If you’re lucky enough not to have heard of 365 Days, it is the Polish erotic drama film that has been breaking streaming charts on Netflix.
Based on the novel 365 Dni by Polish erotica writer Blanka Lipińskam, the film has remained in the top 10 streamed TV shows and movies since its release on June 7th. Somewhat ironically, it is ranked right before the popular children’s movie, The Nut Job. 365 Days is the first movie on Netflix to be listed as the number one streamed movie twice, and its reign doesn’t seem to be ending soon. Cooped up in their houses, the masses have had nothing better to do than to watch this campy film with porno level acting. I, embarrassingly, am a part of the masses and watched the film after a friend encouraged me to do so.
Long story short: hot Italian mafia guy named Massimo is watching a beautiful woman on the beach. His dad, the head honcho of the mafia, is attempting to make some shady deal, gets shot, and dies. Massimo also gets shot and sees the face of the woman as he passes out.
Flash forward to five years later. A woman named Laura travels to Italy for her birthday with her neglectful boyfriend. Massimo is now the head of the Italian mafia. Laura is revealed to be the woman on the beach, and viewers learn that Massimo has been stalking her for the past five years. Massimo kidnaps Laura, brings her to his sex dungeon, promises that he “won’t touch her,” and gives her 365 days to fall in love with him. After a lot of nonconsensual choking and slapping, the two eventually fall in love and incite a mafia war. I won’t spoil the end, but the plot is filled with confusing storylines, uncomfortable sex scenes, and lots of handcuffs.
Despite the projected “sexiness” of the film, 365 Days is dangerous and contributes to the harmful rhetoric around consent. Massimo kidnaps Laura and tells her that he “won’t do anything or touch her without her permission,” giving viewers the false impression that Laura has some sort of consent in this relationship. That she isn’t being coerced or brainwashed into falling in love with him. Massimo claims he won’t touch Laura, but frequently grabs her by the neck, touches her breasts, buys, and even forces Laura to watch another woman give him a blow job.
Perhaps the most shocking line is when Massimo takes hold of Laura when she refused his advances and sneers “when your entire life is based on taking everything with for force, it’s hard to react in a different way. Especially if someone is taking away a pleasure you really desire.” In this movie, consent is defined as clear sexual penetration, an interpretation that furthers the idea of consent as being black or white. I’m sorry, but if you’re kidnapped by a man who manipulates you into agreeing to have sexual intercourse, that isn’t consensual. It’s still rape.
Yes, I’m sure many people would love the chance to fall in love and have great sex with a hot Italian mafia boss. There’s nothing wrong with that fantasy, and we shouldn’t kink shame those with submissive sexual preferences. But there is something wrong with the way 365 Days exploits BDSM and Massimo’s dominant sexual tendencies to excuse the fact that he is sexually coercing a woman he kidnapped into eventually falling in love with him.
Instead of kidnapping her, why didn’t Massimo just ask Laura out on a date, and then engage in consensual BDSM activities? And after loads of great sex, they become a mafia power couple? That would make for a great plot.
And why isn’t there a popular movie where a lesbian couple tries BDSM and then after, they order pizza and watch a movie in bed together? Films such as 50 Shades of Grey and 365 Days glorify nonconsensual relationships. Bondage and submission can be normal and healthy sexual practices, but instead, their portrayal in media enables sexual assault, perpetuates rape culture, and the idea that nonconsensual BDSM is okay. Sexual assault isn’t a kink — it’s abusive and is a felony.
We can see the association with BDSM and lack of consent everywhere. Some of the most popular searches on Pornhub, the world’s most popular free pornography site, are related to rape and non-consensual sexual violence. 365 Days might seem like harmless mommy-porn, but its implications are harmful. One in four women experiences sexual violence. From a young age, women are taught that our bodies are used only for the sake of male pleasure and gratification. That our consent isn’t valued or needed.
We need more portrayals of healthy, sexual relationships in the media. Sex shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and women should feel comfortable in their sexual preferences. It’s totally fine to fantasize about a hot mafia boss tying you up in bed — just make sure that it’s not because he kidnapped you, and that you agree to it first.