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Monday, November 24, 2014

"Ripped from the headlines..."

Many of you know that one of my favorite TV shows is "Law and Order: SVU." They specialize in shows that are almost direct lifts from current headlines and issues. For example, when the Fifty Shades travesty was at its peak, they had an episode about a writer of a kinky sex book who got raped. Her book was called Twenty-Five Acts.

Last week in "Spousal Privilege," they took on the Ray Rice spousal abuse case. For those who are unfamiliar, Rice is a football player who was caught on video earlier this year dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. He had knocked her unconscious with his fist.

So on SVU, they did something similar, showing the big strong menacing football player dragging his girlfriend out of a building and into a parking lot to a waiting car. Later, security footage was dug up and showed what had happened. They were arguing in a stairwell, and he punched her in the face, knocking her down.

But before that punch? They were stumbling up the stairs, with her ahead of him, and he gave her a massive, full-arm slap on the bottom. She then turned and screamed at him, and that led to the punch.

The footage was uncovered in bits. At first, the punch was not shown, just the arguing and the slap. And as the SVU detectives reviewed it, Benson pointed to the slap and said, "There -- sexual abuse."


It was a jolt. Part of me had the knee-jerk reaction I always get when I see a bottom slap, but another part was repulsed and angry. Because I knew this was meant to look abusive, and it reminded me of what the average Joe and Jane Vanilla think of what we do.

Granted, what we do is consensual, and what was shown on the screen was violent and non-consensual. But I really hate that a smack on the backside was placed in the same context as a punch in the face. This sort of portrayal doesn't help us in the least. That slap was shown over and over during the episode, nearly always accompanied by the face punch. It was meant to be seen as equally demeaning, equally harsh.

The spanko in me yelled "Nooooooooooo! It's not sexual abuse when we do it!"

If I'd had my druthers, that scene would have been rewritten. Instead of whacking her on the behind, he would have pushed her, and she would have stumbled. Then righted herself, turned and yelled at him. Leave spanking out of it, dammit! You want to portray violence? You have (sadly) myriad ways to do so. Don't add fuel to the existing fire that spankos are abusers. 

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, and I'm not going to change mainstream television. But that scene really disturbed me, and I figured what better place to talk about it than here. Any other fans of the show? Normally, I love it, but there does seem to be a pattern where people who engage in kink are punished. The aforementioned rape of the kinky author. In a recent episode, a couple were having very noisy sex while the man was handcuffed to the bed. Unfortunately, they just happened to live next door to a psycho, who then came over and killed them both because they wouldn't quiet down when he pounded on the wall. In yet another episode, an asphyxiation scene resulted in death. 

Come on, writers. Get with the program. Don't lump spanking and other kinky activities in with spousal/sexual abuse, please. We are struggling to be understood and accepted, and that doesn't help in the least!


  1. I saw the episode too and agree with everything you've written. At first I thought "oh! A spank" which was immediately followed by dismay. It was such a bad portrayal. I also thought, "Why couldn't he have just pushed her from behind?" The writers are clearly not into spanking...

  2. Beth -- I know, right? Ick! Not helpful!

  3. Hi Erica -
    That is one of the reasons why I don't like this show or most TV drama shows; their portrayal of anything kinky is always shown in a negative light. I am always surprised by this because aren't these shows written in LA? LA is pretty liberal right? Or are the sensors that strong that makes them change the storylines?

    To your last sentence, I don't think mainstream or even "liberal" society cares much about the struggles of spankers/kinksters to be accepted or even aware of the struggles.

    Coincidentally, I wrote a post about the whole Ray Rice case and the reflection on spanking. If you are interested:

  4. Enzo -- actually, SVU is written in New York, but that too is a liberal state. But you're right, it's not about the state or the writers, it's about the TV networks.

    And you're also right in that mainstream society probably couldn't care less about our struggles. But as we continue to fight to be accepted in the mainstream, I keep hoping there will be exceptions, and then a few more exceptions, and then a few more...

