- Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York blog has a post on the lost gay leather clubs of New York City, and what has replaced them. I was fortunate enough to visit Manhattan in 1997 and visit the Hellfire Club, the Vault, and a few other venues, all gone when I returned in 2005.
- Researching William Seabrook, Man Ray and Lee Miller brought me to Silent Porn Star’s post on the psychosexual impact of the First World War, leading to masochism and even effeminization in the male psyche. You’d have to include the cult of Rudolf Valentino as a counter-movement towards a new masculinity.
- Brian Donovan’s book White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-Vice Activism, 1887-1917 looks like an interesting account of woman-in-captivity fantasies.
- More than 20 years ago, Wired ran a piece on then-obscure newsgroup alt.sex.bondage
- A biography of Edith Kadivec (or Cadivec), flagellant, author and child molester in the early 20th century. This is one of those frustrating articles that presents a wealth of detailed information, but no sources or author.
- Likewise, this history of the House of Milan, producer of bondage magazines and videos, lacks sources and attribution.
- A mention of the 1980 sadomasochism-themed issue of the art magazine ZG brought me tantalizingly close to this lost artifact. One of the few references I could find:
Its central theme-sadomasochism-would be interrogated through conflicting inquiries into “violent images of sexuality” as they manifested themselves in film, fashion, art, and music. To my sixteen-year-old eyes (and mind), ZG`s “sadomasochism” issue was incendiary. It opened with “Mistaken Identities,” Dick Hebdige`s account-interwoven with a textual collage of contemporary news reports-of the brutal and sordid death of Sex Pistol Sid Vicious`s muse and partner in crime, Nancy Spungen.
Mileaf, Janine. Please Touch: Dada & Surrealist Objects After The Readymade. Dartmouth College Press, 2010
As I’ve observed before, there’s a relative lacuna in BDSM history, between the Victorians and the post-WWII era. The first half of the 20th century is relatively undocumented, though I have found a few exceptions.
Artist and photographermade several sadomasochistic photos in his career in the 1920s and 1930s. He was also a devotee of the works of the Marquis de Sade, and made portraits of the Marquis. Man Ray was one of many artists of the time interested in “the primitive”, taking inspiration from aboriginal people around the world, and seeking truth through extreme mental and physical states.
The Kink Realm has a list of daily links for February 2013 and February 2014, on the history of black people in BDSM, including profiles of Viola Johnson and Mollena Williams, discussions of the issues of bottoms with darker skin, Marvin Gaye’s little-known song “Masochistic Beauty”, and more.
I hope to see posts on fetish artist Eugene Bilbrew (aka “Eneg”) and actress/singer Eartha Kitt.
Brown, Carolyn E. “Erotic Religious Flagellation and Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure”, English Literary Renaissance, Vol.16, Iss. 1, Dec 1986
Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure (first performed in 1604) links religious asceticism and flagellation with deviant sexuality and political tyranny. The Duke of Vienna, the judge Angelo and the novice nun Isabella claim to be pious and chaste, while their sexuality is repressed in such a way that it emerges as indifferent voyeurism, aggressive sadism or masochism, respectively. “…by drawing parallels to historical or topical events, Shakespeare suggests that the protagonists’ very asceticism, ironically, causes this deviant desire and that they associate their austere religious practices with pleasurable feelings.”
The plot revolves around a couple, Claudio and Juliet, who have not properly observed all the rules of engagement and marriage. While the Duke travels through Vienna in disguise as a friar, he hands power over to the judge Angelo, who decides to make an example of Claudio and condemn him to death for fornication. Claudio’s friend Lucia asks Isabella, the novice nun and Claudio’s sister, for help. Angelo offers to free Claudio in exchange for sex with Isabella.
The trio of the Duke, Angelo and Isabella are all ascetics (though none are actually clergy), and are hostile to sexual desires, believing that “pain kills the libido and thus subjecting themselves and others to physical abuse.”
