Orion slavegirls, the Star Trek take on slave girls. Not all that great: half to one-third naked, unappetizing green skin and the bitch on the right who's grabbing at the guy (sexually aggressive, good) totally stole her outfit from Slavegirl Leia of Star Wars. (See Politically Sexy.)
We also have a visual guide to slavegirls in the movies. Click here and see what it's all about.
I am writing this article as a service to sword and sandal filmmakers (also sword and sorcery filmmakers -- the same principles with regard to slavegirl appearances apply in both). The article will answer the question: "What should a slavegirl look like in a sword and sandal film?" *While there isn't a perfect answer to this question, there are principles that can guide filmmakers to MUCH better answers than have been put forth in the past.
Our first principle is this: sword and sorcery filmmakers are not making historical epics. The goal of sword and sorcery epics is to provide entertaining stories about hot, muscular, heroic barbarians and the people they associate with, not document the past. We will focus on how the slavegirl can contribute to this goal, particularly in the matter of appearance.
Here's a barbarian beauty from an Italian sword and sandal epic called "Invincible Barbarian." If she looks a little funny around the elbows, it's because I had to graft two vidcaps together to get a full body shot of her. She's a great example of what a slavegirl should look like (though she is in fact just a captive, I believe). She's naked, but not dowdy -- her hair looks great, her skin does too, she's artfully made up. She's wearing a nice bit of barbaric ornamentation in terms of the armlet on her upper arm.
She really SHOULD be wearing some barbaric bondage gear as well, but at least she is tied up. Unfortunately, she's tied hands in front. And look where she's chosen to put her hands. If her hands were tied behind her back, there wouldn't be any of THAT nonsense!
Which brings up to our next principle: Sexy cheese ("cheese" being elements that directly reward viewers for watching a film: see Buck Rogers and the Planet of the Slavegirls: Search for the Cheese for a full explanation) is an important element of any sword and sandal film. (All those hot bodies sweating in the firelight, or looking tanned in the daylight, etc.)
I do not see how any reasonable person who has watched many sword and sandal flicks can disagree with either of these premises. With regard to historical verisimilitude, even films like "Gladiator" and "The Fall of the Roman Empire" were VERY loosely based on historical reality, and the bulk of sword and sandal movies are films like "Conan the Barbarian," "Hercules Against the Moon Men" and of course my favorite, "Deathstalker" all of which pretty much create their own version of history mostly from scratch. If there was ANYTHING they didn't like about the history their stories were based on, they were happy to change it, or to make up their own world.
A bit of sexy cheese from "Deathstalker" -- a slavegirl butt from an orgy scene.
Second, just LOOKING at most sword and sandal flicks will show that they are FULL of sexy cheese. Plenty of half naked men and women traipsing around in most of them. There are quite a few characters in such films wearing full length togas, but they tend to be older characters, senators, Greek gods and such like. And of course, the 50s missed all sorts of cheese because the Hayes Code forbade all but the mildest flavors of sexy cheese, especially where women are concerned. The guys got to parade around in leather diapers but the women had to wear stuff that would be considered overdressing at your average beach of the time.
We will stipulate that slavegirls provide a very easy and natural way to crank up the hottitude in any sword and sandal film, and therefore should be used for that purpose whenever possible. We will demonstrate this with a really detailed examination of its potential.
We are not claiming that sexy cheese will guarantee a successful sword and sandal film. Without a good action and adventure story even the most attractive, most naked cast will make for a dull movie (see: almost all Skinamax films). The topic of this article is not plotting or characterization. (Though we will briefly address the matter of plotting to the extent that we will show how slavegirl imagery can crank up the hottitude in a sword and sandal film without slowing up the plot.)
We are focusing entirely on how to handle the slavegirl aspect of the sexy cheese in sword and sorcery movies.) We do propose that it's an important and useful element of any sword and sandal film.
To achieve a look that cranks up the hottitude in a film, we propose that slavegirls should wear very little clothing. They should be very skimpily clad or naked, depending on the rating you seek to achieve in the film and sort of scene that is being shot.
It's important for sword and sandal filmmakers not to underestimate the latitude they have in this respect. Slave Leia, for example, appeared half naked and in chains throughout her two minutes of film history in Star Wars VI, and she is a PG-rated slavegirl. Suitable for the whole family. There is MUCH more latitude in the PG-rated category of films than most filmmakers take advantage of.
Here's Slave Leia in all her half-naked, wearing bondage gear glory, with barbaric ornamentation thrown in. A thoroughly PG rated slavegirl, yet probably the most powerful slavegirl image in US culture right now.
