Apr 172019
Mar 162019
  • Cleo Dubois has been involved in the BDSM community going back to the 1980s, and also a major player in the body modification/modern primitive community, not to mention married to the late Fakir Musafar. The Mike Mantell Show podcast has an in depth interview with her.
  • The Advocate has a set of rare photos from a 1962 gay motorcycle club event.
  • Iceland’s entry for the 2019 Eurovision song contest is Hatari, a self-described “anti-capitalist techno BDSM band”. They had retired for failing to destroy capitalism. Now, they’re back, and they’ve challenged the Prime Minister of Israel to an Icelandic wrestling match for the right to found “the first ever Hatari sponsored liberal BDSM colony” on Israeli soil. From Pink News.
  • The Imaginary Worlds podcast has a profile of Margaret Brundage, 1930s pulp magazine cover artist, many of which had sadomasochistic themes.
  • They say every generation has its sexual awakening movie. According to this Indiewire article, Millennials were taught sex positivity by Cruel Intentions (1999). “Millennials may be having less sex than previous generations, but we are talking about and embracing kink, BDSM, role play, and queerness with an openness and lack of judgment that is irreversibly influencing media and culture for the next generation.”
  • More changes in San Francisco’s landscape could squeeze out the city’s leather district, which was and still is the major incubator of the greater BDSM culture. The Catalyst will have to find new space by the end of 2019. This comes after designating the leather district and setting aside a leather pride mini-park. I fear that in a decade all that will be left will be the monuments and memorials, while the living heart will be gone.
  • In NYC, Charlotte Taillor’s kink collective and residence has run afoul of objections from her neighbors in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. New York Times, Gothamist, New York Daily News.
Feb 162019
  • I’m old enough to remember how different and exciting the Internet was in the 1990s. So does Violet Blue, who lays out just much has changed for the worse since then, especially with the censoring of Tumblr last year. “I can tell you for a fact that Tumblr helped a generation of frightened, isolated kids trying to figure out their sexual identity.” Her essay on Engadget.
  • David Wraith has an overview of how terrible the SESTA/FOSTA laws are, stifling freedom of expression on sexual matters while subjecting sex workers to greater danger.
  • On the brighter side, England has reviewed its obscenity laws and a number of kinks, including spanking, BDSM, and female ejaculation, are now okay in porn, as long as they are shown as consensual.
  • Kink Guidelines is a project “to explore what constitutes clinical best practices in working with those who are interested and/or involved in kink, BDSM, and/or fetish eroticism.
  • The city leaders of San Francisco have approved the construction of Eagle Plaza, a small park commemorating the Eagle bar’s contribution to the LGBTQ and leather/kink cultures.
  • Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival that loosely corresponds to Valentine’s Day, was known for men playfully whipping women “believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy”, according to Plutarch. Today, whipping rituals are a part of fertility festivals in parts of Europe, Mexico and Asia. From Vice.
  • Even though Walmart, regular drugstores and other mainstream retailers now stock vibrators and other sex toys, sex products are still caught up in controversy. Producers risk rejection from retailers, payment processors, crowdsourcing platforms, and advertising venues. Sex toys have to toe the line of being for “health and wellness”, not for pleasure, which would be prurient. The Verge has more.
  • Puppyplay for gay kinksters seems to be on the rise lately, and Slate has a profile of a San Francisco polyamorous pack.
  • Kerrang has a list of BDSM-themed songs, including the classic “Venus in Furs” by Velvet Underground.
Jan 222019
  • The Divine Deviance documentary, in which I am a contributor, is holding another round of fundraising. Even a small contribution can help make this valuable documentary possible.
  • The University of Guelph is running an anonymous survey on kinky people and their relationships.
  • In the UK, BDSM is still technically illegal, ever since the case of Brown 1993, also known as the Operation Spanner case. Samantha Pegg, a criminal law lecturer, discusses the possible legal reform regarding BDSM, while still emphasizing that consent should not negate all legal liability.
  • Cosmopolitan UK has a frank discussion of a woman’s involvement in BDSM as a way of processing her earlier rape.
