Brownmiller’s statement probably had a lot to do with the anti-SM strain of feminism in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In her view, masochism is merely a myth of patriarchy, an excuse for rape.
Ortmann, David M., and Richard A. Sprott. 2013. Sexual Outsiders: Understanding BDSM Sexualities and Communities Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Sexual Outsiders is primarily a guide for people in the helping professions (psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and counsellors).
If you need to ask why this book is necessary, there is a problem of “therapy refugees”, people who have been unable to get therapy because they have been, or fear being, rejected for being kinky:
“After an off-hand comment made by the therapist about ‘those sick people who beat each other,’ I was put into a position of being unable to talk about any connections I had to BDSM. I also felt that it was unsafe to discuss that I was raped by a partner (which was something I needed to talk about) because we had been involved in a Dom/sub relationship.” [Pg.122-123]
Our Lives, Our History: Consensual Master/Slave Relationships from Ancient Times to the 21st Century is now available at Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. You can also see some previews on the publisher’s page.
After several years of my work as editor for Master Taino’s Training Academy, the anthology on the history of consensual Master/slave relationships is finally done and soon to be in print. The official launch will be at the 2016 Master-slave Conference on Labor Day Weekend.
The anthology includes essays from TammyJo Eckhart, Raven Kaldera, Laura Antoniou, Master Taino, slave david stein, Andrea Zanin and many others. I hope this will become a classic to go on shelves next to Leatherfolk, Different Loving, and Coming to Power. Amazon purchase link to come.
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]
Hydra fighting head to head
“Amnesia” by Chumbawamba
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.
Reti, Irene, and Pat Parker. 1993. Unleashing feminism: critiquing lesbian sadomasochism in the gay nineties. Santa Cruz, CA:HerBooks Amazon link
We must not offer haven
for fascists and pigs
be it real or fantasy
the line is too unclear.
“Bar Conversation”, Pat Parker, Pg. 6
Published roughly a decade after Against Sadomasochism, Unleashing Feminism came into a different world. Lesbians were more visible than ever before, including opening their own sex clubs and making their own porn magazines and videos, but to the lesbian feminist authors in this anthology, that was not a sign of progress. Their interpretation was that lesbians and other queers had lost their revolutionary principles and were being assimilated into mainstream consumer culture. Some of the essays portray the “lesbian sex wars” as a microcosm of a larger, almost apocalyptic conflict, a last chance for justice after the Reagan-Thatcher era and the beginning of the neoliberal Clinton era.
The Atlantic has an article on how the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom successfully lobbied the American Psychiatric Association to remove BDSM from the Diagnostic and Sexual Manual. (Another for the “I should have written that” file.)
It’s an interesting development that actual kinky people have directly and successfully worked with medical authorities to depathologize kink. It took a long time before LGBT people could have the organization to do the same.
Postmortem Studios is working on a tabletop roleplaying game based on the Gor series of fantasy novels by John Norman (a.k.a. philosophy professor John Lange). Published since the 1960s, Gor is a modern version of the Orientalist fantasies of savage lands and slave markets and so on. You can read about their ongoing project on their blog. Gor has a long history of being recreated in Second Life and other online roleplaying environments, so it’s not surprising that someone would try to adapt it to the tabletop, dice-and-paper form of roleplaying.
I learned about this from following the Facebook page of Michael Manning, my favourite (living) fetish/BDSM artist. He’s illustrating the entire book. Manning is primarily known as a fetish/BDSM artist, and it makes sense that he would be tapped for this project. Apart from the standard ferocious monsters, sword-wielding warriors, decadent cities and savage fighting, the books are rife with BDSM imagery. So much so, that there is a fringe subset of the BDSM culture based on the books, Goreans, who borrow the iconography and terminology of the books, such as slave positions and so on. Some of these terms have seeped out into the broader BDSM world.
Gor is notorious for its strong emphasis not only on the world’s apparently universal chattel slavery, but the male-dominant/female-submissive philosophy that justifies it, endlessly reiterated in the books. That’s what made me pause when I thought about Manning illustrating the book. Manning’s work, starting with the graphic novel The Spider Garden, has a strong bi/queer flair, running all over the map of sexuality from conventional, heteronormative pinups to “sacred androgynes”, cross-dressed men, and other, stranger types of sexuality. This also comes in a time when video games and related media like tabletop RPGs are under a lot of flak for #GamerGate. The games designer, James Desborough, reportedly has connections to #GamerGate and some other controversies. It got me wondering: how will Gor be adapted into this medium?
Weiss, Margot. Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality. Duke University Press, 2011. Amazon
You can get an idea of how thought-provoking I found Weiss’ book was by the sheer density of post-its as bookmarks.