How did the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” change the culture of dating and sex?

Screenshot Fifty Shades of Gray

“Fifty Shades of Grey” isn’t a very good movie. Critics savaged the film, and audiences generally gave the film poor ratings as well despite solid performances by Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.

Still, the film had a significant impact on our culture in the context of dating and sex. The quality of the film didn’t really matter. It touched a nerve and generated one of those inflection points where we saw a real shift in attitudes for both men and women.

Increased Awareness and Discussion of BDSM

Before the release of “Fifty Shades of Gray,” many adults were aware of kink and BDSM (Bondage, Discipline/Dominance, Submission/Sadism, and Masochism), but most knew little about it, and these things were not discussed often. The film introduced the practice of BDSM to a mainstream audience. For many, this was their first exposure to this wild and fascinating subset of sexual behavior. As a result, conversations about BDSM became more common in media and everyday life.

For some women, it sparked interests and desires that they didn’t realize they had. Or, it validated fantasies that they were reluctant to confront and express. For some men, it also gave them permission to explore this with their female partners.

Overnight, couples could have frank conversations about sex, kink and BDSM just by mentioning the movie. This also became true in the dating world. A reference to the film on a first date could lead to interesting and provocative conversations that helped men and women explore potentially compatibility in bed. It can also be a fun part of seduction as well, as some women become excited and intrigued by discussing this topic.

Women in particular become much more expressive of their sexual desires and preferences. On multiple occasions I’ve had women bring up that they were submissive the first time we started engaging in foreplay or sex. That’s a big change from the time before the release of this film. For men, asking a women if she liked to be spanked became much easier, and that then could lead to a much bigger conversation about kink and BDSM.

Sex Positivity and Female Sexual Desire

“Fifty Shades of Grey” is notable for its depiction of a woman who openly explores her sexuality. We can quibble with the many awkward scenes in the film, but the story revolves around open discussions and exploration. The film immediately contributed to new conversations about female sexual desire, consent, and the importance of open communication in sexual relationships. As mentioned above, the trend is towards a greater comfort in stating what one wants in bed.

For men, the lesson should be encouraging these types of conversations and listening. Don’t be judgmental. Also, understand that you may want to explore outside of your own comfort zone as well.


This point is critical. Consent is the bedrock of the BDSM world. This subculture has always stressed the importance of open communication and consent. Sure, there’s some mystery that may be lost by discussing certain sexual acts and boundaries in detail ahead of time, but there’s empowerment and liberation in understanding your partner’s preferences and limits.

The discussions resulting from this film helped many women to feel more comfortable about expressing their desires and limits, and also helped to teach men the importance of consent, along with ways to use these discussions in the art of seduction. As the culture of consent from the BDSM world gained more exposure in the mainstream, more men and women learned the power of telling their partners what they wanted.


We’re all better off with greater awareness of kink and BDSM, and the movie certainly help accelerate that trend. It’s not for everyone, though you can learn quite a bit about your partner and yourself by having these conversations.

Screenshot Fifty Shades of Gray 2


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