Photo Illustration by Elena Scotti/Fusion

Did you see Fifty Shades of Grey and—like leading man Jamie Dornan after filming scenes for the film—feel like you needed a shower? Not to clean off the vaguely dirty albeit incredibly vanilla take on a BDSM-based relationship (I mean, a peacock feather? Really?), but to cleanse yourself of the stench of mediocrity from the so-called "cultural phenomenon?

If you found your Fifty Shades experience lacking, I am here to help. After spending a week watching five other high-profile kinky films—Kink, Secretary, Nine 1/2 Weeks, The Piano Teacher, and Nymphomaniac—I've returned with some important lessons from the wider world of cinematic BDSM.

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1. Real BDSM involves better communication than many traditional romantic relationships.

I embarked on my journey with Kink, the James Franco-produced documentary about the BDSM website Kink.com. The film basically serves as an introduction into the BDSM porn industry, featuring graphic but disarmingly frank behind-the-scenes footage of porn sets and interviews with well-known players. I confess: Going into this movie marathon, I had only a vague idea what actual BDSM was, and because the world of BDSM porn itself seemed a bit overwhelming, I thought, why not start here?

The film turned out to be a good place to begin. While the imagery was intense, to my surprise, the sexuality presented stuck me as the healthiest among the films I watched. The open communication and visible empathy between directors and actors made me wonder why normal romantic relationships couldn’t be that easy. As director Tomcat explains of BDSM: "It's a world with rules.”

2. Need a successful, masochistic, white, male protagonist? Name him Grey.

After Kink, I moved on to Secretary, the 2002 film starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and king of Hollywood kink, James Spader.  (Seriously, no one plays a sexually repressed man quite like Spader.) Interestingly, Spader’s character in Secretary is a lawyer named E. Edward Grey. Seeing as the titular character of Fifty Shades is Christian Grey, I considered it a silly coincidence. That is, until I watched Nine 1/2 Weeks, in which Mickey Rourke’s character, a successful Wall Street broker, is named, yes, John Gray.

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It makes sense in an almost literal way. Grey (or Gray) is the perfectly bland name for a financially successful white dude whose only winning quality is the masochistic dominant beast seething beneath his perfectly bland surface. Grey: When the perfect white man has a dark streak.

3. We should leave BDSM to the French.

After realizing my film roster was overpopulated with Greys, I decided to go international and watched The Piano Teacher, the 2001 French-Austrian film about a sadomasochistic piano professor at an elite Viennese music conservatory falling in love with her student. It stars the amazing Isabelle Huppert, and unlike the other films, the female protagonist, despite being a submissive, was the one calling the shots. This film convinced me that Hollywood should never make a BDSM-friendly film ever again. Just rip up the script and post the shreds to France—they’ll be more than capable of taking it from there.

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The French also had a hand in Lars Von Trier’s lengthy sex compendium, Nymphomaniac, which follows the sexual evolution of a nymphomaniac. Okay, I’ll admit, I did fall asleep a few times while watching, but there was something absolutely and startlingly fascinating about Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) whipping Jane Eyre (Charlotte Gainsbourg).

4. Humor is the real lubricant.

With the exception of The Piano Teacher, one common theme in the movies I watched was humor. After all, for American audiences, the visage of a beloved actress bent over a desk with a carrot in her mouth can be uncomfortable, so why not temper the scene with a little chuckle? Hell, Nine 1/2 Weeks was mostly laughter (and so much happy couple frolicking). Also, it's worth noting that Fifty Shades's most redeeming quality was its cheeky humor (well, intentional humor).

5. BDSM is not my kink and that’s okay.

Hey girl. I know those Fifty Shades fanmoms got you feeling like you’re not adventurous enough. That if you don’t want to be cuffed in an elaborate cage and whipped by your partner, you must not be very sexual. Let me be the first to inform you that that is simply not the case. Part of why it was so easy to watch all of these films was because I realized I’m not into that scene. I will defend anyone’s right to want a consensual spanking, but I will also defend, with equal fervor, anyone’s right to vanilla, missionary-heavy sex. Different strokes for different folks.