I think we all know each other well enough now. Yeah? Let’s talk fetishes. When I took the position of Reel Sex columnist the first story idea that sprung to mind revolved around BDSM culture. I’ve always been fascinated with the back and forth of this lifestyle, and with so many examples of light to moderate to down-right kinky in mainstream cinema it’s not difficult to find something that everyone can enjoy.

Some of the films springing to mind right off the bat are ones we’ve looked at before, like 2002’s Secretary (which we will explore more in depth below), but there are so many more that established the base of mainstream BDSM culture in cinema. Here is just a small sample of what to expect before you dive, gag-ball deep, into some of the most controversially kinky films.

Rough Intentions: An Intro

Before we get into film, let’s first explore the full spectrum of what is available to a novice S&M viewer. As more and more Americans buy huge televisions and decide on cable for their preferred medium of movie and show consumption, the bevy of quality smut has risen. Even once tame cable networks like HBO and Showtime have reinvented how rough sex is shown and accepted into American homes. There is an audience for it, and HBO’s award winning series True Blood is leading the pack when it comes to mainstream kinky-ass shit.

A show about some sexy vampires, a couple of shapeshifters, and a blonde waitress getting all sweaty together sounds exciting just by itself, but when ten minutes into the first episode the camera panned in on a very satisfied sounding woman strung up to the ceiling by her arms it was hard to think of this show as just another HBO drama. Moments later we are introduced to the man between her legs. The dimwitted, insatiable sex machine Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) quickly enters his bound ladyfriend from behind, moving his grip from her thighs to her neck right before choking her out. Jason and his partner are clearly not beginners here, however he does have a moment where he believes she is dead and flees the crime scene—setting up the rest of the season’s whodunit. It isn’t until the door closes behind him that we learn she is in fact alive (at least for the time being), but just has no patience for the childish Jason. Rather than tell him he just wasn’t doing it right, she allowed him to believe her lifeless figure was in fact lifeless. Too bad she doesn’t make it much longer after an intense visit from her vampire lover.

HBO has always pushed limits with their programming, but this opening scene was shocking in a new way. Now, HBO was saying that nothing we had seen before could compare to the kink on True Blood. In a way it seemed like the writers wanted to make some BDSM experiences seem tame in comparison to what the show would later expose. Binding and biting are nothing new in the world of paranormal romance. From books to film, the act of being consumed, for both nourishment and sexy-time, appears time and time again. However, True Blood does not shy away from showing images many people would consider almost line-crossing. The show rests deliciously on an unstable foundation of mutual cruelty and forced consent.

Dark Can Also Be Boring

Known more for its disappointing portrayal of sex and a loveless couple than its quality, Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut exposed the secret world of sex clubs to a mainstream audience in the same way Deep Throat exposed Middle America to the blow job. We’ve always known they existed, and that “some” people engaged in them, but it couldn’t quite possibly be anyone we know. Enter Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) and his unsatisfied, whiny wife Alice (Nicole Kidman). She has cheated on and contemplated leaving her husband before, while Bill has remained committed to Alice throughout the years of their marriage. As she goes on relentlessly about her near affair, she pushes the idea into his head that he needs to seek revenge for her past indiscretion.

He roams the streets for days internally debating infidelity with almost every woman he meets—including a family friend, an HIV-positive prostitute, and an underage girl. He eventually ends up, like ya do, at a large mansion filled with naked, masked people. Bill moves from room to room, watching the explicit, emotionless orgy pass in front of him. He is warned twice by a beautiful disguised woman to leave before someone notices he is not part of the group. However, his curiosity keeps him pinned to the house until the near fatal moment when he is exposed.

Here sex is used as a way to control the members of the group, and open Bill’s eyes to the damaging effect wanting questionable sex can have on his life. It could literally kill him, as it does many of the women he interacts with throughout Eyes Wide Shut. While the film was promoted as a salacious exposé of a crumbling marriage, its impact on the collective consciousness is far greater.

Making It Look Pretty

While there are many other films I could have picked that deal with the fun and consequences of BDSM, Secretary and Of Freaks and Men just have a level of heart and visual stimulation many other sexy films lack. Both films show women coming into their own sexually, but clearly point out social issues, such as self-hatred and corruption as the enemies most worth battling.

Alexei Balabanov’s Of Freaks is both sexy and repulsive as it shows the power sex has over two rich families. Like circus ringleaders, Yohan (Sergey Makovestkiy) and Victor Ivanovich (Viktor Sukhoruskov) infiltrate the families, tricking young Liza and Ekaterina (Dinara Drukarova and Anzhelika Nevolina) into a seedy world of naked flogging and pornography. Filmed in sepia tones that make this 1999 Russian film appear almost turn of the 20th century, Of Freaks shows the violent introduction to and awakening desire for S&M in these two young girls. Maybe it’s possible to suggest the rough exploitation of these characters made them sexual deviants, or it could also be argued that they would have never figured out they liked it in the first place. Either way, this bizarre beautiful film isn’t for the weak at heart or stomach. Do not watch if you cannot tolerate a little squirm inducing sexual flip-flopping.

Secretary, while arguably a modern feminist classic, highlights the controversial back and forth relationship between a willing submissive and cautious dominant. Mr. Grey (James Spader) clearly needs to engage in this type of relationship, however all the women he met before the wide-eyed Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) walked into his office with typo laden correspondences rejected his need. Now he regards all women as removed and uninterested, but he also doesn’t know how to act when he finds the woman who fits him. Rather than allow Lee to get attached and dragged into what he thinks is a depraved world, Mr. Grey hurts her physically in ways she needs but emotionally in ways that break her. Hands splayed across his desk while he spanks and eventually expels onto her back, leaving Lee both curious about herself and desperate for a repeat. Like Liza and Ekaterina, Lee would never have discovered her need for something unconventional without the assistance of a broken man. At least Mr. Grey has a heart.

The scenes of her walking on all fours with her red-ink marked letters, clearly intentional errors meant to extract punishment from her master, are both striking and alluring. Lee is weak spirited, which isn’t always a true character trait of many subs, but Mr. Grey shows her how to ask for what she wants. Together, they make up the fantasy of a working S&M coupling, two beautiful people who mutually respect each other but still enjoy a little smacking around from time to time.

Unbuckle that belt and read more Reel Sex


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