  • Narratively has a feature on an AA meeting held in the basement of a fetish shop in NYC, and addresses the difficulty of kinky people hiding or revealing their kink in therapy or recovery settings. Starting in the 1950s, Alcoholics Anonymous refused to list gay meetings in their literature. This policy did not change until 1974. It’s also important to remember that a lot of NYC kink venues in the 1980s had a lot of liquor and drugs around.
  • Modern Meadow is a biotech company pioneering a kind of artificially-grown leather. Instead of a plastic like pleather, this is an organic material grown in a factory. This has several advantages over conventional leather production: less environmental impact from caustic substances, less animal cruelty, and it can be grown in large sheets to order. How this compares to conventional leather in terms of fetish or fashion remains to be seen. “Modern Meadow is not… actually out to ape leather. Rather, the firm’s aim is to produce a new material in its own right, complete with brand name.” The company’s line of materials is called Zoa. Perhaps some future generation of fetishists will prefer it to leather.
  • Slave Play, by Jeremy O. Harris, is a dramatic look at possibly the most emotionally and culturally charged form of kink: raceplay. Three couples (two hetero, one gay male) flipflop between antebellum fantasies of racial domination and modern scenes of couples arguing. Interview with the playwright (video)
  • We’re facing a new rising tide of online censorship in online communities like Tumblr and Facebook. Gloria Brame has a few tips on surviving this. Race Bannon discusses how, like it or not, social networks like Tumblr and Facebook have replace physical gathering spaces for connecting, organizing and discussing our sexualities. The moral panic over sex trafficking has led to SESTA/FOSTA and the subsequent restrictions on social networks, as covered by Cookie Cyboid on Medium.
  • The mainstreaming of (a heteronormative subset of) kink in the form of Fifty Shades Darker coincided with Fetlife deleting a large amount of images and groups, and Kink.com moving out of the Armory building in San Francisco. MEL magazine covers the economic and social fortunes of the kink world.
  • Waterboarding as a form of torture goes back at least to the Spanish Inquisition, but I would hazard there’s been an increased interest from the kink community in the last couple of decades. It’s been banned by the United Nations and classified as torture by the UN, and the US government has forbidden it. That adds an additional element of taboo to this technique, which would explain its popularity with certain edge players. It’s also more dangerous than some people think. Rolling Stone covers the controversy.
Dec 162018
Nov 192018
  • Fetish art master Eric Stanton had a daughter, Amber Stanton, who is an artist in her own right.
  • Speaking of Stanton, I just got Richard Péres Seves’ new biography of him, and it looks great. Here’s the review on The Fetishistas.
  • The Sexing History podcast has an episode on the new medium of phone sex in the early 1980s. One of the topics the interviewees discuss was that for a lot of gay men in the period, who weren’t in major cities, this was the first chance to talk to another man about their sexuality. This probably also helped people who had kinky, non-normative sexualities like BDSM and fetishes too.
  • On a related note, the Wellcome Collection has a display of the 1980s UK practice of phone booth sex work solicitation cards. Just over half of them included BDSM services.
  • A few months before the launch of A Lover’s Pinch, I got a call from the NPR show Radiolab. They asked me about the evolution of ideas of consent in BDSM, and while they didn’t use any of my interview, I did get a “thank you” in the episode notes of their three-part series on sexual consent (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). I was puzzled by one of the interviewees in the third part talking about how she was reluctant to use a “red” safeword in a public scene even if the situation called for it, because it could lead to her top being ostracized even if there was no negligence or malice. I had always understood that calling “red” does not necessarily mean the top did anything wrong; it could be because the bottom is experiencing something unexpected.
  • In New Zealand, which has much more liberal laws regarding sex work than the USA or Canada, sex workers are taking the lead in teaching about consent.
  • Aeon.co has a more in-depth discussion of sexual consent.
  • Kinkly provides another, going back to 1990.
  • One of the things I’m curious about is BDSM in non Western cultures. Desiblitz has a profile of Asmi, an Indian submissive female. I don’t have the cultural context to assess this in detail, but I am curious about how Asmi’s submissive desires interacts with a culture with more traditional views of female roles.
