When Fifty Shades of Grey came out, I vowed to myself that I would never watch it because of its inaccurate portrayal of healthy kink/BDSM relationships and its depictions of abusive behaviour. But when the Toronto-based collective Drunk Feminist Films announced that Fifty Shades would be their film of the month at the Revue Cinema, I decided to check it out.
As soon as tickets for Fifty Shades of Grey went on sale, the Drunk Feminist Films (DFF) screening sold out in less than 24 hours. Probably because they were offering a sex-positive screening with snark-positive commentary. Oh and they mentioned something about tampons and swinging them around (like you just don’t care).
The lineup outside the theatre was halfway down the street 20 minutes before doors even opened. I knew it was going to be a good night full of hilarious quips and awesome dialogue, but also a lot of angering moments too. As the event began, tampons were given out to the crowd to start swinging. There were a few rules for the evening, which seemed pretty simple enough. Scream out commentary (as seen fit) or scream out the following words (among others) when these “scenes” occurred in the film:
When Christian (main character) uses stalking and emotional abuse to control Ana.
When Ana (main character) bites her lip, chews a pencil or says anything self-deprecating.
Swing your tampons in the air when Ana stands up for herself.
Settled in with a bag of popcorn and the Lady Grey cocktail of the evening, I prepared myself for the film. To be honest, I needed the cocktail to be able to sit through two hours of a film with its triggering content in sexual discourse and control. I mean, to quote Christian from the movie, it was “50 shades of fucked up.”
My expectations were pretty low going into it, but like what was that chemistry between Christian and Ana? All I kept thinking throughout the film was, “If you saw your friend in this type of relationship, wouldn’t you say something?” The relationship depicted in the film was incredibly — and dangerously — abusive. Like, seriously, what was that?
More: Why #YesAllWomen matters
Sitting among an amazing group of feminists who offered up raucous running commentary (from DFF and the crowd) about the issues presented in the film made me feel like I wasn’t the only one who had a strong negative aversion to it. I felt a lot of solidarity, especially because these bad-ass feminists had a lot of the same feels as I did: Consent was not present, abuse is not cool and well, BDSM and kink can be kind of awesome when manipulation is not present.
Before the show Drunk Feminist Films provided some commentary from Soha Kareem, who talked about BDSM and sex positivity. And post-show they provided a link of resources via their Tumblr highlighting emotional abuse, BDSM and sexual health. This event not only started a dialogue among a group of like-minded individuals, but Drunk Feminist Films also provided a safe space for feminists, feminist allies and curious onlookers to share their thoughts and feels on such a controversial film in a hilarious setting.