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Mona's Mum was crying and her face was all red, but she wasn't thinking about anything much. Her dad had the same creepy crawly things in his mind that he ALWAYS has. Money, and tied-up women, and all the different kinds of drugs he sells. Yeuk.
—Elaine from Lucifer: 12-years-old and unhappily telepathic.

In most media, Good People Have Good Sex. Thus, one of the easiest (and quickest) ways to show a character is evil is to have them engaging in a lifestyle that can easily be made to look deviant. In this case, have the character practice BDSM or similar. Sometimes, but far from always, portrayed as creepy and unsexy as well as deviant.

More and more often, modern shows and movies allow a character (often a smart one) to be into BDSM and still be a decent character. However, the old prejudices are still common, and Double Standards apply: If it's a woman who is into the practice, she might be portrayed in a somewhat respectful (if didactic) fashion. If it's a man, however, he's usually ridiculed (if he's the one being tied up) or else is portrayed as a dangerous lunatic one step away from becoming a serial killer/rapist.

And heaven help anyone who gets Chained to a Bed.

It should be noted that some media dress their villains up in "S&M gear" in order to make them Stripperific (because they're villains, after all), and don't actually have them engage in BDSM-related activities. It should also be noted that Evil Is Sexy is often the reason why Bondage Is Bad comes into play in the first place: Compare with Romanticized Abuse and its subtropes Bastard Boyfriend and Bastard Girlfriend. According to Dan Savage, this trope is mostly about letting mainstream people have their cake and eat it too: Getting turned on by kinky stuff while patting themselves on the back for being better than kinky people.

Depending on context, Bondage Is Bad is often a subtrope of Sex Is Evil, Evil Is Sexy, or both. When it follows the Evil Is Sexy path, it still often portrays BDSM as a mentally unhealthy perversion (just like Real Life psychiatry did until 1990), thus combining the two tropes into an angsty form of Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny.

The "how", "why" and "if" of why this trope is played is highly dependent on when the work is made. In the eighties, BDSM was highly socially unpopular: Major feminist organizations hated it, while psychiatry still believed even SSC BDSM to be abnormal. These views have gradually been abandoned. Since 1990, psychiatry acknowledge that SSC BDSM[1] is often done between mentally healthy individuals, and more and more organizations who have already stopped spreading prejudice are now instead starting to fight it. Thus, the trope becomes subverted more and more often, and when it's played straight it's often reinforced with hints of nazism or whatever.

Contrast Safe, Sane, and Consensual, Brains and Bondage, Casual Kink and the Obligatory Bondage Song. Compare Too Kinky to Torture, where someone is so tough that torture gets them off. Compare Depraved Homosexual for similar prejudice. Compare Moral Guardians and Heteronormative Crusader for sources of such prejudice.

Examples of Bondage Is Bad include:


Anime & Manga

  • Gauron from Full Metal Panic is into BDSM. He's shown in the novels to have a thing for erotic asphyxiation (as he strangles the female scientist in Khanka, and they both enjoy it). And numerous times, he's described to get off when he makes others "submit" to him and "break their will." The author even jokingly lampshades how Gauron is into S&M - in an episode of Lucky Star (that the author had a hand in), there's a doujinshi for Full Metal Panic shown, with Gauron molesting a chained up and Bound and Gagged Sousuke. To further follow this trope, seeing how he's the domineering aggressive one, he's a dangerous serial killer lunatic that should be feared.
  • Many villains in Violence Jack wear S&M gear as regular clothes and like to capture, tie up, and sexually torture any female character they can get their hands on. This is especially prevalent in the Harlem Bomber arc, where the villains have their own S&M dungeon to make captured girls into sex slaves. Plus, the woman who runs it, Rose, is a Whip It Good Psycho Lesbian dominatrix who rapes a girl's friend in front of her as a way to desensitize her to sex. The Big Bad of the series, Slum King, also has two quadruple amputee sex slaves that he keeps on leashes and treats like dogs.
  • Air Gear: Arthur is a Depraved Homosexual masochist who displays sexualized behavior towards his antagonist Agito. He also frequently releases heart marks whenever he's reveling in the feeling of pain.
  • Episode 20 of Black Butler features Sebastian chained to the wall and being whipped by an evil angel decked out in S&M gear and describing the excruciating sweetness of the pain being inflicted upon him.
  • Complete Monster Katsuragi of Sakura Gari ties Masataka up with rope before raping him, uses physical force on Masataka if he pisses him off, and tortures him by whipping him.
  • Legend of the Blue Wolves: Captain Continental uses bondage on Jonathan, beats him up, and whips him, when attempting to force him to sexually submit to him. Jonathan refuses so the Continental simply ties him up again and rapes him. In the beginning of the movie he also whips a subordinate for not addressing him as "sir" before engaging in sexual activities with him.
  • Monochrome Factor: Kou, in the anime adaptation, is implied to have a bit of a bondage fetish, present for no other reason than to creep Aya out after she beats him up and he begs for more.
  • In Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt, this is played straight with Big Bad Corset, who has a corset he tightens up and is a Combat Sadomasochist. Subverted with Garterbelt, who explicitly practices self-flagellation and is Corset's rival of sorts. Likely played straight with Stocking, who throughout the series likes it kinky and at the ass-end of the series becomes a villain.
  • Many of the phantoms in Tokko are shown wearing bondage gear like ball gags and leather masks.

