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The Duke of Burgundy – A peek into a kinky lesbian relationship

As you may or may not be aware, it’s the Sydney Film Festival at the moment and they have some whopper of screenings available to view. This was but one of many that perked my interest and it was a moofie date with one of my most favouritest women.

So off we bounded into the cold and got seated in the State Theatre for our viewing. Now, me being me, I refused to look up anything to do with the film before I saw it so that I didn’t have any assumptions or expectations of it that would leave me feeling like I was let down by the end because it wasn’t what I was expecting. All I know from my friend was that it was about a kinky lesbian relationship.

We snuggled into the soft old style seats of the theatre that were cushioned (my arse thanks you State!!!) and giggled as the movie started up and we whispered.

Not too long into it we both shut up to watch what was going on.

The film itself was a somewhat arty thing. I mean it did start with the “sub”, Evelyn, kneeling beside a river or brook that tinkled loudly on the screen and made me want to rush to the bathroom to wee.

In some ways I think I was captivated by the movie and in other ways it made me question and confirm certain things I know about the lifestyle from my experience.

The Duke of Burgundy is basically about 2 entomologists who are in a lesbian relationship. However one of them is a bit kinky and basically writes on speech cards for her partner about “scenes” she would like played out and when. It kind of reminded me of Pro-Domming in a way, you get told how to behave, what the scene will entail and how long certain things will go for.

And that’s exactly what this woman was doing to her partner. It’s not ever discussed in the film about if the partner is a willing participant, but soon into the film you come across a scene in the bed when they both awake and the non-kinky Cynthia is stroking Evelyn’s face and explaining all the things she loves about her when Evelyn stops her and asks her to tell her of other things instead as her hand reaches down the sheets to start masturbating. Cynthia helps her out with her own hand and starts to tell her things that make her face go neutral as she stares out into space and when she runs out of things to say before Evelyn has come, Evelyn impatiently tells her to start at the beginning. And so Cynthia,  with a roll of her eyes,  says exactly the same things in monotone.

I believe this is the point where you realise that Cynthia isn’t that into all this kinky stuff. But she does it to please Evelyn.

As the movie progresses you realise that Cynthia is also afraid of losing Evelyn because she’s older and with back problems feels that she can’t give Evelyn what she wants.

The plot keeps going, with various “punishments” meted out for transgressions that a maid may have made. However what you realise is that the scenes are repeated is that there’s nothing new. And from what I got from Cynthia was that she was starting to feel the strain that her “acting” was putting on their relationship. There’s only so much one can do something to please their partner before it starts becoming a chore and you start to resent the other person for putting you in a position where you feel that you have to do something in order to keep them in your life.

From what I can see there isn’t much negotiation of these scenes. Evelyn writes on a piece of paper that she will scrub boots outside for a certain period of time at which point Cynthia will come out and find her slacking off and punish her for it. Evelyn washes Cynthia’s underwear with her hands and forgets a piece of underwear. Cynthia “checks” her work and finds said underwear and repeats the same lines from the beginning of the movie. Throughout you see Cynthia drinking lots and lots of water. You see, one of her punishments was to be a human toilet for not washing the underwear. So as she drank more and more, we giggled. Towards the end I started wincing.

However Evelyn polished another lecturers boots and caused a rift. And as their relationship got more strained and the kinky stuff stopped as they rediscovered what they wanted from each other and loved about each other before it was all about the kinky things and you saw their love blossom. Yet at the end of the movie you see Cynthia don her “mistress” attire and say the same lines you saw her repeat at the beginning of the movie.

I think we all have a part to play in kinky relationships. It’s easy to get caught up in the “me, do me” syndrome and not take into consideration what your partner wants or needs from your interactions as well. I guess that’s why negotiation is a high priority. Talking about what you both need and how to go about getting that without pushing the other person into a place where they are a service top or a rent a dom to your needs or desires. BDSM is a two way street and it works perfectly when you are both aligned in what you desire and need from each other in that space.

I’ve said it before and it’s still true. BDSM doth not a relationship make. If you’re in an intimate relationship with someone it’s icing on the cake. It’s not the be all and end all of your relationship. At least it shouldn’t be, not in an intimate romantic relationship. Sure there are relationships where it’s pure S&M or D/S – however those don’t tend to include building a life together outside of the play space. So that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I remember one scene that had me cheering – Cynthia, for Evelyn’s birthday, wanted to order her a bed with a lockable compartment underneath so she could lock her in there. However when the bed maker couldn’t deliver the bed within the time it would take for her birthday Evelyn pouted and wanted to know if they could give her more money to make it arrive quicker. The answer was no, they couldn’t. So Cynthia blindfolds Evelyn on the night of her birthday and takes her into the kitchen where there is an empty cake stand and all the ingredients laid out. She takes off her blindfold and Evelyn falters. She looks confused and asks where her cake is. Cynthia replies, “It’s right in front of you” as she pushes the recipe onto the cake stand in front of Evelyn and continues on, “you will be making the cake.” Evelyn looks shocked and then confused. “But I never made a cake before” she stutters. This is after the betrayal from Evelyn of polishing someone else’s boots and getting punished. Cynthia, dressed in tights and a frilly top shrugs and leaves her to it in the kitchen as she says she is going to go change into something more comfortable. We then pan to Cynthia sitting in a high-backed chair in her pyjama’s – the significance of this is the last time Cynthia wore pyjama’s Evelyn turned down her advances saying that she looked horrible and wasn’t dressed in anything that inspired her to be sexual – Evelyn starts when she realises what Cynthia is wearing. She hands her the cake and is told to lay down on the floor. Cynthia then puts her sock covered foot on Evelyn’s chest. When Evelyn protests Cynthia puts her socked foot over her mouth as you see a tear fall out of Evelyn’s eye as she said her safeword which is ignored. I cheered for the woman who stepped up and took back the power in the relationship. I cheered for the woman who finally got to understand what submission means.

I cheered because… well…

… sometimes D/s isn’t fun. It’s not about what you want. It’s about what they want. It’s about giving up a part of yourself to serve someone else. Sure you can act these bits out now and then in the bedroom or over a weekend, but ultimately, I’ve done 24/7 before and I lost myself. That path leads to darkness and uncertainty. My brand of D/s now flourishes when I’m left to my own devices, when I have some set boundaries in place regards to play, relationships, my access to my body for certain things, etc. I hate being micro managed. I hate and baulk at someone telling me what to do. Sometimes when Cern says something that gets my back up I have to remind myself to back down and acquiesce. And sometimes I don’t. But with a power exchange comes some understanding of what you’ve agreed to and signed up for. And that’s that sometimes I don’t get to do what I want when I want and that sometimes what he says goes. Even if it sets my teeth on edge to comply.

The challenge and triumph of a successful relationship, especially in a kinky sense, is one where you both communicate what you desire and negotiate how to achieve your goals – much like a normal relationship. However I’ve found that this works better on a foundation of love, trust and mutual respect first. Kinky stuff is fun, its great fun, I totally love it… but it’s not all of who I am.

I am more than my love of pain. Of leather. Of rope. I’m multifaceted and BDSM is just one side of me.