Sex & Society » Movies; Society » Culture; Sex » Fetish, Acceptance: "The 7 Year Itch: A Look Back at Secretary"

EdenFantasys Store

The 7 Year Itch: A Look Back at Secretary

The 7 Year Itch: A Look Back at Secretary Lions Gate Films
  •    
  • Print
  • E-mail
“The sweetest romantic comedy about S&M since, well...ever,” says Blackbook of the then-quirky, now-seminal film Secretary. Was it a massive step toward the mainstreaming of kinky culture or a lopsided portrayal that did more harm than good? Seven years later, people’s opinions remain sharply divided.

  Typos on the Letterhead

The mainstreaming of kink cuts both ways, particularly when it’s packaged up as a cute, sexy rom-com. Several years after Secretary’s release, my father called me and asked whether I had seen it. Presuming that this was a “call the kinky writer and see if I’ll be creeped out by this movie that just came on Showtime” kind of inquiry, I said that I had and asked what he wanted to know. Laughing, he admitted that he had rented the movie (probably at the same Blockbuster I had years ago) and watched it with his wife the night before. I later looked up the movie poster and understood: It features a woman bending over in fishnets, stilettos, and a short skirt from behind, with the word “secretary” in typewriter font across her ass and “assume the position” as the tagline. Presuming a standard tits-and-ass movie lay in wait inside is understandable, and perhaps intentional.

My dad laughed his way through his opinions, having found the film weird and outrageous. While one could make the argument that exposure was good for him, this type of dramatized, sometimes-unrealistic portrayal led to a few months of shock when he stumbled across an article I had written about my own BDSM experiences. Unable to read beyond the first paragraph, he presumed my experience based on things like Secretary and stopped speaking to me while he struggled with what he thought I was up to. Once he brought himself to read the article and see it as it really was in my case, he found it infinitely more palatable than the film’s often-overdone set pieces.

“In the end sum,” says Jake, “I don’t know, honestly, if it wound up doing more harm than good. If there was more realism out there, at all, I would say yeah, we can move forward and move into parable-land, but there’s not…. [Mainstream audiences] don’t know that it’s a parable, that it’s fantasy, that it’s a fairytale. They’re going to think that it’s reality.” The question of whether mainstream-but-dramatized depictions of BDSM harms more than it helps is still one very much up for grabs.

Indeed, it may be the dearth of reasonably realistic depictions of kink in film, even seven years later, that keeps Secretary in the mix. I still sometimes assign it as required viewing for certain kinkster newbies under my aegis, particularly those who come in with a heavy sense that dominants should never show weakness, always be right, and perpetually fart rainbows—but I make sure to sit beside them during the viewing and head off the inaccuracies as they arise. It is far easier to provide as-it-happens fact-checking for Secretary than it is for the wildly inaccurate portrayals of BDSM shown in Law & Order, Bones, and other legal/medical dramas eager for a sexy-problem-of-the-week premise.

At present, Secretary is really the only mainstream movie we have to point to, for all its weaknesses and flaws. Then again, all of us in the lifestyle suffer our own foibles; the desire for a perfect media representation is as implausible and fanciful as the desire for a perfect play partner. Maybe, in the end, Secretary’s lesson to all of us is that nonfiction is for learning the bones of a practice, and fiction is for learning the heart. (Or the boner.)

Our Top Stories Being Recommended on Facebook

Comments

Thanks for bringing this movie back into the spotlight. I love this movie and catch it periodically on one of the satellite stations.

02/18/2010
lolife  

This movie was instrumental in my development and much like you I idealized it and then realized the reality of the situation. It's still a hot film that can get me going better than a lot of the "porn" out there now.

04/13/2010

I think that this article is relevant to the discussions now happening in the kink community about 50 Shades of Grey.

07/18/2012

Forum

No discussions yet.

BDSM—kink—fetish: what are they? How does one do it? And, most importantly, who’s doing it? The answer might just be staring back at you in the mirror.

Project Articles

Other projects

What's Hot

Sexis in your inbox

Keep up on new articles, projects, columns and more