Because BDSM is sick and hilarious LOL

So, someone in the all-woman Facebook group I’m in posted this commercial because she thought it was funny.  And a bunch of other people thought it was funny, too.  But I can’t say I agree with their assessment.

 

First off, I just get so sick and tired of dominant women being stereotyped as sexy shrews.  I have literally never seen a mainstream portrayal of a dominant woman that didn’t reinforce this stereotype.  So this commercial is one more reason for women with nonconforming domination styles to shy away from joining the kink community (“I like the idea of being in charge, but I guess I can’t be a real dominant because I don’t act like that”); one more reason for men with nonconforming submission styles to shy away from the community (“I love the idea of giving up control to a woman, but I don’t want to be screamed at or treated like shit and it seems like that’s what D/s is”) and one more reason for a certain type of self-idenfied “sub” to dismiss me as “not really dominant.”  It rankles.

But, more to the point, the very premise of the commercial is built on a lie.  When I say that I don’t find this commercial funny, I don’t mean that so much in the “OMG I am soooo offended” way – I just literally don’t find it funny, and that’s mostly because it doesn’t make logical sense.  The humour is supposed to come from the fact that this woman told her husband that she’d worked hard all day, but actually didn’t.  Except, watch the commercial again: the “submissives” she’s bossing around are apparently incompetent.  It appears that she’s had to stand over them all day, screaming at them and correcting their fuckups.  In one case she actually had to physically lead one of these guys to the washer and dryer to do laundry, which implies that just telling him to do laundry didn’t work – that he refused so she’s pretty much dragging him.  If this woman had been portrayed as lounging on the couch while a bunch of slaves quickly and efficiently cleaned up, then the whole “Hee hee!  She didn’t do any work at all!” thing would hold water.  But what we actually saw her do was work.  She may not have done the actual cooking and cleaning herself but she certainly did have to work to get the results she did.

But this is the thing about those insidious BDSM stereotypes: they’re so ubiquitous that a lot of people buy into them without question.  Had the commercial replaced the submissives with the woman’s own pubescent children – taking out the sexy outfit and whip, of course, but leaving the yelling intact – we would immediately read this as a portrayal of a woman’s extraordinarily frustrating and gruelling day.  But because it’s grown men and she’s doing the whole porn domme routine, it’s just a given that she’s enjoying herself and not doing any actual “work.”  The commercial clearly shows her being contemptuous of these men; they don’t appear to be competent at housework and they’re not attractive by normal societal standards; and yet people seeing this commercial are all “Ha ha, she told her husband she worked to make their home look so nice, but really she was getting her rocks off!  It’s obvious she enjoyed her interactions with those strange men from the internet because reasons!”

Also, can we just take a moment to shake our heads at the abysmal Madonna-whoreness of it all?  Because the other part of the “humour” in this commercial stems from the fact that this woman leads a double life: her husband believes that she’s a sweet, demure, ’50s style housewife when really she dresses slutty and bosses men around.  The fact that she didn’t actually do the housework is only half of the humour equation here; the other half is that her husband is essentially a dupe; a cuckold.  We giggle at this commercial partly because we’re giggling at him.

So in one fell swoop, this commercial:

  • Reinforces heteronormativity
  • Reinforces the Madonna-whore paradigm
  • Reinforces a stereotype of D/s that I suspect is very, very rare outside of porn and pro-domination

And to top it all off, the fundamental premise of “ha ha, this lady had a super easy and fun day because other people did her work for her” is demonstrably false: she did not whatsoever look like she was having fun.  She looked like she was perpetually pissed off and had to constantly babysit these guys to keep them from fucking up.

I mentioned some of these points, albeit in just a sentence or two, in the thread on Facebook.  One woman responded “You may be overthinking it. :P” and added some defensive comment like “I don’t even care, I find it funny.  It’s too early in the morning to be PC.”  Okay…first off, I never said that nobody else was allowed to find it funny.  I just pointed out some issues.  Secondly, I’m not “overthinking” anything – everything I’ve said here was immediately and painfully obvious to me.  Just because the underlying messages of the commercial weren’t obvious to her doesn’t mean I had to wrack my brain to see them.  And finally, the members of that Facebook group are generally socially conscious, feminist types – the kind who understand about privilege and know not to dismiss the lived experiences of an oppressed group.  I’ve been dealing with people thinking I (or people like me) am a sicko and making uninformed assumptions about me (or people like me) for more than half my life now.  When I see yet another shitty portrayal of F/m, it rubs salt in wounds older and deeper than this chick can possibly comprehend.  And she’s basically telling me “come on, lighten up, it’s just a joke.”  Bullshit.

I’m not saying this commercial is some huge life-shattering deal to me; I have no plans to start a letter-writing campaign or boycott the company or anything.  But when one of my friends* is basically laughing at a horrible caricature of me and the people I know, yeah, I’m gonna set them straight.  Why should I sit here silently perpetuating the stereotypes?

