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Catherine Scott started writing about popular culture and BDSM in the wake of the 2012 publication of the immensely popular trilogy of Fifty Shades of Grey. She noticed that many who wrote about, commented on, and either liked or disliked the book focused much attention on a few different notions; namely that women had a natural inclination to be submissive, that most of those who engage in BDSM are victims of abuse and that the media often conflates consensual BDSM with abuse. At the same time, many feminists argued that the female main character in the book endured both abuse and domination, and that feminism seemed to be heading in the wrong direction, or that it was in reverse. In response to not only the publication of Fifty Shades of Grey, but as a general reaction to the way Scott believed that BDSM was (and still is) portrayed in popular culture, she started blogging about the BDSM issues she encountered. These blogs were then turned into the book Thinking Kink: The Collision of BDSM, Feminism and Popular Culture. There are certain kink tropes that Scott focuses on in the various chapters which gives the reader a broad understanding about how BDSM works in conjunction with feminist beliefs, with the LGBT community at large, and how it is portrayed (often falsely Scott asserts) in popular media. These tropes are; the female dominant, the male submissive, the female submissive, the male dominant, the switch, how popular culture represents both BDSM and the LGBT community as well as non-white people, and finally the link between kink and consumerism and the importance of kink language, especially in terms of the notion of safety and consent.
In broad terms, Scott describes that there are many misconceptions about both the female submissive and female dominant as well as the male submissive and male dominant. These roles are often described in ways that asserts that either the dominant or the submissive are somehow scarred physically or emotionally, resulting in deviant ways of expressing ones sexuality. Therefore, Scott also highlights very well in the book that discrimination and bias is common both among those described as "vanilla" when it comes to their sexual preferences, and those who are part of the BDSM scene. Not only do the vanilla people proclaim misconceptions and prejudice in their thoughts about those who engage in BDSM, but so do the BDSM crowd to a certain extent as well, whether it is thoughts about those who are vanilla, or ways in which BDSM plays out. For example, Scott describes how consumerism and classism is alive and well in the BDSM scene; through the consumption of expensive toys, and that those who cannot afford these toys are sometimes looked down upon. Racism and homophobic beliefs are at times common in the BDSM scene, as is the adherence to traditional gender roles where the male is assumed dominant, the female submissive, and that the switching of those roles are not always welcomed. Throughout the book Scott describes these issues very well, which highlights the notion that most of us are more prejudiced than we might initially believe. The struggle for some feminists to integrate the notion of BDSM in their belief system is also mapped out by Scott throughout Thinking Kink and describes the sometimes clashing views of feminists who are opposed to the notion of BDSM play, but also by feminists who are involved in the BDSM scene themselves.
Thinking Kink is a noteworthy and interesting reflection concerning feminism, BDSM and popular culture. Scott describes her own BDSM involvement, and addresses her own thoughts and beliefs in a frank yet humorous matter which helps make the book relatable and even more interesting. The intended audience are those involved in, or interested in the BDSM scene, but since Scott covers much ground relating feminism, gender, sexual orientation and popular culture, the book relates to many other topics concerning sexuality today.
© 2016 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.