Love And Leashes is a candid glimpse into BDSM relationships

·Contributor
·4-min read
Seohyun and Lee Jun-young in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)
Seohyun and Lee Jun-young in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)

Length: 118 minutes
Director: Park Hyun-jin
Cast: Lee Jun-young, Seohyun

Streaming on Netflix

3.5 out of 5 stars

Many, if not most of us, have sexual secrets that we consider embarrassing or even shameful.

Particularly in South Korea, with its ultra-conservative, patriarchal society and ‘woke’ netizens with trigger-happy fingers on the cancel culture button, sex is something that is not talked about openly or even portrayed meaningfully in most forms of media.

So you can imagine the immense uproar and buzz when the Love And Leashes trailer came out, featuring a BDSM romance between an experienced male submissive (Lee Jun-young, U-KISS) and a rookie dominant female (Seohyun, Girl’s Generation).

K-dramas have mostly depicted sex and intimacy in a very saccharine, sometimes angst-ridden, mostly as a result of embedded cultural influences as a conservative Asian society.

But in the last half a decade or so, flicks like What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim and Nevertheless have continued to push the envelope to develop a more realistic portrayal of sex and intimacy.

What we want to know is, does this daring movie ultimately succeed in delving into the often complicated and stereotyped lives of individuals who engage in BDSM, and does it deserve its current spot on the Netflix Top 10 ranking?

Spoilers ahead

1. It's a proper crash course for people who think BDSM is all about enjoying torture and pain.

Contracts? Check. Safe word? Check. Respect, mutual consent and trust? All check!

Yes, you got that right. BDSM is all about respect, mutual consent and trust, and Love And Leashes definitely gets that part right.

It is idol group U-KISS’s Lee Jun-young’s first debut as a lead in a drama, and he does a great job playing the over eager, doe-eyed submissive Jung Ji-hoo.

Ji-hoo is a newly transferred assistant team manager who finds himself entangled with his subordinate Jung Ji-woo (Seohyun from Girls Generation), who finds out that he’s into BDSM when she accidentally intercepts a parcel containing a spike-studded dog collar which was intended for him.

Far from being disparaging of her colleague at this discovery, Ji-woo is politely curious and takes to the net to do some research about BDSM, and finds herself strangely drawn to its craft.

This is where viewers get a crash course into the terms of BDSM — Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism. I won’t go into the definitions, watch the show to find out!

They then very cutely and awkwardly discuss the terms of a physical contract, which is uncommon (but not unusual) before entering into the relationship of master and slave, wherein contains the stated parameters of what can be done to each other.

Yes, you guessed it; it involves a lot of kinky acts (with implements) like slapping, stepping on, verbal abuse and tying up.

Lee Jun-young in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)
Lee Jun-young in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)

2. Fear, stigma and bullying are all pertinent themes which are explored in the flick

Ji-hoo’s reaction of fear and shame to being found out by his colleagues for his tendencies is definitely something that many people who are secretly into BDSM have all feared at one point in their lives.

Especially if the consequence of being discovered is being bullied, looked down upon and called ‘disgusting’ or ‘perverted’.

Being rejected by a lover is also a fear that most practitioners of BDSM harbor. Ji-hoo is tormented by an ex-girlfriend, whom he bared his heart and soul to, but was hurt by her outright rejection and lack of understanding of his predilections.

It is very encouraging that his trauma is ultimately resolved in a satisfying and loving manner, which proves that fear is usually borne of ignorance and lack of information, which the movie addresses without much equivocating.

Seohyun in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)
Seohyun in Love And Leashes. (Photo: Netflix)

3. The romance is direct, honest and vulnerable

Unlike other rom-com K-dramas, Love And Leashes doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to portraying romantic communication between our two leads.

“Do you know why Mercury is small and black? It’s too close to the Sun, so it shriveled up and burnt. I like warmth, but I’m afraid of getting burned,” says Ji-hoo to Ji-woo in a soul baring moment.

Often, we are afraid of putting ourselves out there, for fear of being hurt by someone that we love and are vulnerable with.

Love And Leashes tells us that in love, as well as in life, we need to be truly vulnerable with not only others but ourselves as well.

Which means to own our idiosyncrasies and inclinations, no matter what they may be, and be courageous in displaying them to the world regardless of what others may think.

To all singles out there on Valentine’s Day, this is for you.

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