Jul 152020
 

Scandal episode S04E16 “It’s Good to be Kink”, aired March 19, 2015 IMDB

Sue Thomas (Lena Dunham) is about to publish a memoir of her sexual exploits in Washington, DC. One of the men mentioned is a fixer named Leo, who is the boyfriend of White House press secretary Abby. Abby, fearing for her career, turns to her friend, Olivia Pope. 

Olivia delivers a lecture at Sue, telling her to stop publication. Sue flips the script on Olivia, hitting the third-wave sex-positive feminist, and says she’ll stop publication if somebody pays her $3 million. 

Sue meets Olivia, with Quinn in the background.
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Jun 242020
 

“Poison Pen”, aired October 17, 2013

Elementary is a detective TV series of a modern-day retelling of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories and novels by Arthur Conan Doyle. 

The case begins with a pro domme (“Mistress Felicity”, played by Keesha Sharp) on an outcall who came across a dead client already in a latex suit, and called Holmes before she called the police. 

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Jun 122020
 

Episode S13E22 “Strange Beauty”, aired May 16, 2012 IMDB

A kidnapped young woman turns up dead with an amputated leg, which leads the detectives into the body modification subculture. 

Body modification is not the same thing as BDSM, though obviously there is considerable overlap of the two subcultures. The episode of SVU that focuses on body modification deploys a lot of the same tropes as episodes of procedural dramas that focus on BDSM. 

Detective Rollins happens to see a woman, Nina, being abducted into a taxi cab. Nina’s mother talks about her distress at seeing her daughter’s extensive tattoos and piercings, which she said started with an octopus tattoo on her ankle. 

That’s when a woman’s severed leg with an octopus tattoo turns up in a canal, which leads to another reported severed leg from years ago. The former owner of that leg is a drug-addicted street sex worker who was paid $25,000 to an unidentified john to amputate her leg. 

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May 172020
 

“Escape from the Dungeon!”, aired September 26, 2010

Bored to Death is an American comedy TV series (IMDB) about Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer who moonlights as an “unlicensed private detective”.

In “Escape from the Dungeon!” (S02E01), Jonathan meets Drake, a mounted NYPD officer, who needs his name removed from the hard drive of the BDSM dungeon he frequents before it is raided by the police. He says the dungeon is involved in money laundering, not that it will be raided for sex work charges.

Mistress Florence (Kristen Johnson) is not impressed with Jonathan
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Apr 272020
 

Law & Order: Criminal Intent’s episode “Lost Children of the Blood” aired July 25, 2010

A college student found drained of blood in her dorm room leads Detectives Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) and Stevens (Saffron Burrows) to the underground culture of blood fetishists. 

The victim, Sarah Price, has quotes from Carl Jung and Michel Foucault all over her dorm room. Nichols finds a deluxe copy of Jung’s Red Book. “He [Jung] thought everybody should have a red book. All disturbing thoughts written down and filed away.”

Sarah’s boyfriend Kyle admits that they did go to a club together, and did blood play. 

Kyle: “It was just exploring boundaries. Sarah and I wanted something real and authentic.”

Sarah and Anton
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Mar 052020
 

Criminal Minds S10E17 “Breath Play” First aired March 11, 2015 IMDB

The second episode of Criminal Minds to deal with BDSM (that I know of) is “Breath Play”.

“Breath Play” treads much of the same ground as the earlier episode “Limelight”, though at least in this case there are actual victims from the beginning. A serial killer is strangling women to death and leaving them tied to their beds. Somehow, the killer is welcomed into the homes of his victims. 

Examining the bodies reveal that the victims were tied to their beds and strangled for hours before their deaths. Dr. Reid speculates, in one of the leaps of logic that seems typical of this series, that this is actually about erotic asphyxiation, or breath play. 

Another crime scene leads of the discovery of an extremely popular erotic novel called Bare Reflections, a knock-off of Fifty Shades of Grey. All of the victims had the book, and the “saucy texts” found on the victim’s phone were direct quotes. However, if the book is that popular, it increases the likelihood that it’s just a coincidence and not the key clue. 

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Mar 022020
 

Bound (2015) (not to be confused with Bound (1996), the lesbian-noir thriller directed by the Wachowskis) has an interesting pedigree. It was made by The Asylum, best known as the producers of numerous “mockbusters”, low budget, direct-to-video knock-offs of popular Hollywood films. Usually, these are science fiction, disaster and horror films (e.g. Transmorphers, based on Transformers), but a few belong to other genres. Bound is The Asylum’s take on Fifty Shades of Grey (which, in turn, is a take on the Twilight series of books and films). 

Let’s get one thing clear. Bound is not a great film. The production values are low, the acting isn’t great, entire scenes seem to be missing from the story, and there are more than a few plot holes.

And yet….

It is a better cinematic treatment of a woman’s introduction to BDSM than Fifty Shades of Grey. 

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Jan 012020
 

Castle S02E16, “The Mistress Always Spanks Twice”, March 8, 2010 IMDB

Another day, another dead sex worker.

Sooner or later it seems every police or lawyer show does an episode about BDSM. Castle, about a bestselling mystery writer who uses his connections to ride along on police investigations, is no exception.

We open with the discovery of yet another dead sex worker, typical for this genre. She’s in lingerie, hanging from custom bondage cuffs, and slathered in caramel sauce. 

In the narrative logic of Castle, the murder of a person is less important than the series’ leads flirting. As the investigation proceeds, BDSM figures in two ways.

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Aug 262019
 

The Duke of Burgundy (IMDB) is a 2014 drama film written and directed by Peter Strickland, and starring Chiara D’Anna as Evelyn and Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia. Shot in the UK and Hungary.

One of the oldest cliches in BDSM is “the submissive has all the power”. This is not always true, nor is it necessarily a good thing, as the life of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch demonstrated. Submissives and masochists can be abusive, as shown by The Duke of Burgundy.

Evelyn (D’Anna) serves Cynthia (Knudsen)

Somewhere in Europe, sometime in the mid-20th century, two women play out elaborate sadomasochistic scenarios. Evelyn, playing the meek maid, comes to the house of Cynthia, playing the haughty mistress. Evelyn’s duties of cleaning and laundry are, inevitably, unsatisfactory, which results in punishment. Cynthia drags Evelyn to the bathroom, closes the door on the camera, and urinates on her. 

Obviously, the MPAA would not give a film could give a film with an explicit golden showers scene an R-rating or even an NC-17 rating. (IMDB says it doesn’t have a rating in the USA.) 

A few days later, they do it all over again. It’s a bit reminiscent of Secretary or the Munby-Cullwick relationship, a private world between two people in which mundane activities are elevated to erotic rituals. 

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