Mercy (2000) (IMDB) is a late entry in the erotic thriller genre that dominated in the 80s and 90s. This kind of movie was getting stale by the turn of the millennium, and many scenes seem strongly reminiscent of Body Double (previously discussed) and Se7en.
It starts, as usual for this kind of film, with a dead body. This time it’s a nude woman, one of a series with signs of being tied up, bite marks all over her torso, and her eyelids cut off. Detective Catherine Palmer (Ellen Barkin) forms a relationship with Vickie (Peta Wilson), a friend (and likely more) of the victim, Dorothy.
Palmer searches the victim’s home and finds a hidden briefcase full of BDSM toys, and pictures of the victim being dominated by a masked man. She calls up a pro dominatrix via Vice and visits her dungeon in an upscale building.
Palmer: “And what’s your area of expertise, Terry?”
Dominatrix: “Japanese silk ropes and the finer psychological aspects of the relationship between the players. I can tie you so you can’t twitch your ass cheeks. Of course it’s time consuming. It’ll cost you a couple of grand. Mostly the businessmen like that.”
- The newly launched Zipper magazine has a feature article on “How the Pandemic Made Us Kinkier“.
- Cornell University has an online exhibition on the making of On Our Backs magazine, the pioneering lesbian sex magazine in the early 80s.
- Get Your Hands Dirty has an essay on the history of bootblacking, going back to our friend Hannah Cullwick, and the rise of bootblacking contests in the 1990s.
- I had long thought Robert Yang’s Hurt Me Plenty was the only videogame to incorporate BDSM themes directly into the gameplay, but further research led to Mighty Jill Off, a platformer game that makes playing it an act of masochism, and Consensual Torture Simulator, a text-only game about a sadist negotiating with a masochist.
- By 2022 standards, the nude photos published in Penthouse that cost Vanessa Williams her title as Miss America back in 1984 were a bit tame, and the controversy even more quaint. What I didn’t realize was that the images had her in black leather boots, harness, cuffs and collars, in other words, BDSM gear. Penthouse has always been a little racier than Playboy (within the constraints of the heterosexual male gaze), and would tiptoe onto the side of fetish and kink imagery. Perhaps that was what pushed the pageant into de-crowning Williams. A black Miss America was already a stretch, but one who associated with deviant sexuality was too much.
- My interview on the Betwixt the Sheets podcast introduced me to another historical figure with at least an interest in kink: Christian apologist and fantasy writer C.S. Lewis, best known for the Narnia books. He was one of those individuals whose sexuality was hard to pin down; was he closeted homosexual, closeted bisexual, asexual, or just upper-class British? Regardless, he did have an interest, if only theoretical, in the idea of whipping beautiful women, including Lily Greeves, the sister of his friend Arthur.
My Mistress is a 2014 Australian drama film. A teenage boy, struggling after the death of his father, forms a relationship with a lonely older woman who turns out to be a pro-dominatrix.
Despite the title and the promotional images, My Mistress is not primarily about a BDSM relationship. It belongs in the category of films about the male fantasy of being initiated in sex by an older attractive woman. E.g. Private Lessons (1981), Class (1983), My Tutor (1983), They’re Playing with Fire (1984), and even Weird Science (1985). Right away, we’re getting into some difficult areas about consent and double-standards about sex between younger men and older women. (For the record, the age of consent in most of Australia is 16.)
Charlie, a teenage boy, aimlessly bikes around his neighborhood. He sees an older woman with a French accent, Maggie, move into a house nearby. He returns home, only to find his father has committed suicide. Soon after that, he learns his mother has been having an affair.
Distraught, Charlie forms a casual relationship with Maggie. He bikes to her house and goes inside. He goes upstairs to find her playroom where she is in full dominatrix dress and in mid-session with a man. He runs off.
I’ve been interviewed on the history podcast Betwixt the Sheets, which is full of interesting looks into the past of “sex, scandal and society”.
- Slate magazine considers the way sex is depicted in current TV shows like Euphoria, And Just Like That and the like. “It’s as if the wide availability of sex—and porn—and frank discussions of various sexual lifestyles have all combined to render purely hedonistic or transgressive approaches to it as retro or passé or even quaint.”
