The representation of kink in the media is being strangled without its consent and someone must give it breath. From Dominatrices bound to dungeons in PVC boots, and submissives being yelled at by their unforgiving masters, kinksters within the rainbow remain portrayed as nothing more than cosplay characters.
Recently, there have been several attempts at representing BDSM and kink in film and television. For the purpose of focusing on the LGBTQ community, let us erase the Fifty Shades debacle from our tainted memories. Speaking of lesbian kink and BDSM in the media, it is unfortunate that such stories often fall short of expectation. Peter Strickland's Duke of Burgundy left Dominants and submissives craving to feel. By presenting a vapid relationship constructed solely on fetishism, the emotional, tender side of a D/s dynamic was lost. In an episode of The L Word, Jenny, in the midst of a crisis, visits a dungeon to escape one of her torments. In the end, she cannot go through with it, and the Domme seems unfazed. Again, a superficial interaction.
One exemplary piece of art is Angela Robinson's Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. The film is a carefully crafted window into the lives of a throuple that engages in kink, D/s, fetishism, and more. All while sustaining the emotional connection and deep bond of a relationship that thrives with all its kinks.
Presently, there are few kinky shows that exist. Regrettably, they give in to representing kinksters as victims of abuse (e.g. Bonding on Netflix). Now, there is nothing wrong with survivors of abuse reclaiming their power by using healthy sexual practices. However, it is problematic if every instance of kink illustrated in the media stems from abuse, especially one that focuses on "daddy" as the formative figure in the Domme/sub's sex life. Depicting female sexual desire as the product of male negligence is especially insulting to lesbians who exercise bodily autonomy. For crying out loud: we want to smash the patriarchy, not bring it into the bedroom.
Recluse Films has taken a stab at a more accurate and human representation of D/s with Road of Bygones, my film that's now on VOD and coming soon to Amazon. Road of Bygones follows a lesbian couple past the honeymoon stage. We witness their fetish play, but it is not exaggerated with costumes and elaborate props. What is necessary to this couple is simple: consent and boundaries. One can argue that such elements are paramount to any relationship, but even more so with BDSM, where the concern is the safety of all parties.
In the film, the submissive (Ally) is a loving young woman who is completely devoted to her Domme (Bobbi). The third party who antagonizes the couple with nagging questions about the validity of their relationship (Sam), ultimately unveils the weaknesses in the Domme's ability to care for her sub. When Bobbi is tempted by a personal narrative, she becomes an irresponsible owner and fails as a Domme. Ally responds by exerting her ultimate power as a submissive and revokes her consent. It is clear that this particular relationship can only live within the boundaries of the submissive, an element of D/s that remains difficult to portray without preaching. It also addresses the responsibility of the Dominant to acknowledge her wrongdoing.
Ally's explanation of why she is a submissive is a refreshing reality, distant from the narrative that her desires come from wanting to escape abuse. In fact, what she does wish to escape are "the rules that everyone else lives by." The film does not strive to portray every D/s relationship that exists. Rather, it gives a fresh take to a subject that is taboo because it lacks visibility. Different things continue to be feared by those clinging to the heteronormative standards of sex and sensuality.
As the LGBTQ community continues the fight for equality, it must remember to repel the customs established by patriarchal, heterosexual norms. We can be ourselves, have our kinks, and those ought to be part of the fight for equal treatment. The media has a responsibility to tell such stories with truth and authenticity. Creators of content that challenge the heteronormative idea of what is "healthy" must be careful not to give in to stereotypes; to not sell ourselves out and not force so many of us back into a darker closet.
Currently, kinksters in the lesbian and bisexual community are being labeled perverts by members of our own safe haven. As we move on and learn from one another, as more "taboo" stories are brought to our attention for our consideration, we must be careful not to adopt the shaming qualities of the institution we seek to escape. The diversity of our community ought to be celebrated with pride, like the history of our triumphs.
Astrid Ovalles is an out Latina writer, filmmaker and actress, whose award-winning kinky dark comedic feature-length drama, Road of Bygones, is set to be released on Amazon on March 15.