Comic Books

  • Anyone in Preacher (Comic Book) who has a fetish of some type is going to be a villain.
  • In Zatanna where an S&M club is shown to be frequented by demons, supernatural serial killers, and psychotic mob boss who trades in human souls. However Paul Dini, the writer, included a bondage club in an issue of Detective Comics that was portrayed in a much more positive and tolerant light and Batman was even shown to be a friend (As much as Batman is anyone's friend) of the owner, having helped her out during a riot at the club weeks before. So the club in Zatanna is probably less Bondage Is Bad and more Author Appeal and possibly a homage to the kinky Cenobites of Hellraiser.
  • The Red Skull's daughter, Sin and her boyfriend Crossbones are really into the extreme kind. To the point of getting off on torture.
  • Averted with the Whip, a dominatrix-themed heroine from the Seven Soldiers. Unfortunately she doesn't survive her debut story.
  • Blue Eyes from Sin City is apparently into bondage (or at least thinks it's a common enough kink amongst men) and is an evil assassin. On the other hand, Gail is a Hooker with a Heart of Gold who has a pair of handcuffs.
  • In the first album of Lucifer, Casual Kink and Bondage Is Bad are both expressed as attitudes held by characters: Jill has a speech about how she's not into BDSM herself but doesn't mind it as long as it's consensual - while Elaine writes a story within the story where her way of establishing the bad guy as bad is to state that he fantasizes about three creepy things, one of them being tied up women. (The other two are money and selling drugs. It should be noted that since this is in the first issue, Elaine is still an immature and inexperienced 12-year-old psychic.) See page quote.
  • DC attempted to introduce a new Superman villain named "the Masochist," a young woman clad in a leather outfit with the phrase "Hurt Me!" written on the chest. Some Internet Backdraft lead to DC changing the character's name to "Anguish" and removing all of the bondage and S&M imagery from her costume.

Film

  • The Cenobites from the Hellraiser films. This was made during the height of the '80's disapproval of bondage, and writer/director Clive Barker is very interested in the transgressive.
  • In the Cheech and Chong film The Corsican Brothers, The Evil Fuckaire (yes, that really is the name of the villain in this movie) is not only flamboyantly gay, he's also into whips and chains.
  • Xenia Onatopp from Goldeneye was really into S&M. And crushing men's chests with her thighs.
    • And gets a Meaningful Name along with it.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, Wallace Ritchie encounters a septuagenarian dominatrix and immediately assumes she's Dr. Ludmilla Kropotkin, the "evil lady torturer". Subverted though in that she isn't. The actual Dr. Kropotkin is completely normal looking and unassuming.
  • In The Generals Daughter, Campbell's sexual practices are quickly used to establish that she had become mentally unhinged before her death. Brenner can't even stand to look at the tapes she shot, stating that it couldn't be the same women he met a few days ago.
  • Little Shop of Horrors has Orin, Audrey's abusive boyfriend and a psychopathic sadist. It is heavily implied that he acts as a dominant in a BDSM relationship with her. There's also a silly masochist played by Bill Murray, used as a humorous foil to Orin.
  • In Ichi the Killer, Kakihara is a masochist with a dominating personality, while Ichi is a sadist with a submissive personality. Both are batshit crazy murderers.
  • The rapist pawn shop owner and police officer in Pulp Fiction
  • In the horror-comedy Waxwork, the Marquis de Sade is counted among "the most evil people who ever lived"; the heroine ends up in a light bondage scenario with whips and chains which she seems to enjoy, but after being rescued by the hero it's implied that she was brainwashed.
  • One of Sol's high ranking henchmen in Doomsday is a gimp.
  • The Pet, an Author Tract about human trafficking, depicts modern day slavers as closely connected to the BDSM community.


