The music video for “S&M” was filmed in Los Angeles during the weekend of January 15, 2011, and was directed by Melina Matsoukas.
Rihanna participated in the video’s direction, and used her ideas for some of its scenes, according to gossip-blogger Perez Hilton who was in the video. Matsoukas told Billboard that the video was inspired by Rihanna’s “sadomasochist relationship with the press… it isn’t just about a bunch of whips and chains.” Rihanna’s love of pop art also influenced the video.
As the video opens, Rihanna is dragged, kicking and resisting, into a press conference where she is covered with plastic wrap and taped to a wall. Rihanna is surrounded by microphones and gagged reporters take notes. The video then cuts to an outdoor scene, in which Rihanna wears a cream-colored latex dress and walks Perez Hilton, wearing a ball gag, on a leash. In the following scene, a Rihanna is seated, and surrounded by CCTV surveillance cameras. While she eats pink popcorn, Rihanna’s chair begins to rotate, prompting her to stand up and whip several reporters, who are taped to the wall of the room. Next, Rihanna is shown rolling on the floor with her hands and feet bound with rope. As the bridge of the song approaches, Rihanna wears a white latex bikini and rabbit ears, and images of headlines, such as Illuminati connections she has been accused of, are projected against her body and against the wall behind her.
Following the chorus, Rihanna again appears in a newsroom. Reporters surround her and take photographs, while she is sprawled across a desk in a pink latex dress. The end of the video flashes between scenes from throughout the video and new scenes of Rihanna suggestively eating bananas, strawberries and cream, and bejeweled ice cream. The video ends with a shot of Rihanna lying on a newsroom desk wearing a smiley face eye patch with The Rolling Stones tongue logo over her mouth. The video is intercut throughout with Rihanna and other people wearing dominatrix clothing, implying various explicit acts with the singer wearing a feather boa and a top with the word “censored” across it.
On its release, the video was immediately banned in eleven countries due to its overt sexual content. The video was flagged for content by users on YouTube, restricting access to it to registered users over the age of 18. Rihanna responded to the news via Twitter, writing, “They watched ‘Umbrella’ … I was full nude”. An unrestricted version of the video was later uploaded to Rihanna’s official website. The director of the video, Melina Matsoukas responded to the news in an interview with MTV News, stating:
“When I go out to make something, I kind of go out with the intention to get it banned – [well] not to get it banned, I always want my stuff played – but to make something provocative … so when you do something that’s provocative, that’s usually a repercussion. It’s gonna be talked about or banned or slandered in some way. But it’s making an effect and people are having a dialogue about it, so, to me, that’s successful.”