“Fifty Shades” Has Turned Into A Real-Life Sexual Assault

The kink community’s warnings about “Fifty Shades of Grey”’s poor demonstration of what consent looks like in BDSM has turned out not to just be paranoid speculation: A student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Mohammad Hossain, has been charged with sexual assault following an incident in which he claimed to be “re-enacting scenes from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’”

Hossain reportedly took a woman with whom he had previously had consensual sex to his dorm, asked her to undress, then tied her hands to his bedposts, bound her legs, and stuffed a necktie in her mouth, then proceeded to do as follows (this is disturbing, so fair warning):

Hossain used a knit cap to cover the woman’s eyes, Karr said, and removed the woman’s bra and underwear. He then began striking the woman with a belt. After hitting her several times, the woman told Hossain he was hurting her, told him to stop “and began shaking her head and crying.” […] Hossain continued striking the woman — including with his fists, according to an arrest report — and she managed to get one arm, and then another, free. But he then held her arms behind her back and sexually assaulted her as she continued to plead for him to stop. […]

Hossain’s roommate came home soon after the assault and, prosecutors said, Hossain held the door shut to prevent him from entering. The woman then left and told another person what happened, then called police.

Want to know something even scarier? My pro-dom friend with whom I watched the “Fifty Shades” movie last week, TM, e-mailed this link to me late last night with an addendum: “I actually have met this guy at some kink gatherings, as have a number of other people I know. This is a very stark example of that fucking deplorable work of literary and cinematic excrement inspiring people to do literally everything about BDSM incorrectly.”

So here you have Hossain, who had access to the right information about kink and consent, and turned to “Fifty Shades” for guidance instead. The court reporter for the Chicago Tribune said that Hossain “appeared shocked after a Cook County judge set his bail at $500,000, walking back to the lockup with his mouth wide open.” But why should he be shocked? Let’s go over what happened: He didn’t sit down with this woman beforehand and discuss with her what she wanted out of the experience. They didn’t come to a clear agreement about boundaries. They didn’t both clearly consent before they started having sex. When it should have become clear that she was not enjoying herself, Hossain ignored all the signals she was giving him and proceeded to batter her. When she tried to escape, he restrained her and raped her. When his roommate came home, in order to hide what was happening, Hossain prevented his roommate from entering.

He was shocked because he had been given the impression, from E.L. James’ “masterwork,” that BDSM sex is carte blanche to do whatever you want to your sexual partner without their consent. Because this should all sound extremely familiar: At no point in “Fifty Shades” is any way of rescinding consent other than safe words discussed, even though in kink, the dom is supposed to be attentive at all times to make sure that the sub is still consenting. In “Fifty Shades,” Christian and Ana discussed their contract, but it was never signed, and they had sadomasochistic sex anyway. Christian never has a discussion with Ana before they have sex about what he’s going to do — he just blindfolds her and springs a flogger on her. In the pivotal final scene of “Fifty Shades” (not to mention the rest of the movie), Christian ignores the fact that Ana is crying and unhappy and not receiving any pleasure at all from being submissive, and he forges on regardless, convinced that he knows what she really wants.

And now a college freshman has been raped. I trust that many fans of “Fifty Shades” are discerning enough to know that what Hossain did — and what has happened in similar incidents I’ve heard reported repeatedly from other members of the kink community — is not consent. The problem is that too many people don’t. And it should not be possible to throw our hands up and say “Oh well, some people are stupid” when people are actually, real-life getting hurt because of this awful representation of BDSM. It is only responsible to be more critical than that, regardless of what books we happen to like.

[Chicago Tribune]

[Image via Cook County Sheriff’s Office]

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