50 shades of queer

Margaret Cho’s new web series follows a queer Asian BDSM sex worker

Mercy Mistress, Asian man kneeling black glove caressing his face

For years, bisexual comedian Margaret Cho has promoted sex positivity and LGBTQ visibility in media, unabashedly discussing sex in interviews and starring in numerous queer film projects.

But the Korean-American comedy queen is currently an executive producer of Mercy Mistress, an upcoming web-series that follows a queer Asian-American BDSM sex worker.

TV shows with positive, nuanced depictions of queer Asian sex workers are almost unheard of.

The series is based on a memoir by BDSM dominatrix and sex educator Yin Quan (who wrote and created the show). It follows “a queer, first-generation, Chinese-American professional and lifestyle dominatrix working in Manhattan,” according to IndieWire.com.

Related: Bananas, blood, & BDSM: Male sex workers share the wackiest requests they ever received

Each episode in the beautifully shot series will show the mistress navigating her personal life while pushing her new client to fully integrate his kinky side into his dating life.

But it ain’t Fifty Shade of Grey.

Mercy Mistress, two Asian women caressing each other in a Chinatown doorway
A still from Mercy Mistress

“It’s not about some weird dude with a helicopter, you know? Those kinds of images don’t really ring true in my world of kink,” Cho told IndieWire. Cho grew up in the San Francisco queer kink and leather scenes.

“I think [‘Mercy Mistress’] is actually very true to the lifestyle and what people really do,” Cho said, “which is much sexier, and a lot more fun, and much more relatable and interesting.”

Quan, the show’s creator, was tired of seeing sex workers portrayed as glamorous “happy hookers” with hearts of gold or hard-bitten, amoral low-lifes. Asian sex workers in particular are often depicted as exotic, submissive sex-slaves with no agency of their own — Mercy Mistress could change all that.

You can watch the first episode below. The full series will premiere on January 7, 2019.