Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tie Me Up, America.

Kink has come a long way...the first of many puns in this blog post.
Have we ever taken a turn for the masochistic of late. And I love it. Usually it required one locking up all doors and windows and ordering a channel only your most perverted friends had even heard of or going to a dingy warehouse with ziploc sandwich bags tied around your hands to pick out the right ball-gag which you would then proceed to lock in a steel safe in your basement until all of your neighbors were all away on a groupon cruise to the Mediterranean. Now you walk into a Walmart or a Von's and first thing on the shelf in front of you are copies of 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Right next to it? Furry handcuffs.

Now, kink is manifest in the more sophisticated class, with better engineered instruments and a general polished, nuanced aesthetic that appeals to more of a general public rather than just a cult fad.
Polo gear stores are struggling to keep riding crops on their shelves and the elderly ma & pa-type owners can't understand why they are selling those dang riding crops and nothing else. Here's a hint, it's not for polo tournaments, grandad.
And now Hollywood is getting in on all of the sado-masochistic action and popping that last taboo right into our 'vanilla' consciousness (no pun intended). Sundance premiered a film back in January called Compliance (2012), which for months was the talk of the town, and is slated for limited release this August. It stars Dreama Walker from Don't Trust the B---- in Apt 23 fame. It concerns a lowly fast-food employee around 19, who is tricked into some kind of sick masochistic scheme wherein her coworkers are coerced by an anonymous presence over the phone claiming to be the police to strip search her, and make her do generally degrading sexual acts all under the guise that she is guilty of stealing money from another co-worker. 
Dreama Walker in Compliance (2012) one of the most highly anticipated films of the year.
There's no question about it, the biggest 'It' thing is BDSM, and everyone is trying their hand at it. 20/20 recently did a retrospective on how marriages were saved by 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Couples started trying kink in the bedroom and it brought back all the heat, and made everyone pregnant. That's right, there's apparently a new baby boom looming and we have one person to thank for that; E. L. James, who took Twilight fanfiction and not only made it the highest selling book of all time, but generated a serious pop-culture fad that looks like it's going to stick around for a while...again, no pun intended. 
Sexual trends have always carried significant weight in pop-culture, but then usually receded back into the norm, or what E. L. James describes as 'vanilla sex'; you know that boring kind of sex where you're in missionary just staring at each other, wondering if you want pasta or chicken for dinner, looking at the dog and mutually rolling your eyes, and counting down the seconds before you can start faking an orgasm. Kink has been around forever and the day. When I was 20, I went to the Red Vic in the Haight district in San Francisco to watch a series called The Good Old Naughty Days
This retrospective even has its own wikipedia page check it out.

It was 10 or so 'blue films'. For those of you not in the know, a 'blue film' is what people used to call pornography, they also called them 'stag films'. Anyway these films were probably dirtier than anything I've seen with starring Sasha Grey these days. They had to do with things like nuns, plates, people on leashes, and so on and so forth. Did I mention these films were from 1895 - 1911? I didn't? Well that's rather important. People were basically making pornographic films for as long as people had been making films. That's right, while the Georges Méliès was shooting A Trip to the Moon (1902), there were people shooting two women dressed as nuns licking each others nipples. 

A still from one of the films in The Good Old Naughty Days series. These films were initially intended to be seen in French brothels as costumers waited for their prostitutes to get ready.
Kink kind of stayed in the background as American culture grew more mundane and compliant (no more puns intended!), but had a huge resurgence with the influx of fetish magazines in the 40's and Bettie Page who reinvented fetish culture particularly accessory fetishes like leather boots, lace-ups, stilettos, dark make-up, fishnet stalkings, and vinyl underwear. 

Bettie Page in Teaser Girl in High Heels (1950) a cult short wearing her now infamous fetish gear.
In the 60's, the big thing was wife-swapping and orgies. Films were made about that as well such as Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969) starring Elliot Gould (I know, gross), Natalie Wood, and Diane Cannon. And now, it just so happens that the new fad in sex is to be tied down to a four-box bed and being whipped within an inch of your life...and liking it.
All Hollywood has to do now is catch up. Compliance (2012) is a gritty independent drama about sexual innocence lost through senseless and reckless violence, but with casting of Christian Grey being the hottest topic of conversation on the interwebs, and directors like Cronenberg still working with those themes, this might be the sex fad that's here to stay.
Cronenberg, who was always at the vanguard of strange sex, (which by the way is also the name of a hotly rated TV show at the moment), has released two films in the last two years about that very topic. One about spank-happy Sabina Spielrein, a pupil and sexual partner of Carl Jung, played immeasurably badly by Kiera Knightly - A Dangerous Method (2011). The other is the highly anticipated Cosmopolis (2012) about a billionaire playboy who has a lot of kinky sex in his limo while the world destroys itself around him, starring Robert Pattinson, the influence for the character of Christian Grey in the E. L. James series. How appropriate. 

Still from Cronenberg's Cosmopolis (2012) which could be directly out of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' as far as I'm concerned. Robert Pattinson with Sarah Gadon, two people that could not be better cast as Christian and Anastasia respectively.
No longer is BDSM something only porn producers have to worry about. It's taken over basically all media outlets. From television to films, to the ads in Vogue to literature. If you're still thinking about writing the great American novel or re-booting the tale of Snow-White, maybe it's time to turn off the life-support and get with the times. The general consensus seems to be: Tie me up, America.

Below, some videos on the subject.

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