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Brains and Bondage

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Cracking whips and cracking the books!

"My thoughts ran to Rousseau and Swinburne, both masochists, both geniuses, suffering their mistresses' cruel lashes even as they cried out for perfect enlightenment. Perhaps the body is not our being's basest part after all. Perhaps it is the royal road to knowledge."
Presley Abbott, The Oxford Girl

In fiction, people who enjoy BDSM have a tendency to be intellectuals. Possibly because BDSM tends to be more about the psychological mind games than just the ropes and spankings.note  It can also be used as juxtaposition, where a submissive, by the books, or quiet straight arrow who usually plays by the rules secretly likes breaking those rules, or being dominant, is bolder or even just more self aware then the audience originally thought. In a similar vein, coming up with creative ways to employ the various paraphernalia involved can be attractive to those with a technical or mechanical bent i.e. The Engineer. Thus, an interest in BDSM can be used to underscore the character's intellectual side — making this trope a mostly "positive stereotype" likely to be used on sympathetic characters.

However, it can also be used as a way to establish a villain as Wicked Cultured. This easily drifts into the Bondage Is Bad trope unless counterexamples are provided or the Safe, Sane, and Consensual trope comes into play.

In some works, Brains And Bondage will take the form of waxing poetic about pain, submission and/or power psychology. In some Anti Intellectual works, it will instead be used as a blunt tool to make intellectuals look bad by invoking prejudice to make them seem "abnormal".

