HomeOur ObsessionsAll the times BDSM lifestyles were vanillawashed by Hollywood

All the times BDSM lifestyles were vanillawashed by Hollywood

It’s no surprise Hollywood's bar is low when it comes to sexual fetishes. Most portrayals of BDSM are vanillawashed – but not all. Here's our roundup.

All the times BDSM lifestyles were vanillawashed by Hollywood

Hollywood has a hard time portraying “normal” sex on the big screen (just watch any classic rom-com and you’ll see what we mean), so it’s no surprise when it comes to sexual fetishes the bar is seriously low. While there have been several realistic portrayals of the naughtiest niche preferences, most of them never made it to the masses – In the Realm of the Senses, Crash (the kinky sex one, not the traumatic drama one), and Ma Mère, to name a few.

Instead, audiences are made to settle for a whitewashed version of sexual fetishes. It’s the cinematic equivalent of Rihanna singing about whips & chains – it might claim to be “bad”, but really we’re just getting plain ol’ missionary.

Here’s FD’s run down of the films that have destroyed the filthiest, nastiest, and most deviant corners of human sexuality, and the spicy alternatives that offer far kinkier levels of debauch.

 

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in 'Fifty Shades'

The Fifty Shades franchise

Let’s start will the most offensive, shall we? The only thing niche about this film is its unbelievably bad script-writing – it’s so bad, it’s almost admirable. Almost. Critics claimed the book / film series “opened up a Pandora’s box of curiosity into edgier sexual practices”.

In reality, all that’s happened is a hike in home-based injuries among the middle-aged. The show’s representation of BDSM is about as spicy as a jalapeño popper sans jalapeño.

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in 'Secretary'

The alternative: Secretary

Secretary is a far more realistic representation of BDSM. Maggie Gyllenhaal does a much better job at playing a submissive to her dominant employer, E. Edward Grey (James Spader), and what starts off as punishment spanking soon blossoms into a full-blown dom-sub relationship.

Salo

There are certain films that will rattle you to your very core. Salo, a.k.a. 120 Days of Sodom, will do more than just rattle – it will leave you a quivering, emotionally destroyed wreck for weeks on end.

Often regarded as the single most vile, most depraved, most despicable, most infamous, and most controversial film of all time, Salo tells the story of four fascist libertines who round up nine adolescent boys and girls and subject them to 120 days of physical, mental, and sexual torture. In the case of this film, you’ll definitely have to pull out the safe word.

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in 'Ma Mère'

The alternative: Ma Mère

Still vile, depraved, despicable, and controversial, Christophe Honoré’s erotic drama does cross some lines, but if you’re looking for a disturbing film on hedonism, stick with this. It’s fucked up, yes, containing themes on incest and sexual depravity, but it won’t make you want to barricade the doors and take a hiatus from work to recover.

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in '9½ Weeks'

9½ Weeks

In 9½ Weeks, Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke develop a sadomasochistic relationship filled with eroticism & tension. While it’s not as bad as Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s just another example of Hollywood watering down a fetish in an attempt to make it digestible for the masses.

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in 'Crash'

The alternative: Crash

Tackling the always trendy subject of wound-fucking, Crash offers an uncomfortable insight into violent sexual deviance. It might be disturbing, but that’s what makes it so good – fetish isn’t always comfortable.

The BDSM lifestyle depicted in 'Sleeping Beauty'

Sleeping Beauty

You’d think making a boring movie on necrophilia would be a tough feat, but boy did Sleeping Beauty smash it out of the water. The erotic drama starring Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) is such a yawn-fest, it’ll actually turn you into a sleeping beauty. 😴

The alternative: Raw

On the other end of the spectrum, Raw is a genre-bending attack of the senses. Combining cannibalism with coming-of-age, the story provides a hyperbolized representation of teenage experimentation, and while it’s rich in grotesque imagery, there’s more to Raw than just meat and bone. Cannibalism serves as a metaphor for Justine’s sexual awakening, her desires for the flesh both in lust and palate.

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Daisy Webb is an outspoken, opinionated writer with a passion for all things horror and cult comedy. When she's not watching films, she likes listening to music, cooking too much food, and writing short stories with unhappy endings.

daisyp@filmdaily.co