Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (Koirat eivät käytä housuja) (IMDB) is a 2019 Finnish drama, directed by J.-P. Valkeapää and co-written by the director and Juhana Lumme, based on a story by Lumme.
A depressed widower finds relief in breath control sessions with a pro dominatrix.
Juha goes on vacation near a lake with his wife and young daughter. His wife drowns in a swimming accident. Juha jumps in to attempt to save her and nearly drowns himself.
Years later, Juha sleepwalks through his life as a surgeon and the father of Alli, now a teenager. His only pleasure appears to be masturbating while draping his late wife’s clothes over his face, sprinkled with her perfume.
Juha takes Alli to a tattoo and piercing shop to get her tongue pierced. She sends him away, and he goes downstairs and wanders into the dungeon of Mona, a professional dominatrix.
(In common with other fictional depictions of dungeons, the space is located below street level and accessed by stairs, and the predominant colors are black and red.)
Mona knocks the intruder to the floor and presses her riding crop across his throat. This impromptu breathplay gives Juha a vision of being underwater.
Elli comes down and finds her father. Mona gets up, her heel crushing Juha’s thumbnail, and he leaves with his daughter.
Juha later tracks down Mona’s number and calls her for a session. He very awkwardly meets her. As usual in mainstream depictions of BDSM, there’s no negotiation before the scene.
Mona sets up a safe signal, a glass ball which Juha holds in his right hand. If he releases it, intentionally or not, it will fall into a metal bowl with a loud noise.
Mona cuts off his air supply with a black plastic bag over his face. Juha overcomes his awkwardness and asks for more, which makes him have a vision of himself with his wife, swimming nude underwater.
When he drops the ball, Mona pulls the bag off him, releases the manacles and leaves him to sob in the chair.
After this, Juha is happier than before, but distracted. He books a second appointment with Juha, and purchases a black leather body harness for the event.
This time, Juha has a vision of himself underwater, tangled in seaweed, while another figure drifts down to him. When he drops the ball, Mona takes off the bag. He sees her face, and kisses her. Mona is torn, pushing him away, then kissing him, then slapping him. She leaves him alone in the chair again.
When Mona sits at her makeup table, Juha apologizes to her and asks to be strangled more the next time. Mona agrees.
Juha is so desperate to see Mona again that he blows off his commitments to his daughter and his work, and he shoves his hand through a glass door to get out.
The third session, Juha secretly does what appears to be amyl nitrate. He also gives Mona his dead wife’s dress, which she wears over her black catsuit. She spots his injured hand, rips the bandage off it, undoes the crotch of her bodysuit and urinates on his hand.
The breath control scene has Mona using a fully transparent back over Juha’s face, and kissing him. In Juha’s vision, he leaves the water and joins his wife in bed.
Mona takes the bag off his face, and finds he’s unconscious. He has been clutching the ball so hard he broke it and cut his hand, letting the blood drip into the bowel. Panicking, Mona manages to revive him.
Juha: “More. Strangle me some more.”
Mona is shocked by this, and almost punches him. Then she runs away, still in the late wife’s dress over her bodysuit, and calls an ambulance for Juha.
Juha is remote from his daughter again, and his workplace is considering dismissing him. Mona is still seeing other clients, but she is unable to urinate to put out the candles on her bottom. She burns her own hands by putting them out.
Later, she asks the tattoo shop lady for a salve for her burned hands.
Tattoo shop lady: “Would be nice to do something else sometimes. Ordinary stuff. Don’t you think so, too?”
Mona: “Darling, I don’t like ordinary stuff.”
Juha has taken to stalking Mona, and acosts her outside the shop. She rebuffs him.
Mona: “What you want will cost you so much pain you won’t stand it.”
Juha follows her to a private fetish event/play party, Club Caviar, but can’t get in. He follows a person he thinks is Mona, who is actually a man who pepper sprays him and kicks him in the groin.
Juha goes on a date with one of his daughter’s teachers, Satu. He gives her the same perfume his late wife wore, and tries to get her to strangle him in bed. However, she just keeps laughing, and can’t go through with it. Satu just can’t comprehend what he wants.
Juha goes back to stalking Mona, following her to her home. He approaches her in her building’s hallway and begs for one more session.
Juha: “You can hurt me as much as you like. But then you’ll strangle me.”
He even says he won’t use a safeword.
Mona: “You’ve got me all wrong.”
Mona finally gives in and demands that he crawl on all fours. She takes him into her apartment, ties his wrists to a doorknob with a pair of pantyhose, then takes out a pair of pliers and says she’s going to pull one of his teeth out. Is she trying to call his bluff or scare him away from this?
Despite all Juha’s painful cries, he still goes along with this, even correcting her when she starts to pull the wrong tooth.
Juha: “My turn now.”
Mona wraps his face in cling wrap, waits a moment or two, then lifts it off his mouth so he can breathe. (If Juha experiences a vision, we don’t see it.)
Mona: “You came here to kill yourself. I’m not what you’re looking for. I don’t do that. I’m not what you’re looking for.”
She frees him, and breaks down crying. Juha embraces her, kisses her and lightly slaps her face.
Mona gets up, which prompts Juha to get up and leave the apartment. Mona returns, holding the late wife’s dress, but finds he has gone.
Juha gets back into the good graces of his employer, and he comes to accept that his daughter now has a boyfriend.
Juha goes to Club Caviar, and gets in based on wearing his body harness. After a few drinks, he walks onto the dance floor and dances by himself. Mona comes in and sees him dancing, and starts to dance a little herself.
The film’s final image of Juha is him dancing at Club Caviar in his fetish harness, grinning to show off his missing tooth. He has accepted his losses, and doesn’t care who knows it.
Dogs has a problem of conflating two different experiences: the first is the pain and humiliation Juha subjects himself to, presumably guilt over his late wife, and secondly the confinement and deprivation which brings him closer to his image over his late wife. Juha offers to let Mona do whatever she wants to him, as if she wants to give free run to her sadism, in exchange for strangling him, but it also is integral to his experience. He wants the pain, then the oblivion.
My chief problem with Dogs is the underdevelopment of Mona. We know she also works as a physiotherapist, and lives alone with her dog. There’s no exploration of why she became a dominatrix, and why she would indulge Juha’s wishes, especially after he’s been stalking and harassing her. She doesn’t seem especially sadistic, so Juha’s offer wouldn’t make much difference to her. It’s implied there’s some kind of special connection between them, but we don’t know enough about her character to understand. Compare this to Going Under, in which both the male submissive and the female dominant are fully developed.
Going Under is also about the submissive man wanting to be held together by the female dominant, while in Dogs the submissive man wants to be guided to his own destruction by the female dominant. In both cases, the woman rejects the responsibility.
It’s not clear if Juha is still a masochist, and if he will have any kind of relationship with Mona. The climactic scene suggests that he is not, or not only, a masochist, as he slaps Mona’s cheek as a gesture of intimacy. Dogs does fit into the pattern of male-sub/female-dom romances in that Juha has to go beyond his masochism to be whole and suitable for a partnership.
Note: Pekka Strang also played the lead in the Finnish biopic Tom of Finland.