In the large majority of cases, kink’s an erotic style to which one comes as a result of one of two midlife changes, if not both. One might come to be bored with what Little Alex, in A Clockwork Orange, called The Old In/Out. For these people, lovemaking achieves a whole new dimension, if you will, as kink engages not only all the usual body parts, the genitalia and lips and fingertips and so on, but also the intellect — specifically, the imagination — more than other sex. Much as in mid-childhood, lovers imagine themselves in all sort of scenarios, except now with better costuming, in many cases, and an often rapturous payoff.
The other change that might lead one to kink is increased self-acceptance. In middle age, one might finally give himself permission to act on impulses of which he was ashamed earlier in life.
When I say that kink is primarily the domain of persons over 45, I’m by no means suggesting that there aren’t avid 24-year-old practitioners of the dark erotic arts (kidding!). I’m not much of a mixer, and have attended maybe half a dozen “munches” (non-erotic get-togethers of the kinky) in my lifetime, but that was enough to know that a fair number of the, uh, community think that they, and they alone, have glimpsed Kink's True Face. Which is of course preposterous, as there are countless variations on the theme. Who embodies kink? The woman who likes to wear latex catsuits (be still, my beating heart) and demand that her naked male lover bleat like a lamb while she hits him with a spatula, or her neighbor, who wants her lover to secure her wrists to the bedpost and call her a shameless little slut while he fucks her, or the college professor who wants to wear a French maid’s uniform, and to be addressed as Babette, and doesn’t care one way or another if he’s touched? Each is indeed the living embodiment of his own erotic compulsions and fetishes.
And probably resembles 50 Shades’ two leads about as much as the average straight, vanilla couple resembles Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The latter of whom, I hear, isn’t so vanilla all, bless her heart.