I want to give some signal boost to True Stories productions’ documentary-in-progress Black Pervert: the f***ing history of a double minority, both because I like to support BDSM history projects in general, and because POCs deserve more representation and recognition in kink. I look forward to seeing this.
Arguably the best known Nazisploitation film (though Love Camp 7 (1969) is usually cited as the first), Ilsa: She Wolf of the SS was a US-Canadian production (and shot on the exterior old sets for Hogan’s Heroes, according to one source). It starred Dyanne Thorne as the titular concentration camp commandant, impeccably crisp in a black, white and red SS uniform.
The women sent to Ils’a camp are divided into two groups. One gets sent to “work details” of serving the men in the guard house. The other gets beaten, electrocuted, boiled, suffocated and more in “experiments” overseen by Ilsa and her female assistants. Ilsa’s ostensible reason for all of this is to demonstrate that women can withstand as much pain as men, and therefore prove that women can serve the Reich by fighting on the front line.
The male prisoners each get one night with Ilsa, after which they’re castrated.
Magillow, Daniel H., Bridges, Elizabeth, and Vander Lugt, Kristen T. Nazisploitation! the Nazi image in low-brow cinema and culture. Continuum Books, 2012 Amazon
Nazisploitation, or sadiconazista, is one of the most scorned film genres, and also one of the most complex. The films grouped under that heading may share a common aesthetic but have very different productions and meanings, which this anthology tries to map.
…the standard tropes, settings and narrative conceits of Nazisploitation cinema [include]: sexually perverted, calculating and sadistic Nazi officers, prisoner-of-war and concentration camps, medical experimentation and prisoner rebellions. [Pg.2]
Erosblog has the story on the billboard advertisement for the Rolling Stones’ Black and Blue album (1976), featuring model Anita Russell in bondage (allegedly tied by Mick Jagger himself).
In researching the history of consensual sadomasochism, there isn’t a comprehensive body of knowledge to draw upon, no established canon of reference works, no Journal of Sadomasochistic Studies.
Instead, I have data points: case studies, books (often anonymous), anecdotes, images, etc. I’ll admit that sometimes what is and isn’t a data point is decided on the “I know it when I see it” principle. Connecting those points requires a certain amount of guesswork and judgment calls.
For example: Dr. Samuel Johnson, English man of letters of the Enlightenment, and his relationship with his close friend Hester Thrale. The latter’s posthumous effects, sold at auction in 1823, included a padlock and fetters. Thrale identified it as “Johnson’s padlock, committed to my care in the year 1768.” In 1767 or 1768, Thrale wrote that “our stern philosopher Johnson trusted me… with a secret far dearer to him than his life”. On other occasions , she wrote that “this great, this formidable Doctor Johnson kissed my hand, ay & my foot too upon his knees!” and quoted him saying, “a woman has such power between the ages of twenty five and forty five, that she may tie a man to a post and whip him if she will.” Finally, there is a reference in Thrale’s journal to “the fetters & padlocks [that] will tell posterity the truth”, and Johnson’s own journal entry, dated 24 March 1771, about “Insane thoughts on fetters and hand-cuffs.” (in Latin) (Pg.387-388)
I’m surprised at how much material from AMC’s Mad Men I find for this blog. First there was protagonist Don Draper’s masochistic sessions with a prostitute who slaps his face. Then there was the episode “Mystery Date”, which showed that Don was trying to be faithful to his wife, while a toxic cocktail of lust, fear and rage boiled inside him. Meanwhile, other characters had their own reactions to sexual violence.
And now, in “Man With A Plan”, Don goes full on dominant. Since the season began, he’s been having an affair with his downstairs neighbour Sylvia, the wife of a heart surgeon. While Don’s been lacking in sales meetings, he makes up for it by expertly playing on Sylvia’s Catholic guilt, setting her up for their trysts in the maid’s room.