  • Paste magazine has a list of BDSM mainstream films, including a few I hadn’t even heard of but sound interesting for the Celluloid Dungeon project.
  • Dazed magazine has another list of sexually experimental films, though only some could be described as “kinky.”
  • Gloria Brame’s Educators Directory just posted the Mistress Michelle Peters collection of vintage BDSM photography, pulled from straight and gay magazines from the 1960s to the 1990s. Most of them don’t have dates or identifications of the people in them, but definitely a source for future research.
  • With all the talk of mainstreaming kink and BDSM, in mass media products, it’s easy to lose track of BDSM’s queer radical history and revolutionary potential. When Pat Bond, Terry Kolb, Cynthia Slater and others were putting together the first modern kink organizations in the early 1970s, there were pretty far from what most people would have considered “normal.” Slate has a short essay on the innovations made by kink communities and their value in a heteronormative, vanilla-normative society.
Oct 172018
  • Sexual spanking is a subset of BDSM that manages to be something even people who don’t consider themselves kinky sometimes try. Even the Kama Sutra includes techniques on spanking. VICE’s Broadly has an article on Dr. Rebecca Plante’s Sexual Spanking, the Self, and the Construction of Deviance in 2006, based on sexual scripts theory.
  • It’s been a troubling couple of years as male figures from entertainment, politics and other realms are revealed to have committed non-consensual acts, usually followed by attempts to discredit the abuser and/or excuse the infraction. Just like the Jian Ghomeshi case from a few years ago, writer Stephen Elliot has tried to avoid the allegations against him published on the privately-circulated “Shitty Media Men” list by saying he’s into BDSM as a submissive. From the lawsuit: “Defendants are aware the published statements are false because of Plaintiff’s published sexual preferences, including his preferences as a submissive male in a BDSM context, which are commonly known in the parties’ industry.” Sad to say, people like Leopold von Sacher-Masoch demonstrate that submissive men can be predatory and abusive. I hope this argument doesn’t hold up in court.
  • Lasting Marks is a documentary short about the notorious Operation Spanner case in the UK in the 1980s and 1990s, in which a group of adult men were arrested for engaging in consensual sadomasochism. It’s narrated by one of the men arrested, Roland Jaggard.
  • Cara Sutra looks into the historical context of maledom-femsub vs. femdom-malesub, and why one is far more acceptable than the other, becoming a feature of popular film and book romances. Even submissive men themselves have internalized shame from the culture about their desires, while dominant women are subjected to prejudice and stereotypes.
  • One of the questions we discussed in the recent documentary panel was, what is BDSM, and what isn’t? This relates to the perennial debates of “what is pornography?” and “what is sex?” Are the various fetishes grouped under “wet and messy” part of BDSM? Are video and audio clips produced in order to stimulate the ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) sexual, and therefore a kind of pornography? And should the producers of such media be banned from payment processors like Paypal? Producers of media generally considered sexual have had enough problems with getting payments processed, but now this has extended to ASMR producers. Apparently, some denizens of the 8chan message board have nothing better to do with their time than falsely report ASMR producers for selling adult content, which can result in the near-monopoly companies banning the producers for life and/or having their funds frozen for months. Background on anti-pornography actions by the banking industry
  • To look at the “what is and isn’t BDSM?” question from another angle, Brides.com has an essay “The Complete Guide to Rough Sex.” The article’s second paragraph hastens to make it clear that “Rough sex doesn’t necessarily mean BDSM of any kind. You can have rough AF sex without tying anyone to the bed or bringing out a riding crop.” The dividing line between BDSM and rough sex, as far as Brides.com is concerned, appears to be whether gear is involved. However, the essay’s discussion of rough sex covers consent, negotiation, boundaries and aftercare. All of this could have been copied and pasted from a BDSM guide. So is “rough sex” just BDSM without extra equipment?
  • The Guardian explores the closing of many gay male leather venues in London, and the evolution of the scene. “Rising rents, competitor fetishes and competition from online dating apps have all been a turn of the screw.”
  • Drummer’s Jack Fritscher wrote a profile of the late Cynthia Slater, co-founder of the Society of Janus back in the 1970s, a true pioneer.
