Male subs on TV: Rick Castle

Posted at 15:40 on 25 Aug 2012 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: f-m, films and TV, gender politics, male submission

A couple of nights ago I watched the first few episodes of the TV show "Castle", which I'd been interested in ever since I discovered that it featured Nathan Fillion as a murder mystery writer playing poker with real life authors Michael Connelly, James Patterson, and Stephen J. Cannell.

It's a silly, stylish, entertaining little show. The basic premise is that Rick Castle, a bad boy bestselling author played by Nathan Fillion, ends up helping hard-hitting, no-nonsense New York detective Kate Beckett to solve homicide cases. So far, so implausible. But it does have one very interesting theme running through it. Rick Castle is sexually submissive. In fact, he's a brat. From the very first episode, the sexual tension underpinning Castle and Beckett's relationship is full of kinky references.

At their first meeting, Beckett questions Castle about some of the antics he's got away with. He defends himself saying, "If it makes you feel any better I'd be happy to let you spank me."

Instead, later that episode, she has him arrested, but his reaction to being cuffed is to quip - "Ooh, bondage!" - and then, looking her in the eyes, tell her "My safeword is 'apples'." Her reaction? To tell the guys who are cuffing him, "No need to be gentle."

Later still, Castle remarks, "You're very good at bossing men around. I've noticed." And so on.

The references are not subtle, and apparently, they continue to build; google tells me that one episode I've not reached yet, called The Mistress Always Spanks Twice, explicitly visits the New York BDSM scene. The context is a bondage-related murder - which normally rings alarm bells, but in the context of a murder mystery show that doesn't seem quite as kink negative as usual.

Rick Castle getting handcuffed also seems to be a recurring theme; he gets tied up more often than Wonderwoman, often by Detective Beckett. Castle's mischievously open sexuality is contrasted with Beckett's self-discipline and control. Okay, it's still sexual stereotyping, but here are some things I like about how this relationship is presented:

Dominant does not equal predator

Beckett, clearly presented as a dominant woman both sexually and professionally, is not a sexual predator, not a "vixen". Castle is the one pursuing her, trying to draw her out of her shell. It's a fairly common romance theme, in fact, that just happens to be played out in an F/M pairing.

Kinky does not equal broken

Neither character's sexual taste is presented as a flaw, a sign of them being "broken". Instead, it's a charming sort of quirk. Beckett has issues, but her issues aren't why she's kinky; they're why she's a cop. In this show, a career with NYPD is seen as being far more questionable than liking a bit of bondage in the bedroom.

Castle lives with his smart, sensible teenage daughter and eccentric single mother. I don't know if the show will end up connecting his lack of a father figure with his sexually submissive tendencies, but the woman-dominated household he lives in is presented as healthy, positive and loving. The strong presence of his mother and daughter in his life seem to be the factor that have kept Castle on the "cheeky but basically nice" side of the bad boy stereotype, rather than creeping over into arrogant selfishness. He's cocky, but he's not a prick.

Male submissive does not equal unsexy and pathetic

Castle is charismatic, likeable, and successful. He's good looking (well, played by Nathan Fillion, duh) and a good dad. This is the first TV show I've seen to so explicitly say a big "fuck you" to the stereotype of male submissives as lonely or messed-up men who like to be treated as snivelling worms. Castle is not pathetic, he's not a worm. He's a creative, smart, interesting man, who loves his family, and just happens to enjoy being on the receiving end of some playful domination in the bedroom. I can't remember the last time I saw a guy who likes being tied up and spanked presented on TV as someone for the audience to fancy, not laugh at.

So that's three F/M stereotypes out of the window, and I'm only a few episodes in.

It's a shallow, style-over-substance show, so I'm expecting a fair few overdone stereotypes. But so far, this is looking like the sort of kinky relationship I'd like to see on television. Beckett and Castle are both likeable characters who happen to be a bit kinky. They're both successful, functional, and attractive. Above all, throughout their flirtation they're both obviously having fun.

Somehow I doubt we'll get to see Castle actually getting spanked, but hey... I can live in hope.

Comments

WOW, BDSM in mainstream television? Is it on netflix? I'll have to watch.

Interesting stuff. I've never actually watched this show, but it's heartening to see these themes represented in such a reasonable & open minded way. Especially in what seems like a very mainstream show.

It surprised me! I hope it's a sign of kink being more acceptable, but it's genuinely surprising to see it treated in such a sex-positive way. A refreshing antidote to 50 Shades of Grey!

