Trends (2015): BDSM

In celebration of Adult Empire’s 20th anniversary, we look at some of the porn trends and genres that shaped the company’s history. In this edition: BDSM.

E.L. James’s book 50 Shades of Grey brought BDSM out of the dungeon and into the mainstream. It’s a genre that’s often misunderstood, though, and frequently mischaracterized. Cliched depictions of leather, whips, and domination belie the true intricacies of the power dynamics at the core of BDSM.

The term BDSM didn’t enter the lexicon until 1969, despite evidence that sub/dom-style relationships have existed for at least 5,000 years. It’s been a common theme in porn since nearly the beginning, but it became less of a niche in the wake of 50 Shades, a move that has been a mixed blessing for lovers of BDSM. “Just because you put a girl in latex and give her a flogger doesn’t make her a dominatrix. Rough Dee Severe quotationsex in a dungeon is not BDSM,” BDSM director and writer Dee Severe said in a behind-the-scenes interview for the movie Ms. Grey 2. “So I think there’s a lot of kind of pseudo-BDSM stuff going around and being put out that doesn’t really reflect the proper protocol and the proper safety measures and the way that you really should be having a BDSM relationship in real life.”

The Emma Marx series, which kicked off in 2013 as a response to 50 Shades‘ popularity, was one of porn’s splashiest efforts to show BDSM in a more accurate light. Its storyline was clearly inspired by the rich man/impressionable young woman construct of 50 Shades, but it used director Jacky St. James‘s knowledge of bondage culture to craft a better depiction of its particularities. “I think the mistake that’s often made is that subs in these movies are depicted as being the weaker one, the one that has no control or power when in actuality the sub has all the power. They have the power to say no, but they want to please, so that’s why they do some of the things that they do. So for me, I just wanted to be as true to the community as I could be, and to be as true to those kind of relationships as I could be,” St. James told Adult Empire in 2014.

The mainstreaming of the genre has done little to dull its edge or impact. The Emma Marx series saw its fourth smash installment debut in 2017, and bondage-related items and novelties remain popular choices on AE’s sex toy tab.

Browse BDSM >>

Adult Empire 20 Years

Feature (1997) | Shaved (1998) | Interactive DVD (1999) | Contract Girl Era (2000) | Compilations (2001) | Anal Obsession (2002) | Reality Porn (2003) | Gonzo (2004) | Cuckolding (2005) | Oiled (2006) | Celeb Sex Tapes (2007) | MILF (2008) | Parodies (2009) | Firsts/ Doubles (2010) | Rise of the All-Natural Girl (2011) | Family Roleplay (2012) | Threesomes (2013) | Interracial (2014) | BDSM (2015) | Star Showcase (2016) | High-End Erotica (2017)
Additional sources: The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English 
by Tom Dalzell 
and "BDSM Culture Throughout History and To The Present (Maybe NSFW)" from Observation Deck