Jul 162016
 

SM One Foot Out Of The Closet 1980

For a while, I’ve seen references to a 1980 documentary about kinky people, aired on public television station KQED. Online searches turned up nothing, but I finally put in the effort to look up KQED and see if I could somehow get access to it, if only partially. After a few emails, they were kind enough to give me access to a stream of the 36-year-old documentary. I had to sign a fairly restrictive agreement, so I can’t share any of it.

Continue reading »

May 132016
 

Linden, Robin Ruth. 1982. Against sadomasochism: a radical feminist analysis. East Palo Alto, Calif: Frog in the Well. Amazon

I’ve already gone into the history of the lesbian sex wars over BDSM. This post covers one of the major incidents in this struggle, the anthology Against Sadomasochism: a radical feminist analysis. It was published in 1982, the same year as the infamous Barnard Conference incident (in which anti-SM lesbian-feminists harassed and picketed a women’s sexuality conference, in which SM was just one of many topics discussed). Sado-masochism was described as, at worst, patriarchal false consciousness and, at best, an immature holdover from less enlightened times. Witness Vivienne Walker-Crawford’s “The Saga of Sadie O. Massey” [Pg.147], in which sadomasochism is discussed through the metaphor of a woman who is overly attached to a pair of thick wool socks. Instead of being a primitive form of psychological development, it was a primitive form of political consciousness.i See also “Smokers Protest Healthism” by “Paula Tiklicorrect”.[Pg. 164]

Continue reading »

Apr 142016
 
Cover of Playboy August 1983, featuring Sybil Danning

Cover of Playboy August 1983, featuring Sybil Danning

Back in August 1983, Playboy magazine ran a feature on the New York City sexual underground, “A Walk On The Wild Side”, by John R. Petersen (Pg. 88).

Right from the start, Petersen sets up a “descent into the underworld”/”Heart of Darkness” scenario.

It begins with a taxi ride to the West Village in Manhattan, near the docks. Medieval map makers would have marked this space with fire-breathing dragons.

There’s even a guardian at the threshold, whose warnings are duly disregarded.

I have heard about this place from a friend who has been covering the New York sex scene for 20 years. “I thought I had seen everything, ” he told me, “but there are things happening at the Hellfire Club that made me nervous. There is one room… I couldn’t stay in there for more than a minute. You’re on your own. I won’t go back.”

Continue reading »

Apr 132016
 

Hydra fighting head to head

“Amnesia” by Chumbawamba

Part 1

Part 2

Unleashings-l225

Continuing my discussion of Anna Robinson’s “Passion, Politics, And Politically Incorrect Sex: Towards A History Of Lesbian Sadomasochism In The USA 1975-1993” (2015). (Alternate)

Even the most crankish of critics can ask pertinent questions. That’s why the lesbian-feminist criticism of BDSM is so interesting, even with all the distortions and straw-women attacks and other problems.

As I wrote in my previous discussion of the Unleashing Feminism anthology, the problem was an attempt to fuse together two separate concepts, feminism and lesbianism, and enforce the border around that rather narrow ideal, both sexually and politically. However, the lesbian sex wars occurred mainly in the 80s and early 90s, when the BDSM community was just beginning to work out ideas of physical and mental safety. This was before the publication of Different Loving or On the Safe Edge, when kinky people rarely had any venues to express themselves.

Continue reading »

Feb 112016
 

Part 1

The clash of pro- and anti-SM lesbians at the 1982 Barnard Conference is complicated enough to deserve its own post. Again, I reference Anna Robinson’s thesis on the history of lesbian sadomasochism.

To be clear, the ’82 Barnard Conference did not start the Sex Wars, which had been going since ’77 on the west coast (see Robinson Pg. 64), and saw skirmishes like in 1980 when SM lesbians clashed with WAVPM at Berkeley. Robinson says the real starting point of visible lesbian SM in feminist media came in 1975, when Barbara Ruth (aka Barbara Lipschutz aka Drivenwoman) published “Cathexis (on the nature of S&M)” in Hera, reprinted in ’77 in Lesbian Tide. (Robinson Pg. 65) Between then and ’82, the two sides of the debate were relatively civil, appearing in the same anthologies and conferences. It didn’t last.

Continue reading »

Feb 092016
 

At the “”Speakout on Politically Incorrect Sex”” sponsored by the Lesbian Sex Mafia (LSM) the day after the 1982 Barnard Conference on Sexuality in NYC. This was part of the “”Feminist Sex Wars””.

After researching this topic for so long, I’ve gone through all the low- and medium-hanging fruit, and it has become more difficult to find a new, good source.

