Jan 032020

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit S11E12 “Shadow”. Aired Jan 13, 2010

At least there’s one police procedural show with BDSM that doesn’t begin with the discovery of a dead sex worker. 

The premise is axe-murder of a high-status couple. Most of this episode is about high-status people embezzling money from their families or from their employers. 

The detectives need to turn a witness, Nigel Prestwick, to get the killer. Detective Ramsey (a guest star) says he’s a “milquetoast”. “Typical fifth-generation WASP elite. Inbreeding’s melted their brains.” He also mentions Prestwick pays his dues to something called the Donatien Society. 

Detective Olivia Benson perks up. “Mister Milquetoast is not so vanilla.”

In Prestwick’s office, Benson is all in black and very forceful/seductive.

Benson: “You see, Nigel, I know that men have needs. But when a wife can’t fill those needs, men have to look elsewhere. […] But sometimes those needs are misunderstood, judged, unfairly by society. On your knees, worm. Now.”

He complies. 

Benson puts up her black leather boot next to him. Prestwick immediately starts fondling and licking her boot. 

Ramsey runs into the room with a camera and snaps a picture. 

Benson: “Get up.” [To Ramsey] “You owe me a new pair of boots.” 


Benson: “Your wife is going to lose respect for you after she finds out about your dirty little fetish. You think you’re pretty clever there, naming your secret society after the Marquis de Sade? Donatien Alphonse Francois?”


Benson: “Because last year we arrested two sadists who were members of your little club. And I remember we seized a whole lot of videos. We should check the evidence locker to see if our friend Nigel here is on tape because I specifically remember there was one on Nazi role–”

Prestwick: “Enough!”

SVU has always been the black sheep of the Law & Order family, with stunt casting and bizarre plot twists. Sometimes it is understanding in its treatment of non-normative sexualities and sometimes it is deeply phobic. As we’ve seen in other texts, sadomasochism or fetishism is treated as a disease of the decadent elite. People who practice them are overprivileged weirdos, worthy of Ramsey’s contempt and Benson’s disgust. There’s no mention of Prestwick doing anything illegal. The detectives are straight-up entrapping and blackmailing him to get his testimony. 

As for the “Donatien Society”, this is a case of knowing just enough to get it wrong. The Marquis de Sade wasn’t into feet. 

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