Safe Word - Lilith Likes to Watch

Title: Safe Word
Year: 2020
Starring: Mona Wales, Mickey Mod, Nina Hartley
Director: Erika Lust
Synopsis: Christie is an uptight theatre director who embarks on an unexpected journey into the world of BDSM when a new neighbour, Mickey Mod, moves in to her building and sparks a dormant desire within her. - Via Lust Cinema
Lilith's Notes: It's nominated for AVN Best BDSM Movie or Anthology, and several XBIZ awards including Feature Movie of the Year. It won XBIZ Best Screenplay award.

"I want to book you."

I have never agreed with the philosophy that one must love themselves before they can love another person, or expect to be able to be loved. I am a fucking mess. Everybody is in one way or another. In my case, there are things about me that I can never change, and will never love, and the people who love me see beyond those bullshit things anyway. Because they are a part of me, and no amount of self-love will change that.

Lucky for me, I honed a sharp wit and effervescent personality. But, I can be a lot.

Then came Safe Word, a four episode mini-series by Erika Lust, and it's the closest I've come to buying in to the possibility of self-love and whole acceptance.

Christie, played by Mona Wales, is a writer-director for the stage and she's trying to bring her theatrical vision to life. She's sharp and snappish, and nothing seems to be going her way. Her actors are making a mockery of her work and there's a leak in her apartment ceiling. She goes up to the apartment above to yell about the leak to her upstairs neighbour Mickey, played by Mickey Mod, but instead come across a bound woman played by Julia Roca.

Thinking she came across something disturbing Christie begins to dial the police but stops, and hides in a closet. She watches Mickey and the woman and realizes this is consensual, and stays, enamored, as they explore BDSM with him firmly in control.

The first episode sets the plot and feel of the series, with good use of light and shadow. It introduces us to most of the major players of the film. The bulk of the episode's runtime relishes in the scene of Mickey and Julia's fun. The scene takes its time, and lovingly watches Mickey tease and torment Julia. There is a modicum of restraint though, as the scene very rarely cuts back to Christie. When we do see her, she's enraptured and never shown masturbating or anything, like one would think. The entire encounter is well-paced and much more interesting to experience than the typical 30 minute fuck-fest so common in porn nowadays.

Things pick up even more in episode two. Christie has become enthralled with Mickey's activities and she finds one of his videos online, where he dominates another woman. Christie follows along with the video, dripping ice on her nipples where Mickey plays with ice, or chokes herself as Mickey chokes his partner. The energy of the entire scene is high and yet somehow it still manages to build. There's a tense anticipation as Christie picks up a lit candle and, with a shaking hand, contemplates dripping hot wax on her own skin. Will she do it? Will she relent? If she does it, will she like it? Or has she taken herself too far? There's a sense of escalation to the scene, an arc, and it ramps up the intensity. It like an action sequence and it was a more exciting scene than most modern action films. 
Episode three is the highlight of the whole series. Christie goes to meet a dominatrix for a session. She lays out what's acceptable, and what her limits are. She doesn't want to be talk to like a child, and she doesn't want to be hit in the face. Some spitting might be alright, though. The Madame, played by Nina Hartley, tells Christie to put her face on the ground and stay there until she returns. I initially thought the entire episode was just going to be that shot, which would be an interesting idea and I've been fine with that. But no, the Madame returns shortly and she and Christie goes through the session, guiding and teaching Christie the ways as they go. It's a phenomenal scene over all but what really sets it apart is one stellar moment. The Madame tells Christie to repeat after her and one would expect the Madame to say something like "I'm a slut." or "I'm a good slave.", but what she does make Christie say is so affirming and makes Christie smile so brightly she practically glows. And it made me think there might be something to this whole self-acceptance thing. I won't spoil it here, but you'll know it when you see it. 
After the session, Christie knocks on Mickey's door and tells him she wants to book a session with him.

The final episode is good, but it's not to the level of episodes two and three. Christie goes to a fetish club hosted by Madame, where Mickey is the lead dom. The location they filmed this is an industrial work of art in and of itself. Large and cavernous but architecturally intriguing, with pillars that seem to float horizontally serving as a coiling stairway into this exclusive underworld. Whoever was the location scout deserves respect. The fun begins and Mickey selects Christie to be his slave and subjects her to all manner of caining, flogging, choking, and fucking. It's a good scene but it has the same energy throughout. I was expecting a return of the ice, or the ropes, some call-backs that were set up in earlier episodes, but that never happened. Christie is taken over her sexual edge and is then embraced by the members of the party and accepted into their group with a symbolic ring that looks like a collar.

Safe Word is amazing. It's daring, and respectful, bold and intimate, honest and open. There's no shame, but it's not shameless. It's resonant and profound and wonderful. It's the antithesis to the 'sex contracts' and abusive notions of BDSM that have been so prevalent in the last decade. It is true BDSM, and it is what the collective consciousness should think of when they think BDSM. Everyone should see this.

Best Moment: That moment when the Madame says those words to Christie. My heart fluttered.

Worst Moment: The worst moment is also the best moment. I can't imagine anything else living up to that moment. Everything else is going to shine just a little less bright now.


Until next time, my voracious voyeurs. I’m Lilith, and I’m always watching.