The music video for “S&M” was filmed in Los Angeles during the weekend of January 15, 2011, and was directed by Melina Matsoukas. 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.” The video’s production was influenced by Rihanna’s love of pop art. On January 27, 2011, a behind-the-scenes clip related to the video was posted on Rihanna’s official YouTube channel. The music video premiered on VEVO on February 1, 2011.
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. She is surrounded by microphones and gagged reporters. The video then cuts to an outdoor scene, in which she wears a cream-colored latex dress and walks Perez Hilton, who wears a ball gag and is on a leash. In the following scene, Rihanna is seated and surrounded by CCTV surveillance cameras. As she eats pink popcorn, her chair begins to rotate, prompting her to stand up and whip reporters, who are taped to the wall of the room. Next, she rolls 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 the wall behind her.
After the chorus, she appears in a newsroom. Reporters surround her and take photographs, and she is sprawled across a desk in a pink latex dress. The end of the video intercuts scenes from throughout the video and new scenes of Rihanna suggestively eating bananas, strawberries and cream, and bejeweled ice cream. The video ends as she lies on a newsroom desk wearing a smiley face eye patch with The Rolling Stones tongue logo over her mouth. As scenes of Rihanna and other people in dominatrix clothes are interspersed, various explicit acts with the singer with a feather boa and a top with the word “censored” across it are displayed.