May 292012
 

Chapter 2 goes into some exposition on Anastasia’s background, such as her field of study, English Lit. She’s doing a paper on Tess of the D’Urbervilles (I guess Wuthering Heights would have been too on-point). It also introduces Jose, Ana’s platonic friend, and I believe he’s supposed to be the Jacob analog in this parallel universe.

The sibling-like relationship between Ana and Jose is another reiteration of the theme of Ana’s (figurative and perhaps literal) virginity. Again, it’s so strongly emphasized that it becomes a little suspect.
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Sep 222010
 

Graphic Sexual Horror (2009), dir. Barbara Bell, Anna Lorentzon IMDB

“I’m looking for something that’ll… break through, you know?” Videodrome, 1982, dir. David Cronenberg

In the mid-90s, bondage photography was still stuck in the glamor-based, damsel-in-distress style mode that Harmony Concepts had been putting out since the 1970s.

Then came the notorious website Insex.com, hardcore bondage shoots that owed more to crime scene photos than Helmut Newton. Insex was also new in that it was designed for the web: downloadable clips instead of mail-order DVDs, and live chats. It was created, almost on a whim, by PD, also known as Brent, who cited his experiences during a tour in Vietnam, when he saw a bondage show in a Japanese nightclub. He also cited his bondage-influenced performance pieces.

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May 232010
 

I finally got through the 1400-or-so pages of the Taschen reprint of John Willie’s Bizarre.

Bizarre is definitely in the tradition of Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, London Life, Photo Bits, but unlike them it made almost no pretense of being a general interest magazine. It never completely gives up the pretense. Most issues include a photo or illustration of a woman tied up with the captions “Don’t let this happen to you!” and “Learn Jiu-Jitsu and the art of self-defense.” I believe it was sold through adult stores instead of general interest newsstands.

A brief rundown of the fetishes: bondage, corsetry, high heeled shoes and boots, gagging, cross-dressing, amputees, masks, spanking and humiliation.

The second volume is less interesting, as there’s little of Willie’s art, replaced by photo reprints from movies, and the letters get repetitive. There are also fewer editorials in Willie’s voice, a man-of-the-world who writes on fashion and style, in a kind of faux aristocrat tone.

As with all fetish correspondence magazines, there’s the question of how much, if any, of these letters were real, and how much, if any, were mailed in from readers instead of being written in house. My take is that the letters came from readers, for the most part, though probably edited a bit.

Some of them are more plausible than others. One guy wrote in with tips on how to smuggle cameras into movie theaters and take pictures of the film, and included a list of movies with bondage scenes in them. This is a distant ancestor of the video captures traded on the internet today.

At least one of them was for real. “Ibitoe”, later known as Fakir Musafar, wrote in Volume 21 in about his self-driven body modification efforts. It’s likely that this was the early form of the modern body modification/modern primitive culture, just isolated individuals pursuing their own muses, and no means of connection other than these obscure magazines.

The editorial material has a backwards-looking tendency common in fetish publications. Some of the stories refer to Victorian-era clothing and social relations, with “Memoirs of Paula Sanchez” purporting to be a 19th century memoir. Other features wax Orientalist. Volume 19 had “Saudi Arabian Nights”, supposedly based on “Flesh for Sale”, an article published in the New York Post in 1956, which claims that the slave trade continues in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Accurate or not, the author of the article instead switches to “the report of a British agent who was through the area in the early 30’s,” privileging this anonymous “agent’s” account over the more recent news article. The “agents” account goes into pornographic detail about the alleged slave markets, describing the slaves and how they were dressed and bound, and speculating about Russian female aristocrat ending up as slaves.

A letter in Volume 26, “Eastern Diplomacy”, is another classic Orientalist fantasy set in Turkey circa 1917, full of harems and flagellation.

Another letter by “Darlene” (Vol. 24) had a man forced, by blackmail, to dress as black woman and to pick cotton.

I had hoped that there would be some suggestion of what the hetero BDSM culture, if any, was like the USA in the 1940s and 1950s. Once you remove the letters that are just implausible, there doesn’t seem to be a culture, just isolated individuals writing letters to magazines and newspapers, and gleaning bits of fetish art and photography from mainstream culture.

Nonetheless, this is an ancestor of the modern BDSM/fetish culture.

Nov 272009
 

Graydancer’s Ropecast has another interview with Master K (starting about 24 minutes in), with some recently uncovered skinny on Nikkatsu, a Japanese film studio that, faced with financial difficulties in the 1970s, turned to big budget, high production value, softcore porn features. These “roman porn” movies were a contrast to the small budget, independently-made “pinku eiga” movies.

Naomi Tani, portraying tattooed Asian woman in bondage

 

Many of these films were BDSM-themed, and Nikkatsu recruited pinku eiga star Naomi Tani, bringing her to a much bigger audience.

Jul 192009
 


EMPOWERED 5 duct tapery japery by *AdamWarren on deviantART

Comics artist and writer Adam Warren on “Empowered“, his “sexy, superhero comedy” (except when it isn’t). Empowered is a chronically unlucky rookie superheroine who loses all her powers whenever her skin-tight, black suit is ripped even slightly. Because of the “unwritten rules” nearly all superheroes and villains subscribe to, she won’t be killed or seriously hurt, but she does end up tied up, or strapped down, or gagged, or chloroformed, or glued to something, etc. Often a little spanking too.

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Jul 192009
 


EMPOWERED 5 duct tapery japery by *AdamWarren on deviantART

Comics artist and writer Adam Warren on “Empowered“, his “sexy, superhero comedy”, (except when it isn’t). Empowered is a chronically unlucky rookie superheroine who loses all her powers whenever her skin-tight, black suit is ripped even slightly. Because of the “unwritten rules” nearly all superheroes and villains subscribe to, she won’t be killed or seriously hurt, but she does end up tied up, or strapped down, or gagged, or chloroformed, or glued to something, etc. Often a little spanking too.
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Apr 122008
 

Graydancer’s Ropecast includes part one of an interview with Master K, who provides the most plausible account I’ve found so far of the history of Japanese bondage (shibari or kinbaku) and its relationship to the Western/American BDSM tradition. K says there was a cross-pollination between John Willie, of Bizarre fame, and the Japanese bondage subculture in the early 1950s, with Willie’s books being distributed in Japan (legally or by piracy?) and Willie having access to books and magazines from Japan. He also says the modern Japanese bondage culture grew out of several influences: kabuki theatre, the military tying technique of hojojutsu, the use of tying as a form of physical and psychosocial torture, the use of tying in many other aspects of Japanese culture, including religion. It makes more sense to me that it would come from multiple sources, and go through an evolution that parallels the Western sadomasochistic tradition.

When non-Japanese talk Japanese rope bondage, the discourse often revolves around issues of authenticity, and there’s a certain jockeying for status in who has the most access and understanding of the “real” thing, complicated by the distance, language barrier and general insularity of Japan. It’s hard to separate this from Orientalist discourse of the erotic, exotic Far East. Graydancer makes a point of sidestepping this issue by calling what he does “Japanese-style rope bondage”

Addendum: Part 2 of the Master K interview

Addendum: Now the complete Master K interview has been posted.

Jun 092006
 

I’ve considered the idea that there is something specific to Christianity that fostered BDSM, which no other culture did in quite the same way. It sounds good, but it’s a little too glib and simplistic to be persuasive.

But then I found something in David Kunzle’s History of the Comic Strip, Vol. 1 (University of California Press, 1973) that made me think there is something fundamentally kinky about Christianity after all.

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