Aug 032020
 

Family Guy, episode S02E14 “Let’s go to the hop”, aired June 6, 2000. IMDB

This is the episode of Family Guy with the infamous “your safeword is banana” scene. 

The town of Quahog goes into a moral panic about teenagers licking psychedelic toads. Lois and Peter discover a toad in the laundry, and their daughter Meg confesses to holding it to curry favor with the popular kids. 

That night in their bedroom, Peter and Lois talk about their fears regarding their kids while putting on fetish wear. Peter says he will talk to the school principal.

Peter’s “plan” is to infiltrate the school as a student, “Lando Griffin.” He solves the toad-licking problem with a musical number, and blunders into becoming the most popular guy in school. Most of the rest of the episode is Peter’s conflict between chasing highschool popularity and looking after Meg. The real underlying problem is the highschool social hierarchy, and the toads are just a symptom. 

Perhaps inadvertently, Family Guy provided one of the most non-judgmental depictions of BDSM in mainstream media. Peter and Lois’ conversation about their kids and drugs is played straight. It’s the kind of thing a married couple with teenagers would talk about while getting ready for a scene. It’s just something they do together for fun. 

You could interpret this scene to say that Peter and Lois are hypocrites for their panic over drugs while they indulge in kink, but that only works if you view kink as a problem. Showing them smoking a joint together would be a more pointed critique, but might not be allowed on television.

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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Jul 202020
 

Episode S05E01 “Carly Summers”, aired November 1, 2007 IMDB

Nip/Tuck is a drama series focused on a pair of cosmetic surgeons. In the season 5 opener, Doctor Sean McNamara and Doctor Christian Troy have just relocated from Miami to Los Angeles and opened a new practice. 

One of their first clients is Bob Easton, a high-powered studio exec. He wants them to cover up the bite marks on his chest. 

Mistress Dark Pain (Tia Carrer) at work
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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 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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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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Jun 012020
 

“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.

Detective Benson views the body. Notice the handcuff visible in the background.
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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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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. 

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