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Wouldn’t it be great if there were mainstream movies and TV that catered to women’s sexual fantasies? Hollywood is still a bucket of KFC chicken about the topics that most interest women (BDSM, hello?), but we’re reading 50 Shades of Grey by the poolside, singing along to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” (and liked it!), and positing important questions like “Why Team Edward or Team Jacob? Why can’t I have both? Threesome, anyone?
Never fear – there is good stuff available. The problem is finding that content without giving yourself nightmares. For example, put “Top ten BDSM films” in your URL line and you’ll see where Criminal Minds got more than one of its episode ideas.
Beyond that, most women don’t want to dive into X-rated film right off to explore their interests. We’re just different when it comes to erotica. It’s not propaganda that our biggest erogenous zone is our mind, and the heart is a close second. We need intelligent, likable characters, compelling emotion, AND hot fantasy sex. Yeah, we’re complicated. My husband tells me that all the time.
So here are ten movies and shows/series to get you started on your journey. These are not exhaustive, of course – they reflect ones I’ve enjoyed for the reasons noted above. Items 1-7 also overlap the edges of mainstream culture, such that a woman can expand her comfort zone, taking things at her own pace. My last several suggestions get closer to the “deep end.” Okay, here we go…
1. Bliss – some of the best “beginner’s” content out there comes from cable channels that have run erotic series like this one. Each episode of Bliss is a short vignette, a great format because it zeros in on the fantasy with little extraneous build up. They explore everything, including female-female, ménage, voyeurism, BDSM and the “surprise encounter” kind of fantasy. My favorite vignette to date is “Tying Up Gerald,” where a woman walks in on her husband with a professional Dominatrix. Once she learns why he does it, she decides to step into those thigh-high boots and see what it’s like to pick up the crop. Did I mention her husband is played by the incredibly sexy Peter Wingfield? (Yes, Methos from the Highlander series, and the man is aging damn well – as in the fervent two-syllable “day-um”.) My close second favorite is “Aural Sex,” where a woman is anonymously sending BDSM fantasies to her boyfriend’s radio show to listen to him read them on the air. Oh, and then there’s the one where the woman seduces her blind piano tuner… you get the drift. Each vignette is character-driven, integrating the woman’s emotional motivations into the physical pleasure. Plus the actors and actresses are talented and attractive, in an interesting versus Photoshop-perfect way.
2. Red Shoe Diaries, the Series –this one’s a little more dated and the later ones became a little too obscure for my tastes, but the first few episodes are excellent. Like “Double Dare,” where a man and woman in high rise offices see one another through the windows of their adjacent buildings and begin a game of “Double Dare,” doing sensual things for one another at the direction of their respective fax machines. The kickoff episode of the series, “Safe Sex” with Joan Severance, was passionate and volatile, with her exploring a variety of fantasies with gorgeous Steven Bauer. Director Zalman King is a master of the small erotic details. Case in point – there’s a scene where Joan is lying on the floor. Steven has taken off his shirt (thank all the gods) and is standing over her. Staring at her intently, he takes one foot and decisively presses it to her calf, making her widen the spread of her legs for him. That one move – and the series itself – grasps the vital truth that a woman’s libido is often triggered by subtle erotic messages, not blatantly pornographic ones. In short, foreplay is as important in our viewing as anywhere else!
3. 9 ½ Weeks – there are many of us in the BDSM community who have problems with this film, but it’s a chronic stumbling block Hollywood has when telling a BDSM story where the woman is the submissive. They feel compelled to twist it into a moralistic tale where BDSM is ultimately deviant, self-destructive behavior for the woman, rather than entertaining the possibility of it resulting in a healthy, pleasurable relationship. However, if you set that aside, this movie has some incredibly erotic scenes, particularly early in the movie. For instance, when John orders Elizabeth to think of him every day at noon, that one pointed command puts her in an agitated sexual state by the proscribed time. As a result, she pleasures herself in front of a montage of artistic video images for our viewing enjoyment. But when he starts doing things that are often considered erotic in a BDSM context (choosing her clothes for her, etc), the movie company lost their courage. I’d love to see the underlying arc of this movie redone the way it should have been, but I still think there’s enough material here for the novice to enjoy.
4. Red Shoe Diaries, the movie – this erotic movie was the backstory for the series mentioned above, and it starred David Duchovny during his X-Files total hotness period. Silence. Seriously, do I really have to say anything more than “an erotic movie with David Duchovny”? It follows his discovery of his lover’s secret desire to have an affair with a total stranger. While I’m not a fan of the cheating storyline, this was well done and poignant, more evidence of Zalman King’s mastery of the erotic genre when he doesn’t go off on philosophical tangents.