See also Casual Kink. Compare Nerds Are Pervs for nerdy characters that are depicted as sex-obsessed, often with deviant preferences and lecherous instincts, which can include BDSM. Contrast with Bondage Is Bad, which is the portrayal of bondage and bondage-themed characters in a negative light, and Fetishes Are Weird, which is similar (but less scary).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Tio Klarus from Arifureta: From Commonplace to World's Strongest is an incredibly powerful archmage dragonwoman, old enough to have witnessed the rise and fall of multiple civilizations, and has the knowledge, wisdom, and experience that entails. Unfortunately, she is also a massively perverted masochist who keeps trying to indulge in her kink, particularly around Hajime (who was the one that "helped" her learn she had that kink).
  • Booty Royale: Never Go Down Without a Fight!: Recurring character Goujima Sara is a porn actress well-known for her work in extreme hardcore porn as domme, sub, and even director. She uses it to fund her university education in physics. She also speaks English fluently, a relative rarity in Japan (by way of contrast, Brainy Brunette Hara Akira's English is merely passable and protagonist Haebaru Misora's is nonexistent).
  • Laki Olietta from Fairy Tail is a very Cute Bookworm. To everybody's surprise, her bedroom is a Torture Cellar.
  • Monster Musume: Rachnera, a half-spider type Cute Monster Girl, is very fond of bondage with her spider thread and is one of the smartest and most level-headed of the cast. In her case, the bondage is played mostly as a Casual Kink of hers that she occasionally uses on her housemates and is never seen as "evil," just annoying when she doesn't ask first… which is often. She's actually surprisingly gentle about it too and cuts Kimihito loose as soon as her teasing starts to hurt. She also uses her creativity in engineering all kinds of ways to tie up the different Cute Monster Girls with her thread and devising a "long-awaited 100 bondage variation combo" to use on Kimihito. Her constant experimentation makes sense as she's trying to find a way to stop Suu (a Slime Girl) from glomping her at least once a day. Also, when various people in Kimihito's household start becoming Papi and Suu's teacher, Rachnera is ranked as the best by the two, due to how knowledgeable she is.
  • Nana & Kaoru:
    • Nana is an ace — she's on the student council, athletic, beautiful and a top student. When Kaoru's mother confiscates his bondage stuff and hands it to her for safekeeping — well, we won't spoil it. Suffice to say she finds that bondage clears her head like nothing else because she can step outside what everyone thinks she should be, and as a result her grades go up. Brains + bondage = More brains?
    • Secondary character Tachibana, the sex shop owner and personal sub to Kaoru's favorite author, went to graduate school at Todai, the most prestigious university in Japan.
  • Stocking Anarchy from Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is the smartest of the two eponymous Fallen Angel sisters, and gets turned on by being tied up, put in cages and being electrocuted.
  • Rosario + Vampire:
    • Ruby is The Smart Guy of the Newspaper Club, has extensive knowledge of various monsters and forms of magic, is a capable strategist, works as the direct assistant to the school's board chairman, and is a blatant masochist who compares tying herself up BDSM-style to winding the phone cord around your finger when you're bored.
    • Kagome Ririko, the math teacher of Yokai Academy, dresses up like a dominatrix during private tutoring.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • At one point, it's casually mentioned that The Riddler's henchwomen Query and Echo used to work in a BDSM club. The bouncer of that same club calls Riddler "Eddie" when he sees him. Apparently, he's a regular…
    • This exchange from issue 9 of the Gotham Underground miniseries:
      Riddler: Correct me if I'm wrong, but had your superiors found out about my bit of snooping, I'd be much more than simply roughed up
      Penguin: You'd be dead. Okay, fine—I admit it. Sorry if the girls were a bit more into their roles than they were supposed to be.
      Riddler: Best beating I ever got. As a matter of fact… pass along my number to the chippie with the whip, will you?
    • Kate Kane, who was within the 95th to 99th percentile of her class at West Point, is into bondage and rough sex.
  • In the first issue of Global Frequency the organization's MIT physics consultant provides a situational analysis while still wearing his gimp mask.
  • Mildly inverted with Grimbor (the Chainsman), an adversary of the Legion of Super-Heroes; he is a brilliant man so long as it comes to restraints and bondage, but dumb in any other way; it reminds one of an idiot savant.
  • In Lucifer, the character Lady Lys tends toward philosophical musing when it comes to pain.
    • For the record, she is a demon and pain harvested from human souls and refined into a powder-like substance is a powerful narcotic for her kind; it's both the main currency and the most common form of recreation in Hell — the actual torture is just a job for most demons.
  • In Sin City, most of the female assassins of the Colonel's Guild are into S&M in one form or another. They are all very intelligent, battle savvy women. One of them is a genetics expert.
  • The Beef Boys from Wildcats 3.0 are never seen without their bondage gear, and the one who speaks (the other always has a ball gag when seen) is very intellectual.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Golden Age Wonder Woman was not shy about her BDSM interests, and was also the equivalent of a doctor on Paradise Island and improved the Amazon's Purple Healing Ray so it could safely be used on regular humans.
  • Emma Frost of the X-Men. She worked as a Dominatrix at the Hellfire Club and has degrees in several fields, including a Bachelor of Science in Education with a minor in Business Administration from the prominent Marvel Universe's Empire State University. She was also founder and CEO of Frost Enterprises, a major multinational conglomerate headquartered in New York City that rivaled Stark Enterprises and Worthington Industries and specialized in shipping, aerospace engineering and new technology R&D.
  • When 355 sends Yorick for therapy in Y: The Last Man it turns out that the process is an extended BDSM session with the therapist.

    Fan Works 

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Judy Bernly, the brainy secretary of 9 to 5, is perceived to be into this by her ex-husband Dick when he catches her in the bedroom with her boss Frank Hart while she, Doralee, and Violet were holding him hostage.
  • Annie Savoy from Bull Durham reveals in one scene that in her day job she's an English prof at a community college. She's very given to quoting famous poets, and the first night she and Nuke Laloosh were together they didn't even have sex: she just tied him to the bed and read Walt Whitman to him all night. When she and Crash Davis finally get together it turns out she also likes being on the receiving end.
  • Edward from Secretary is an educated, successful lawyer who finds himself transitioning from the titular Secretary's boss to her dominant partner.
  • Severin in Shortbus, an educated, sympathetic woman who enjoys S&M.


