7 kinky books and movies that are way better than ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’

Are you interested in exploring the world of kink outside of Fifty Shades of Grey? Good! You should be. Not everyone with a healthy sexual curiosity can stomach subpar writing, unstable relationships, and pages-long descriptions about men’s yoga pants. If you fall into this category, we’ve come up with a list of books and movies about BDSM that are far less problematic—and frankly, just plain better—than Fifty Shades of Grey. 

Fifty Shades gets a lot of hate, especially from the kink community, but the effects of the “mommy porn” phenomenon haven’t been all bad. The adult performer jessica drake, director of the film series jessica drake’s Wicked Guide to Sex, says Fifty Shades “has had lots of positive effects” on women’s sexuality.

“Women aren’t just buying the book, they’re buying the book with lingerie, lube, novelty items, toys,” she told the Daily Dot in a phone interview. “It’s started people talking about sex and exploring their sexuality.” That said, as drake points out, “the books are not a great representation of the BDSM lifestyle or a blueprint for a healthy relationship.” 

Christian Grey is both emotionally and sexually manipulative. He makes Anastasia sign a contract that dictates, among other things, how many times she exercises and what she eats. Meanwhile, Ana is far too naive and sexually inexperienced to provide informed consent for such a relationship.

Jillian Keenan, a writer who covers the kink community, explained to me that despite the positive effects Fifty Shades has had on women’s sexuality, it has also reinforced many negative stereotypes about kinky people as manipulative or emotionally damaged. Many people think of kink as a sexual orientation, she said, in that it’s innate and unchanging. But that doesn’t mean people outside the community shouldn’t want to experiment with or embrace kink.

Ready? Here’s a list of some excellent kinky content for you to check out. Just make sure you buy keys for those fuzzy handcuffs.


1) Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty books 

Written under the pen name A.N. Roquelare, this series of four books is a play on the classic fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, but the Brothers Grimm this ain’t: After the heroine is awoken by the Prince not with a kiss, but with a bout of penetration, she becomes the Prince’s willing sex slave and is introduced to a world of Dionysian sexual pleasure. (The book is also famous for its graphic descriptions of “pony play,” which inspired last year’s brony-themed adult film Tasha’s Pony Tales.) Come for the vivid imagery and the lurid sadomasochistic orgy scenes; stay for the hot man-pony-on-man-pony sex.

2) The Story of O 

A classic in the genre of BDSM erotica, this 1954 novel by Pauline Reage—a pen name for author Anne Desclos, who did not claim authorship of the book till 40 years after it was published—tells the story of O, a Frenchwoman who is presented as a gift to Sir Stephen, a wealthy older gentleman, by her former master. O is asked to submit herself completely to her master, wearing a collar, cuffs, and a labial ring (yup) signifying his ownership. The book is full of dreamlike, evocative descriptions of total sexual submission until it abruptly ends with O choosing to die after Sir Stephen tells her he is going to leave her, to which Sir Stephen “gave her his consent.” 

Toothless mommy porn this ain’t. The descriptions of O’s branding and whippings are brutal, to say the least. But it’s beautifully written, and for those interested in immersing themselves in the BDSM culture, who are looking for a heroine who doesn’t have the word “crap” in her vocabulary, the book is a must-read.

3) Push the Button, by Feminista Jones

This ebook by noted feminist writer Feminista Jones is a no-frills twist on a familiar story: It’s essentially a love triangle between submissive Nicole, her dominant David, and Nicole’s former master, the brutal and emotionally manipulative Marcus. “I threw in the dynamic of the former lover who was abusive to show the contrast between an abusive BDSM relationship and a loving safe BDSM relationship,” Jones told the Daily Dot in a phone conversation last month. 

While the prose is fairly straightforward, and Nicole and David themselves aren’t that much more three-dimensional than their Fifty Shades counterpart, Push the Button is revolutionary for one reason: It’s one of the few books that tell the story of the kink community, from the perspective of people of color.

Jones says there’s very little representation of POCs in the BDSM community, as many tend to think of the lifestyle as “something white people do.” 

“We need more diverse romance, we need more diverse books. We need to write a story where black people love each other, and it’s not a sci fi thing about overcoming racism,” she says. “This is just a story about black people in love that’s a little edgier, or different than other books about black romance.”

4) Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns, by Phillip Miller and Molly Devon 

For those looking for a practical beginner’s guide to BDSM, jessica drake and Keenan recommend Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns, a primer for the kink community. Featuring step-by-step instructions, illustrations and diagrams outlining such practices as flogging, bondage techniques, and SM roleplay, Screw the Roses is unique in that it puts an emphasis on safety, consensuality, and even how sadomasochistic play can be used to help heal emotional wounds, none of which you’d ever find in the Fifty Shades trilogy. Another suggestion from jessica drake, the director of jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: BDSM for Beginners: S&M 101, a how-to guide by Jay Wiseman.

5) Secretary 

Based on a Mary Gaitskill short story, this indie romantic comedy follows the sexual awakening of Lee Holloway (Maggie Gyllenhaal, in a breakout role), a shy, socially awkward secretary who embarks on a dominant/submissive relationship with her boss E. Edward Grey (James Spader), a dominant who is struggling with his unconventional desires.

As a depiction of a healthy dom/sub relationship, Secretary serves as a necessary corrective to the emotional tug-of-war that’s at the heart of Fifty Shades, says Sunny Megatron, a sex educator and host of the Showtime series Sex With Sunny Megatron.

“In Secretary, BDSM isn’t a result of mental turmoil,” as is the case in Fifty Shades of Grey with Christian’s mom, she explained to the Daily Dot. Rather, in Secretary, BDSM is presented as a solution to mental turmoil, when Edward Grey makes Lee promise to stop engaging in self-harm. “It saves Lee from cutting and is a happy thing,” she says.

Lee’s personal strength also serves as a contrast to the weak-willed character of Anastasia Steele, who doesn’t seem to have any agency or motivation beyond submitting to Christian. “Lee has fire in her and goes after what she wants and defines her role as a sub,” says Megatron. “Ana just seems to go along with Christian’s desires.”

6) The Submission of Emma Marx (2013)

Directed by Jacky St. James, a prominent female director for the adult film company New Sensations, the couples-friendly feature The Submission of Emma Marx tells the story of a female submissive (Penny Pax) who finds herself drawn into the world of BDSM after signing a contract with a handsome, mysterious stranger. Plot-wise, it’s obviously not that different from Fifty Shades, but as the titular character, Pax is more assertive—not to mention more likable—than Ana is. St. James says that’s the point.

“Anastasia Steele was so weak. I was surprised at how popular the book was because this character is bending over backward to gain this man’s approval, and she’s missing the clues where he was showing interest,” she told the Daily Dot. “I hate when women characters are written that way. Plus she always talks about him in his yoga pants. She brought it up like 800 times.”

St. James made The Submission of Emma Marx and its sequel, The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries, as a corrective to the Anastasia/Christan dynamic in Fifty Shades, to show that a BDSM relationship could be highly sensual while also managing to be loving and consensual. Plus, unlike the Fifty Shades movie, her film shows actual penetration, which is a plus. 

7) jessica drake’s Guide to Wicked Sex: BDSM for Beginners 

Porn performer and director jessica drake freely admits that the latest entry in her Guide to Wicked Sex series, a couples-friendly series of sexual instruction videos, was timed with the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. But while she acknowledges that she enjoyed Fifty Shades, she felt there was one crucial element missing: Safety.

“You shouldn’t learn how to have anal sex just from watching an adult movie, and it’s the same for the book,” she says. “I was afraid that given how accessible the book is to the general public, that safety was overlooked, especially when you’re talking about something that carries certain risks like BDSM does.”

By incorporating props and activities described in Fifty Shades, such as whips, paddles, and those infamous Ben Wa balls—for instance, she says, if you tie someone up, it’s important to be able to fit two fingers in the restraints to avoid numbness, tingling, and loss of circulation— jessica instructs viewers on the importance of doing your research and making safety a priority when experimenting with BDSM at home, which is not touched on in the book.

“I would hate to think of couples going home after seeing the movie and implementing [these activities] in their lives, and then going to the emergency room after Valentine’s Day,” she says.

Photo via captain.orange/Flickr (CC BY ND 2.0)

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson

EJ Dickson is a writer and editor who primarily covers sex, dating, and relationships, with a special focus on the intersection of intimacy and technology. She served as the Daily Dot’s IRL editor from January 2014 to July 2015. Her work has since appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Mic, Bustle, Romper, and Men’s Health.