Sep 162018
  • You’ve probably heard the bit about how Victorian doctors would use vibrators to administer orgasms to female patients. Turns out that is not backed up by the historical evidence, and the idea stemmed from one author willfully mispresenting primary sources.
  • The Kinsey Institute at the University of Bloomington, Indiana, used to be one of the foremost organizations studying sex in the world. Now its leadership is being handed over to people who come from animal studies, not sexology or psychology, to de-emphasize the study of human sexuality.
  • When we kinksters talk about raceplay, ageplay or other forms of “cultural trauma” play, we like to claim that the roles within the scene have nothing to do racism, sexism, ageism, etc in the outside world. But that’s not truth. In the porn business, interracial porn depends on the taboo of black men and white women being sexual together, but white female performers routinely charge higher rates for scenes with black men. Broadly has the story on this and other forms of institutionalized racism and sexism behind the porn camera.
Aug 192018
  • Divine Deviance is a forthcoming documentary film series about the kink culture. I will be participating in a panel discussion affiliated with it, alongside Race Bannon and Gayle Rubin, on September 28th in San Francisco, a couple of days before the Folsom Street Fair.
  • Culture.pl has a profile of pre-WWII Polish writer and artist Bruno Schulz who did a lot of female-dominant, male-submissive images. Interesting to consider if there are links between Schulz and Sacher-Masoch.
  • Femdom-Resource considers the etymology of the word “dominatrix”. It goes back to the 16th century, but apparently the word used to refer to a sexually dominant woman only goes back to 1967.
  • Fakir Musafar, a major pioneer in the BDSM and modern primitive cultures, has passed on. RIP.
  • The Porno Cultures podcast has an interview with Lynn Comella, author of Vibrator Nation, about how feminist adult stores grew and changed in the USA. This indirectly ties to another angle of BDSM history I haven’t explored yet, the growth of kink business and their products, and their acceptability in middle-class contexts.
  • Buzzfeed has an interested feature on Orthodox Jews in kink.
  • Dangerous Minds profiles Michael’s Thing, a post-Stonewall, pre-Internet print guide to NYC’s queer life, often with leatherman imagery on the cover.
Jul 152018
  • The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual rules the mental health landscape in the USA, but in the rest of the world, the keystone reference is the ICD, administered by the World Health Organization. The WHO recently took consensual sexual minorities out of the ICD-11 revision, following the work of many Nordic countries.
  • The Japanese culture/tradition of BDSM is a separate thing from the European/American tradition that I haven’t delved into as much as I’d like. (Hopefully to be covered in future works.) I don’t understand any language other than English, which forces me to rely on secondary sources. Most of them are shallow or suspect. However, the Tokyo Bound blog has a couple of translated interviews with bondage grandmaster Akechi Denki, one from 1997 and another from circa 1976. They give an interesting glimpse of Akechi’s life in post-war Japan, his many brushes with death, and his involvement in the underground of SM performances and magazines.
  • Speaking of shibari, is it cultural appropriation?
  • Notches has an essay on the peculiar relationship between the early fascist movement in Germany and the nascent homosexuality movement of the same time. Ernst Röhm, the head of the SA stormtroopers, saw homosexuality, or a particular definition of it, as fully compatible with German fascism, and distinguished from the perceived effeminacy and decadence of other forms of homosexuality. “Röhm’s queer fascism was identical to the Nazi Party’s ideology in almost all respects, save on questions of male-male eroticism.” An anonymous stormtrooper wrote, “the hand of a Nazi militia man ‘can strike a blow but also caress.’ The blows being struck by those hands were against Jews, Social Democrats, Communists, and homosexuals.” I should emphasize that we should not fall into the “Nazis were gay” trope; Röhm was eliminated during the “night of the long knives” when Hitler decided he was no longer an asset.
  • Another review of Katharine Gates’ Deviant Desires.
  • An essay on the fetish classic Satan in High Heels (1962).
  • An essay on the original Hellraiser (1987) film, strongly influenced by the gay SM subculture and the industrial music subculture of the early 1980s.