  • Accelerando states that BDSM is more popular than traditional sex in the near future timeline, as there's less chance of pregnancy or disease.
  • In Addicted, Rose and Connor are both educated and intelligent and enjoy playing mental games with each other. Naturally, this happens in the bedroom as well.
  • Vishous of the Black Dagger Brotherhood is a sexual dominant. It's not until the end of his book that he allows himself to be the one tied up and caned.
  • The End of Mr. Y has a measure of it. The heroine is every bit the brainy academic stereotype… and she likes to be bound during sex. Kinky.
  • Emilia in The Fallen World is a dungeon advisor who carries a seemingly endless supply of books with her and salivates when she sees a new one. She also loves to tie up her wife in the bedroom and sessions can last for days.
  • The Gray Mouser in Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories is the more openly intellectual of the two protagonists, and he has a tendency to (mostly consensual) sexual sadism that becomes increasingly explicit over the series in publication order, as publishers became more tolerant.
  • Tarl Cabot of Gor was a university professor on Earth and clearly an Author Avatar as the author John "Norman" Lange got his Ph. D. in philosophy from Princeton and teaches ethics at CUNY.
  • Gravity's Rainbow includes a character expounding on the virtues of "sado-anarchism."
  • Kushiel's Legacy is made of this trope. Terre D'Ange is by and large highly accepting of any sexual kinks, and while there's less talk among the general public about the S&M practices, they're also considered sacred. This view is magnified exponentially by the main character, who experiences pain as pleasure (the mark of her patron god). She is a high class prostitute, and engages in a wide range of masochistic sexual encounters. Many of these are portrayed as loving, cleansing, or just downright fun. The negative BDSM scenes are a result of true malice on the part of her client, and are portrayed as perversions of the kink, rather than the entirety of it. Moreover, Phèdre is extremely intelligent, and the books often wax philosophical on the nature of pain, pleasure, and sexuality.
  • The KGB informant Professor Lyko in The Man from Barbarossa is into S/M, specifically to being pelted by oranges by his mistress.
  • Lady Melanie in The Red Vixen Adventures is a noblewoman, part-time space pirate, and she likes her men collared and Chained to a Bed.
  • Craig Schaefer’s books are notorious for this trope. The Daniel Faust series features a D/S relationship between the narrator/focal character and his lover, a brilliant and ruthless enforcer for the courts of hell. While rarely explicit, it’s pretty clear that Caitlin calls the shots in their relationship and in the bedroom. Notably, Faust is never presented as emasculated or weak for it: to the contrary, he’s a strong man made more powerful by the love of a strong woman. Meanwhile, in the Revanche Cycle, Nessa and Mari end up in what is unquestionably a BDSM romance, even if it’s never openly described as such. The cerebral, repressed Nessa finds a rare emotional outlet in her power over Mari, a power the knight thrives upon (and which arguably saves her life when she goes up against Viper). The tiny moments in their love affair—like Nessa casually ordering Mari to fetch her glasses (from a table Nessa is standing next to), or occasionally tugging the taller, stronger woman around by her hair or shoving her against a wall to make a point – underline their entire power dynamic and relationship.
  • As per the page quote - the works of Algernon Charles Swinburne. He was one of the most gifted lyric poets of the Victorian era, and the only thing he enjoyed as much as being whipped was writing about it. The narrators of his poems and novels are as eloquent as he is, and all discourse exquisitely on the nature of pleasure and pain.
  • In These Words Are True and Faithful, Sam, a submissive, is shown as having intellectual interests such as art. Then again, that makes sense in a novel with plenty to say about the psychology of BDSM.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Alienist: The protagonist Laszlo Kreizler is an outstanding psychiatrist and amateur detective, and there are some hints that he enjoys a submissive role in romantic relationships. This shows up in his conversation with the professional dominatrix Mrs. Williams (he mentions that he enjoyed her stories of "men's vulnerabilities"), and in his relationship with Karen Stratton, who takes him to various kinky places. His relationship with his housekeeper and subsequent Love Interest Mary also has strong undertones of this kind: he is highly dependent on her due to his bad arm, and she enjoys his timidity whenever he needs her to do something for him (and whenever he pisses her off, she just leaves him on his own, and he cannot even tie his own shoelaces without her). Besides, while Mary was away, he sneaked to her room to sniff her clothes.
  • Hinted at in Angel with Wesley, who has Encyclopaedic Knowledge of demonology. In episode 2.20, we get the following exchange (while researching how to keep together while going through a dimensional portal):
    Angel: What, we handcuff ourselves together? Who do we know that has handcuffs?
    Wesley: Well, I— (pauses and looks uncomfortable) —wouldn't know.
  • In one episode of Castle the victim is a doctoral student who was a dominatrix. Her boss at the dungeon was a former lawyer. Also, Beckett occasionally implies this, mostly to mess with Castle. And the first of the defictionalized Nikki Heat novels has a Sexy Discretion Shot away from one of these between the leads (Nikki's safeword is apparently "pineapple").
    • In the fifth season, at least one episode has implied that both Castle and Beckett have a taste for this in the bedroom.
  • Lady Heather on CSI appears to be an intellectual match for Grissom, eventually getting a degree in psychology.
  • Implied in Doctor Who with the Doctor and Dr. River Song. Especially the way she says it. Wow. They are both extremely brilliant in strange ways.