  5. Vanilla society doesn't seem to know what to think of us.

    There have been a few serious dramas which, although generally controversial within the kink community (some people will probably never be satisfied with how we are portrayed) and sometimes ludicrously inaccurate, have at least portrayed kinksters as real people and not crazy. 9-1/2 Weeks and Secretary come to mind.

    Kink imagery is often used in music videos and such, possibly because it's the only thing left that seems titillating or forbidden.

    It's occasionally played for laughs, usually in a sympathetic way. Weeds (Mary Louise Parker's deadpan reaction to being spanked for insolence is classic), Community (the character Britta being switched by another character's wheelchair-bound grandmother), and The Big Bang Theory (the character Amy maneuvering Sheldon into giving her what he only thinks is an unwelcome spanking) are examples.

    Occasionally kink is portrayed in drama (or comedy-drama) in at least a quasi-sympathetic way. The example I can think of is the Castle episode "The Mistress Always Spanks Twice" in which a dominatrix (who is actually a student doing research on sex work) is murdered, but no one at the dungeon where she worked turns out to have had anything to do with it -- she was killed by a psychotically jealous roommate. The head dominatrix is a perfectly ethical businesswoman.

    BUT, it seems like whenever it's one of the crusader, moralistic, no-sense-of-humor mainstream crime shows, then yes, we are the devil. Anyone with a kink is a twitch and a perv, and if they didn't do this particular crime then they probably did something else worse and we should all hate them. No balance at all. All the perspective and tentative acceptance (maybe sniggering, certainly ill-informed, but acceptance) from those other examples is gone.

    I can only assume the writers of those shows are appealing to their base, like politicians. They think their audience is conservative, straight-laced Middle America who see everything in black and white, think God made the universe 6 thousand years ago in 6 days, Noah saved all the animals on the Ark, and Jesus is coming any day now to rapture them to Heaven. I'm sure some of the consultants on such shows feel the same (a lot of them are former cops). As for the show runners or the executives -- they probably ARE typical bi-coastal liberals who view their Average Joe audience with contempt but are eager to feed them the red meat they crave in order to keep selling whatever the sponsors want to sell.

    God-fearing Middle America DOES believe in spanking, but only if it's done to a terrified child. As with everything sexual, they only object if someone is having fun. Then they're agin it.

    I need to get some sort of treatment for this cynicism outbreak.

    Sorry this is so long.

    Michael In Texas

  6. Erica:

    I know exactly how you feel. I've been feeling the same thing for years and years. Only it's got nothing to do with spanking or "kink"; it's about non-stop criticism and outright propaganda about owning firearms.

    I know this might not resonate with others here but it's the same attitude. Sneering remarks about "right wingers" or even white supremacists, even about men who are insecure about their masculinity (the obvious question about female gun-owners is usually ignored). I mean, who else would even WANT to own a gun (or multiple guns)? There's always some sinister or pathetic reason for owning one and crime is always caused by guns, like being over weight is presumably caused by forks and spoons. And owning a gun legally is usually conflated with simply having one, like most of the criminals on the show.

    Unfortunately, the Law and Order series (I'm also a fan) are some of the worst offenders, but by no means the only ones. Typically, people into spanking or other "deviant" sexual behavior are only seen as perverts, but not potential murderers like gun owners are often portrayed.

    Sorry for the rant, but your post kind of set me off as both attitudes are similar.

  7. I have not seen the episode in question, but based on the description, I have to respectfully disagree. While we, spankos, might want to see spanking shown in a positive light and not lumped into the category of abuse, the fact remains that non-consensual hitting (whether it is spanking of pushing) is abuse.

    In the show, if the guy is smacking his girlfriend on the bottom and she wants him to stop (which if she's yelling at him, that seems to be the case) then he is not engaged in spanking play, he is engaged in assault. Given that context it should be treated as such.

    Shifting focus a little, if we were watching a historical drama where someone was getting flogged in a castle dungeon would we (even those of us who like consensual flogging) claim what was being shown should be presented in a positive context rather than depicted as torture?