*Or, well, internet acquaintances…I don’t really know this chick…but the mission statement of the Facebook group we’re both in is to provide a safe, supportive space for women to talk about whatever they want to.  I’ve posted personal stuff in there before; so has she.  So although I don’t know much about her, I did trust her on some basic level.

17 Comments

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17 responses to “Because BDSM is sick and hilarious LOL

  1. writingthebody

    Sigh, you are right about all of it. It is better than before, where it was seen as sick and creepy. Now we are just a joke. I guess that is edging up towards a less drowned position in the swamp of stereotypes….but you are right. We are still just seen as freaks or a joke,

  2. Vy

    More proof that you’re right? Wodka are a TERRIBLE brand — they’ve published anti-semitic and whorephobic billboards, and absolutely refused to apologize or take them down.

    http://titsandsass.com/sex-work-sells-wodka-vodka/#more-7890 (citing my sources)

    also, for the record, while she’s not explicitly being portrayed a sex worker, i don’t think it’s out of line to read her domming as being a sex trades activity (esp because we don’t get any indication that she’s *in* to her subs, or is getting off on the cleaning/chores/etc), and let me say — even when I’m working (you know, where my dominant side really *IS* actually just catering to the specific fantasies of the submissive in a very bottomy way), I don’t generally dress like that. Seriously, SO FEW PEOPLE ARE INTO CLASSIC FETISH WEAR. I think the entire industry must primarily support itself on a) vanilla goths and b) kinksters who feel like, regardless of their preference, if they don’t have the uniform, they won’t get any play. If I do ten sessions in a week, six of them will be done in regular lingerie (and frankly, the less fancy the better. My pretty La Perla and Agent Provocateur sets mostly gather dust in favor of the four dollar pink leopard print push up bra and thong I got in a Rainbow outlet.), two or three will be done in some kind of specialized street clothes (“business wear” or a “lab coat”) and the remainder are usually requests for “could you just wear whatever you’re wearing? like, yknow, jeans and a tshirt?” I’d say I get less than one request a month for leather or rubber, and I don’t EVER get any requests for “shiny vinyl crap from the nineties and some black fishnets.” Even over – the – knee boots aren’t really a popular thing, in my experience. How much money do you think is spent on this crap by people who don’t like wearing it, for people who don’t particularly like seeing it, every damn year? Drives me bonkers.

    tl;dr: wodka is the worst.

    • That’s interesting (and horrible) about the other ad campaigns they’ve done. Thank you for sharing that!

      while she’s not explicitly being portrayed a sex worker, i don’t think it’s out of line to read her domming as being a sex trades activity.

      I absolutely agree. Especially since she’s shown putting an ad up online to find the day’s subs – if these were guys she knew (and therefore maybe liked) – they’d have shown her picking up the phone to call or text them. You wouldn’t email a friend to say “come over as soon as possible.”

      even when I’m working (you know, where my dominant side really *IS* actually just catering to the specific fantasies of the submissive in a very bottomy way), I don’t generally dress like that. Seriously, SO FEW PEOPLE ARE INTO CLASSIC FETISH WEAR.

      Ooooh, that’s fascinating! I did not know that. There are so many pics on FetLife of dommes in corsets and shit that I did believe that was the gold standard (in guys’ fantasies, anyway, and [therefore] on pro dommes. Not necessarily on women who dominate for fun).

      I think the entire industry must primarily support itself on a) vanilla goths and b) kinksters who feel like, regardless of their preference, if they don’t have the uniform, they won’t get any play.

      I can definitely vouch for the vanilla goth thing. 😀 I own a couple of corsets and some PVC, but I only wear it out clubbing (and even then, only once in a blue moon). I think you’re probably right about the second thing, too. I’ve often felt like I won’t get any play without the “uniform” – but I refuse to compromise because I hate the idea of tarting myself up for a sub on principle. But probably other people have faced the same dilemma and caved.

      • Rob

        On the fetish clothing thing – it’s more that there are two groups, ‘people who like fetish clothing’ and ‘people into BDSM’, and the crossover between those groups is much smaller than the media would have you believe. Personally, I’m on the side that likes the rubber and corsets, but isn’t particularly keen on BDSM; if you were only aware of the fetish scene from the media, you could be forgiving for not realising such people exist.

  3. marika grofno

    You were right, and if you have the energy, you could make a damn strong point. (But I understand if you don’t want to.)

  4. I’m sure that it goes without saying that I’m totally with you on this. I mean, yes, the commercial is cute, and the first time I saw it, I admit to having smiled, but that was mainly at the novelty. The message portrayed, though, is the same, tired cliche that we’ve been hearing for years: Any woman can throw on a leather corset and some boots, and become a Dominatrix, and any number of old, out-of-shape guys will be happy to cater to her whims.