    The Doctor: Why would you even have handcuffs?
    River Song: Spoilers!
  • In the Dollhouse episode "A Spy in the House of Love", Echo is first shown imprinted with a dominatrix personality, and waxes philosophical to Boyd that it's about trust rather than pain.
  • Across the pond, Sherlock himself is an example in Elementary.
    Joan Watson: There was a woman leaving just as I got here — did she get you high?
    Sherlock: To about six feet. (takes his belt off a ladder with handcuffs dangling from it)
    • In another episode Holmes is alerted to the Body of the Week by a dominatrix he knows who had been hired by the victim. Holmes explains some of the BDSM terms she uses to the police and she sends him a bullwhip as a thank-you gift for his help.
  • In one episode of Engrenages, the very cerebral magistrate Roban, while investigating a rape case, reveals that he knows a suspicious amount about the practicalities of safe suspension bondage, which helps him find evidence to prove that the victim's claims about what was done to her are true.
  • Probably skating the line here, but in Farscape you have Wicked Cultured Magnificent Bastard Scorpius who really has a thing for black leather and masochistic tendencies. Yes that way. However, this being Farscape, there are a lot of very intelligent people/aliens enjoying really kinky stuff. There is a reason it's been described as an American man's descent into the Australian BDSM scene.
    • Scorpius isn't a stretch at all. The first and only time Scorpius and Sikozu are… intimate… onscreen involves Sikozu sitting on Scorpy's lap while he wraps a rope around her neck. Yeah. Sikozu herself is pretty intelligent and well-educated as well. In the miniseries Sikozu and Aeryn are discussing their respective relationships and Sikozu just outright doesn't see the point of not having explicit dominant and submissive roles.
    • In the episode "Crackers Don't Matter," the mental clone of Scorpius implanted in Crichton's brain (It Makes Sense in Context), which had been previously encouraging him to slaughter his shipmates, advises him instead to tie Chiana up and "save her for dessert."
  • Forever (2014) has twice implied that brilliant immortal Doctor Henry Morgan is into the rough stuff. In the pilot, when a search of his home unearths what the cops call "torture devices," he casually tells the detective interrogating him, "Oh, those are for sex. Sometimes you need to push the envelope." Later in the season a victim surfaces who has been seeing a "domination therapist," Molly Dawes, whom Morgan comes to respect and even flirt with, and when she offers a practical demonstration of the use of electricity in BDSM, he's perfectly willing to be put in cuffs for it, although he looks nervous when her questions get too personal and trigger memories of a past trauma. In a later episode Molly is revealed to have a PhD from Yale, meaning she fulfills this trope as well.
  • Chuck and Blair are considered to be the most intelligent characters in Gossip Girl, and they have a lot of fun. (Their relationship was originally based on a Mind Game Ship.)
  • Dr. Chase from House is a brilliant surgeon who turns out to know the dominatrix whom one patient has been seeing—they used to hang out at the same BDSM club.
  • Dr. Charlotte Lewis, Sawyer and (hinted) Dr. Juliet Burke in Lost.
    • In the fifth season, Juliet is living in the village with her live-in boyfriend Lafleur who is actually Sawyer undercover. One evening they get a unwelcome visitor who has found evidence that there's something wrong with Lafleur/Sawyer. Lafleur beats him up and asks Juliet to get some ropes to pacify him. Without hesitation, she turns to the bedroom. Of course. Where else would she be keeping the ropes?
    • In episode eight of the sixth season, Sawyer is on a date with Dr. Charlotte Lewis. When she says she's an archaeologist he asks her if she's like Indiana Jones. When she says yes, he asks her if she have a whip. She smiles and says "maybe". One minute later into the episode they are naked in bed. Charlotte says "Wow. Not bad, considering we didn't have that whip", and Sawyer replies "Bring it next time". Both lines said while cuddling, and said in a very friendly tone of voice.
  • Abby on NCIS.
    • As well as another case where the boyfriend was suspected, until he was found tied and gagged. Quite the alibi.
  • In Sherlock, a modern day version of the Sherlock Holmes canon, Irene Adler is a dominatrix who caters to the rich and powerful, using her "access" to gain sensitive material for blackmail and leverage. She's also, in every sense of the word, the only one to ever beat Sherlock Holmes, and much more thoroughly than in the original story. For a while, at least.
    Sherlock: A power-play with the most powerful family in Britain. Now that is a dominatrix. Ooh, this is getting rather fun, isn't it?
    • Some complained that Irene became a sex worker for Fanservice purposes. Word of God pointed out that acting wasn't a reputable career in the late 19th century, and the modern equivalent would be, well, a sex worker.
  • Worf and Dax in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine frequently end up in medical during the middle of the night with dislodged limbs and broken bones. While Worf is more of a highly traditional Proud Warrior Race Guy, Dax is a scientist with literally several lifetimes of experience first, and treats Klingon martial arts as just a sport. It's not explicitly said how they did it, but they certainly like it rough.
    • A lot of Klingons enjoy the rough stuff. On the same morning after Worf and Dax's first night together, Quark and Grillka also showed up in the infirmary with similar injuries. Data even once mentioned that in Klingon culture a broken clavicle during sex is considered a blessing on the future marriage.
      • But that's OK really because Klingons have a spare set of clavicles (don't ask how that works) along with redundant spares for almost everything, up to and including higher brain function - it's when they get involved with another species that problems occur.