Pandora it is a good series series 5 hould be on sometime ,love and spanks,Timxx

I agree with your views on the male submissive image in the main stream media. I want to see this show and was watching out for it, on the Belgian channels, for a while but then forgot about it. I will have to see if it is available to view here yet. Nathan Fillion's performance in the Firefly series was very good, I hope that he has put the same effort into this character. It sounds like he is showing a good face for us little 'm's.

Prefectdt

His performance as Castle is very different from the other roles I've seen him in (Firefly and Dr Horrible). Even his face looks different. He's no less sexy though!

Looking forward to seeing how far the series takes it, but signs are definitely good so far. I can recommend looking it up :)

I'm totally open to the idea that they might develop the relationship into a switchy dynamic, but in the first half dozen episodes I don't think there were any hints of it. Castle's dominant personality traits (his successful career, his general outgoing confidence, etc) don't imply sexual dominance to me. I mean, for most of my life i've been an ambitious, confident, alpha personality who was 100% sub, I only started switching last year. So I'm interested in seeing a TV representation of two alphas enjoying a playful battle of wills in which they each get their way at different times, but where the sexual roles are so clearly one-way... at least so far. It reminds me a lot of my own relationships!

I actually LOVE that they made him a strong, masculine sub/bratty bottom... there's not enough representations of strong masculine submission, in either kinky porn or the mainstream, and quite aside from the political and feminist perspective, it's hot hot hot.

I really need to watch NCIS, don't I?

So I clicked on this link thinking I was going to completely disagree with you, but after reading, I think you are right. I definitely agree about the not being broken aspect as well as the idea that Castle might submit to Becket as treated as sexy. There is for sure kink in the show (it's one of my favorites- I've seen every episode and watched the show from the start) but I peg Castle (and Kate) as more a switch than a bottom. Maybe it's because they wanted to make him seem more "masculine" in the traditional sense in later seasons, and have her as more damsel in distress sometimes, but Castle can be quite dominant in what is to me a very sexy, protective, masculine way. I see them both as kinky- but I'm not sure I could ever see Castle actually submitting. This is actually likely to be my M/F bias showing through though.

Perhaps I am biased because in my view Nathan Fillion is SO dominant because he is Malcolm Reynolds (Captain of Firefly), but Castle definitely likes his sex kinky!

For me, the best place to see men who could sub on TV is on NCIS, because everyone would get spanked by Gibbs, but those are traditional male dominants who would be spanked by a more father type figure... so not kinky so much...

Great post as always sweetie! Always makes me think

I'm totally open to the idea that they might develop the relationship into a switchy dynamic, but in the first half dozen episodes I don't think there were any hints of it. Castle's dominant personality traits (his successful career, his general outgoing confidence, etc) don't imply sexual dominance to me. I mean, for most of my life i've been an ambitious, confident, alpha personality who was 100% sub, I only started switching last year. So I'm interested in seeing a TV representation of two alphas enjoying a playful battle of wills in which they each get their way at different times, but where the sexual roles are so clearly one-way... at least so far. It reminds me a lot of my own relationships!

I actually LOVE that they made him a strong, masculine sub/bratty bottom... there's not enough representations of strong masculine submission, in either kinky porn or the mainstream, and quite aside from the political and feminist perspective, it's hot hot hot.

I really need to watch NCIS, don't I?

I haven't heard anything about this series before, but this sounds very interesting indeed! Ludwig and I have to finish Fringe first, though. Oh, and you definitely have to watch NCIS, Pandora! Gibbs is a great character (love his wake-up call slaps), and the other characters are wonderful, too. :-)

I've watched the show on occasion, and never really thought of Rick Castle's submissive tendencies, but I think you're right. I'll be watching it with new eyes. Great post!!!

I couldn't believe it when it was laid out so clearly in the very first episode. I thought it might be a passing reference played for comedy value, but then it just kept on going. Can't wait to see where they take it next!

I think I know what you mean - I hesitated over using that phrasing, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it. In retrospect I think "bratty bottom" is probably the best terminology for Castle's preferred kinky role, at least based on what I've seen so far.

Personally, I'd subsume that into the general category of "submissive", in the sense that he's clearly turned on by sexual domination. You don't have to be an obedient, meek, boot-licking subby sub to enjoy sexual submission in a more broad sense, which is simply getting turned on by (consensually) sexual control. But yeah, I do see what you mean: the vibe from Castle is more playful, bratty bottoming than deep D/S.

I haven't had a look at the fanfic yet (haven't seen enough of the show to not be spoilered!) but I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I suspect that's my best chance of getting to see an actual spanking scene. The writers of this one really know how to play to the fans, too - more than enough raw material to work with!

I think I remember those references in Friends, one of the many reasons why Phoebe was always my favourite character! But yeah, this is the first time I've seen the entertaining F/M kinky flirtation played with genuine sex appeal, as well as for laughs.