Literature

  • Doctor Hong from Island in The Sea of Time by S.M. Stirling. After Nantucket is transported into the Bronze Age she is just a doctor with an S&M fetish (admittedly one that has been declared persona non grata at every pain club on the East Coast) that becomes the chief physician of William Walker's renegade empire-building islanders. Once Walker has used his twentieth century know-how to obtain power for himself she begins to torture people for fun. She eventually claims to be an avatar of the goddess Hecate and begins a cult dedicated to mass torture as a form of sacrifice to the gods (although it also teaches useful medical knowledge). In addition to torture for religious and recreational purposes she also has some practical uses for her skills, such as castrating slaves to make them more docile.
  • Inverted in the Night Huntress series. The hero Bones blindfolds the heroine Cat and ties her wrists to the headboard. She has multiple Immodest Orgasms and makes him promise to do everything again next time before she falls asleep.
  • In the Outlander series, Captain John Randall definitely fits this trope to a "T." A Depraved Bisexual (who leans more towards the Depraved Homosexual side), he apparently can't get excited unless he's beating up or torturing the person he's trying to rape. Or unless he's having Foe Yay with Jamie. According to Dougal, he appears to be in sheer bliss and acts like a guy who's crushing on a girl when he finds the possibility of being able to whip Jamie.
  • There's some hints of this in The Culture. In The Player of Games, the protagonist reacts to porn involving bondage with surprise/unfamiliarity, seemingly implying it doesn't exist in the Fetish Fuel Future Culture, and sees it as indicating cruelty and inequality. Note that the culture producing this porn also has scenes of rape and torture televised (although like the bondage porn, it's on censored tv only available to the country's leaders).
  • A lot of Alasdair Gray's work involves deeply flawed and often unsympathetic protagonists who are also sado-masochists. The flaw and the kink may or may not be related, but they're usually both there. One novel features a character who claims to be a "rational sadist", which apparently means his ideal partner is not a masochist but a weaker sadist - someone who wants to hurt him but can't. The word "consensual" never comes up.
  • Repeatedly in the Women of the Otherworld series by Kelly Armstrong. In No Humans Involved, one of the earlier suspects is the leader of a BDSM cult thingy, and the main character admits that she believes sadists indulge in BDSM as a substitute for rape. Though she isn't proven right, she isn't proven wrong either. In Personal Demon, Carlos Cortez, is established as a nasty piece of work by his interest in BDSM.
  • Run -- relentlessly, inexorably -- into the ground in the oeuvre of Mercedes Lackey. Any faint taste for a manner of lovemaking that involves physical restraint, power, or trust leads inevitably to sorcerous torture and blood sacrifice, usually of children.
  • In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, Kate, who works at a whorehouse, starts using chains and whips and razors on her "customers." This is coming from the same lady who killed both of her parents, shot her husband, and left her twin babies after telling her husband that he should throw them in a well.
  • In Dragonquest, Rannelly is horrified to find bondage marks on Kylara's wrist, courtesy of Meron. Kylara herself thinks about their respective tastes. As anyone who's read this book knows, these are two of the more villainous characters in the book.
  • In William Gibson's Neuromancer, the Complete Monster Peter Riviera can't get off sexually unless he's betraying his partners. So he dates girls in oppressive regimes, makes sure they turn political, then turns them in to the secret police and watches as they are tortured. The book makes it sound like he's evil because of his sexual preferences, no mention made of perhaps roleplaying betrayal ethically instead. Also, Molly's experience killing someone as a meat puppet prostitute.