  • The full 18 minute version of Violet UK's Blind Dance, as it's an ethereal, lyrically beautiful exploration of sex and sexuality while being a Gothic Metal song about BDSM sex from the submissive's perspective.
  • Blue And Blind from Violet UK which is a reflective piece through the lens of craving submission in sex.

    Video Games 
  • Though she hasn't had any sex, Gaige from Borderlands 2 is probably the kinkiest and flirtiest of the playble cast, complete with a pair of handcuffs. She's also the smartest, being able to build giant floating death robots and cyborg arms that can smash concrete with the tools in her backyard shed.
  • It's all but stated that the Iron Bull in Dragon Age: Inquisition practices S&M with his sexual partners (in fact, a significant portion of his Romance Sidequest involves establishing a safe word). Bull also happens to be an extremely cunning Qunari spy who can play chess in his head.
  • Aiko Yumi from HuniePop is a university professor with a masters degree in mathematics and will display an interest in being choked before the player takes her to bed.
  • Kinzie Kensington of the third Saints Row game, who was a FBI computer analyst and hints that she is a regular at a BDSM club that even squicks out the main character. Pierce even points out the leather mask she keeps in her hacker cave, and pokes the Boss with a 3-foot dildo.
    • From the same game, there's Viola DeWynter, who has a Master's degree in Economics and is one of the heads of the sexual traffic ring Morningstar (partially inverted because she isn't personally into kink, as she explains after she defects to the Third Street Saints).
  • Senran Kagura: Haruka, the resident Omnidisciplinary Scientist and Evil Puppeteer of Hebijo Academy, has a very flirtatious personality and a heavy bondage theme. On one occasion, she laments losing her "dogs" (in reality, a group of manservants who are totally infatuated with her abuse), and if you battle her, she'll offer to make you one of her puppets, a fate she wants to inflict on Hibari most of all. Even her Battle Theme Music, a series of evil tango tracks, gets in on this, with titles like "Pink Sadism", "I'm Such A Tease", "Sadistic Puppeteer", and "Fun for Adults".
  • A throwaway line from Tales of Monkey Island hints that Elaine (typically the franchise's Only Sane Man) enjoys being tied up (but not for too long, or else she gets cranky).
  • In Tropico 4, Miss Pineapple, the Advisor aligned with the Intellectual faction, is extremely kinky and promiscuous. Her radio dialogue for if you build a Cabaret has her say she performs in the burlesque show, and heavily implies she's also a dominatrix.
  • In The Witcher 2, when visiting Philippas home, one can find the archmage whipping her naked apprentice on her bed.

