Turned On, Tuned In: When Fetish Goes Mainstream


What’s turning me on this week? Fetish. And fetish films.

It’s that time of year again. We bid farewell to summer and endless days of string bikinis and turn to a more serious time. It’s time for school to start, time to check back in to our jobs, time to realize that our sex lives are totally boring, even though we’re maintaining our tans. You’ve been there. Lying in bed with your partner, staring at the ceiling more-obviously-than-normal. Instead of moans and “Oh, God!”s, you’re making mental grocery lists and trying not to fart. Sigh. Happy Labor Day.

Here’s a remedy: what better way to spend your day off than to talk about sick sexual shit? Just because your life must resume its wanker routine tomorrow doesn’t mean that your sex life must. Work out your kinks by introducing a few. And where there’s sex, there’s movies. While I’m skipping fringe porn and documentaries like Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist, I do urge you to check out a few of my more mainstream favorites, and learn a little bit about what turns me on:


Blue Velvet: This 1986 David Lynch movie starring Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper is weird beyond weird, but I like it.

“There are opportunities in life for gaining knowledge and experience. Sometimes it’s just necessary to take a risk.”

Fetishtastic Highlights: There’s one scene, and if you’ve seen the film, you know it. Breaking into her apartment because he’s curious about a found severed ear, the scene only starts with Isabella Rossellini forcing a young, nice-assed Kyle MacLachlan to undress at knifepoint. Then blowing him. (Mad props for the plaid boxers-black-socks combo, wardrobe department.)

Next comes Dennis Hopper’s greatest cinematic entrance: “Hello, baby.” “Shut up! It’s ‘Daddy,’ you shithead. Where’s my bourbon?” Follow that with violent hot-buse, male domination, whippits (no, really.), and general, glorious masochism. The movie gets weird from there. It’s been totally normal up until this point, obviously.

Other Noteworthy Moments: Dean Stockwell’s protrayal of the flamboyant (to say the least) Ben, and Frank (Hopper)’s line: “Heineken? F**k that shit. Pabst Blue Ribbon!” Hipsters everywhere, rejoice.


The Notorious Bettie Page: Although this film is, in my view, barely okay, it does have its moments.

“Do you mind if I ask you a question, Bettie? What do you think Jesus would think about what you’re doing now?”

Fetishtastic Highlights: It’s a bipoic on Bettie Page. Bondage photo shoots. Great underwear. Bettie Page. Sinfully fun. (And guys, don’t worry. Girls love lingerie, bondage play, and pictures of themselves in it just as much as you do. Or, well, they should.)

Other Noteworthy Moments: Lili Taylor is a hoot and a half. Senate investigations. Great underclothes. Ball gags.

It’s downright impossible — to write about this movie, featuring the beautiful Gretchen Mol and the always kitschy Lili Taylor (a favorite of mine), without mentioning the cultural icon that is Ms. Bettie Page. Although it’s certainly en vogue in retro-loving circles these days to be a fan of Bettie’s, I’ve loved all things Bettie Page since long before puberty.

I don’t think Mol did the icon justice, though she may (and I emphasize may) have played the woman well. She does show us the sweet, unassuming side of Bettie Page, and she does get to wear the iconic outfits. I can’t help but notice, unfortunately, that I seem to be watching the sweet, unassuming side of Gretchen Mol dressed up in a Bettie Page wig and outfits. Still, this film makes my list — if only because I respect those who even attempted to make this movie.


Secretary: A favorite of anyone who likes a little power play, or a little James Spader, in their life.

“Who’s to say that love needs to be soft and gentle?”

Fetishtastic Highlights: If you’re in to domination, submission, or Maggie Gyllenhaal, this is the movie for you. And me. This is the movie for me. Gyllenhaal plays Lee, a girl fresh out of psychiatric care for self-mutilation. She gets a job in a dimly lit and oddly decorated lawyer’s office, where she and her boss (James Spader) play cute-cum-demented power games. These turn into demented sex-power games, and the relationship between a dominant and his subordinate is wonderfully explored. This movie is fantastic, and not just because Maggie Gyllenhaal wears a saddle. That’s mostly it, though. She also has a carrot in her mouth.

Other Noteworthy Moments: Spoiler alert: they fall in love.


The Rocky Horror Picture Show: This, the cult film of all cult films, explores genderbending, domination, and Susan Sarandon’s slip.

“How forceful you are, Brad. Such a perfect specimen of manhood. So… dominant.”

Fetishtastic Highlights: Where to begin? Tim Curry in glorious drag is a good place. He’s just a sweet transvestite, who has thrown a party for all of his freak friends, in order to unveil his latest invention: a human sex-toy. He created a man, clad solely in a gold Speedo, in the ultimate act of dom-engineering. Rocky’s entire life is devoted to — and created for — Frank’s pleasure. Who will be dominant and who submissive is gloriously left up to question, as the innuendo shifts from lyric to gender-bending lyric. Tim Curry has never looked (or acted) better. This is a real tour de force for those excited by transvestites of all sorts.

Other Noteworthy Moments: The songs are great, the convention of freaks gathered at Frank’s mansion better. Women in dominatrix gear, men in rouge and pearls — it’s sensory-overload for you everloving sickos. If you’re into cult movies, this one is the best. There’s an entire culture of Rocky Horror fans that still gather at theaters for midnight showings, singing, yelling “The rag’s on Janet!”, and throwing toilet paper. If you’re weird, or just have a penchant for silly camaraderie, this could be your newest fetish. Added bonus? Meatloaf. Pre-bitch tits.


9 1/2 Weeks: The honey of fetish films. Literally. Honey.

“Promise to keep your eyes closed?”

Fetishtastic Highlights: Oh, come on. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you know this one. Just showered, be-robed and be-crew-socked Kim Basinger sits in front of the refrigerator and takes whatever Mickey Rourke (our favorite version of Mickey Rourke) gives her. If you’re into food and sex, or food or sex, you’re in for a delicious treat here. Mickey Rourke’s playful dominance and trust games are fun, Basinger’s tongue motions are more fun than that. She drinks milk like a pro, and there’s payoff at the end. If you ladies ever wanted to be drizzled in honey (listening, guys?) and then passionately kissed-plus, this is the movie for you.

Other Noteworthy Moments: It gets hot with ice and weird with watches. Rourke gets on a stank-ho in a dingy motel room. Then, spoiler alert: their hot-but-unhealthy relationship utterly dissolves after, you guessed it, 9 1/2 weeks.

Want some sex advice? Turned On, Tuned In author Bethany Perryman is here for you. You can get ‘in touch’ with her via email (bethany@filmschoolrejects.com) and/or follow her stream of hotness on Twitter at twitter.com/bethatasitmay

Bethany writes about sex. Suck it, nerds. Follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/bethatasitmay

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