Live-Action TV

  • Played straight in Angel, where several of the employees of the demonic law firm Wolfram and Hart are into BSDM. Of course, the lawyers at Wolfram and Hart are evil for a lot of reasons, but not their interest in BSDM.
    • In the DVD commentary of the episode "Conviction", Joss Whedon actually notes his use of this trope, and states for the record that he does not believe bondage practitioners are actually evil.
    • The Groosalugg, who's from the alternate dimension of Pylea, knows only of conventional slavery. When he has to visit a brothel to acquire a paranormal prophylactic before sleeping with Cordelia, he's understandably alarmed to see a man in chains. Angel sets him straight...kinda.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode "Dead Things", which shows the Buffy/Spike relationship at its most disturbing, starts with Spike offering handcuffs to Buffy (and it's strongly implied that she used them).
  • Averted in Castle; the vampire fetishists are treated respectfully. Ditto the BDSM episode; it's even implied that Beckett is into BDSM.
  • In Wire in The Blood season six, in the episode "Unnatural Vices", the story logic is that if you get into BDSM you are a serial killer or in very dangerous company. A character gets "outed" as being into BDSM and it means the end of their job as a teacher. A cop is also outed and it not only damages their career, they too end up the victim of a sadistic killer. It is suggested that BDSM is part and parcel of the policeman's relationship being loveless and destructive. To cap it off, this relationship ends up driving his ex-girlfriend into the arms of the killer.
  • Mackenzie Crook's psychotic gangster character in Skins is depicted as a bondage freak.
  • Law and Order Special Victims Unit played this quite straight in the first season episode "Stocks and Bondage". The Victim of the Week had it coming for being into BDSM. Her own mother just keep spitting on her grave (with the protagonists comforting her for the burden of having such a perverted daughter). And each individual who accepted her kinky side without moralizing over it turn out to be a horrible person. It seems they got some quote harsh feedback for that episode: In later episodes, that have nothing to do with BDSM, the Captain just keep reminding the protagonists that SSC BDSM isn't a bad thing, so they should be careful to not do an Abuse Mistake.
    • Also subverted sometimes, with the detectives or their captain making references to the existence of SSC (Safe, Sane & Consensual) BDSM play and the importance of not mistaking such play for abuse.
    • There was also a first season episode of the original Law and Order called "Prisoner Of Love". Its portrayal of BDSM and its practitioners was not very flattering at all.
  • S&M appears a few times on Sex and the City, but it is almost always to mock the participants.
  • In Uh-oh, a children's game show, the character who dumps slime on incorrect contestants is known as The Punisher, and is released from a cage every episode. He, however wears something similar to a gimp mask and other non-dominant apparel. Whether this is Did Not Do the Research is up for debate.
  • The writers of Bones seem to have a thing about this. One episode declared that bondage and kink were for people who were unsatisfied and bored with "real" sex, with implications that the activity indicated emotional imbalance. In another, featuring pony play in the murder of the week, Booth gives an impassioned speech about how fetishism cannot lead to a fulfilling emotional experience. Both times, Bones (who is very sexually open-minded otherwise) agrees with him.
    • Making this both bigoted and a case of Did Not Do the Research as there are literally hundreds if not more people involved in emotionally fulfilling relationships who are into fetishism of one kind or another. As far as the lead characters are concerned, these fetishes serve only to as a way for the participants to objectify one another instead of engaging another person emotionally.
      • The only thing that can really be said in defense of these portrayals is that the murder victim who took part in these fetishes was in each case keeping the fetish secret from their significant other; engaging in an affair to indulge the fetish rather than communicating their sexual needs and desires to their chosen life-partner (ostensibly the person with whom they should be able to find emotionally fulfilling experiences). Whether this is another layer of prejudice or a justification for dismissing the particular fetishist as emotionally stunted is a whole new debate.
  • Blair and Chuck, the two most morally ambiguous main characters on Gossip Girl, apparently used handcuffs a lot when they were dating. And apparently a bidding paddle can be put to other uses...
  • Being Human tried to pull this off. It didn't go down well
  • In the fifth season of Dexter one of the serial rapists/murderers he and Lumen are hunting is shown having (consensual) sex with a tied up woman. Though in fairness, he seemed more interested in just plowing her. The woman actually had to remind him to finish tying her down in mid-coitus.
  • Supernatural has Crowley, a Depraved Homosexual sexually sadistic demon.
  • Darkseid, while possessing the body of Gordon Godfrey, feeds on the dark energy in the souls of dominatrix club goers in Smallville.


Tabletop Games


Theatre

  • Iron Curtain has Miss Hildret, a stage director from East Berlin who carries around a crop and gets turned on by torture. She is open to inserting a few more gags into the play, having quite the collection herself.


