Feb 172021

Tiff, as Mistress May, is back in Daphne’s house. Daphne asks where “Carter” is and Tiff admits that she made a mistake with her partner. 

Daphne calls in her husband Andrew, and they reveal that they have talked about their relationship. 

Daphne: “After our session with you and Carter, we really opened up to each other about our wants and needs.”

Andrew: “I want to be tickled.”

Daphne: “And I want to beat the shit out of him.”

Andrew: “So we worked something out. She tickles me until she gets mad and then she hits me. Best of both worlds, right? But–”

Daphne: “Every time I lift my hand. Hmm.”

Andrew flinches.

Daphne: “See? Can you and Carter help us?”

Daphne discovering her sadistic side is fine. Venting her repressed anger at Andrew is not. Tiff has no answer for Daphne. 

Tiff and Pete reconcile at his job. Doug and Josh also drop by, and Doug says that he liked being tied up by Tiff. Everything seems fine. 

We get a flashback of young Tiff and Pete together in a car in the woods, just after high school prom. Tiff gave Pete what was presumably his first sexual experience (not with a man, alas), then the cops showed up and they had to run off in the woods together. 

Finally, Tiff and Pete do an outcall gig at a Client’s office. Tiff mentions that she didn’t vet him, but he paid a lot. (Already a bad sign.) Pete goes to use the bathroom, and the Client locks him inside. 

The Client starts pressuring Tiff, even using her real name, and Tiff’s defenses go up.

Meanwhile, Pete remembers where he saw the Client. He was the guy being thrown out by the security when Pete first entered the dungeon. Pete tries to get out, but the room is locked. 

The Client starts threatening Tiff with a knife from the office kitchen. She knees him in the groin. 

There are a lot of logistical problems with this scene. What kind of bathroom door can be locked from the outside and not unlocked from the inside? And even if we assume the client set this up in advance, how would he know Tiff’s escort would use the bathroom? 

And most egregiously, how did Pete escape the locked bathroom? One moment he’s locked in, the next he’s outside, with no explanation at all.

Pete picks up the knife the Client dropped, and distracts the Client long enough for Tiff to grab another knife and stab him in the back, though not fatally. 

Pete and Tiff run out into the night, intercut with flashbacks of them in their prom outfits in the woods, fleeing police lights. 

Pete asks why not tell the police. 

Tiff: “You think they’ll believe us? We’re practically prostitutes in their eyes.”

Pete suggests they separate, but Tiff grabs his hand and they run off together.

I can only conclude that the makers of Bonding are far more interested in the relationship between Tiff and Pete than the nature of BDSM and/or sex work. 

Whether Bonding wants to convey a message about BDSM, it’s conveying one to the viewer, even before the video starts when the potential viewer is looking at the graphics on Netflix. That message is pretty negative: BDSM is a world inhabited by weirdos and freaks and rape-y guys, and the hustlers who service them for money. Bonding’s viewpoint is without compassion or understanding. 

Tiff’s comment about she and Pete being “practically prostitutes” in the eyes of the police unfortunately suggests that she sees herself as above other types of sex workers. Likewise, Pete’s discomfort with drag queens and public displays of affection between gay men shows his own prejudices. While appropriating BDSM for sensationalism, Bonding refuses to engage with it as a serious topic. 

Stories involving BDSM don’t have to be didactic. Not every character has to be a perfect model of consent, and not every scene depicted has to be a perfect model of safety and skill. However, the mainstream still has a very prejudiced view of BDSM, and media like Bonding only reproduces that.

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