There is a great deal more latitude in R-rated films than in the PG-rated films, of course, and the pity is that most sword and sandal filmmakers who have made R-rated films don't even bother to make their slavegirls as sexy, skimpily-clad or bondage-y as Slave Leia in all her PG glory. And that's just sad.
We propose that slavegirls should look like slavegirls. They should not look like other characters in the movie, they should be instantly identifiable as being in bondage. Slavegirls are by their very nature sexy: they must perform sexually for any man who desires them (in accordance with the sexy slavegirl fantasy -- we understood that in reality this was true in some cultures and untrue in others).
Having slavegirls appear like any other character in the film lowers the level of hottitude in film, an undesirable thing. You want viewers to look at them and immediately know they are slavegirls, thus cranking up their hottitude.
Let's look at how a slavegirl in an R-rated should be dressed.
The best way to identify a half-naked slavegirl from a half-naked free woman is to have the slavegirl appear in bondage gear. A collar with a short chain dangling from its ring a la Slave Leia. Wrist cuffs with rings, ankle cuffs with rings, a leather belt around the waist with rings. Most of all, a gag.
Best is not to have her wear just some of this gear. The best practice is to have her wear ALL of it. Here's why:
This gear not only makes the slavegirl's status readily apparent, it also powerfully reinforces the depths of her bondage. She is forced to wear gear that is designed to make tying or chaining her up in a variety of ways at a moment's notice very easy. She cannot remove these items, they are locked in place.
At any moment her owner may say "hands behind" and in a matter of two or three seconds her hands are secured behind her back, and they will remain thus secured until her owner releases her. If her owner should then tie her collar to anything, she is stuck where she is tied until released.
All of this bondage gear also means that she probably gets tied up a lot (we'll expand on this theme later).
Really nice bondage gear that would look great in any sword and sandal movie because it's all leather and metal. Collar, leather thong, leather cuffs secured in back via a metal ring that could also be slipped around the strap that runs from her collar to her thong ... nice. But not complete.
You can buy this bit of leather goodness from Wicked Temptations. (It's on page 7 of the leather section.) Wicked Temptations advertises this leather collar and wrist set on Amazon.com but Amazon won't accept ad clicks from bondagerotica because WE'RE too raunchy. You tell me if someone isn't being hypocritical.
The gag is especially powerful because it symbolize that she is a person whose opinion no one cares about. Sort of like an administrative assistant in modern times.
An R-rated slavegirl should be stark naked, topless or wearing some variant of pasties. If topless, she should be wearing a skimpy thong, and by skimpy I mean nothing but string on the sides and back and one of those tiny little front pouches that absolutely require total removal of all pubic hair in order to be worn. We're talking Wicked Weasel here. It can be made of fine silk, cloth, leather or metal. But it should be tiny.
An example of Wicked Weasel's approach to bikinis, the micro snakeskin. A slavegirl could wear this and not be naked. But she'd still LOOK naked. That's the genius of modern swimsuit design. If you're going to make a character be a hot slavegirl, have her instantly identifiable as one.
Click on this link to see more of Wicked Weasel's work.
While slavegirls are clad in bondage gears and thongs, they should NEVER be allowed to look dowdy -- you know, filthy, dirt for makeup, hair all ratty, dressed in rags that do nothing to emphasize their figures -- as so many filmmakers have done since the 70s.
I understand why filmmakers dowdied up their slaves in those days, though I disagree with their reasoning. The dowdying was a rejection of the prior fashion in sword and sandal films during the 50s and 60s, when all the women wore togas or those "harem" outfits that completely concealed the figure. The filmmakers felt that the dowdy look was more realistic and conveyed barbarism more powerfully, and they are right on both counts.
But sword and sandal flicks are not historical documentaries, and both togas and the dowdy look do NOTHING for a slavegirl's appearance, which is why they both fail. There's PLENTY of room in the barbaric look for hottitude, the smart thing to do is take advantage of it.
If audience members WANTED to see miserable women dressed in rags and doing menial work, they could visit a cubicle farm at any time and see the real thing.
Because of this, slavegirls are excellent opportunities for eye candy in any sword and sandal film, no matter how small or large their role. They should be carefully made up, their bodies sleek and where appropriate, tanned. They should be wearing barbaric ornamentation that sets off their beauty. Earrings, necklaces (along with the collars) armbands, waist chains (either thick ones as bondage gear or decorative thin ones) slave footgear, slave rings, etc.