One of my best finds so far is a thesis by Anna Robinson of the Central European University, “Passion, Politics, And Politically Incorrect Sex: Towards A History Of Lesbian Sadomasochism In The USA 1975-1993” (2015). (Alternate) It’s definitely the most comprehensive history I’ve found so far of the so-called “Sex Wars” of the 1970s and 1980s, between lesbian-feminists on the one side and more sex-positive lesbians and/or feminists. Definitely a worthy companion to Bienvenu’s “American Fetish” in this particular field (which sadly has little to say about the history of lesbian BDSM).

However, it covers a fairly short period of time, and focusses more on the internal conflict of lesbians rather than the overall history. The history of lesbian BDSM is largely defined by these political struggles, and we know relatively less about actual practice or social organization.

That’s where Lynda Hart’s book Between the Body and the Flesh (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998) comes in. While the second half of her book goes into critical theory, the first half is a good analysis of the complex and often antagonistic relationship between lesbians, feminism and BDSM.

Lesbian s/m discussions, however, rarely historicize the practice any farther back than the early 1970s, and most contextualize it, if not assign it as an originary moment, within the sex wars of the 1980s. It is as if lesbian s/m is a relatively new phenomenon, disconnected from other historical antecedents, born within the contemporary women’s movement. [Hart Pg.74]

Between Robinson and Hart, there’s a much more complete picture of the history of lesbian sadomasochism in America.

Continue reading »

Dec 312013
 

Let me come clean and say I didn’t finish a draft by the end of 2013, nor am I particularly close. I am closer to completion, having made significant progress by finishing a few chapters. Furthermore, I have a clearer view of the path ahead.

Currently I’m working on the chapter that covers about 1970 to 1990, the post-Stonewall, pre-Internet era. This will cover the rise of aboveground kink organizations like TES, Janus, Samois, LSM and GMSMA, and how they coped with the AIDS crisis and other challenges. One of the interesting dynamics of this period was how the previous generation of gay leathermen interacted with the new crop of straights, bisexuals and lesbians. The post-1970 BDSM culture was built on the infrastructure of leathermen, both their venues and their expertise. Which is not to say that other communities didn’t have their own stories to tell.

In that light, it’s a bit sad that the relationship was always a bit unstable and didn’t last. In the 1980s, the impact of AIDS and the gentrification of leatherman districts in San Francisco and New York City decimated those communities, and straight/bi organizations basically split off from the leatherman culture.

I’m in touch with some of the founders of TES and GMSMA, and they’ve provided some much-appreciated resources. This is also a bit dicey, as I’m describing people who may still be alive. By necessity, this book will be a broad and not particularly deep.

I definitely think I can finish a draft this year, and then start sending queries to agents and publishers.

Sadomasochism in Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers” and “A Dangerous Method”

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Sadomasochism in Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers” and “A Dangerous Method”
Jan 192012
 

I tend to cringe at depictions of BDSM in mainstream media, as it is usually flubbed in one way or another. Sometimes, however, a good (not necessarily “positive”) depiction appears in unexpected spots. For example, look at two films by Canadian director David Cronenberg.

Continue reading »

Feb 192011
 

Murray, Thomas E. & Thomas R. Murrell The Language of Sadomasochism Greenwood Press, 1989

This book is a glimpse of the North American scene circa 1989, only a few years before the Internet provided a widespread, anonymous channel for communication. The authors say they had great difficulty getting anybody in the Scene to talk to them at all, and those who did were highly suspicious. It’s interesting to see that only 22 years ago, the scene was this underground and secretive. Nowadays, post-Internet, the scene is vastly more overt.

The historical overview includes some interesting tidbits, including a masochistic passage from ancient Egypt: “Oh! were I made her porter, I should cause her to be wrathful with me. Then when I did but hear her voice, the voice of her anger, a child shall I be for fear” (pg. 8) There’s also the note that Petronius’ Satyricon talks about courtesans dedicating whips, bridles and spurs as votive offerings to Venus.

However, as I’ve noticed is common in such historical overviews, these are a collection of anecdotes without a unifying historical theory. This is the kind of research I want to surpass, by presenting a historical theory of sadomasochism.

The glossary was less interesting than I thought it would be. Most of the information came from personal ads in newspapers and magazines, where language was condensed for economy and euphemized to escape prosecution. Some of these were not printed in commercial publications, but posted on literal bulletin boards at adult stores. I can remember Mack’s Leathers in Vancouver in the early 90s had such a board, full of hand-written personal ads. This mode of communication seems to have become as obsolete as the candlestick telephone.

There are also a few gaps in the glossary. The authors were baffled by the reference to “John Norman” in one personal ad, even though the Gor novels have been published since 1960s.