Black Mirror – A Negative BDSM Portrayal? Sound Off!

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I’m a huge Netflix buff. I binge watch series after series on a regular basis. Black Mirror on Netflix has been one of my favorite guilty pleasures from season 1. They released a new season recently and I binge watched all the episodes in one day, but one episode in particular caught my eye. It was the Black Museum episode.

Without spoiling anything about the entire episode itself, I really just wanted to touch on the BDSM and pain element that was presented in this episode. But first, let me provide a brief description of what happened before getting to the portrayal of pain and BDSM.

**** POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD

A doctor is using an implanted device that helps him feel the pain of others, thus allowing him to properly diagnosis and heal them. He also uses the device to have sex with his girlfriend to feel her pleasure, as well as his own. Sounds great, right?

However, a patient passes away while he is connected to them thus switching his brain to view pain as pleasure. He can no longer feel any pleasure unless the person he is attached to is feeling pain. Do you see where this is going now?

The scene in question was one in which the doctor starts to get intimate with his girlfriend. Since he no longer can experience pleasure for pleasure’s sake, he must inflict pain on her in order to feel pleasure for himself. Cut to a scene in the bedroom where the great doctor is spanking his wife from behind, her grunting and gritting her teeth. She is clearly NOT enjoying this. He becomes more and more aggressive until she yells, “Okay, okay! Safe Word, Stop!”

He becomes agitated with her because she has stopped his pleasure. She had consented to trying this rougher sex, hair pulling, choking and butt slapping but it was all too much for her and she was not into it at all. He asks her to stay and apologizes to her but then negates his apology by beginning to hurt her again, at which point, she leaves for good. The episode gets more absurd when it comes to the doctor and his growing relationship (nay, obsession) with pain, but I’ll stop with just this scene.

I find it interesting to draw attention to movies, shows and images of BDSM in the mainstream media. For many folks, this is the only contact they have with the lifestyle. For others, this may be the very thing that ignites their passion for getting into BDSM or exploring some of these kinks that they found arousing.

In my opinion, this portrayal seems awfully negative, but perhaps it isn’t tied to BDSM at all due to the nature of the episode. Maybe this pain and BDSM aspect is completely unnoticed by many viewers and it’s simply tied to psychotic behavior of the doctor. Or, is BDSM getting painted with a very ugly evil brush here?

With the emergence of the 50 Shades of Grey series being released each year in theaters and even the movie Gerald’s Game on Netflix late last year, we are starting to see more BDSM in the mainstream. It begs the question: How is BDSM being portrayed?

We would love to hear your thoughts and responses in the comments below.

 

FUN FACT: This portion of the episode is taken from a short story by Penn Jillete (of the Famous Penn & Teller Magicians in Vegas) called “The Pain Addict”.  According to Wikipedia, “Jillette came up with “The Pain Addict” from this experience, where there would be technology that allowed a doctor to understand what pain a person was suffering, but, as described by Jillett, this guy gets addicted to it and starts beating people to feel their pain. He also goes through S&M and all he wants to do is jack into Jesus on the cross. He wants to feel that pain.” Apparently this story was rejected for being too dark, but perfect for an episode of Black Mirror. If you know anything about the show, you’d see how correct that statement is.

 

Comments

  1. I saw this episode and thought it was a poor representation of BDSM. The characters don’t really listen to each other and really don’t know what they want. They seem to not think through their actions and say one thing and do another.
    They also seem to not have their partner’s best interest in mind, especially the Doctor. No one should ever not listen to a safeword like he did in the scene you are describing!

  2. waxplayer101 says:

    Yes I agree. The episode really did not do the Kink community justice. It went against so much of what we stand for.

  3. Thanks sindy_monroe! Bless your heart, I hope it warms up soon or at least stops snowing!xo,Kellyann

  4. Juliette van der Molen says:

    I don’t know how this is a representation of BDSM. The fact that it included BDSM practice does not make it a representational agenda. We see vanilla sex/relationships all the time in films and movies that is derogatory in nature, selfish and violent. It doesn’t feel like the narrative was that BDSM is a practice of psychotic people. It seems to me that the narrative was about a character with a particular problem (the ability not to feel pleasure unless it’s harmful to others) and how he made selfish choices in pursuit of that pleasure. Perhaps this is just a sign that BDSM practices are going to be treated the same way that vanilla sex practices are in movies and films. Some people use their predilections in a positive way, others in negative ways. Characters are nasty beasts, sometimes.

    If the narrative had been: we’re going to negotiate a consensual BDSM scene and then he violated safe word as a way of showing ‘this is the way it should be/is in the community’, well then that feels like a different story.

    The problem with perception really isn’t with movies/films/books/tv… it’s the problem of people confusing fiction and fantasy with reality.

    I enjoyed your article and it certainly gives us a lot to think about!

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