Zoe Trope reviews episodes 1 & 2 of Showtime’s new series “Submission”.
The general consensus from the kink community is that the 50 Shades series and its ripple effect on mainstream media is a very very bad thing. As a lifelong kinkster, I don’t share the same pitchfork mentality. After all, if anything makes it okay to discuss spreader bars and nipple clamps at brunch with my vanilla girlfriends, I’m all for it.
When Showtime announced a new BDSM series, I was excited to see that Jacky St. James was the writer and director behind it. Scenes from her two Emma Marx films contribute to my classier kinky fantasies. Plus, the teaser trailer that debuted a few weeks ago showed a glimpse of a similar aesthetic that really struck my fancy.
The way the series is marketed made me think that this was going to be an erotic thriller series in the same vein as The Affair which I have to admit I’ve masturbated to on several occasions. But it’s not. Once I realized that Submission was going to be an after-hours erotica series, I reset my expectations and enjoyed the show.
Episode 1 is titled “Slave” and it starts off with close-ups of sensation play and orgasm control. Just as it’s getting really hot, we cut to the blank stare of vanilla sex. We meet the main character Ashley (Ashlynn Yennie) whose sex life has obviously plateaued. And that’s how the origin story begins. Her story will be relevant to those who are motivated to explore kink as an fun detour from vanilla. For the rest of us, we never sought out kink, it found us.
Vanilla Ashley’s origin story is centered around an erotic novel. Sound vaguely familiar? The book also shares its title with the episode. “Slave” is ultimately what’s going to introduce Vanilla Ashley to kink. That and her foil on the show, Dylan the promiscuous roommate played by porn star / Spiegler girl, Skin Diamond. Don’t get excited, her talent is wasted here. The only redeeming part of this episode is the end when we finally get a glimpse of the dungeon from the first shots of the episode. This time, it’s nothing sensual. Dylan is standing with arms bound to a chain hanging from the ceiling. The paddle is her punishment and she counts off each smack of the paddle. Counting is something every submissive needs to be used to. The numbers are soothing and they take my breath away.
We know little of the dynamic between Dylan and her nameless Dom. What are their protocols? How is he addressed? We can speculate that her assignment was to bring a girl to his dungeon. How was this negotiated? Does he know how hard it is to find a kinky unicorn? But we have to sit through another episode or more to get our answers. Why isn’t this series on Netflix so I can binge and review all the BDSM scenes at once?
-Vanilla Ashley is going to have a terrible time with BDSM if she can’t even communicate to her partner that she can’t come from just penetration.
-Is Dylan supposed to be in a “wait” or “attention” position in the scene right before her punishment? Seems like a lazy attempt to portray submissive poses and positions.
-Also, when did submissives start wearing protective gloves while being bound to the ceiling?
-Obvi, submission isn’t limited to female subs and male Doms. I have a feeling the inverse will not be explored in this series.
Episode 2 is titled “Control” which is the ultimate common denominator in BDSM. You can’t have bondage without control, discipline without control, Dominance/submission without control, sadomasochism without control…you get the idea.
We see the characters from the erotic novel again. Slave Maura is ordered by her Master to turn away from him and lay down face up. His movements, exhale, and words are slow and calculated.
“Turn around. Don’t look at me.”
It’s always the first set of instructions that create such a sense of relief. He proceeds to tie her wrists to the table leg. There’s an innate predicament with being restrained. Your instinct is to break free, but it’s really the moment when you finally relax that you feel the most free. Whether it’s velcro, rope, or even chains for the ambitious, they all disintegrate and you realize there’s nothing holding you back except pure submissive willpower. The voiceover explains it beautifully…
“Should the ropes he used to tie me down suddenly break, I would not have moved. I was enslaved to him and it was neither rope or cuff or belt that kept me there. It was my unwavering need to feel his breath against my bare skin.”
The rest of the episode dives into a very interesting discussion of vanilla POVs on the kink world which is sandwiched in between a few skippable soft genre sex scenes. We meet the book club participants including our kink connoisseur Dylan, who is rocking her steel collar, and Vanilla Ashley. Naturally, the vocal ones of the group immediately associate BDSM with abuse and nobody corrects the misinformed with what it means to consent. In fact the entire series has avoided any discussion related to consent.
The book club discussion takes a turn towards misogyny when one woman boldly claims that women cannot desire submission to a man. Statements like that are deeply misogynistic whether it comes from a man or a woman. It’s contempt and it creates shame. When another woman shares her threesome fantasy involving two men, she is called delusional. Well I’d rather be delusional than suppress my true desires.
By the end of the episode, we return to the dungeon. This time, our kink connoisseur Dylan has brought another girl to the dungeon. She is blindfolded and restrained with a leather sleeve that hooks into the spreader chair. There are a few shots of her struggling alone. The way the camera moves turns the viewer into a voyeur, witnessing her loss of control. She’s like a prey that Dylan has captured for her Dom. He could look a little more pleased. Doms are capable of smiling. But we have to wait until next episode to see if he is pleased.
-A comment on rope safety aka don’t do this at home! I watched the first scene several times and still couldn’t tell how the tie was done or if it was done at all. I get nervous when wrists are tied in a way that looks like damage could potentially be done, namely putting pressure on the nerves around the wrists. It’s important to be aware of basic rope safety both as a top and as a bottom. Crash Restraint has an excellent guide on this.
-We get a quick reference to a scene in the novel that involves a slave being hit with a riding crop while wearing a gag bit. These props are obviously borrowed from equestrianism. After all, crops and horse bits are used for control in a sport where one handler is literally taming an animal. So yes, it’s animalistic but that’s also why it makes it so hot.
-We also see a quick glimpse of a collared slave on a leash. The collar and lead is perhaps the most symbolic of D/s and M/s relationships and I really wish they’ll dive into this more.
Zoey Trope is an LA-based kinkster and writer perving on the internet since AOL chat room days and has been drifting down the rabbit hole since. You can find more personal stories about sex, love, and BDSM here. Follow Zoey on Twitter for her most intimate current thoughts.