Dec 162018
 

I got started on the Internet in the early 1990s, when every session was preceded by the squeal of an acoustic modem over a phone line, and USENET was the cutting edge of interaction. I loved it. USENET was a decentralized, public system that didn’t really have an owner or a central control. The USENET group alt.sex.bondage was a major influence on my budding interest in BDSM. The Internet seemed like a wide-open utopia/frontier of freedom and choice, where I could find like-minded people.

I knew that there were racists, sexists, homophobes, anti-Semites, etc out there, spewing out their hatred, but also assumed these were sad little men in small dark rooms who didn’t pose a serious threat to anybody. (Being a white, cis, hetero male was definitely part of this assumption.) Child pornography was, I read, a bogeyman for people who wanted to censor for the sake of censoring. Free speech was an almost unequivocal good.

Fast forward more than twenty years, past high-speed internet, Youtube, Facebook, Google, Gamergate, Sad/Rabid Puppies, 4chan, ironic racism, pick up artists, MGTOWs, incels, revenge porn, etc. Those sad little men networked and became a force that has dragged North American society hard to the right. This also coincided with a terrifying rise in right wing demonstrations and violence.

As of the end of 2018, there has been at least some pushback against the alt-right. People who have committed hate crimes have been prosecuted under the law. Media figures like Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopolis and Gavin McInnes have been kicked off major platforms like Youtube and Twitter and barred from venues, a tactic known as “de-platforming”.

I was never 100% comfortable with the concept of de-platforming, which to me had an unpleasantly Newspeak overtone. “It’s not censorship, it’s de-platforming.” But I’ll be honest and say that, despite my commitment to free speech, I wasn’t going to go to the barricades for the likes of McInnes, Jones and Yiannopolis.

One of the big takeaways from Slavoj Zizek’s two films explaining his theory of ideology (The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology) is that ideologies don’t require all of their followers to have sincere belief. A successful ideology can accommodate people who know how to toe the party line, say the phrases, wear the uniform, and smugly congratulate themselves on being ahead of the game, all the while contributing to the machine. Whether they were true believers or hucksters/trolls, the end result was the same: an endless flood of hatred, paranoia and self-righteousness, into the eyes and ears of people who had a limitless appetite for it. Likewise, it doesn’t matter if the recipients are hardcore white supremacists or misogynists or anti-Semites, or they just get off on the transgression, they’re still propagating it. The best way to curtail such people is to attack them where it hurts: their bottom lines.

That’s why I didn’t object to the de-platforming very much: because North America and Europe are seething with racial, gendered and religious violence, and I didn’t know what else to do about it. Something had to be done to reign it in. Even if you don’t believe in the “monkey-see-monkey-do” model of the media’s influence on the individual’s actions, such tactics at least sent a message regarding what was acceptable discourse. If that had even a slight chance of preventing another Pulse nightclub shooting or Toronto van attack, go for it.

The idea that media creates and propagates a culture, and certain percentage of recipients of that media will do physical violence, is straight out of the second-wave radical feminist arguments against pornography and sadomasochism. Which puts me in a bit of a bind.

The changes in content rules on Tumblr (coming into effect December 17, 2018) and Facebook (soon) are driven by the “anti-trafficking” ideology that gave use SESTA/FOSTA. Going into the history and flaws of that legislation would require an in-depth article itself, but they’ve already caused problems for sex workers, and people who discuss sexual issues.

Personally, these changes will cause problems for me. As of December 15th, 2018, I have 2,790 followers on Tumblr, 223 followers on the Facebook group and 233 followers on Pinterest, and no way to transfer them to other platforms. They are major assets for promoting A Lover’s Pinch and other future projects. I especially liked how I could set up automatic daily updates on Tumblr and then have them repeated on Twitter via IFTT. While I was never a huge user of Tumblr, especially not for personal material, I liked scrolling through feeds and reading the freewheeling, queer and quirky stuff. I know it had its own problems with hateful content. I read the “raceplay” tag a few times and, as I read, I kept thinking, “You’re just kidding, right? This is all just rhetorical?”

It’s not a good look to shrug when other people are de-platformed with “Well, they had it coming,” and then cry when it happens to me.

The philosopher Karl Popper wrote about the “paradox of tolerance” in 1945, right after seeing the global violence of fascism.

In other words, we have to draw the line somewhere. But where? I know where I would draw it, but that’s a solution only for me.