And if your rating permits, nipple rings and labia jewelry work.
(Labia jewelry SOUNDS like it might be beyond the pale, even for an R-rated film. That would have been true a few years ago, but I have noticed more and more images of women's shaved genitals on premium cable channels like HBO and Cinemax. They used to be glimpsed in brief flashes of Cinemax films, real blink and you miss it stuff, but a couple of years ago I noticed they were starting to show them in nice, seconds-long ogles. And recently I saw a woman on a Cinemax film called "Alien Sex Files 3" doing what can only be described as a "pussy dance" in which she dances nicely for two or three minutes, displaying her shaven pussy frequently.
Clip from "Alien Sex Files 3" a little something I call "The Pussy Dance," and for very good reason, as the woman's pussy in on display a lot during it. This is from an R-rated cable movie. There is much more explicit stuff out there on cable movies -- Katie Morgan's Porn series on HBO has her standing naked and shaven throughout each episode, and there ARE a few closeups of vaginas in that one. And if they can show labia, they ought to be able to show labia jewelry.
The new rule seems to be that you can display labia openly in R-rated films but you can't do any close-ups -- all the shots I've seen were medium range at best, showing considerable portions of the rest of the woman's body. And my point is, if you can display labia, you can probably display labia jewelry, so long as you don't do a close-up. And a slavegirl chained at a post with bright jewelry bits dangling from her crotch would get most viewer's eyes open.)
I've saved the most important apparent item for last -- gags. The thing about gags is, they instantly and powerfully establish the identity of a slavegirl or captive as such. A gagged person is a person whose opinion on any topic -- most especially, on the topic of being gagged -- counts for nothing. No one cares to hear a word she has to say about anything -- that's why she's gagged.
And of course, the gag's location on the face is what makes it so visually powerful -- especially in close-ups. (Just make sure your actress has big, beautiful eyes that are beautifully made up.) But even in medium shots and crowd shots gags can still be a very powerful visual sign of servitude, as was demonstrated in the "Flying Lessons" episode of Cleopatra 2525, which I believe is the only TV show to use gags to signify slavery. (Gags were also used to signify slavery in the SciFi Channel original movie "Alien Apocalypse," very successfully as well.)
In the casino scene from the "Fear of Flying" episode of Cleopatra 2525, many slavegirls in the background sport hoods and gags. And collars. And leashes. And blinders. You know damn well they're slavegirls. In the foreground, star Jennifer Sky.
Nothing signifies helplessness, vulnerability and general slavegirlhood better than the sight of bonds AND gags, especially on a naked or nearly naked body.
Renee O'Conner, looking slavish as she's gagged and put in a massive set of stocks in "Alien Apocalypse." Now if only they had removed that astronaut flight suit she's wearing ...
The widespread use of gags for slaves also signifies that the society being portrayed is a very different one from ours, probably a much more barbaric one. Which has to work well for a sword and sandal flick.
Sadly, other than the TV show and the SciFi Channel movie I've cited, no one seems to have thought of using gags to signify slavery.
Having dealt with the clothing (none or very little) and bondage gear (lots) issues, let's move on to the place where filmmakers have failed most often and most egregiously with regard to slavegirls (which is saying a lot) the matter of how they are displayed onscreen.
Most of the time when you see slavegirls in sword and sandal movies, i.e., out in public or serving as an attendant in a private home, they're totally unbound, moving around doing their chores or standing around attentively waiting to be commanded. They're dressed, as we've already noted, either like everyone else or in shapeless rags.
This is probably a reasonable assumption about the way slaves really behaved, but so what? Once again: we are making a sword and sandal movie, not a documentary. The key point isn't how they really behaved, but how their appearance and behavior contribute to your goals in creating an entertaining sword and sandal movie.
The hottest way to display a slavegirl is to display her naked, bound, and having sex, or even hotter, naked, bound, gagged and having sex.
The least hot way to display a slavegirl is dressed like anyone else or in dowdy rags, wandering around in a crowd, doing chores or otherwise doing the same sorts of things free people do. Any sword and sandal filmmaker will of course want to avoid this, all other things being equal.
When seen in public, slaves should be as much as possible naked and bound. For example in Son of Sinbad we see a group of women who are clearly identifiable as slavegirls because they are all bound in coffle by chains attached to the thick leather belts they wear. The slavegirls are seen for a moment or tow walking down the street, then they are seen for several seconds, still bound, as they are auctioned.
Unfortunately, they are all fully clothed as they are auctioned, but hey, it was the 1950s and the Hayes Code was in full force when the film was made. Nakedness did not exist in those days in US cinema, that was something only foreigners did.