5. Fall – this is a beautifully done film, quirky and poetic, where a male taxi driver falls for a female super model. I promise it’s nowhere near as dumb as it sounds. Eric Schaeffer is a great screen writer and charismatic actor (he plays the lead role). They have several kinky encounters that are amazing for how erotic they are, despite being mostly “off screen”. He did a sequel, After Fall, Winter, that is supposed to have more S&M scenes to it, but I’ve not yet had the pleasure.
6. Dangerous Beauty – this movie, starring the lovely Catherine McCormack (from Braveheart) is about Veronica Franco, the 16th century Venice courtesan. The movie explores her rise in that world, so it also offers a variety of sensual scenes, including a very memorable and unexpected encounter between her and King Henry.
7. Secretary – I’m sure you’ve heard of this little gem with Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. The movie explores the Dominant/submissive relationship—granted from a somewhat dysfunctional standpoint—but the BDSM scenes where Maggie is delivering paperwork restrained in a spacer bar, or is spanked over James Spader’s desk are very much in keeping with a lot of the D/s psychology, as is the ending scene when he claims her fully as his. Interestingly, interviews with James Spader made me wonder if he was a Dom, because he showed an excellent grasp of the motivations (and the idea of him as a real-life Dom can inspire some great fantasies all by itself – laughter). Okay, if you’ve watched the above, and feel ready to graduate to the next level, then here are three more that dip into the “adult film” pond.
8. Femme – This movie by pioneer filmmaker Candida Royalle was one of the first to explore adult film from a female viewpoint and desires. She continues to strongly promote the genre of adult film for women by women, and has therefore inspired others to follow in her footsteps. Bless her! Femme was a series of vignettes (you know how fond I am of vignettes!). One in particular, involving two men in an art museum who end up sharing a woman in that aesthetic setting, was enthralling. However, I suspect once you see this early work of hers, you’ll move on to her library of more updated choices. Her website also points you to content by other female adult film producers/directors, including the recent Female Fantasies by Petra Joy (see #10)
9. Story of O : Part 2– Fair warning - it’s hard to get your hands on this one. The original Story of O movie was absorbing, but pretty harsh and graphic for the newbie. However, I found Part 2 far more women-centric and enjoyable. Beware, though - it is quite dated!
10. Female Fantasies – This is a different, much better twist to the reality TV show idea. Some time ago, adult filmmakers realized women respond better to “amateur” video, where real life lovers are filmed. Badly acted and contrived “porn” scenarios with a laundry list of positions and medical school worthy close-ups of genitalia don’t arouse us (can’t imagine why!). Petra Joy takes the “amateur video” idea to a more polished level. Female Fantasies is based on erotic fantasies sent to her by female photography clients and friends. She brought the fantasies to life with performers who are real life lovers, not porn stars. Not much in the way of dialogue – just pure immersion into fantasy sex scenarios. I’m kind of partial to the car wash scene. Just saying.
To wrap it up, here are some “mainstream” honorable mentions:
Sherlock Holmes BBC – Episode: A Scandal in Belgravia – this BBC series is awesome to watch in its entirety. However, this 90 minute episode features Sherlock’s interaction with a Dominatrix, and the scenes with them are delightful. She’s of course given the name of Irene Adler, the love of his life!
CSI – The Lady Heather episodes - this series periodically hosts a character known as “Lady Heather," a Dominatrix who developed a special relationship with Grissom. These episodes portrayed a Mistress as a complex, intelligent and powerful person with a woman’s vulnerability and desire for love. It was the first time I saw a Domme done right in TV. If you go to this Wikipedia link, it lists out the episodes specifically (yes, they were that popular!)
My only real main complaint about most of the fine erotic material I’ve mentioned here (mostly #1-6) is they still shy away from scenarios where women relinquish control. For so many of us, the fantasy is being swept away, overwhelmed and trusting a lover to take the reins for our mutual pleasure. In our real lives we have to run the world, right? Let’s hope with the influence of 50 Shades of Grey (love it or hate it), we’ll live to see more movies and series that realize women can be strong and surrender. In fact, sometimes that moment of surrender makes us all the more powerful.
As a final note, if you find you do like choices 8-10, you’ll be happy to know the adult film industry, for so long male-oriented in its content, is expanding its offerings for women/couples. There are even guides for watching adult video with the woman/couple in mind (check under author Violet Blue). And if the woman in your life is considering watching porn with you, guys, I have a bit of closing advice. It’s best to let her take the lead on choices. What’s going to turn her on is going to be awesome for you both. What turns her off…well, I guess I don’t really have to paint that picture, do I? If Mama’s not happy, ain’t nobody happy!
Joey W. Hill is the author of more than thirty erotic romance novels and the recipient of the RT Book Reviews Career Achievement award. She is a practicing submissive in her personal life. Her website, www.storywitch.com, has free excerpts and information on all her available titles.