I could pile up the word count hashing out this debate, but the real problem is that this is an issue outside of politics. Tumblr, Facebook, etc, are private corporations. They exist to benefit their shareholders, and any other benefits are only incidental. Thus, they can impose whatever content regulations they like. Whatever communities users may have built on those platforms, they never belonged to their users. The real problem is the influence of capital on our discourse, at multiple levels.

One of the things that suck about getting older is that you have to see the revolution you believed in falter and be assimilated or even corrupted. The online communities of hatred (of women, non-whites, queer people, trans people, Jews, Muslims, immigrants, and so on) (and their parasitic profiteers) festering on the Internet in 2018 are a twisted, degraded reflection of the communities of acceptance and diversity that flourished on the Internet of 1998. (Please make allowances for rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia.) The Internet was supposed to be a path to utopia.

I don’t know what will happen to my blog on Tumblr Monday, or what will happen on other platforms in the years to come. Will there be some kind of cultural conservative backlash, a return to the middle after the excesses of the extremes? That bodes ill, not just for online communites, but for society in general.

Oct 162018
 

Divine Deviance panel, 28 September 2018. L-R: Peter Tupper, Carol Queen, Gayle Rubin, Mufasa Ali, Dr. Robert Bienvenu, and Rostum Mesli.

One of the best things about subcultures is that it is possible to meet all of the major people involved in them. In the case of the micro-field of sadomasochism history studies, it’s possible to get the leading people sitting around a single table.

I was deeply honored to be sitting at the same table as the people whose work I had read and built on for many years: sexologist & Center for Sex & Culture ED Carol Queen, academic & activist Gayle Rubin, ONYX founder & Mr World Leather 2006-07 Mufasa Ali, anthropologist & historian Dr. Robert Bienvenu, and academic & author Rostum Mesli. The shoot was at the Catalyst playspace in San Francisco.

The shoot took about seven hours, including lunch breaks, but all of it was fascinating. A lot of the discussion revolved around what exactly BDSM was, and what wasn’t BDSM, and whether certain activities and cultures grouped together really had anything to do with each other. This also raised the question of, when we looked into the past to find antecedents of modern BDSM (whatever that is), do we find anything, or do we see something else that only superficially resembles modern BDSM but isn’t actually. A lot of my thinking on the subject was put to the test, in a dialog that refined everybody’s thoughts.

It was also just a pleasure hanging out with people who have lived through some of what I have been studying. Not only did I meet Carol Queen and Gayle Rubin, one of the producers was Race Bannon.

L-R: Carol Queen, Peter Tupper, and Race Bannon

My thanks to Race Bannon, Jörg Fockele and the other producers.  I look forward to further developments in the Divine Deviance documentary series. Donations would be greatly appreciated.

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.
Jun 182018
 

What are the sartorial origins of the black-clad dominatrix? I will skip the more familiar examples from recent years and try to find the earlier examples.

Certainly everyone will remember Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel (“Miss SM Appeal”) in the UK spy TV series The Avengers. Her most overtly kinky costumes were features in the episodes “A Touch of Brimstone” and “Death at Bargain Prices.”

Woman in black leather suit with zippers

Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in The Avengers, wearing the leather jumpsuit costume from “Death at Bargain Prices”

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May 292018
 



Jan 092018
 

I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit Wicked Grounds cafe in San Francisco in September 2017, now that it has closed as of January 6, 2018. It saddens me that so many public kink spaces don’t seem to last.

There is a last ditch hope of saving it via Patreon, though. Hopefully some white knight investor will pony up the cash.

Me outside of Wicked Grounds, September 2017

Me outside of Wicked Grounds, September 2017

Dec 152017
 

Tom of Finland (2017). Directed by Dome Karukoski, written by Aleksi Bardy and Dome Karukoski. IMDB

I only know the broad outlines of the life of Touko Laaksonen‘s, AKA Tom of Finland, so I can’t attest to the historical accuracy of this film. It is definitely a biopic, not a documentary.The film spans a considerable span of time, from Laaksonen’s furtive outdoor experiences during WWII to his celebrity in HIV-era America.

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Nov 142017
 

Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman (2017). Director and writer Angela Robinson. IMDB

Who was Professor William Moulton Marston? A fantasist in the tradition of Frank Baum or Lewis Carrol? A guy who ruled a secret menage a trois with his wife and his younger student? A failed academic turned huckster and pornographer with a line in psychobabble? A loving father and husband with an unorthodox, closeted family?

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