Yeah, it's adorable! Not that unusual for a male lead, perhaps, but unusual for a bottom. I like :)

Bwahahaha! I'm very glad to hear it. Not surprised to hear that Beckett's similarly inclined, we've already got enough hints for me to reasonably sure they were heading in that direction. I'm delighted to hear my hopes come to fruition!

I remember an episode of Friends where Phoebe said something like "All a girl wants is ... and a little spanking now and then ...". I didn't particularly like Friends but I seem to remember that sound-bite for some reason. However, returning to topic, I've always liked Castle (the series) but I don't think of Castle (the character) as a submissive - he's just a very naughty boy - who flirts a lots in a playful way.

I think I know what you mean - I hesitated over using that phrasing, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it. In retrospect I think "bratty bottom" is probably the best terminology for Castle's preferred kinky role, at least based on what I've seen so far.

Personally, I'd subsume that into the general category of "submissive", in the sense that he's clearly turned on by sexual domination. You don't have to be an obedient, meek, boot-licking subby sub to enjoy sexual submission in a more broad sense, which is simply getting turned on by (consensually) sexual control. But yeah, I do see what you mean: the vibe from Castle is more playful, bratty bottoming than deep D/S.

I haven't had a look at the fanfic yet (haven't seen enough of the show to not be spoilered!) but I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I suspect that's my best chance of getting to see an actual spanking scene. The writers of this one really know how to play to the fans, too - more than enough raw material to work with!

I think I remember those references in Friends, one of the many reasons why Phoebe was always my favourite character! But yeah, this is the first time I've seen the entertaining F/M kinky flirtation played with genuine sex appeal, as well as for laughs.

Yeah, it's adorable! Not that unusual for a male lead, perhaps, but unusual for a bottom. I like :)

Bwahahaha! I'm very glad to hear it. Not surprised to hear that Beckett's similarly inclined, we've already got enough hints for me to reasonably sure they were heading in that direction. I'm delighted to hear my hopes come to fruition!

Interesting. I bet the fanfic goes to town on this.

I'm reminded of later episodes of Friends, where strong hints were dropped that Phoebe and her husband Mike enjoyed a kinky relationship, in which spanking, paddling and handcuffs eatured, and in which clearly they both switched. It was played for laughs, of course, but I don't think anything was said to suggest that this made them in any way bad people.

I haven't had a look at the fanfic yet (haven't seen enough of the show to not be spoilered!) but I'm REALLY looking forward to it. I suspect that's my best chance of getting to see an actual spanking scene. The writers of this one really know how to play to the fans, too - more than enough raw material to work with!

I think I remember those references in Friends, one of the many reasons why Phoebe was always my favourite character! But yeah, this is the first time I've seen the entertaining F/M kinky flirtation played with genuine sex appeal, as well as for laughs.

Yeah, it's adorable! Not that unusual for a male lead, perhaps, but unusual for a bottom. I like :)

Bwahahaha! I'm very glad to hear it. Not surprised to hear that Beckett's similarly inclined, we've already got enough hints for me to reasonably sure they were heading in that direction. I'm delighted to hear my hopes come to fruition!

Isn't it great? :) I really enjoyed the fact that they put the power dynamic this way round, the opposite would have been a crime-show cliche. I really enjoy how self-aware and unembarrassed Castle is about his own sexuality.

~TC

Yeah, it's adorable! Not that unusual for a male lead, perhaps, but unusual for a bottom. I like :)

Bwahahaha! I'm very glad to hear it. Not surprised to hear that Beckett's similarly inclined, we've already got enough hints for me to reasonably sure they were heading in that direction. I'm delighted to hear my hopes come to fruition!

Just wanted to say, if you think the first episodes of Castle are on the kinky side, keep watching. they keep coming back to it, and its made very clear that Beckett knows a great deal about kink, much to Castle's delight.

Its one of the few series where Kinky sex isn't treated scandalously or as a bad thing, and that carries on, and the whole series is pretty sex positive. It makes such a nice change to the usual american cop show attitude to sex

Not to mention one of my favourite scenes ever, featuring Ryan, Esposito and a marvellous pair of boots...

Regards
Lily

Bwahahaha! I'm very glad to hear it. Not surprised to hear that Beckett's similarly inclined, we've already got enough hints for me to reasonably sure they were heading in that direction. I'm delighted to hear my hopes come to fruition!

Lily, that is an amazing scene!

[...] and I exchanged a few emails, and I mentioned my take on Kate and Rick’s relationship. I hadn’t intended it as a request, but she said she’d see what she could do. Imagine [...]

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