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Forget 50 Shades: Feminist Adult Film Producers Pick Their Favorite BDSM Erotica

02/12/2015 02:51 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015

Like many lost souls before me, I eventually succumbed to the hype and purchased a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. (In my case, I procured it at an airport bookstore during a long layover before awkwardly sneak-reading it in the middle seat during a packed flight.)

And like many (with discerning taste), I also put it down after about 50 pages, more amused than titillated by its amateurish prose, and definitely put off by its weirdly misogynistic undertones. And that's to say nothing of the entire series' offensive take on BDSM, which has further tainted any chance of even fleetingly enjoying it. After all, I think we can all admit the novel is an "Emperor Has No Clothes" situation, even without its damaging tropes.

While we have no way of knowing what the actual film adaptation of the book--coming out tomorrow--will be like, it's more-than-fair to assume it too will leave much to be desired, simply given the source material.

What, then, are BDSM devotees--or at least those curious about BDSM--to do? Is this truly our only outlet to see depictions of a pain room or the sweet-sharp pleasure of a good spanking? 

No! Fear and fret not, for there is another way. This handy list of other BDSM films relies on the insights of those who know best--acclaimed adult film producers who also happen to be female and sex-positive. Our illustrious panel?

Anna Frolicme: Founder of FrolicMe, a site featuring erotic films, videos, stories, and photographic collections.

Angie Rowntree: Owner and founder of Sssh.com, a porn-for-women site, who got her start in the industry back in the '90s and has been profiled by the likes of ABC's Nightline, CNBC, Salon, the BBC, and TIME magazine.

Jacky St. James: Award-winning writer and director in the adult entertainment industry, who has been featured at sites including Jezebel and Slate. She blogs about her experiences in the industry for missjackystjames.com.

Here are their picks, from their own oeuvre and outside it, spanning the mainstream to the niche--plus info on where you can find them.

Secretary

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Where to find it: Amazon, Netflix (delivery)

Featuring James Spader as the dispassionate dominant (and forerunner to Mr. Grey) and Maggie Gyllenhaal as the blossoming submissive, this film features some hot kink scenes. It also reveals a strong understanding of D/S, explaining not just the "how" of BDSM but the "why," even if the main characters are rather damaged. This is a good choice for seeing BDSM in a mainstream movie, and it feeds my ideas on fantasy elements to bring into my own films. -Frolicme

9 1/2 Weeks

Where to find it: Amazon, Netflix (delivery)

When discussing BDSM, it's hard not to mention 9 1/2 weeks, another film of the '80s to offer lots of sex. It's on my list of films because it studies the darker side of relationships, as well as power and control. Throughout the film, there are plenty of kinky sex acts featuring blindfolds, horsewhips, and the sensual pleasure of using food; the movie hit the headlines at the time for the kitchen scene alone. Definitely one of the most powerful films to come out of the '80s. -Frolicme

The Piano Teacher

Where to find it: Netflix streaming

I find this film fascinating to watch and in some places quite disturbing, but it does handle strongly the issues of voyeurism and sadomasochistic fetishes. Not for the faint-hearted, it takes a haunting approach to envy, seduction, obsession, and masochism, but all filmed so beautifully with a very classy French style that I love. In the film you see the shift of control between two very unexpected lovers. It's a very powerful portrayal of a flawed character and the abusive relationship she demands from her young lover. -Frolicme

Dr. Ava's Guide to Sensual BDSM For Couples

Where to find it: FrolicMe

BDSM is a powerful Pandora's box, and must be approached with care. Here, Dr. Ava sexily arms you with the proper artillery to go all the way. She and her kinky couples explain and demonstrate how to safely approach this seductive world, narrating scenes with play ranging from very light to pretty severe. Demonstrations include sensation play, bondage and discipline, sadism and masochism, female domination and male submission, male domination and female submission, and top and bottom BDSM, as well as aftercare.  -Frolicme

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Where to find it: FrolicMe

Beautifully filmed, this film captures depicts the mood and control of BDSM. -Frolicme

Lily

Where to find it: Sssh.com

One of the central appeals of BDSM is the way in which ceding power and control to your partner builds trust and intimacy in your sexual relationship and beyond. In this vignette, Eric and Lily demonstrate how exploring your boundaries and surrendering yourself to your partner can heighten pleasure and strengthen your connection at the same time. -Rowntree

Into the Mist

Where to find it: Sssh.com

A collaborative effort between Sssh.com, Wasteland.com, and PinkTV, Into the Mist is a dominance-themed erotic drama series filled with supernatural undertones. The nine-part series revolves around a strong storyline and characters you love to hate. Sensuous BDSM and sex scenes round out the series, which draws particularly strong praise from more experienced BDSM viewers, who appreciate its authenticity and exploration of a variety of advanced technique and practices. As a side note, the series was shot at the same Coconut Grove estate where the famous 1972 porn film Deep Throat was filmed (during a hurricane, no less, but that's another story). -Rowntree

The Submission of Emma Marx

A confident grad student finds herself questioning what is sexually "normal" when she ventures into a BDSM relationship with a handsome stranger. -St. James

The Submission of Emma Marx is probably not for folks looking for intense BDSM, but it's the perfect place for couples looking for inspiration that's not contrived or misleading. Not only are authentic dimensions of BDSM play (e.g. negotiations beforehand, safe words, etc.) engaged in a forthright manner, we also get to follow Emma through struggles with her identity and desires. Is she "normal"? And what is "normal" anyway? Emma Marx is more of a romance-type title, which might be especially appealing for individuals just beginning to put a toe in. -Rowntree

Writer's note: I, too, have watched this film, and it is indeed all it's praised to be: intelligent, gorgeously shot, and sexy as hell, with a nice feminist twist on some of Grey's more problematic elements. Highly recommended!

The Submission of Emma Marx II: Boundaries

Where to find it: Good Girls Like It Bad Store (release date: Feb. 16)

When a woman is pushed to the very limits of her emotional and physical boundaries she discovers that sometimes the road to sexual freedom is ultimately in the letting go. -St. James

The Chair

Where to find it: Sssh.com

Performed by real-life couple Rob and Daisy, The Chair is sensual bondage at its finest. Rob's intimate knowledge of what makes Daisy tick enables him to play to her desires perfectly. Their sexual chemistry, profound affection, and trust are on full display in this featurette, drawing in the viewer as the couple connects on the deepest of levels, probing each other's darkest fantasies in a safe, loving environment. -Rowntree

Restraint

From handcuffs to blindfolds to role-play, four couples embark on new adventures within the light BDSM world. -St. James

(Something tells me I'll be calling in sick to work tomorrow . . . )

This story first appeared at Ravishly.com, a community for women that strives to foster a dialogue between disparate voices and experiences. More from Ravishly: