Oct 252020
 

Cleopatra is a 1934 historical epic/romance, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It came at the end of the pre-Hays Code era, when American films could be more sexually explicit. Just to be clear, it is also far from historically accurate. 

The film sets up a contrast between austere and republican Rome and the decadent and autocratic Egypt, personified by Claudette Colbert as Queen Cleopatra in a series of extravagant, revealing dresses. We’ve seen this divide before between the West and the Orient. The film also borrows a lot from the Orientalist art tradition of the previous century, with Cleopatra lounging on silken beds, surrounded by slave girls in chains. 

After the credits and a quick shot of the pyramids and palm trees, the first thing we see is a nearly nude woman (in silhouette) in chains, standing and backlit. Sex appeal is front and centre. 

The title shot of the film.
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Aug 202020
 

Sex and the City S02E12, “La Douleur Exquise!”, aired August 22nd, 1999 IMDB Title translates to “the exquisite pain”

Sex and the City was a popular dramedy series about single women in New York City around the turn of the millennium. 

The opening narration of this episode makes it clear that BDSM is just another aesthetic to be adopted, consumed, and abandoned, befitting the series’ consumerist ethos. 

Carrie (vo) “New York City restaurants are always looking for the next new angle to grab that elusive and somewhat jaded Manhattan palate. Last year it was fusion Cajun. Last month it was mussels from Brussels. And tonight, it’s S&M.”

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Aug 112020
 

Bones S01E08 “The Girl in the Fridge”, aired November 29, 2005 IMDB

Bones is another forensic investigation procedural TV series. 

The case begins with the discovery of a decayed skeleton in an abandoned refrigerator. The forensic anthropologists determine that the deceased is a missing young woman, Maggie Schilling, who was held for ransom, but then the kidnappers broke off communication. She also had a condition that made her bones brittle, particularly stress fractures in her wrists.

The series’ protagonist, Dr. Temperance Brennan, says:

“She did fight, Michael. They kept her tied up like an animal. But she fought. That’s how she got those stress fractures, because she was bound and struggling.”

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Jul 272020
 

CSI:NY S01E16 “Hush”, aired February 23, 2005 IMDB

Yet another dead naked woman in bondage. CSIs Aiden and Danny investigate.

It turns out that the deceased was strapped to a device on the front of a speeding pickup truck, House of Gord-style. The truck collided with a tree, killing her. 

An abandoned truck found nearby has a strange device mounted on the front, which includes a label saying, “Place Shoulders Here”. This includes a device with a red button. The truck contains a bag with a latex bodysuit, a ball gag with teeth impressions, and straps.

Aiden: “Pulp Fiction. Nice.”

Danny and Aiden find a toybag in the abandoned truck
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Jun 072020
 

“Loud and Proud”, aired 1 May 2005 IMDB

The L Word was a night-time soap about a group of lesbian and bisexual women in West Hollywood, with multiple continuing storylines. 

“Loud and Proud” is centered on Pride Weekend in LA. In the previous season, Jenny arrived in West Hollywood and began exploring her sexuality, which caused some complications with her boyfriend. Jenny broke up with him and joined the other characters.

The cold-open shows two women having a BDSM session, in the red-on-black color scheme we will see repeatedly in this episode. The bottom is cuffed to a St. Andrew’s cross. There’s no nudity, and only a couple of light impacts with a flogger. 

The top says, “I’m going to give you a minute to think about how badly you want me to fuck you.”

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Jun 052020
 

“Slaves” aired May 19, 2000 IMDB

“Slaves” treads some of the same ground as “Stocks & Bondage”, earlier in the first season, as the primary antagonist is a man who psychologically controls multiple women. In this case, there is no financial element to the crimes. 

A street vendor turns in a note asking for help from an unknown woman. The detectives track down the woman named in the note, the aunt of a Romanian immigrant woman, Elena. It would have ended there, but the aunt turns up murdered. 

Detectives Munch and Stabler grill Morrow
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May 042020
 
Cover illustration by Michael Manning

Tales of Gor (Postmortem Studios, 2017) is the licensed tabletop role-playing game adaptation of John Norman’s notorious Gor series of sword-and-sorcery novels, written by James “Grim” Desborough and illustrated by Michael Manning. Gor is notorious for heavy themes of slavery, sadomasochism, male dominance and female submission, and for long philosophical digressions justifying those themes. Since 1966, there have been more than 30 novels published in the series. The series has inspired a strong cult following, including a small branch of BDSM culture devoted to Gorean style slavery, both in real life and online in Second Life.

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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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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. 

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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
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