The moment you open your Netflix app, you are hit by this sexy woman who is warning you not to watch any further but you are so intrigued that you don’t wait a second and hit play.
If you have been curious about this new show then you’d know what’s it about. If you were to dive any further then you’d also know this fictional character own a verified Twitter account and this has slightly enraged some sex workers as they think that some a fictional character is representing a whole community with a harmful and inaccurate view of their profession.
Let’s unpack the storyline to get a better view of where the sex workers are coming from. Bonding is a show that recently aired on Netflix. It tells the story of Tiff (Zoe Levin), a grad student who gets her best friend Pete (Brendan Scannell) to work as her bodyguard while she deals with her dominatrix business. The series is narrated from the eyes of Pete, a coward, timid and sexually restrained character.
One criticism that is hard-hitting is that they have painted a pretty picture when it comes to how doms and subs negotiate their boundaries and consent which is of utmost priority in the BDSM community.
For the most part, people have a problem with how it is presented as a sex-positive show and something that actively wants to remove the stigma, however, they are achieving these two objectives with inaccuracy. It seems to be doing a good job at propagating its harmful stereotypes about fetishes and sex workers.
For example, Tiff’s character is shown cynical and emotionally unavailable, they have also implied that since she has suffered sexual trauma she is into all of this which is a pretty negative and exhausted trope. She is also emotionally distant in her personal life which something a dom should be. However, they completely disregard the fact that sex work is work. You don’t need a personality stencil to fit the criteria.
Apart from this bad and generic portrayal of doms, another thing that seemed to have triggered sex workers is how careless Tiff is. Despite being the most sought after dom in the whole of New York City, she is lousy when dealing with her clients’ safety and their principles. Neither is she seen engaging in conversation with her client regarding their boundaries.
Exhibit A: when she bullies her best friend and tricks him into peeing on a client, all for laughs.
She is neither respectful of her clients’ boundaries, her best friends or even hers, for that matter.
Many sex workers had to say that they need a better consultant on-board who can explain how this community works. Despite the series being created by queer man, Rightor Doyle, who served as an assistant to his own domme best friend, the show lacks correct substance. Perhaps because they are only drawing content based on his experiences when in fact they should be more inclusive and use generic things that are present in their community and not the stereotype that is presented in the media.
Moreover, the show overall seems to have an identity crisis. It kicks off with the BDSM world and then leaves it behind, only to return to once again to connect the narrative. Unfortunately, Bonding isn’t the kind of show that will highlight the stakes and the consequences of poor decision making when it comes to the BDSM community.