    Visual Novels 

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: Stolas is a cultured and noble prince of the Goetia family who is capable of casting a variety of spells(some of which are memorized) in addition to being a gardening enthusiast and master of Astronomy, his ordained area of expertise. He is also a completely effeminate sub who likes being restrained in bed. In "The Harvest Moon Festival" we see him and Blitzo relaxing post-coitus with Stolas tied to the bed by his hands wearing a ball-gag, and in "Truth seekers" Blitzo makes a passing reference to using bear traps if Stolas doesn't behave himself. Indeed, in his and Blitzo's second meeting ever in "The Circus," Blitzo blindfolds him and ties him to the four corners of his own bed in order to steal his grimoire, which Stolas is evidently more than a little into.

  • The Faceless necromancer from anti-HEROES.
  • Most of the doms in Collar 6 are a cut above the norm. The titular Mistress Sixx is a very intelligent and successful hotel tycoon; her rival, Mistress Butterfly, is a calculating and ruthless strategist who will stop at nothing to get her way. Butterfly's husband, Michael Kappel, is a visionary leader and Badass Bookworm, while former domme Trina was an expert at Playing with Fire and invented or refined a lot of interesting techniques.
  • Ennui GO!: Renee has a bondage fetish and regularly participates in BDSM either as a dom or a bottom. She's also the more intellectual and professional one among Izzy and her friends.
  • Clarice of Girls with Slingshots works in a porn store, is a dominatrix on the weekends and has a Master's in Library and Information Science.
  • Deus in Grrl Power is a self-admitted Super-Intelligence, while also having been shown with bondage gear and furniture in his various offices across the world.
  • Equius in Homestuck is a play on this, as he has a submission fetish and a love of breathplay, as well as a ridiculously flowery vocabulary and an interest in building robots.
  • Oglaf: in the strip "Battledress", a group of adventurers switch into "sexy" battle gear for an erotic dungeon crawl. The two melee fighters switch into stripperiffic versions of their normal outfits, while the wizard switches into a gimp suit. Like most of Oglaf, this strip cannot be linked directly on TV Tropes.
  • Sunstone bluntly states in narration fairly early that "BDSM practitioners are sexual nerds". Ally, the main dominatrix, made her money being a software developer and computer programmer, and the rest of the cast aren't slouches either in the intelligence department. Given the general level of thought that's involved in creating and maintaining the illusion while at the same time keeping the person safe, it's clear that BDSM is a smart people's game.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Frylock on Aqua Teen Hunger Force, though the "bondage" part only comes up in one or two episodes.
  • Stewie, the resident Brainy Baby on Family Guy, once discovered he *ahem* enjoyed when his mother spanked him. He even had a fantasy sequence where Lois had him stretched out on a rack and put out a cigarette on him.