Love And Leashes Is So Much More Than Just Whips, Chains, And BDSM

50 Shades of Grey lite with consent.

Underneath the surface of Love and Leashes is a surprisingly insightful story of consent, respect, and women empowerment.

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In the world of K-dramas and movies, rarely do they revolve around what some may see as taboo. Especially for the more mainstream fair featuring big stars, having potentially controversial storylines usually won’t happen. This is why it’s a sight to see how a movie like Love and Leashes, Netflix’s latest Korean rom-com, is real. Starring two K-pop idols/actors, SNSD’s Seohyun and U-Kiss’ Lee Junyoung, you wouldn’t think that K-movie of two people entering into the world of BDSM and DS (dominant-submissive) relationships would be possible. Yet it’s here and the movie has attracted attention for its subject matter. But behind the movie’s take on BDSM and experiencing pain as pleasure is a story that surprisingly is quite progressive and unlike most in the genre. It’s more of a lovely tale that takes a different approach on its subject matter.

AN OFFICE ROMANCE THAT TAKES A TURN

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Love and Leashes follows two office workers, Jiwoo (Seohyun), and Jihoo (Lee Junyoung) who both work at a PR company. Jiwoo has been working in the department for a while now while Jihoo just transfers to the team. One day, Jiwoo picks up a package at work she thinks is for her, but is, in fact for Jihoo. She then opens it, revealing a human sized dog collar, exposing Jihoo’s kinks. Later on, Jiwoo decides to accept Jihoo’s offer to be his master and the two go on a DS relationship that involves, among other things, role play and candle wax. (If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll understand this reference.)

THE ROLES REVERSE

Love and Leashes,' Girls' Generation Seohyun's debut film is about sex

What immediately stands out about Love and Leashes is how the woman takes charge of the relationship. In movies of this kind, most notably in 50 Shades of Grey, the man is the one who is dominant over the girl while she is submissive. But in this case, the roles reverse and Jiwoo is the master and Jihoo is her servant. It’s almost like a reclamation of narrative in a sense that instead of disenfranchising the woman, it empowers her to be a force in the relationship. Jiwoo doesn’t need saving at all and doesn’t need a man to enter her life to make it better.

She is a strong woman and is the one who is taking the wheels of the relationship. Also, there’s no full on nudity in the movie nor is a character forcibly removed of their clothes. The woman nor the man are degraded of their dignity in that sense. They both participate in consensual light play. They both respect each other in the relationship. While other movies would have easily put the man on a pedestal and the woman beneath him, that does not happen here.

BOTH AS EQUALS

Love and Leashes summary and ending explained

The movie also gives both leads equal footing in the story. Both have a say in the relationship and one is not dominant over the other in that sense. While in their DS relationship, Jiwoo is the master over Jihoo, she won’t do things to him without his consent and vice versa. Because of this, we get a different take and perspective on these kinds of relationships. Since these are two consenting adults entering a DS relationship, Love and Leashes portrays BDSM not as a taboo topic that is uncomfortable, but more of a unique interest that people do have.

At no point in the movies does it portray what the two main characters participating in as an abhorrent act. While some characters in the story may not agree with what they do, the movie itself shows the acts as just another form of pleasure in a relationship. You may even see it as questioning social norms on what is deemed appropriate or not in a relationship. More importantly, these two, like any real couple, go through the same struggles and challenges. Which is why you end up getting a surprisingly wholesome take on this kind of lifestyle. Yes, the movie does go there at times, but it also has it’s cute and grounded moments.

DEALING WITH SEXISM

Netflix rom-com 'Love and Leashes' raises questions about social norms

Another aspect of Love and Leashes that pleasantly surprises is how a good chunk of the narrative revolves around sexism in the workplace. By the movie’s opening, we are introduced to their team leader, Hwang, who is an open sexist towards woman, especially Jiwoo. While Jihoo gets constantly praised, Jiwoo gets constantly dragged for doing the exact same things as a man would do. It’s a scenario all too real for many woman in the workplace, having your work degraded while having your male counterparts get praised for doing the exact same work you do. Even when both end up in a situation where they share blame, Jiwoo gets the brunt of the criticism. It’s actually quite refreshing for Love and Leashes to tackle this kind of topic.

NOT YOUR TYPICAL BDSM MOVIE

Girls' Generation's Seohyun on 'Love And Leashes': "It's fresh and shocking"

Love and Leashes is not perfect, but it stands out of how it tells its tale. It’s a story of love, respect, boundaries, and consent. Communication and understanding is important in any relationship, even ones that involve red rope. For those who are initially curious about the movie because of is BDSM themes may be pleasantly surprised by how the story unfolds. Definitely come with an open mind for you to get the most enjoyment from this.

Was this the Korean 50 Shades Of Grey that some people were expecting? No, not really. And honestly, that’s for the better. In a sea of films where one person, usually the woman, is put down and degraded, Love and Leashes stands out by giving both characters in the relationship equal footing and not make it your typical dominant-submissive relationship. Come for the BDSM, stay for the wholesome story.

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