Safewording! Kinkphobia and gender normativity in Fifty Shades of Grey

Lisa Downing*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


This article considers the recent publishing phenomenon, E.L. James's Fifty Shades trilogy, from what may be termed a 'sex-critical' perspective. That is, it evaluates, without endorsing, the differing responses to the trilogy issuing from both sex-positive and radical feminist perspectives. Further, it subjects to equal scrutiny the ways in which the trilogy and discourses about it represent both BDSM practices and the rituals of 'vanilla' heterosexual romance/marriage. It concludes that both the trilogy and kinkphobic mainstream responses to it collude in rendering invisible the ethically and politically problematic aspects of heteronormative courtship narratives ending in marriage and reproduction by othering and scapegoating non-normative practices such as those included under the BDSM umbrella.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-102
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology and Sexuality
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013


  • BDSM
  • E.L. James
  • feminism
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • kinkphobia
  • normativity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Gender Studies


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