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BDSM K-Drama Love and Leashes Needs Whipping into Shape

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BDSM K-Drama <i>Love and Leashes</i> Needs Whipping into Shape

I’m a sucker for romances. I’ve enjoyed watching K-dramas such as Imitation and Let Me Be Your Knight featuring Lee Jun-young, who debuted with the K-pop band U-KISS. In both of those dramas he played a brooding musician, often misunderstood by his own bandmates and the world at large. I’m also well aware of Seohyun’s career after debuting with the K-pop band Girls Generation, and have her K-drama Private Lives bookmarked to watch at some point. (So many K-dramas, so little time!) As one of my friends pointed out, K-dramas with romantic storylines can be saccharinely sweet: “too pink-pink.” Of course, they can also be very dark. But typically, they’re quite chaste, and follow a well-established formula. So when the trailer for Love and Leashes dropped, I was curious. Starring Lee Jun-young and Seohyun, and based on webtoon/manga The Sensual M, this rom-com offered a BDSM sub-plot.

How does Love and Leashes approach BDSM? Like many people, my knowledge of bondage is limited to a handful of Law & Order episodes or skimming through Fifty Shades of Grey. (I didn’t even bother watching the movies based on the popular book series.) This is how the story unfolds: Jung Ji-hoo (Lee Jun-young) transfers from the business department to the PR department of a company that seems to cater to mom-based or otherwise family-friendly product. (There is not much explanation of what exactly this company does, or what the business department does—details like that don’t matter much.)

Turns out, Jung Ji-woo (Seohyun) works for the PR team, and is well-known for her no-nonsense attitude. She especially cannot tolerate her sexist boss, and frequently challenges him despite her teammate’s advice to ignore him.

“Oh no,” someone remarks, when Jung Ji-hoo greets his new team members. “Their names sound so similar! Won’t it be confusing?”

Things do get confusing, and Jung Ji-woo accidentally receives a package meant for Jung Ji-hoo. Before Jung Ji-hoo can intercept, she opens the package and discovers that her coworker harbors a secret. He may look like a well-mannered colleague and a stand-up guy, but—GASP!—he’s into kink. One thing leads to another, and Jung Ji-woo ends up playing the dominant to Jung Ji-hoo’s submissive. “I’m a quick study,” she tells him.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Love and Leashes turns out to be more of an explainer of BDSM relationships than anything dwelling on the actual relationship between these two co-workers. Those looking for a sexier version of the office romance may be disappointed. As expected, the actors throw themselves into the role and look beautiful while enacting their fantasies—although there are several cringe-worthy moments in between—but, In the end, their romance ends up being pretty chaste.

If you’re looking for an amusing diversion on a cold winter night and are into K-drama, Love and Leashes might tickle your fancy. But those searching for something more steamy should keep scrolling.

Director: Park Hyun-jin
Writer: Lee Da-hye, Park Hyeon-jin
Starring: Lee Jun-young, Seohyun, Seo Hyun-woo
Release Date: February 11, 2021 (Netflix)


Aparita Bhandari is an arts and life reporter in Toronto. Her areas of interest and expertise lie in the intersections of gender, culture and ethnicity. She is the producer and co-host of the Hindi language podcast, KhabardaarPodcast.com. You can find her on Twitter. Along with Bollywood, Toblerone bars are one of her guilty pleasures.