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.
Jun 172018
  • I had only known the Renaissance writer Pico dela Mirandola was the author of the first known discussion of masochistic flagellation is non-spiritual terms, but in fact his influence and accomplishments extended far beyond that. He was perhaps best known as the author of the early humanist Oration on the Dignity of Man, which contained 900 theses on religion, philosophy, natural philosophy, alchemy, astrology and magic. And he did this before he was 25 years old. The History Unplugged podcast has an in-depth exploration of his life, though it doesn’t touch on his writing on flagellation.
  • There’s an Indiegogo fundraiser for a documentary on the Sixty Nine Group, the oldest gay leatherman organization in Europe, founded in 1965.
  • Susan Wright of the NCSF talks to the New York Times about the boundary between BDSM and abuse. One of the few good things to come out of these recent cases of BDSM excused as abuse is that even mainstream publications are willing to explore the distinction.
  • The riding crop has become one of the most common symbols of kink. It has an odd and complicated history, according to this Kink Academy essay. Like other tools intended for handling animals, like buggy whips, it isn’t intended to inflict pain, just get the animal’s attention. The article suggests this steams from a confusion in Venus in Furs, as Wanda is often described as going riding, and then cracking a whip; creating a link between the equestrian woman and the dominant woman. It was also a common decorative element for rulers and military officers.
  • Psychology Today has an interview about a study of kinky people and how they form their kinky identities, comparing it to developing a homosexual identity. “Kinky people also reported much less of a desire to ‘come out’ that we see in gay and lesbian populations, likely because it is much easier to hide an interest in kink in a relationship than it is to hide a relationship with someone of the same gender.”
  • Messy Nessy Chic has a collection of John Coutts’ (aka John Willie) bondage and fetish photography from the 1940s and 1950s.
  • Has bondage, specifically Japanese-influenced rope bondage, become so popular that it has lost all sexuality? Ayzad asks the hard questions.
  • Alexis Lykiard’s essay claims the antebellum-slavery-themed erotic novel Memoirs of Dolly Morton was obscure French man of letters Georges Grassal, a literary author who fell on hard times and wrote prolifically in both French and English, under many pseudonyms. The author also wrote an introduction to another Victorian erotic classic, Man with a Maid, and a biography of another French author of flagellation erotica, Pierre Dumarchey, aka “Pierre Mac Orlan”.
  • CVLT Nation talks about the impact of SESTA/FOSTA on Fetlife and other segments of the kinky internet. “It’s puzzling that a bill that could shut down the search for a sugar daddy might make it across the desk of a man [I.e. Donald Trump] who is the sugar daddy to his own wife and couldn’t get laid by porn stars or otherwise if you took his bank account out of the equation. I suspect this has nothing to do with a moral witch hunt, and everything to do with money.”
  • Generations ago, the gay male leather scene was revolutionary, a post-WWII antidote to the effeminate, “nelly” stereotype, showing that gay men could be masculine. Now, masculinity is in deep crisis, with the excesses of the privileged revealed by the #MeToo movement, and the incel subculture spewing toxic misogyny and violence. Do gay leathermen need to re-evaluate what masculine means, and should they open their doors to a more diverse range of bodies, sexes, genders, and gender expressions? Slate has an essay.
May 152018
Apr 162018
Mar 242018
Feb 172018
Jan 152018
  • Katherine Gates, author of the new edition of Deviant Desires, talks on the Sex Out Loud podcast about fetishes. Specifically, she came out of the zine scene of the late 80s and early 90s, when people would self-publish and distribute paper zines for their own niche fetishes, such as sploshing or crushing or giantess. This was largely supplanted by the Internet in the mid-90s.
  • Susan Wright, NCSF co-founder and tireless advocate, talks on the Kinkycast about the threat to kink and freedom of expression from the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, formerly known as Morality in Media. Among other things, it claims that the EBSCO academic research database is a purveyor of pornography to children.
  • A 2016 GQ article claims that “Kink isn’t just for weirdo side characters anymore.” I don’t know about that, but it is an interesting list about kink in mainstream television, including Transparent, Nip/Tuck, Billions and other series.
  • BDSM has always been influenced by the changing times, and new technologies. An Engadget article talks about a pro dominatrix who specializes in “consensual blackmail” and Internet-enabled surveillance.