Mostly clothed slavegirls are auctioned in "Son of Sinbad." At least they're chained in coffle via those black leather belts around their waists. Typical of the 50s, when they were shy about nudity but fairly bold about bondage.
But at least they were in bondage and hence instantly recognizable as captives or slavegirls, something you can't say about many of the slavegirls of sword and sandal flicks made in the 1980s and onward.
A properly hotted-up version of the scene in Son of Sinbad might have the slavegirls chained in coffle, but the chains would be attached to big metal collars around their necks, and their hands would be chained or tied behind their backs. They'd also be gagged, but the gags wouldn't be plain leather strips but decorative gags like the one seen in Taur the Mighty Hunter, or The Barbarians.
Instead of being clothed from head to foot, they would be stark naked or wearing skimpy thong bottoms, but they would also be beautifully made up and wearing barbaric jewelry and ornamentation. And the camera would give them a good long ogle in the walking through the market scene, and much more ogling during the slave auction scene.
The slavegirls would not be disinterested in what's going around them. Any of the men around them might buy them at the auction. They would be casting speculative eyes on all the men around them, and very likely casting smoky looks over their gags at the hot, hunky guys that are the typically the leads in sword and sandal movies.
I can't stress this point enough -- to a slavegirl, whoever buys her at her auction will determine her future quality of life. She might be bought by a fat old merchant as his sex slave, having to kiss suck and fondle his repulsive body all night, only to get beaten the next morning for doing so (even though she has no choice in the matter) by his jealous wife. She might be bought by an entrepreneur who will send her out on the streets naked each afternoon with her hands cuffed behind her back and a coin box hanging from her collar, knowing that the only way for her to get coins is to sexually serve men for them, and that she will be beaten if there are not enough coins in the box when she returns home in the early morning hours. Or she might be bought by a large mill owner, worked to exhaustion each day in the fields or at the loom, then given to productive male slaves in the evening as a reward. (Kind of like your modern wife, when you think about it.)
With so many outcomes that wildly vary in how well she will like them, you can bet that experienced slavegirls will be keeping an eye out for men whom she might prefer to be owned by, and if she spots one, she'll really strut her stuff for him and will toss him "come hither" looks as well. She doesn't have any choice about being owned, or about who owns her, really, but still she can try to increase her chances of being owned by someone she'd find relatively endurable.
The Gor movies got the auction scenes closer to right than any live action film ever did. Note the slaves are mostly naked and chained. But they still don't "market" themselves to the audience the way an experienced slavegirl would.
The slavegirls can thus be involved in the scene and add drama to it.
OK, so we're in the square where the slavegirls are auctioned, but it's not just the auctioned slavegirls who present an opportunity to crank up the hottitude of the scene. Much more common will be slavegirls chained to posts or railings, awaiting their master or mistress' pleasure as they go about their business in town. They, too, will be pretty much naked and gagged, and they'll be eyeing the crowd, though much more surreptitiously than the auctioned slavegirls because they don't want to attract the attention of anyone who might hurt them, such as a wife whose husband spends too much time in the taverns sporting with the slavegirls, or maybe a group of small boys who will throw rocks at her because she's tied down and helpless, and they're, well, small boys.
On the other hand, if she is not happy with her owner, then catching the eye of the right man (or woman) might lead to a purchase offers. So sometimes these slavegirls will crank up the hottitude if they spot someone they'd like to be owned by.
Also, the aforementioned taverns would keep a couple of naked or scantily clad slavegirls chained outside their doors, their job to entice people to come into the tavern to sample other slavegirls, along with wine and such.
There would probably be a few coin box girls working the square, propositioning men as boldly as they can, calling out to them, rubbing up against them, kissing their bodies and such to get them interested enough to spend a coin on them.
A coin box girl, naked and chained at wrists and ankles, working the crowd on the dance floor at Dragoncon, is startled by the flash and looks back to see who's taking pictures of her begging for sex.
OK, there are no coin box girls at Dragoncon, this illustration is meant to show how powerful such imagery can be even when it's in the background. Sure, that belly dancer has a GREAT figure, but the coin box girl adds an illicit thrill.
There might also be other slavegirls being vended, chained to a wall or in stocks with a bowl on the ground behind them, signifying their use is permitted if a coin is dropped in the bowl. Or you might have slavegirls in stocks being whipped for this and that.
