Sex, whips and chains, bondage, submission and dominance are included in the Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism lifestyle. The Secretary, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader and directed by Steven Shainberg, took you into the of the world of BDSM.
The movie was about a young woman, who was release from a mental institution, getting a job as a secretary to a demanding lawyer. The employee – employer relationship left the professional realm and went to a sexual sadomasochist one.
Assistant Professor of Cinema Ken Windrum put together the film series on alternative sexuality this semester.
“They always say sex sales,” Windrum said.
The screening of Secretary was shown in the Great Hall at 7pm on April 20, including a panel of four to speak about the movie and with the 40 to 50 members of the audience after it ended.
Assistant Professor of Broadcasting and Multimedia Jeff Favre, Assistant Professor of Philosophy Melanie McQuitty, Instructor of Philosophy Cara Gillis, and Journalism major Brit – El Mabourakh.
Mabourakh is also the host of podcast Gothropology and has unofficially studied BDSM for 4 years, according to McQuitty.
According to Windrum, college students need to have the opportunity to deal with things.
“I had two reasons. One, it’s the kind of thing people would say oh I want to see that,” Windrum said.
“Two, when people feel kind of on the margins they need to explore that. College students are exploring, learning and growing. I think this was a good topic for that.”
Students of all ages were in attendance and a lively discussion ensued after the film ended. Two students, Denise Nguyen and Mahin Hossain saw problematic behavior during the film.
“I felt this movie was highly dangerous,” Nguyen said. “In the sense that her employer took advantage of her vulnerability and her depictions of innocence. The imagery of flowers made me think of her being deflowered.”
The movie showed the relationship of Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Mr. Grey (James Spader) grow, then disintegrate, and be put back together when Mr. Grey felt he could deal with it.
“I believe this film is problematic for society in general,” Hossain said. “We know this isn’t a clear representation of the world of BDSM but we can see she – Lee – is not a rational person. She is put into this world where she thinks she loves it but she can’t make these rational decisions.”
The focus of discussion touched upon the problems that could be caused to society because of the portrayal the characters presented was inaccurate.
“When a woman is entering the world of love and exploring her sexual needs, in no way should a person step in and exploit that,” Nguyen said.
According to Gillis, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty articulated a principle conventionally known as the harm principle. It said you can do whatever you want and the government and no other individual can restrict your pursuit unless your actions can lead to the harm of someone else.
“That principle applies only to people who are rational and apprised to the risks of that decision,” Gillis said. “In this movie she comes from an institution for cutting and over the course of the movie she enters into this relationship with her employer to replace the satisfaction she was getting for cutting.”
According to Mabourakh, there are aspects of the film she enjoyed, but basically the entire premise threw up a red flag to her.
“I’ve heard it said before and I also say it. Before you want to be dominated or want to master someone else you first need to master yourself. To be the captain of your own soul.” Mabourakh said.
According to Favre, the subject matter is what people mostly talk about. There are people that feel personally invested in a film portrayal and those that know nothing about it.
“In this film it appears to be her choice to be taken into a new world,” Favre said.
According to McQuitty, the demand is created for us by the media culture. We are given the supply of movies and stereotypes are created for women and men alike to watch these types of films.
“My thought it to something on new media,” Windrum said. “Movies that deal with our technology is so overwhelming. Especially when technology surrounds and dominates us.”
Fall’s film series will have three new films with a new theme to drawn in an audience and incite discussion.