50 Shades, Nine and a Half Weeks, and bdsm exploitation

So there’s a film of 50 Shades of Grey coming out. Not many people on the bdsm world seem to be especially happy about this. Well, based on the trailers, it does look kind of crap.  

The 1980s Mickey Rourke, and Kim Basinger's hair.

The 1980s Mickey Rourke, and Kim Basinger’s amazing acting hair.

I recently saw Nine and a Half Weeks, though, which was made in the 1980s, when Mickey Rourke was a good-looking, promising young actor. If you compare the 1980s film based on a bdsm book with the 2014 film based on a bdsm book, it suggests that there actually has been a tiny bit of progress.

Though it was based on a mildly scandalous bdsm novel, the 9 1/2 Weeks film had no bdsm in it whatsoever. On the other hand, in one of the 50 Shades trailers, Dakota Channing does get tied up, and at one point she has a riding crop waved at her, though it doesn’t actually come into contact with her skin. Maybe they’re saving that for the movie. So at least there’s a miniscule dose of bdsm. But on the evidence so far, the only thing that actually gets tortured is the song Wicked Game.

So there’s progress. From no bdsm at all in the 1980s bdsm film, to a tiny, homeopathic amount of bdsm in the 2014 bdsm film. Actually, unless you thought pouring the contents of your fridge onto Kim Basinger might be sexy, there wasn’t any sex in the 9 1/2 Weeks film either.

Which was a pity in a way, because the book that the film was based on was reasonably competently written. The book, 9 1/2 Weeks, was about bdsm, and it did have a couple of sexy scenes in it. Unlike the movie.

But even the 9 1/2 Weeks book is kind of annoying, because it presents bdsm as a pathology. The dom was fucked up from the beginning (Aspergers plus obsessive-compulsive traits plus psychopathology) and the submissive woman progressively lost the ability to do anything for herself, even brush her own hair. She even had to spend time in psychiatric recuperation after the horror of her actually quite mildly sexy experience.

That is, in the best tradition of the exploitation novels and films of, oh, 1930 to, well, now, the woman character goes off the rails of proper decent normality after a few introductory scenes. The reader or the audience gets treated to the promise (not always actually delivered) of some outre sex scenes, and then at the end the heroine comes back to the straight and narrow world. This is important, so that nobody’s ideas are ever actually challenged.

(Jenny Diski’s first novel, Nothing Natural, was one of those, too.)

Bend over, dollface.

Bend over, dollface.

I gave up on 50 Shades after reading a few excerpts on-line. There were sentences like, “Oh my god, he’s spanking me!” Though I treasure this one: “Pulling off his boxer briefs, his erect penis springs free. Holy cow!” *

Based on the bits I’ve read – supposedly the sex scenes – I’d say it’d have read better if it was entirely in text-speak.

On the other hand, if you figure that bdsm is roughly where homosexuality was in the 1950s in terms of social acceptability, then visibility in crappy exploitation books and films (that promise more exploitation scenes than they deliver) is one of the stages that we’re just going to have to live through.

Still, one day someone will make a decent bdsm date movie, a rom-com with canes and nipple-clips.


penis* According to that sentence, Christian Grey’s penis pulled off his boxer briefs for him. I wish I could train my cock to do that for me. I could stand there doing the Charles Atlas pose, or make a paper airplane, while my cock does all the work.

But the thing I really love is that once the penis gets its kit off, she looks at it and thinks, “Holy cow!

Don’t leave us in suspense, woman: what the hell is wrong with that penis?