“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.
“Stocks & Bondage” First aired November 29, 1999 IMDB
“Stocks & Bondage” opens with a familiar scene: a woman found dead in bondage gear. However, as the detectives investigate, the case turns out to be more about shady financial dealings on Wall Street than sexual deviance.
“Stocks & Bondage” includes some of the same tropes as the earlier Law & Order episode “Prisoner of Love”, particularly the discussion over whether the death that started the story is an accident, a suicide, or a murder. Unlike the dual focus on detectives and prosecutors of its parent series, Special Victims Unit is mostly about the investigation, not the legal complexities.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Criminal Minds S03E13 “Limelight” Aired January 23, 2008 IMDB
Criminal Minds is a police procedural TV series focusing on a FBI unit of criminal profilers. Criminal profiling is a somewhat questionable methodology in reality.
Unlike a lot of other episodes in this type of show, this episode doesn’t begin with the discovery of a dead sex worker. An abandoned storage locker is opened to reveal a collection of bondage magazines, arty porn shots, and detailed journals about capturing and torturing women, complete with diagrams.
Castle S02E16, “The Mistress Always Spanks Twice”, March 8, 2010 IMDB
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.
Silk Stalkings (IMDB) is a much weirder show than I remember. It was supposed to revive the “MTV cops” style that made MiamiVice such a hit in the 80s. It has bizarre interior design, and one of the detectives has flashbacks to her childhood in a communion dress. There are attempts at noir/hardboiled narration and dialog but it’s just gibberish. For example
“If Jerome Eagleton was playing golf with Harlan Cameron and his pretty young wife, it was undoubtedly a best-ball threesome. They were playing on a jagged course with too many physical hazards. These golfers dressed for pain, and most of the balls probably ended up in the rough.”
Episode S01E02, “Going to Babylon”, begins with a dumped old dead guy with bondage marks and a dead pro dominatrix in a car. Murdered sex workers are a staple of this genre, though this episode bucks the trend by not finding the female victim in the teaser. The dominatrix was previously charged with “sexual sadism”, which makes no sense as a charge; she would probably be arrested for solicitation or bawdy-house violations instead.