Erica Scott: Life, Love and Spanking

Ruminations, opinionated observations, darkly humorous blathering and the occasional rant from an outspoken spanko and unapologetic attention wh–, um, hog.

My thoughts on "Shades of Kink"

Tucked away in the mass quantities of digital cable stations is OWN, which is none other than the Oprah Winfrey Network, of course. I’d never tuned to it before (I don’t happen to worship on the altar of Oprah), but last week, I heard about a program airing on there, so I recorded it, and John and I watched it last weekend.

Journalist Lisa Ling has a show called “This is America,” where she explores different facets of society. And, due to the popularity of The Book That Shall Not Be Named, she chose to explore the world of BDSM, then present it in a one-hour segment called “Shades of Kink.”

Probably needless for me to say, but I had a lot of issues with this program. But lest you think me a Negative Nellie, I’ll start with what I considered the positives.

1. At the start of the show, Ling stressed that while that book is just a fantasy, that the real BDSM lifestyle is much more complex. Yeah, duhhh… but a lot of people got misconceptions from that pile of clichés. The adult toy store talked about how, ever since that book, their floggers and ropes and so forth are flying off the shelves. But it’s not enough to buy this stuff; you have to know how to use it. Bingo.

2. The aspects of consensuality and scene pre-discussion were mentioned repeatedly. Talking with a kink-aware therapist, Ling asked, “What’s the difference between BDSM and abuse?” The therapist replied, “Consent.” Again, for us, duhhh… but it’s important for general society to know this and know it well.

3. The show dispelled the myth that sex is always included, that play partners are just fuck buddies in leather and latex. It emphasized the intensity, intimacy and psychology of kink, and that it’s a lot more than just foreplay.

4. They used a lot of common terms and defined them. I was tickled when I heard the term “pervertables.”

5. The top giving a brief spanking demo made a point of differentiating between hitting with a cupped hand vs. flat-handed. The former: crisp, satisfying sound and feel. The latter: a dull thud and the sensation of being clubbed. Amen. I’m not a seal.

6. They showed M/F, F/M, and a bit of F/F orientations, so there was variety. They also covered switching.


First of all, Lisa Ling seemed altogether a misfit to host this type of program. She was so clearly uncomfortable throughout — intrigued as a journalist, but somewhat creeped out personally (and doing her best to hide it). In an interview I saw elsewhere, she admitted she had a lot of negative notions about BDSM, especially after reading that book, which she did not like. (Yay, Lisa.) She asked all the proper questions and made the proper comments, but she was emotionally distant. During a scene where she was sitting in on a “Kink 101” class at the Pleasure Chest, she was very obviously uptight when they were demonstrating bondage to the audience and her wrists were tied together. Lighten up, Lisa. It’s an innocuous little demo. You’re not blindfolded and hog-tied naked in a dark room. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

I realize this is network television, not HBO, and they couldn’t show all that much. But I found the demos to be lame and staged (well, they were staged, but they didn’t have to be so obvious about it). It was more about posing and appearance than substance of scene: elaborate costumes and settings, implements and bondage furniture, bottoms in various positions of submission. The few strikes they showed were light, the reactions wooden. I know it’s nit-picking and this was meant for general audiences, but I would have liked to see just a tad more realism, rather than pomp and circumstance.

I couldn’t stand the segment with the domme and sub. I didn’t like her at all; maybe it’s because she bore an unfortunate resemblance to Ann Coulter, or she spoke with a mild Valley Girl affectation. Scott, her sub, had requested they not show his face. Uh… his whole damn face was showing underneath that eye mask he wore. And when they showed his torso, it was covered with tattoos. Like anyone who knew him wouldn’t recognize him? Who did he think he was kidding?? And with every demo strike the domme gave him, he parroted very quickly, “Thank you Miss Nina, thank you Miss Nina, thank you Miss Nina.” Come on… who does that? With every strike? Just once, I would have liked to see a real reaction, an “ouch,” a flinch, anything rather than a rote phrase.

The segment with the married couple who switch with one another was interesting, but also simplistic. She had a problem with submitting to him, so they go to a BDSM Bed & Breakfast, talk with the couple who runs it, she cries, and then poof. Cut to the two of them scening, and she’s submitting to him. Plus, when they showed their playroom and their massive display of implements, she mentioned how expensive implements are, and how you can make use of simple household items and not spend all that money. She bragged about how cheap their selection of wooden spoons was, for example. Uhhh, yeah. But did she mention how those cheapie kitchen utensils you buy for $3.99 a set will splinter and break if you breathe on them too hard?

While they stressed consensuality, they did not explain the concept of safe words, which I thought was a glaring omission. Love them or hate them, safe words are a part of the BDSM culture and should be part of general coverage. They did say the sub “can always say no” or can “always end the scene.” True. But it’s a lot more complicated than that, and the way they said it made it sound like the dreaded “topping from the bottom” (which they didn’t go into either).