    The only thing you’ve written that I hadn’t thought about was this:

    The fact that she didn’t actually do the housework is only half of the humour equation here; the other half is that her husband is essentially a dupe; a cuckold. We giggle at this commercial partly because we’re giggling at him.

    That’s not something that I took away from this, at least, not any more than the usual “secret life” trope that’s supposed to make commercials and sitcoms funny. In this situation, there’s no humiliation aspect, and in fact, the husband actually benefits from the work of the other subs.

    And she’s basically telling me “come on, lighten up, it’s just a joke.”

    Yeah. Unfortunately, pretty much *every* femdom/malesub portrayal in the media is played for laughs.

    • Well, the way I see it, the guy’s wife is still getting other dudes off, even if there’s no actual sexual contact, so heteronormative folks would definitely see this as a “cheating” situation. And the way society seems to work is that a man getting cheated on is a figure of fun.

      Also, if I picture the commercial being remade so the husband knows about the domination and they’re both feeling smug about how she’s taking advantage of these pathetic men, it loses some of its zing. (I have a hard time finding certain kinds of jokes funny anymore but I can still see when something is hitting the “right” notes to be funny to mainstream society…) So if the secrecy is necessary for the humour, it would seem to follow that the humour comes from the “cheating.”

  5. Oh dang, I saw this a few months back and totally missed what you saw because of how in-my-little-progressive-bubble I am. I interpreted it as, “It’s entertaining as a subversion because at first it’s playing like it’s the whole, ‘Husband goes off to work, wife stays home and does housework,’ thing, but really she’s staying home to work too because she’s a pro-domme (also this makes their marriage somewhat unconventional), and then at the end of the day he comes home and she’s back in her own clothes and makes a joke about her work and they have a nice dinner.”

    Which isn’t to say you’re wrong, but that you’re totally right and it just flew right over my head. Man, am I sheltered.

    • Awwww, I love your interpretation. If the commercial had consciously played to that, I would probably like it – the stereotypical dominatrix thing would then be kind of a wry nod to what her clients want, not a straight-up portrayal what a dominant woman is (allegedly) actually like. And the scenes between her and her husband would kind of humanize her as a sex worker.

      But yeah…I’m quite sure that’s not what they were going for. And even if it was, I kinda think most people wouldn’t be able to get their heads around it and would come away with “Ha ha, she’s a big slutty slut” anyway. But maybe I’m a pessimist.

  6. trillian

    I haven’t even read the post but the “fatty boldy” guy again is just aaarg

  7. trillian

    Even though I’m sure you got it all covered 🙂

  8. I will admit that I used to find this commercial quite hilarious. However, you’ve made some really good points here and I’m questioning my previous assessment.

  9. uncommonmurre

    I have a rather different read on this commercial, based on the fact that it’s paid for by a company pushing it’s product. They’re saying “Buying our vodka is like using BDSM to get housework done: cheap, effective, and clever.” So they’re still on the hook for most of the reasons you listed like the notion BDSM domme work is a cheap and effective way to get housework done. But, I’m pretty sure they’re not trying to tell consumers “Buying our vodka is sick and hilarious”; for the commerical to be promoting their product, they have to be thinking that at least in this case, ignorant cartoony BDSM is a good thing. If they were denigrating the woman’s BDSM sex work, they would also be denigrating their product.

    • *If they were denigrating the woman’s BDSM sex work, they would also be denigrating their product.*

      This is actually a really good point. The commercial isn’t denigrating her, per se – just gravely misrepresenting what most dominant women do.

      I would argue that it’s definitely denigrating her subs, though. It’s like “This woman doesn’t feel like doing housework! Good thing these doughy middle-aged suckers can be manipulated into coming in and doing it for her.”

      Which annoys me for a bunch of reasons, but yeah, the dominant one in this scenario actually got off pretty easy (no pun intended). The laughs are at the expense of the subs and her husband.

      • uncommonmurre

        I agree about the subs. The commercial assumes that domination isn’t hard work, or at least not the kind of domination which can be aspired to by overweight balding white men at the hands of an actress-looking woman.

        My take on the husband’s role in the commercial is that he’s not so much being played for laughs as a cuckold, as he is playing a third party who validates the quality of the results without knowing the cost. Similar to the party guests in a million ads for cheap products that can be used for entertaining. “Shh! They don’t have to know how inexpensive Thrifty brand fine cheeses are!” He thinks the results are great and gives her credit for hard work (equivalent to spending) she didn’t do.

  10. PAUL BAKER

    ANYBODY THAT PAYS £150 FOR AN HOUR TO HAVE CLOTHS PEGS
    PUT ON THERE GENITALS BY SOME MISTRESS DOMINATRIX SLAPPER
    NEEDS TO SEE A ( S H R I N K } IN MY OPINION IN ALL HONESTY

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