Most of the second episode is Tiff going back to school. She’s one of many women (of various ethnicities and body types) who are in Mistress Mira’s intensive course, though the other women give her the cold shoulder. Pete is the only man present, apparently on the grounds he is “Mistress May’s” assistant.
Mira enters and announces that she had to remove their links from the dungeon website, because of SESTA-FOSTA, much to their disappointment. (This suggests that all of these women are pro-dommes.)
Mira brings up puppy play as an example of a key concept in their work: ownership. She notices that Pete and Tiff are talking in class, and calls Tiff up to the front.
Mira: “Can anyone in the room tell me what this collar means?”
Domme student: “She’s a submissive.”
Mira: “That’s right. Or she’s owned. Are you owned, May?”
Tiff can only shake her head.
Other women in the class laugh.
Mira: “Hmm. Off then.”
Tiff takes it off and throws it to Pete.
Mira: “Collars are for subs, slaves and Benson.”
Benson is a male-bodied person in a full-body dalmatian suit and hood. He’s released into the class and everybody coos and pets him.
Mira: (to Tiff) “You want to pet him? You can’t.” (to class) “Remember ladies, even dogs can give consent, so be intentional with your role-play. Your control of the scene is deemed by your actions, not your attitude.”
Mira hands Tiff a dog bowl and fills it with chili from a can.
Mira: (to Tiff) “The one who has the food owns the dog. You wanted to be the most powerful person in the room. Well, now you are. Look at them, playing. It’s fun, right? If you wanna have fun, put the bowl down. Any one of these girls would die to hold it. Power is a responsibility, not a privilege, May. Your collar is off. Feed him, when you’re ready to accept that.”
Tiff makes Benson “stay”. There’s eye contact between them. Finally, she lets him eat the chili. The lesson for Tiff is that somebody has to be the responsible adult in the room, and if she’s going to be a dominatrix, that’s her.
I had noticed before that Tiff sometimes wore collars with O-rings as part of her domme outfits, but it seemed such a minor and common error that it wasn’t worth bringing up. (It’s also incongruous in that Tiff would wear a symbol of ownership when she is deeply uncomfortable with anything like that.) Some people would argue that this is an absolute rule, that collars only indicate submissives or slaves, and shouldn’t be worn by people in any other roles. Others would see such rules as the hidebound thinking of an older generation.
A friend pointed out that Bonding is shot in NYC, and is probably influenced by East Coast BDSM customs and culture, whereas I’m a West Coast BDSM person, brought up in its relatively loose rules.
While Tiff is determined to get back into Mira’s good graces, Pete keeps testing boundaries, sometimes getting into gray areas of consent, such as doing standup about his boyfriend being semi-closeted.
The opening act for Pete’s standup is Fred the masochist, who deliberately tells bad jokes.
Pete: “He’s literally getting off on the public humiliation of bombing. He’s the next Andy Kaufman.”
Fred provokes the audience until one guy gets on stage and threatens to hit him.
Fred: (to heckler) “Are you my dad? Hit me, Father, please.”
Manipulating another person into unwittingly playing into your kinks is ethically dubious.
Pete uses his “Master Carter” persona, complete with leather cap, as his comedy gimmick. There are even men in leather outfits in the audience. This is the first appearance of gay leather culture, which has its own customs and culture, different from the pro-domme world of Mira’s dungeon.
Later, at a gay leather bar with Josh, he gives the collar Tiff threw away to Josh, and tells him to put it on him.
Pete: (hands Tiff’s collar to Josh) “Put this on me.”
Josh: (putting the collar on Pete) “What does this even mean?”
Pete: “It means you own me, bro.”
This turns on both of them.
Pete: “Down, boy.”
But what does that mean?