May 122010
 

Debra Hyde’s blog has a quick look at Iwan Bloch’s Sex life in England (1934), including scans of some of the art.

Iwan Bloch was a noted author and sexologist from pre-Nazi Germany. He was a contemporary of fellow sexologist, Magnus Hirschfeld, and Sigmund Freud considered his contributions on homosexuality key to looking at sexual orientation from a non-pathological stance. I suspect it gave some level of legitimacy to Falstaff Press in the eyes of government suppression, but not much, given the fervor of the law. Although he was responsible for discovering the presumed-lost manuscript of The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade and he was an early biographer of the notorious figure, so who knows.

I’d like to see this book and have a good insight into pre-WWII European sexual culture.

May 142008
 

Frost, Laura Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism, Cornel University Press, 2002

I once interviewed an elderly French woman who had been a courier for the Resistance in occupied France. In Paris, she was captured by the Milice, French fascist collaborators, tortured without divulging anything and held prisoner for months. A Milice officer named Cornet would visit her cell and point her out, saying, “That one didn’t talk. She has courage.”

One night, Cornet and she drove to a nightclub for Miliciens and German soldiers, the Green Parrot, which she soon realized was also a brothel.

Continue reading »

May 172007
 

Silent Porn Star pointed me at an interview with a woman artist who created some of the covers for Weird Tales in the 1930s, Margaret Brundage.

Weird Tales

As kinky as these and other covers were (check out Dian Hanson’s books on post-WWII men’s magazines), they seem to have been created by people who had no particular kinkiness to them.

Everts: Do you recall the most controversial Weird Tales cover?

Brundage: We had one issue [the September, 1933 issue] that sold out! It was the story of a very vicious female, getting a-hold of the heroine and tying her up and beating her. Well, the public apparently thought it was flagellation and the entire issue sold out. They could have used a couple of thousand extra.

Everts: Did you choose that scene to illustrate?

Brundage: You see, I would submit about three different pencil sketches. And they would make the selection of the one I was to do in color. Once in a while I would suggest a little color in my sketches, but most of the time [pause] well, they were very rough. And yes, they chose the scene. I didn’t. Having read the story, the thought of flagellation never entered my head. I don’t think it had theirs either. But it turned out that way.

Everts: What inspiration did you use for the exotic covers, the clothing, the monsters?

Brundage: In almost every instance, just off the top of my head.

Everts: Were you ever asked to start covering your nudes a bit?

Brundage: I was never asked to, no. One funny thing did happen. One of the authors — well, Weird Tales asked me to make larger and larger breasts — larger than I would have liked to — well, one cover, one of the authors wrote in and said that things were getting a little bit out of line. And even for an old expert like him, the size of the breastwork was getting a little too large.

So, a magazine with two scantily clad beautiful women, one holding a whip, on the cover, and the public “thought” it was about flagellation?

It’s weird that there’s a whip (technically a cat or flail) in the illustration, yet Brundage takes no responsibility for it. Neither does she put the responsibility for it on the magazine’s editors and publishers. It sounds like it just appeared there spontaneously. Maybe it did, in the sense that people do include things unconsciously in their art.

I suspect that these types of illustrations were an American manifestation of memes bubbling up from European erotica/porn, but also American illustration traditions as well. Maybe kink is a kind of strange attractor which keeps pulling minds toward it, even if they’ve never heard of it before. Pauline Reage claimed she had not read Sade before she wrote Story of O.

See Yankee Classic for a collection of Weird Tales covers.

Apr 042007
 

Thanks to eBay, I now own two copies of London Life magazine.

London Life was what succeeded The Englishwoman’s Domestic Monthly and The Family Doctor in sustaining England fetishist population. It was a popular magazine: maillot-clad bathing beauties (the bikini hadn’t been invented yet), Hollywood gossip, short fiction, etc.

It doesn’t get really interesting until you get to the letter sections. Then you’re hanging out with:

BROKEN SPIRIT: “…I act as lady’s maid to my mistress, and also to her friends when she entertains. I have to practically put on and take off every garment she wears. Every time she takes a bath I have to get everything ready, bath her [sic], and rub her briskly with a hot towel until my arms ache fit to drop off.”

VELVET CORDS: “Since we have been married we have both worn corduroy a great deal – my wife wearing costumes and skirts, generally in black or brown, and I wearing shorts, jacket and breeches whenever circumstances permit.”

MOUNTED MANNEQUIN: “After being unhorsed for so long, it is simply gorgeous to have my feet in the stirrups again, and to feel a horse’s ripping [sic] muscles between my knees….Naturally enough, my spurs came in for a good deal of attention. I am afraid I could not scrap any of these; but I found they could all do with new straps and buckles to smarten them up, and two pairs needed new rowels.”