- The Betwixt the Sheets podcast has a fascinating look at medieval sexuality, which was quite different from what most might think. There was a lot of discussion about “sodomy”, which then could be defined as any sexual activity other than coitus for the purposes of procreation. It included manual stimulation of the self or other persons, and “femoral intercourse”, i.e. a penis pressed between a person’s thighs. This was also when women were seen as the more sexually active gender, not men. It shows that our modern views of sexuality are not universal.
- Evie Lupine provides a video update on the BDSM-related court cases in the news, such as Arnie Hammer and Marilyn Manson situations.
- Gayle Rubin speaks on the Feminist Sex Wars of the 1970s and 1980s in a presentation recorded at Cornell in 2022.
- The Washington Post mused on the juxtaposition of Balenciaga’s BDSM/fetish themed fashion show being held on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Is money the ultimate fetish?
My friend TammyJo and I discuss Going Under (2004), which I previously discussed.
Aired April 7, 2011 IMDB
“Unleashed” is the first Lady Heather episode without William Peterson as Gil Grissom, after the actor’s departure from the show. It also retreads some of the same ground as the notorious “Fur and Loathing in Las Vegas” episode (to be discussed).
This time, the dead body is a woman in a leotard who got mauled to death by a mountain lion in the woods. The woman shows signs of having been beaten and restrained.
Further examination reveals feline dental prosthetics and signs of being hit by a stun gun. ID’d as Iona Vail, who ran a battered women’s shelter. The co-manager of the shelter, Debra, says Iona left weeks ago.
Examining the victim’s address book reveals she was seeing “Dr. K”, which turns out to be Dr. Heather Kessler, formerly “Lady Heather”. She now has a PhD, a certificate in sex therapy, and an office that shows her taste for Victorian furnishings.
CSI S09E05 “Leave Out All The Rest” IMDB Aired November 6, 2008
The discovery of a dead body (what else?) with the marks of S&M leads Grissom back to Heather Kessler.
In this case, it’s a set of markings from needle play around the man’s nipples, out of place next to all the corpse’s other injuries.
Grissom: “S and M?”
Willows: “Gone very, very wrong.”
ME: “These stab wounds are brutal, random and postmortem”,
Willows: “Which is inconsistent with S&M.”
ME: “Well, it’s hard to take pleasure in someone’s pain once they’re dead.”
Willows: “Which is the ‘gone wrong’ part.”
After the low point of the last episode, in which Heather was offering herself up to be murdered for money to provide for her grand-daughter, she’s somewhat recovered. No longer a dominatrix, she’s finished a Masters in psychology and is a practising therapist.
Heather’s transition to therapist from dominatrix who acts like a therapist makes a degree of sense. It’s consistent with the trope of pro-dominatrix-as-caregiver that turns up so often in mainstream media. (E.g. Going Under, Personal Services). It further desexualizes an already desexualized character. In this episode, Grissom is grieving his beakup with Sara Sidle, and his emotionally stunted interactions with Heather are with her as a caregiver, not a lover.
Also note that after being much more mobile and active in the previous two episodes, Heather reverts to being stationary in her home.
- The Kinkycast has re-published their interviews with three pioneer female dominants, whose careers go back to the 1970s: Sybil Holliday, Dr. Charlayne Grenci, and Cleo Dubois.
- Reason magazine writes about the rise and fall of the sexually diverse Internet, epitomized by PornHub and Tumblr, both of which have been massively censored. Conservative activist groups have pressured the commercial middlemen of the industry to make it financially precarious.
- The American Sex Podcast interviews Susan Wright of the NCSF about decriminalizing BDSM.
- It’s Pride season again, which means another season of arguments about whether kink belongs at Pride. OUT magazine reviews the argument.
“The Good, the Bad and the Dominatrix” Aired May 10, 2007, IMDB
In Lady Heather’s previous appearance, we learn that her deceased daughter Zoe may have had a child. The fourth Lady Heather episode follows up on that plot thread.
This time, Lady Heather meets an unknown person in a Wild West theme park. The man strangles her, and she passes out. The night watchmen finds her unconscious and calls the police.