With such a short time available to them, you’d think they might have delved into the basics more. But instead, they spent a good amount of time with a segment of play partners doing what they called “cigar play.” Huh?? OK, I don’t know everything there is to know, and I don’t pretend to. But I’ve been in the scene for nearly 17 years and I’ve never heard of this. He tied her up, placed her at his feet, then lit a big fat cigar. He then passed the tip of it along her body, her neck, her face, her ears, so she could feel the heat of it. He never touched her with it, but he came close, so she had to remain absolutely still. Then he puffed and blew the smoke all over her.

Granted, I had visceral reactions to this, mostly revulsion. I think cigars are gross and they stink. And I would probably flinch or twitch involuntarily and get burned. But really? Why choose this, of all possible scenarios, for a general sampling?

OK, so it’s better that programs like this are happening than not, I suppose. But this subject is so rich and complex, and involves so many people in some capacity, that I think it deserves more . I’d like to see another show like this, but with a). a host that isn’t so obviously detached from her topic, b). some interviews with well-known scene experts, c). more in-depth coverage of the individual kinks, and more realistic demonstrations, and d). wayyyy more time devoted to it. Perhaps a series of specials, rather than cramming the entire lifestyle into a hour (not even that, what with commercials and all).

Did any of you see this show? What did you think?

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23 thoughts on “My thoughts on "Shades of Kink"

  1. I had the same problems as you did with the show, which I watched last night. I did love how they actually had a psychologist who REALLY understands what we do, instead of acting as though there's something wrong with us, like so many do. I thought that was the best part, how she said that the danger for us in this isn't what we DO, it's in coming out to people we know. People still have such a wrong idea about it. As far as those wooden spoons, the first time G. and I met face to face, all he had were pervertables (I had the same reaction you did to hearing that word in the show!), and half of them gave up the ghost when he used them on me. He'd never spanked anybody of my level of tolerance before, so he had no idea that you need REAL implements for somebody like me. LOL


  2. Interesting. Didn't know about it, otherwise I would have set it to record. As I had posted on my blog about "50 Shades" I'm pleased any decent reference to the lifestyle gets out into the mainstream, as long as it doesn't reinforce negative stereotypes (other than bad writing).I'll have to look to see if I can find it on Hulu.


  3. Jen — I agree; the therapist was great. And I have personal experience with those El Cheapo three-packs of wooden spoons — obliterated all three of 'em! :-)Craig — hope you find it. I'd be curious about what you think of it.


  4. Erica, I saw the show. Like you, I thought it was so so. Maybe one day when TV really grows up. They will put someone like you before the camera, and let you give us the reality of "Spanking 101".


  5. Hi Erica — I didn't see the show,but i agree with you,From what you wrote they left a lot of thing's out of it.From the video clip i could tell that Lisa Ling was nervous and very uneasy.The man in the clip was annoying when he kept saying Thank you Miss Nina,he should of had said OUCH or had some kind of reaction.I also agree with you about his tatoo's,yeah right he don't want no one to reconize him,For sure they would know who he is by seeing the tatoo's DUH.Why would anyone want someone to smoke a stinky cigar and blow smoke in their face and everywhere else, UGH for 1 it STINKS LIKE HELL AND 2 BREATHING IN SECOND HAND SMOKE CAN CAUSE LUNG CANCER.3 YOU COULD GET BURNED,That sure is my type of scene NOT.I agree with Six of the best that we need you to be put in front of the camera :-)You could explain it in more detail,Since you have 17 year's experience :-)Much Love and hug's from naughty girl Jade


  6. Six — much as I would love doing that, unfortunately that would out me completely, and out John in the process. No can do. But it's a great thought!Jade — I don't get cigars at all, but I know a lot of people love them. We were at a party long ago and the guys were smoking cigars. John took a few puffs of one and I wouldn't let him near me until he brushed his teeth! LOL


  7. Sex is not always included, but when a scene really worked and the chemistry was dead on, my thoughts always drifted to intimacy afterwards. Not acted upon, but thoughts to sleep on.Well you could produce such a show and not out yourself.


  8. Erica,I agree with your thoughts on the show. The Domme/male sub scene is the stereotype for BDSM play. Movies, TV shows, etc. always seem to push this image and ignore the dynamic of power exchange. I am glad that the segment dispelled some faulty notions about BDSM, but not discussing safe words is a major omission.Cigar play? Never heard of it; not interested either. Thank you Erica. Hug,joey


  9. Time to chime in–I agree with you. I found Lisa Ling to be very wrong for the part. She was way too uptight! Her show, btw, is "Our America," not "This is America." I've watched the series since it was first aired and sometimes she does a better job as a truth seeker than others. In this case, I found myself wanting to like the documentary and wanting to like her, but failing utterly.As for cigar play, I've never heard of it, and hope that I will never witness it for real. I am totally repulsed by cigars, and I would never let anyone near me if they've been smoking! Yuck!!


