As I watch Bonding, I’m torn between my impulse to say to Tiff and Pete and Bonding in general, “That’s not the way you do this!” and my recognition that, in reality, some people play fast and loose with BDSM’s supposedly sacred principles. Especially if they’re inexperienced and/or money is involved. Likewise, pro-domme work might be a calling for some, but for others it’s a way to pay the bills. My problem isn’t that the show is unrealistic, but that it is unflattering.
In Season 2, for the first time, Bonding breaks out of the narcissism of the Pete/Tiff dyad and shows there is a kinky community and what they do in it matters.
Pete and Tiff are now pariahs in the BDSM community for their actions in the previous season. They come to Tiff’s mentor, Mistress Mira, and more or less beg to be allowed back into her dungeon to work as they need the money.
Mira gives them a chance to get back in if she’s satisfied with their performance in a Domme 101 class. Tiff doesn’t care for being sent back to basics, but she and Pete agree. Their first assignment is to do a perfect single column tie.
Since the first season, Tiff and Doug have been together, though Tiff doesn’t like being called his “girlfriend” or his “mistress”; Pete and Josh have been together; Rolph, formerly Tiff’s house slave, is now serving Pete; and Pete’s roommate Frank and his girlfriend are dealing with an unexpected pregnancy.
The two couples stumble at a New Year’s Party, when Tiff and Pete realize that their male lovers are embedded in straight society. Even though Doug runs a men’s support group, he still has frat boy habits that he shares with his buddies. And Josh’s meeting with a co-worker reveals he’s so in the closet that he claims to have a wife.
Tiff gets a double hit of Doug’s friends being intrusive about her being a dominatrix, then learning that Doug was engaged to a woman named Gina. Then Gina herself shows up, and Doug only has eyes for her.
Tiff and Pete are left alone with no one to kiss at midnight.
They work on their bondage technique throughout the episode, first with their lovers and then on each other at the party. Tiff tells Pete that their future livelihood depends on mastering this technique, which underlines that for them, kink is primarily a job, not something they do for pleasure.
Doug enjoys being bound by Tiff, but he can’t follow her wishes and not brag about having a dominatrix girlfriend. His friends ask her intrusive questions, and when he objects, they say, “Come on, bro. She’s a dominatrix. She doesn’t care.” Tiff’s caution regarding opening up about her work was justified as they devalue her as a person. As I’ve said before, Bonding is really more about sex work than BDSM.