Mar 142022
 

Love and Leashes is a 2022 Korean romantic comedy, currently streaming on Netflix, about two office workers who begin a dominant/submissive relationship, based on a webcomic.

Note: I do not speak Korean, and I’m going entirely by the dubbing and subtitles. There are likely many cultural and linguistic nuances I am missing. E.g. “Master” is frequently used, but not “Mistress”. 

Jung Jihoo transfers to the public relations department of a corporation, where he meets a woman with a nearly identical name, Jung Jiwoo. She’s highly intelligent and competent, but ignored or belittled by the department’s sexist boss. Jihoo is actually her superior in the hierarchy, but he tries to listen to her and compromise. 

Jiwoo is attracted to Jihoo, but is reluctant to act on it. Her mother and friend both urge her to act on it, but in a stereotypically “feminine” way, which is at odds with her direct personality. 

Because their names are so similar, Jiwoo accidentally picks up a personal package delivered for Jihoo, and finds a studded leather collar and leash with the nameplate “Miho”. Jihoo tries to cover for this, but she figures it out, and says nothing. 

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Mar 092022
 

I discuss the BDSM-themed Korean romantic comedy Love and Leashes with my friend and colleague TammyJo Eckhart, a historian and author.

Currently on Netflix, Love and Leashes follows a submissive man and and a dominant woman as they learn about each other and deal with a prejudiced society. You can also read the English translation of the original webcomic.

Feb 142022
 

Story of O (1975), dir. Just Jaeckin

[Note: all English quotes are from the English dub.]

The relaxation of film censorship in the 1960s and 1970s, both in the US and abroad, created an interesting period in mainstream films were much more daring in terms of sexuality and violence, while some porn films had bigger budgets and higher production values to play in mainstream theatres and reach a larger audience. Naturally, someone would try to adapt arguably the most famous novel about BDSM to the big screen, Histoire d’O by “Pauline Reage” (aka Anne Desclos), published 1954.

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Jan 032022
 

Transparent Episode S02E09 “Man on the Land”, aired Dec 11, 2015. 

In this episode, mainly set at a women’s festival in the woods, Maura, a transwoman, has a difficult experience when she finds that the festival is supposed to be for “women-born-women” only, and her adult daughter Sarah hooks up with a kinky woman named Pony (played by Jiz Lee). 

Pony (Jiz Lee) meets with Sarah (Amy Landecker)
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Nov 112021
 

Fifty Shades of Black (2016) (IMDB) is a comedy/romance film directed by Michael Tiddes and written by Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez. Obviously, it’s a parody of the wildly popular Fifty Shades of Grey franchise. 

Beyond just parodying Fifty Shades, Black derives comedy from juxtaposing sadomasochism, long seen as a “white thing”, with blackness. 

Moon Charania’s essay “The Promise of Whiteness: Fifty Shades of Grey as White Racial Archive” in Intensities: The Journal of Cult Media (Issue 8, January 2016) hypothesizes that the book and film’s story can only work because the two leads are extremely white and heterosexual. It presents a kind of hetero-white utopia in which all the cultural anxieties of the 2000s and 2010s are almost entirely absent. Almost no non-white people means no racial violence and inequality, and almost no queer and no trans people means no challenge to the primacy of heterosexuality. 

The significance of Grey’s emotional torment, Ana’s romantic attachment to Grey, and the familiarity of white heterosexual domestic love render this (attempted) violent domination both palatable and melancholic. [Pg. 84]

To excite and placate the audience, Ana and Christian as lovers and antagonists could only be white. The sudden excitement found in a powerful white man beating an empowered white woman for sexual pleasure establishes an inextricable link between racial formation and sexual subjectification. [Pg. 85]

In Charania’s view, whiteness excuses everything: Christian’s domination and sadism, Ana’s infatuation and naivete. Remove Christian’s whiteness, his wealth and privilege, from the narrative, and he’s just an abuser. Remove Ana’s whiteness, and she’s just a helpless victim. It’s not a love story anymore. 

So what happens if the analogs of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele, “Christian Black” (Marlon Wayans) and “Hannah Steale” (Kali Hawk), are black?

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Oct 152021
 

The Story of Joanna (IMDB) is a 1975 X-rated drama directed and written by Gerard Damiano and starring Terri Hall in the title role and Jamie Gillis as Jason.

Joanna comes from the “Golden Age of porn” in the 70s and early 80s when some hardcore adult films were made with higher production values for release with X-ratings in mainstream theatres, trying to reach a broader audience. This was also the heyday of mainstream softcore erotica films like Just Jaeckin’s Histoire D’O (1975) and the original Emmanuelle (1974), and edgier material like Nazisploitation classics The Night Porter (1974), Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS (1975) and Salon Kitty (1976). (I’ve heard that Damiano wanted to film Story of O but couldn’t get the rights, and made his own knock-off.)

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Aug 102021
 

A few months ago, I perused the used books section at Vancouver’s venerable queer bookstore Little Sisters. In addition to a book on Kenneth Anger’s underground gay leather film Scorpio Rising, I happened across a book without a barcode or copyright date or even an author, titled The Female Disciplinary Manual. I had heard of this before and remembered something about it being connected with some kind of schoolgirl discipline fantasy operation. As it was only $9.00 Canadian and in excellent condition with dust jacket (copies on Amazon are priced at $148 or more), I snapped it up.

The book itself is a rather odd work, purporting to be from the 2030s when the school disciplinary regime of the early 20th century in England has been reinstated as the solution to a decadent culture. The prose is in an arch, deadpan tone that leaves the reader guessing how much of this is part of the school discipline fantasy and how much is sincere.

By happenstance, I also came across the strange story of the organization that wrote and published the book and apparently lived by its ethos. The fifty-year saga links into pagan cults, lesbian separatists, Victorian-Edwardian cosplay as a lifestyle, early text-only video games, the English schoolgirl-discipline fetish, and far-right politics.

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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 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 Eurotrip: 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.

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Feb 122020
 

Queer as Folk (US) S01E15 “Ties that bind” Aired April 1, 2001 IMDB

In most of the TV episodes discussed in this project, BDSM is talked about, and we see the implements and the outfits, but we only rarely see actual play. The US version of Queer as Folk already pushed the envelope of cable television by showing plenty of gay sex, so it was willing to show play too, up to a point.  

It’s the Leather Ball weekend at the fictional Babylon club in Pittsburgh. Friends Ted and Emmett snipe at each other’s wardrobe choices. 

Ted: “I can’t believe you went out in public dressed like that.” 

Emmet: “My mother used to say, find your best feature and play it for all it’s worth. So that’s exactly what I do.” [turns around to reveal he is wearing pants with the butt cutout.] “Besides it’s called a leather ball. You could have at least dressed for the occasion.”

Ted: “I did. I wore a leather belt.” 

Emmet: “You are such a stick in the mud.” 

Ted: “Why, because I don’t want to look like a cross between a Nazi stormtrooper and Roy Rogers?” [eyes a guy in Western-leather gear with a bullwhip]

Emmet: “Stop it, you’re giving me a hard-on.”

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