May 102020
 

Episode S01E08, “Denna”, aired January 10, 2009

Legend of the Seeker (IMDB) is a 2008 fantasy television series based on the Sword of Truth novel series by Terry Goodkind. It’s pretty boilerplate, hero’s journey, high fantasy. 

Legend of the Seeker shares some production staff with the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess, and the Spartacus TV series, which frequently hinted at or showed various forms of queer or kinky sexuality. In turn, those series are descendants of the sword-and-sorcery genre of fiction, which frequently referenced sadomasochistic sexuality. E.g. the covers of the 1930s pulp Weird Tales by Margaret Brundage. 

Unlike most of the media we’ve explored so far, Legend is set in a fantasy world of magic and strange creatures. Therefore, we should hold it to different standards of realism and consent. 

Continue reading »
Apr 182020
 

House is an American TV medical procedural drama. “Love Hurts”, aired May 10, 2005, is the twentieth episode of the first season.

The episode begins with a man in the Emergency Room with what appears to be a stroke. The patient, Harvey (John Cho), also has nominal aphasia (difficulty naming things), as his friend Annette (Christina Cox) explains. 

As Harvey has a metal plate in his jaw from an earlier injury, the doctors can’t do an MRI scan, and have to diagnose with other methods. They also notice oddities like how Harvey enjoys having needles inserted, and how Annette hovers around the patient. Finally, they find Annette in Harvey’s hospital room, apparently strangling him. 

One of the doctors, Chase, explains that she is a dominatrix. 

Continue reading »
Apr 072020
 

Romance is a 1999 French drama film, written and directed by Catherine Breillat. 

[Unless noted otherwise, all quotations are from the subtitles.]

Breillat is notorious for explicitly showing sexual acts in her films, as well as her unsentimental view of heterosexual relations. Sex between men and women is always a conflict in Breillat’s films, though who is winning isn’t always clear. 

The protagonist is Marie (Caroline Ducey), a young woman who lives with her boyfriend Paul (Sagamore Stévenin), a model. In the first scene, Marie watches from a distance as Paul is posed as a matador in a photoshoot with another female model. The photographer instructs Paul and the model in performing proper masculinity and femininity.

Marie (Caroline Ducey) tries to arouse Paul (Sagamore Stévenin)

They return to their apartment, where their clothes and the furnishings are all white and off-white. Instead of innocence, it suggests sterility and emptiness. Paul rejects Marie’s sexual advances again, in a reversal of the usual gender roles. 

Paul’s passive-aggressive head game is that if he completely eliminates sexual desire in himself, he gains the upper hand in his relationship with Marie. Having her dance on the end of his string is more interesting to him than actually fucking her. 

Continue reading »
Apr 062020
 

Love & Human Remains is a 1993 drama film. It tells several interwoven stories of people in the big city, while in the background a serial killer murders women. The main character is David (Thomas Gibson), a gay former actor who coasts through life as a waiter and nightclub regular.

Love definitely has some resemblance to Cruising: paranoid people in an urban environment, a serial killer who could be anybody, masculinity in crisis. We get glimpses of the killings on news shows, but the characters, too self-absorbed, skip past them. 

Benita (Mia Kirshner) seems to vibe on that urban paranoia. She’s primarily a dominatrix, often telling classic urban legends (e.g. “the guy with the hook” or “the baby sitter and the extension cord”) during her sessions with men in her apartment. 

Benita (Mia Kirshner) in full dominatrix gear
Continue reading »
Apr 012020
 

Tomcats is a 2001 sex comedy. 

Tomcats is a catalog of white heterosexual male anxieties at the turn of the millennium: castration, marriage, children, public humiliation, romantic and sexual rejection, unruly female bodies, being outperformed by women professionally, women turning into lesbians, and women who are too sexual. For the purposes of this project, the relevant scene has the same comedic premise as in Euro Trip: that even the horniest man can be overwhelmed by the most voracious woman.

What lies beneath the meek exterior of librarian Jill (Heather Stephens)?

The premise is that a group of male friends made a bet that whoever is the last unmarried gets all the money in a large mutual fund. Our protagonist, Michael (Jerry O’Connell), tries to impress a woman at a Vegas casino, ends up owing $50,000, and has to get his womanizing single friend, Kyle (Jake Busey) married by the end of the month so he gets the money. 

Michael finds Natalie (Shannon Elizabeth), the one who got away for Kyle, who turns out to be a police detective. They set about seducing Kyle, while our protagonist starts falling for the woman. Natalie tells Michael that she’s falling for Kyle, prompting Michael to seduce the first woman he sees, which goes spectacularly awry.

Continue reading »
Mar 242020
 

Live Nude Girls is a 1995 comedy-drama film, about a group of women who gather for a bachelorette party and mostly talk about sex.

The film starts with women as tween girls having a slumber party in a tent with a poster of David Cassidy, the dawning of their sexuality. In the present, the women mostly talk about their early experiences in the 70s, like reading page 26 of The Godfather, or sneaking peeks at their fathers’ copies of Playboy. Some of these are acted out in fantasy sequences. These women have a complex tangle of desire, vanity, anxiety and shame in their past and present sexual lives. 

Continue reading »
Mar 162020
 

Desperate Housewives was a mystery/dramedy TV series concerning a group of four housewives in a suburban neighborhood who attempt to solve the mystery of the death of one of their friends. They also deal with various other challenges to their families.

One of the four wives, Bree (played by Marcia Cross), learns that her husband Rex (played by Steven Culp) has been cheating on her with another married woman, Maisy Gibbons (played by Sharon Lawrence), who is a sex worker and dominatrix. Maisy took this up for money when her husband lost his job.

Continue reading »
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. 

Continue reading »
Jan 292020
 

Aired December 4, 1990 IMDB

Another episode bucks the cliche by not opening with the discovery of a dead sex worker. This time it’s a controversial artist named Victor Moore (loosely modeled on Robert Mapplethorpe, who died in 1989), found strangled to death with a noose around his neck, inside his workspace/dungeon. The investigation delves into the sexual fringe and its intersection with the city’s elite. 

Law & Order is usually more thoughtful and less sensational than other procedural shows, and this story does engage with the issues of sadomasochism. 

Greevey, one of the two detectives on the case, is the most prejudiced against Moore and his art. “Some work. If I did stuff like this, I wouldn’t advertise either.”

The detectives question a man who knew the victim casually, but wouldn’t date him. 

Logan: “Let me get this straight. You’re asked out on a date by a guy who published pictures of people hanging upside down in chains. And you’re tempted, but there’s something about him you don’t trust?”

While it’s entirely possible that Moore was coming on creepy to the guy, the Implication is that a person who makes sexually violent art must be dangerous. 

Continue reading »