Feb 082017

T-Mobile recently launched at least two ads which make an interesting snapshot of how the mainstream views kink.

The first spot shows Kristen Schall phoning in to a rival wireless company, dressed in a bathrobe and munching chocolates. She moans with masochistic delight when the customer service rep informs her of the fees and penalties for going over her plan’s limits.

The second overtly parodies the upcoming Fifty Shades Darker, in which the “red room of pain” is also stocked with non-T-mobile phones with harsh penalties.

The most notable fact about these ads is that they are about female masochism. Almost invariably, when kink is referenced in advertising and other forms of popular media, it is female dominants, e.g. the familiar trope of the cartoonish dominatrix. Presumably the domme stereotype is acceptable as the woman is in charge, but also absurd enough that it doesn’t have to be taken seriously. Now, female sexual masochism has been normalized enough that people can joke about it.

On the other hand, the ads liken their competitors’ restrictive phone plans to the contract in Fifty Shades of Grey, and postulate that a masochistic person would choose an overly restrictive phone contract. The woman appearing in both ads, Kristen Schaal, is not conventionally attractive, and the ads seem to imply that masochism is not something good-looking (i.e. “normal”) women would do.

No doubt due to the influence of mainstream media like Secretary and Fifty Shades of Grey,  female masochism has been normalized enough that mainstream audience can at least joke about it. However, it is still associated with “wrongness” and perversity.


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