  10. HiI did see it and for the most part like your review, I agree. Once I got over the excitement that some station attempted to cover the scene, I actually became bored. Lise is a terrific host but she should have taken on a co-host who was more comfortable….but is is all about image for these hosts. Also I thinl and feel they tried to cover way too many scenes instead of a focus one say two or three aspects of our scene. Yes I think a true session about Spanking 101 is what was needed. Cigar, hate them and that scene should not have been addressed!Again, at least someone tried but failed to explore the real scene, nice host but out of place and overall, not great. But they tried. Nice post my dear!AlwaysRon


  11. I don't have access to that channel but whatever happened to "objective reporting?" They definitely should have chosen a more open minded reporter for this topic. Christ, Katie Couric "appeared" more receptive during an interview over the "50 Shades" buzz.Kelly


  12. OBB — sure, I think about it too. Difficult not to, sometimes, with that great chemistry you mentioned.joey — I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that domme/sub scene was an embodiment of every cliché out there.Dana — oops! My bad for getting the show's name wrong. I guess I was so wound up with my indignities, I overlooked the obvious! :-)Ron — yes, you're right, they tried. And I do like Lisa Ling for the most part. But she was so out of her element with this, and her distaste was obvious.Kelly — I could see Katie Couric handling this. Or Meredith Vieira. I've always gotten the impression that Vieira has a naughty side.


  13. I haven't seen the show yet, but considering the strong anti-kink vibe most reporting and TV shows present I think any show which is either neutral or positive in their depiction of kink should be applauded. Too often anything kinky gets the "abuse" label or is declared abnormal. Having a show which tries to present the kink scene in a more favourable light (or at least approaches it with a fairly open mind) is a big step in the right direction.Despite the show's faults or oversights, they are a long way ahead of most other popular shows and I think they deserve support for their efforts. I don't think we can expect them to get everything perfect from the first attempt. Hopefully, with support from the kink community, more shows like this will air. Let's not shoot them down when they appear to being doing more good than harm.


  14. Anonymous — you make a good and valid point. As I'd said, I'd rather see this type of show airing than not airing. I didn't expect perfection… actually, I didn't expect anything. I guess I just hoped for something a little better, and hosted by someone who wasn't so clearly squeamish about it.


  15. I LOVE Meredith and totally agree with your thoughts on her. In fact years ago on "The View" the topic of corporal punishment (pros and cons) used on kids was discussed. Interestingly enough Lisa Ling admitted she had been spanked growing up. Guest host Delta Burke was in favor, Starr Jones was too because they too had been punished this way growing up. Starr even gave Meredith a playful demonstration while seated next to Meredith who strategically lifted her butt off the couch for better aim. :)Kelly


  16. Kelly — funny how many women have come and gone on the view! Blech… I'd forgotten about Star Jones. And Rosie O'Donnell! I've seen Meredith on Leno a few times and she always seems to be dancing on the border of propriety. I like that. 🙂


  17. I haven't seen this but agree with most of your points from what you described. Nothing ever gets it all right, but I suppose it's a good thing that some coverage is seeming to be a little less biased.


  18. Lea — it was a decent primer, I suppose. I guess we have to start somewhere, huh?


  19. From the excerpt you have included, Erica, it looks like a rather decent show.Hey, they even managed to focus on the submissive man and his motives and not on the dominatrix only, something that, for example, many F/M spanking videos don't do. Of course you are right, mainstream shows about BDSM usually have their downsides. For me, it is, for instance, also sad that the show obviously didn't include any example of M/M play. But then that's not any better in the mainstream spanking community, either, as I just pointed out in a recent post. I already find it great that they covered the idea of switching. All in all it sounds like this was one of the better mainstream reports about BDSM, one which doesn't label kinky people as being sick, dangerous or scary.Maybe that sounds very pessimistic, but I actually think that's the best we can expect, given that there will always be fear and prejudice when it comes to sexual orientations that are different from the statistical majority. That goes for BDSM as much as for every other orientation and I don't even think that this is any different in our community.


  20. We just caught a show on the E network that was much like the Oprah network show. It was called the Real Fifty Shades of Gray , much along the same lines in showing several different couples and their various relationships. It seemed like the reporter was uncomfortable but overall it was a pretty good show. This comment from dave@cathy on SL not real savvy with posting could only get it to go as anon.


  21. Kaelah — (sigh) Oh, but I can hope for better, can't I? Please please please? 🙂 I do see your point; best not to expect much from the masses.Dave — on E!, really? Hmm. Wish I'd seen that and compared the two.


  22. I saw the show and had mixed feelings as you did. My favorite was the therapist. I think she said 20% of people practiced some kind of kink and that she wished her other clients had the same communication that we do. I also like that she didn't blame being a submissive on our childhood, either because we were spanked or lack of it. The whole cigar play thing was gross, but the girl seemed to enjoy it. I am with you, I hate cigars. My husband tried them and not only did he have to brush his teeth but take a shower and change his clothes.I sure hope that poor submissive guy got to see the show before he signed off on it. I would have recognized him if I saw him on the street.It's a start, maybe there will be more shows and a more open minded person doing the interviews.


  23. Kaki — yes, the therapist was great. Very low-key and matter-of-fact. I thought more than 20% of people practiced some sort of kink — wishful thinking, I guess!


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