    Imagine if the SVU scene had been shot slightly differently. Imagine if she boyfriend smacks his girlfriend's bottom and she turns to yell at him. The cop watching the video footage turns to his partner and says something like, "That was hot. Hey, what's she so upset about, it was just a little smack?" rather than, "That's sexual assault." If they had filmed the scene that way there would be a ring of angry feminists yelling "rape culture" outside the studio this morning.

    I think those of us who engage in the fun kind of spanking tend to want to see spanking shown in a positive light. However, let's not forget that many (perhaps most) of the people who experience spanking do not get to do so in a positive way. Until that changes, shows like SVU are likely to keep showing stuff like this.

    In a similar vein, one person above commented that gun owners are often shown in a negative light. Which gun owners might not like, but given the number of gun related deaths in the USA I can hardly blame the writers for showing guns in a negative way.

    1. I can. It's funny how most shows don't have a problem with the police, miliatry or other "official" types having weapons but when it's a "mere" civilian, somehow it's a bad thing. On the Law and Order series, there are frequent references to the police being the only ones who should be allowed to have guns (at least handguns and "military" rifles and on a very recent episode of CSI, there was much the same thing. Never let the people with all the money and the people with all the guns be the same people...

  8. Michael -- when you find that treatment for cynicism, will you share it with me? :-)

    smuccatelli -- no worries. A healthy rant is good for the soul. I agree that gun owners overall get a bad rap due to the psychos we here about on the news every day.

    Anonymous -- oh, I know what you're saying and I agree. Non-consensual spanking is as bad as non-consensual punching or hitting. My point was, why did they have to choose a swat on the bottom as the bad thing to show what a jerk he was? I wish it had been a push or something else. We get enough of a bad rap, you know?

    But yeah. I guess the reality is, some people abuse spanking, just like some people abuse guns.

  9. If you search for "severe" you'll find videos like this: (which contains a belt scene, but hand spanking results appear for the search as well). In some ways, I can't fault people who find the distinction gray between those consensual spankings and depictions of an abusive spanking.

  10. Anonymous -- I don't like severe videos, so I'll take your word for it. I admit I struggle sometimes with those super harsh scenes.

  11. I like this show for the most part, but agree they missed the mark using spanking an abuse connection.
    Years ago, on the original CSI, Marg Helgenberger's character Catherine Willows was with a male co-worker investigating a murder at a dungeon. They witnessed screams and shouts from people getting spanked. He was more disdainful and she was pretty accepting of it and was even told by the head Dominatrix she had the traits to make a great one herself. I loved that the writers allowed for differing perspectives of "the scene."

  12. Kelly -- that sounds familiar. I've never been a CSI watcher, but I must have caught that one, or at least that part of it.

    1. That was the first one of several that involved "Lady Heather" (Melinda Clarke) who was the dominatrix in question. "Catherine's" co-worker was Gil Grissom (William R. Peterson, the original star of the show) and he also came to be quite sanguine about the "scene". Lady Heather and he developed a personal relationship (not a spanking one, nor even a sexual one, but a friendship of sorts based on mutual interests) and she was on several subsequent shows. Before Peterson and Helgenberger left the show, she was a consultant on several murders and the last one involved her own adult daughter, who had been kidnapped and murdered by some cult leader or something. Lady Heather had captured him somehow and when Grissom finally tracked them down, had the guy trussed up and was in full "domme" outfit and was apparently in the process of beating him to death with a bullwhip. Grissom talked her out of it and she finally allowed him to arrest the guy and charge him with her daughter's murder. She was actually kind of scary in that one and you could tell she wasn't playing. She was a professional dominatrix and didn't appear the playful type. She seemingly wasn't a "spanko" in her personal life but she did tease back and forth with Grissom and some of his colleagues, including Catherine. I don't know if her character and story arc was a plus or a minus for players in the spank scene but it was a compelling story. Later, "Lady Heather" became a shrink or therapist of some kind under the name of "Dr. Keller" and showed up in at least one other episode.