If you were going for an R-rating you might also show slavegirls in use. We might see a coin girl lying on her stomach in the middle of the street earning her coin as a mostly clothed man lies atop her as she writhes helplessly beneath him in the dirt and mud, her body almost completely concealed by his (hence no censorship problems) her cries stifled by the gag she wears.
You might also show her afterward, in the background, struggling to her feet with bound hands and rubbing herself against a wall to remove the dirt and mud, then casting her eyes about the crowd for another man to earn a coin from.
The really nice touch would be to have the protagonists ignoring all this, because they've seen it all hundreds of times before, every time they have ever visited a village or town. It's just business as usual, with the slavegirl being fucked directly in front of a farmer who is selling vegetables in a cloth spread out on the ground. You could do a grounds-eye view of the writhing moaning slavegirl while the booted feet of the protagonists march past her without stopping.
Imagine the protagonists walking past a woman bound on a block like this in a village square, pretty much ignoring her ... but the camera won't. Image courtesy of sponsor Sex and Submission.
Of course, the camera spends a second or ten ogling all the slavegirls, because the audience doesn't see this every day -- that's why they are watching the movie, to see something they don't see every day. Just as TV series that feature T&A will ogle a thong-clad beauty walking by even though she has nothing to do with the plot and the main characters pay little or no attention to her, so the camera should take in the slavegirls in a sword and sorcery flick.
The nice thing about all of this is that it can be done in the background, throughout the movie. These scenes don't have to slow the movie down at all. A few seconds or a minute or two of ogling, depending, and you've made your point and can move on. However, you can also have naked, bound, sexually molested slavegirls (as appropriate) in many different scenes, as eye candy and as a way of reinforcing how different and barbaric this society is.
In another good bit from the Gor movie, the mostly naked slavegirl in the crowd on the left is watching other slavegirls being auctioned. The action is in the foreground as Talena dukes it out with a guy in a funny hat. The mistake the Gor movie made here was getting a mostly naked babe in the scene and then not ogling her. What were they thinking?
John Norman did this brilliantly in the Gor novels, and most of what I've just written is heavily influenced by my reading of them.
Of course, if you WANT to have a subplot or a main plot about an escaped slavegirl or a captive woman in danger of being enslaved, this kind of background adds greatly to the drama, because viewers will see exactly what could happen to the woman if she is recaptured/enslaved.
Now, there may be dramatic scenes and battle scenes and such in a sword and sandal flick in which a naked or almost naked slavegirls in chains would be distracting. Simple solution -- don't have them in such scenes. You can still use them in other scenes if you want to crank up the hottitude. (If you DON'T want to crank up the hottitude of your sword and sandal film, why are you still reading this article?)
But by now it should be evident that slavegirls should be dressed/undressed/bound/displayed in whatever way cranks up the hottitude to the level you desire for that scene or for your movie, not according to historical reality or some vague memory or notion of how slavegirls are dressed/displayed.
I think most directors of sword and sandal flicks have not really thought this through, judging by how they actually use slavegirls visually. Slavegirls can be characters, but they can also be SCENERY, scenery that can crank up the visual impact of any sword and sandal flick in ways that other scenery just can't match.
I can't guarantee that any sword and sandal film that properly uses the visual power of slavegirl imagery will be a success, or even any good for that matter. Plotting and characterization still rule. But I CAN guarantee that if a sword and sandal film if filled with naked or half naked slavegirls properly displayed, a lot of guys will watch it even if it stinks in other respects, because, well, they're guys, and guys like that stuff.
I can also guarantee that the usual lesbian feminist suspects will wail about the naked slavegirls in your film to the extent they are aware of them, but that won't really be a problem, because they have little or no influence with your target demographic, which is the young-to-middle-aged and the straight (and some lesbians like the bound slavegirls, too, but they won't be the ones doing the wailing).
Will the slavegirl from YOUR film inspire dozens of women to wear her costume (or lack of it) at hundreds of science fiction and fantasy conventions the world over, every year? Think of the marketing!
I would advise you sword and sandal filmmakers to follow the lead of George Lucas. Lucas understood the visual appeal of slavegirls well, sliding his half-naked, collared Slave Leia under the radar of the moral conservatives with the skill of a true master. And it was Lucas himself who was the guide in Slave Leia's costume, according to the wardrobe mistress for Star Wars VI (she confesses that she wanted to go with "Yards of fabric.") A two minute scene from two decades ago that still echoes in mass culture. And if you are making an R-rated film, your opportunities are MUCH greater than Lucas' was with his PG rating. Who knows how powerful your scene might be, or how long it might echo in mass culture?
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