50 Shades inspired my first trek into the world of S&M

Feb 5, 2015 at 12:52 p.m. ET

This Valentine's Day, I’ll be in a movie theater surrounded by hundreds of closeted erotica enthusiasts.

We will finally emerge from hiding as we exult over the premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey on the big screen.

My first peek inside the underground world of sadomasochism (S&M) occurred while watching the movie Pulp Fiction. It was a startling glance that included chains, whips and a big red ball that scarred my young adult mind. Next was Eyes Wide Shut with Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, a then-married couple. Albeit a demure depiction of S&M compared to Tarantino's Pulp fiction, the effect was just as horrifying. And once more on my honeymoon in Jamaica, where the general manager of the carpeted, toddler-heavy, soup-serving resort my husband booked took pity on us and offered an upgrade. Hedonism. A five-star nudist resort where the young and gorgeous cater to you, while mature and less-dazzling guests leave little to the imagination. Given the alternative, sunbathing with naked people was far better than eating hot soup while being eaten alive by carpet mosquitoes.

At Hedonism, couples seeking other sexual partners approached us inside the sauna, as we sat wrapped in towels and they sat Indian style, in the nude. While on the beach, random strangers engaged us in conversation while their private parts hung overhead. But it was the unobstructed view of the fetishist group we'd seen in movies that sent us into hiding. Individuals dressed in leather contraptions wearing masks, carrying menacing gadgets. We were in the midst of an S&M convention. And Hedonism is the ideal location for risque behaviors. Overwhelmed by this abrupt immersion, we spent the rest of our honeymoon inside our room enjoying a conventional honeymoon.

Thirteen years later, I heard of a must-read book that should be downloaded to an e-reader, not carried around for fear people might judge you. And that's just what I did. My actions reminded me of when I'd sneak and watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High as a teenager. I gained a scant understanding of how flirting leads to so much more.

Over the two days and nights I took to read book one, I ignored responsibility. Entrapped inside a world opposite my own, it was as if this underground world had been taunting me for years and had now swallowed me whole. Christian Grey, the protagonist, is one of the most intriguing images of a man since Michelangelo's David. His overt sex appeal and monotone voice, coupled with designer suits and splendid physique, blew my mind. If not for his gray eyes and eminent dark side he'd resemble my husband to a tee. My husband reaped the illicit benefits of my literary tryst. After which, he read the entire series, and together we plummeted into Grey-land.

Similar to Alice's Wonderland, Grey-land is an elusive, character-driven, underground world that manifests out of one's imagination. And while my imagination can be deep and complex, I found Grey-land intriguing yet tricky to navigate. Characters were ominous and unforgiving. And the landscape was sharp, slick and dark at once. Different from the vibrant, conversation-filled Wonderland Alice experienced. Still, I refused to stifle an experience where the ultimate reward is pleasure, despite having to jump through actual hoops to get it.

We ordered from obscure websites and followed the events of book one as best we could. Amid sexual exploration, I realized quirks as unattractive in the bedroom as they must have been in everyday life. I'm clumsiest when I stand still, I laugh hardest when trying to be serious and I have a low tolerance for pain, the self-inflicted kind. Not to mention, the experience of being blindfolded is dampened when you're near-sighted and fear being left in the dark. I'm unconvincing in Grey-land and not as sexy. Complete submission and/or domination are radical concepts. And I prefer a more democratic environment.

After a month with a few minor successes, and lots of fumbles, it occurred to me: I may never find my happy place. Grey-land is not sustainable. So I stored the strappy items ordered from aggressive websites that make it their business to send me daily reminders of my temporary madness and returned to normalcy. My adventures had exhausted me, but I wasn't alone. Fifty Shades of Grey had reached mass appeal. Friends and strangers asked, "Have you read the book?" Everyone was embracing Grey as the color of love. And while blending black and white creates a rainbow of grays, which depending on proportions can range from dove gray to graphite, mine is a tale of two worlds. S&M permeated my conventional love life and altered my perception forever. As it stands, blending worlds is a good thing. And while I can only venture so far underground before coming up for air, my sexual pendulum now extends as far left as dove gray.

It's been two years since I've ventured into Grey-land, but I look forward to Fifty Shades of Grey (the movie) awakening my exploratory side. I'd be curious to see whether my pendulum moves up a shade or regresses completely. Though perhaps I've said too much. Visitors to Grey-land will appreciate that if you see me in the theater on Valentine's Day, don't look directly at me, and speak after I've spoken to you first.

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