copyright 2005 by Pat Powers
In a way, I think commercial bondage films and vanilla XXX films treat sex with a certain respect that it doesn't get in mainstream films. Vanilla XXX films respect the fact that sex involves genitals. They don't try to conceal the fact that at heart it is two people linked together by their genitals and various orifices, sweating and writhing and operating on instinct rather than some artificial conceit of what sex OUGHT to be like, moving in ways that aren't necessarily poetic or aesthetically appealing. It's sex, dammit! It is what it is! Sweat, body fluids, strained faces, sprawled limbs, pink orifices, back and forth, in and out.
(It would be about cocks driving into the pussies of helplessly writhing women, too, except for that censorship thing.)
Vanilla porn HONORS its subject matter by dealing realistically with sexual behavior and imagery, not covering it with the cinematic equivalent of a few layers of gauze, as is the case with Skinamax films, and not covering it with the cinematic equivalent of 10,000 layers of gauze, as mainstream movies tend to, or concealing it entirely as television tends to.
As I've pointed out, commercial bondage imagery honors its subject matter as well (within the constraints created by American censorship) but the mainstream treats bondage imagery in a manner that's not just dissembling, but downright strange.
There is -- or once was -- a Skinamax equivalent of the "few layers of gauze" treatment of sexual bondage. It consisted of having the bondagee lying on a bed naked on her back, her wrists tied to the headboard via silk scarves or rope, and otherwise unsecured (except that she was often blindfolded). The male lead would caress her and she'd writhe picturesquely, and that would be it.
But as documented in our Table of Horribleness and its accompanying article, Skinamax scenes have pretty much dropped sexual bondage imagery involving women. (Tied up men are, for whatever reason, quite common in Skinamax films nowadays.)
Most of the juice that's going on in terms of bondage imagery in the movies is in mainstream films and indie films, not Skinamax films. "Birthday Girl," "Secretary," and "Killing Me Softly" are all proof that there's something in the air out there in Hollywood in regard to sexual bondage imagery, and we're not complaining.
But even they don't treat sexual bondage imagery honestly. I mean, the reason Nicole Kidman let the male lead in Birthday Girl tie her hands to the headboard while she lay there naked was so he could climb on top of her and screw her brains out while she was tied up like that. But you were never gonna see anything like that.
What's more, given that the male lead in "Birthday Girl" was enough into bondage that he had a collection of bondage mags with titles like "Hogtied Bitches," and given that Kidman's character was desperate/sophisticated/degenerate enough to see these commercial bondage images and then go ahead and do what's necessary to seal the deal with the male lead sexually -- well, I think you've established more than ample precedent for the two of them participating in sexual bondage that's considerably more wild than what we got.
Because "Birthday Girl" wasn't able to deal with the sexual bondage relationship that was at the core of its story, it opted instead for a dull copsnrobbers story.
That's indicative of the way in which the movies just don't respect sex and sexuality.
TV is even worse. It can't portray or deal with sexual bondage themes and imagery outside the sniggering priggishness characteristic of the very young. (I don't mean to insult the very young here -- they have an excuse for sniggering priggishness about sex, being young and all.)
If there's any redeeming characteristic to porn, that's what it is -- as shallow and dim as porn is, it deals directly with sex, and male fantasies of sex, in a way that no other genre does, or, apparently, can.
Says a lot about our culture that we can't deal with male sex fantasies any better than that.
I won't even get into female sex fantasies, because I've never had one, though I'm sure I've been the object of many. ;>