ONE LEG: “No one appeared to take undue notice of my one-leggedness when in my bathing costume. Needless to say, I was very glad of this, because it gave me encouragement to bathe and sun myself quite oblivious to any missing leg…. I brought back from Paris six lovely slender crutches, black, blue, brown, and grey, for day use, and a red and green for evening wear.”

MALE CORSET WEARER: “Recently, however, a champion of the much-maligned waist compresser has arisen, who declares that if only men would take to wearing corsets, baldness would promptly cease to exist at all.”

BAS DE SOIE: “I love the costume of a French maid above all other styles, and because I first me my own sporty little wife at a private fancy dress ball, where whe was dressed in the most chic and daring French maid’s costume you cold imagine.”

MURIEL: “I was priveleged to witness an exciting wrestling match at my home the other evening between two of my friends, Betty, a typist, and Hazel, a shop assistant.”

WETTING PARTY FAN: “What has happened to ‘P.R.’ who used to write such thrilling letters about the wet and muddy exploits of Gwen and Madeline?”

BROWNIE: “I am awfully keen on mackintoshes, and so is my boy friend, who is a sailor in the Merchant Service. He is a great big he-man, and loves to dominate me. He likes to see me completely mackintoshed; and though at first I must own I did not like being dressed up in rubber clothes, I am now an ardent mac fan, and I realize that macs have a fascination all their own.”

STRICT MISTRESS: “If I were to employ females to slave for me in this way I should not get anything like such a thrill and ‘kick’ out of the practice that I always experience when ordering men and boys to do my bidding.”

All of these letters are written in a dead-pan, humorless style, no matter how outrageous the content. I’m going to give these letters the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were written by readers and not fabricated in house. However, how true to life they are is anybody’s guess. Some are plausible as treasured real-life incidents embroidered over time by fantasy, and some are pure wishful thinking. I also won’t speculate how many of the letters with female bylines are actually written by women.

After all, would you believe Hannah Cullwick and Athur Munby were real people if they had written into magazines instead of having their journals published decades after their deaths?

There’s a wide range of fetishes on display: amputees, shoes, boots and hosiery, corsets, French maids, wet and messy, silk and satin, etc. These days, these people would have blogs and MySpace pages and Yahoo groups. Back then, all they had was London Life.

However, this generation of fetishists differed from the Victorians. The people who wrote into the mid-nineteenth century magazines were on the extreme end of the “normal” end of the spectrum. Tight-lacing corsets, for instance, were just barely on the edge of fashion then. By the 1930s, when fetishists had pretty much taken over the reader-contributed sections of London Life, the female ideal was the supple, athletic flapper, and wasp waists were completely off the range of fashion. This was when the culture of fetishists started to evolve.

Incidentally, there was a fair amount of kinkness in the features too. One story, “Les Dance Apache!”, is about an Englishman on vacation in Paris who falls for a woman who does “le danse apache“, a stylized combat between a pimp and a prostitute (example video). However, it turns out the woman and her dance partner are running a variant of the Badger Game on the poor schlemiel.

I’ll try go get some scans up soon.

Aug 092006
 

There was a certain odd gap in my research. I had plenty of material on the Victorian era: Munby and Cullwick, Sacher-Masoch, Krafft-Ebing and My Secret Life, just to name a few things. After WWII there’s Willie, Stanton and Bilbrew, the biker/leatherman culture, L’Histoire de O, the Profumo scandal and so on.

But what happened in kink in the Interwar period? There’s the Weimar Republic of Germany, as documented by Mel Odom’s Voluptuous Panic. I also want to work in William Charles Moulton and his creation, Wonder Woman. And what else?

Furthermore, what happened in America all those years before the 40s? Why was the US apparently so vanilla compared to Europe?

Continue reading »

Jan 062006
 

In 1917, the same year a generation of Englishmen were being slaughtered on the killing fields of Europe, Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, was captured by Turks at Der’a, beaten and threatened with rape. By his own account, he liked it.

“I remembered smiling idly at him, for a delicious warmth, probably sexual, was swelling through me; and then that he flung up his arm and hacked with the full length of his whip into my groin. This doubled me half-over, screaming, or, rather, trying impotently to scream, only shuddering through my open mouth. One giggled with amusement. A voice cried, ‘Shame, you’ve killed him,” Another slash followed. A roaring, and my eyes went black; while within me the core of life seemed to heave slowly up through the rending nerves, expelled from its body by this last indescribable pang.”

Lawrence survived and escaped, but not without his experience leaving a lasting effect on him.

Continue reading »