Videogames

  • You wouldn't think this would come up in a parody game based around raising slaves, but Slave Maker has bondage being a sex act frowned upon by both major religions, hits your slave's Morality stat when practiced and requires a high Obedience score to do. To be fair, the game's creator isn't big on the harder sex acts, so this is probably a matter of personal preference than anything else.
  • One of the many reasons No More Heroes' Travis considers Bad Girl a "perverted killer" is her extensive use of gimps. For batting practice.
    • In the sequel Travis meets up with Cloe Walsh, an assassin bound inside a container. She is possibly the most utterly evil assassin in the game (considering that she seems to have more control over herself than Matt Helms while still being just as sadistic), and one of the first things Travis says to her is "You're lucky I don't have a bondage kink."
  • Fable II has a touch of this. If your character is evil, then the off-screen sex scenes include lines such as "Do as you're told!"
  • In Phantasmagoria 2 Therese coerces Curtis into coming to a BDSM club with her and then repeatedly has kinky sex with him. While Curtis enjoys it (albeit with a small Freudian Excuse), Therese herself is a totally psycho stalker.
  • Brutal Legend has demons that are decked head to toe in bondage gear. Their mouths are usually covered by zippers, and they have hooks embedded into their skin.
  • Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within has female enemies that say things like "Hit me harder prince" and "There's so much pleasure in pain" during combat.
  • Bondage Queen is one of the possible Evil endings in the Raising Sim game, Princess Maker 2. Achieving this one is heavily frowned upon, although it doesn't stop people from doing it, of course. It is in the same vein as Crime Boss, High Class Prostitute, and Princess of Darkness.
  • About three quarters of the enemies in Blood Rayne 2 (turned vampires are decked out in bondage gear, the minions in the first level are masochists according to combat dialogue, most other minions practice body modification, etc.), the last quarter being Eldritch Abominations.
  • Cain in Galerians fits the "villain who dresses in S&M wear, but doesn't actually engage in it" bill. Probably because he looks fourteen... and is technically even younger than that.
  • Watchmen: The End Is Nigh Part 2 has the entire last level take place in Twilight Lady's mansion turned S&M dungeon.
  • Leisure Suit Larry's "bad" characters tend to be into BDSM (Mama Bimbo being a particularly chilling example), although in Magna Cum Laude, one of the three endings has the young Larry Lovage get such a relationship.
  • The Dark Mistresses in Dungeon Keeper, but "Evil Is Good".
  • Duke Nukem Manhattan Project has killer robot dominatrices as enemies with regular or electric whips. Also averted by the fact that Duke Nukem himself is into BDSM.
  • In Max Payne, we have the nightclub Ragnarok: where we have, among other things, BDSM, animal sacrifice, and other violent occult activities.
  • Ivy of Soulcalibur fame is a subversion: She is introduced into the series as a cackling bitch who wears a damn-near bondage harness to fights and wields a whip sword, and all of her voice clips are dripping with innuendo, but in her storyline, she's a Chaotic Neutral redeemer who is trying to destroy Soul Edge so that it can't destroy the world.
    • Not to mention that she's also a Chaste Hero because Soul Edge is in her blood and she does not want to pass this on.
  • Colonol Volgin is into BDSM, torture and electrocution. Also an example of Depraved Bisexual.
    • Although where Volgin's interests lie are not really true BDSM, but more that Volgin simply gets off on causing pain and suffering.
  • Silver Mantis from City of Heroes turned to villainy to support her piercing habit.
  • Catalina in Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is technically on the protagonist's side, but she's also one of the craziest characters in the game. When she drags him into her cabin, he winds up screaming for her to stop (with no success.) (This is Played for Laughs, and he probably had it coming after all the stuff you've been having him do.)


Web Comics


Web Originals

  • Riley of The Guild is an over-the-top stereotype of an FPS Gamer suffering from Testosterone Poisoning (despite being a woman). This extends to being an abusive dominant in her relationship with Zaboo.
  • Averted with 4chan's Ardarvia, the Iron Maiden, a homebrew deity of BDSM and love. She is Lawful Good, and her followers tie themselves up, or even amputate their own limbs, as a sacrifice for her.
  • Subverted and inverted in the Chakona Space stories, foxtaur society generally disapproves of male-on-female bondage, since vixens are supposed to be the stronger sex (no word on how other sex combinations are treated). But after Garrek is pheromonally raped by his sister he finds it very therapeutic to tie up a four-breasted vixen and mount her repeatedly, consensually of course.


Western Animation

  • ReBoot: When Megabyte rebuilds Hexadecimal, he gives her what looks like a black leather corset and other dominant clothes. He then keeps her as a tightly restrained prisoner, and it's revealed that she could have escaped whenever she wanted to but "likes being tied up". The characters are both villains, of course. And siblings.
  • Fern Gully: In the the Villain Song "Toxic Love", the villain Hexxus alludes to S&M with the lyrics "Hit me one time / Hit me twice / Oh! Ah! Ohhh! / Well, that's rather nice..."
  • Played with in a Family Guy episode. Peter and Lois have a serious, completely ordinary discussion about the impressionability of their children in a world filled with drugs... while suiting up for a BDSM session.

Notes

  1. note that when this trope is used, SSC is invariably NOT used
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