Sep 292016


There are a couple of principles I keep in mind when studying history. The first is, “You have to work with the evidence you have.” We have no way of knowing how many people secretly had relationships like Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, but left no historical evidence. Likewise, I and other scholars of this particular field have to contend with the lack of historical material about lesbian SM before the 1970s. Maybe somewhere there’s an old journal or manuscript or audiotape sitting in somebody’s basement, and someday somebody will find it and open up a new field of study.

The second principle is, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” It’s highly unlikely there were no lesbian women doing SM before 1974, but we can only make cautious, educated inferences based on what evidence we do have.

Thankfully, somebody scanned and posted old issues of Lesbian Tide, which contain what may be the earliest mentions of BDSM in lesbian media. As I mentioned before, lesbian SM emerged into visibility at the same time and in dialectic with more restrictive theorizations of lesbian-feminist sexuality, and it cannot be discussed without also discussing this conflict.

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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.”

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Jul 112015

The Seduction of Venus blog digs into a 1977 Penthouse “love set”, with a Nazi theme. This was in the years following films like Ilsa She-Wolf of the SS, Salon Kitty and The Night Porter, when there was a kind of fascist chic in the mid-70s. This was one of the first SM-themed photoshoots in Penthouse, and the first involving a man, in full black SS uniform, no less.

Mar 112013

Lynndie-England -Abu-Ghraib-FemdomWell, this had to happen sooner or later. I found this image on the Femdom Artists blog. This is the cover of a Mexican magazine, presumably published sometime in the late 2000s, based on the iconic images of Lynndie England and other American soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. “Arrogance and torture in Iraq!” shouts the headline.

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Aug 192012

Amputee fetish site has a collection of amputee fetish and letters published in London Life magazine, running from 1924 to 1941 and most signed “Wallace Stort”. Some of the letters also concerned prosthetic limbs, orthopedic boots, crutches and other devices. These were published alongside other types of fetish letters and stories.

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Jun 262012

Being Canadian, I’m always interested in Canada’s contributions to the sexual edge of culture. I was delighted to stumble across the story of Justice Weekly, a true crime tabloid newspaper published in Canada that frequently included fetish letters. “…popular topics were discipline, punishment and humiliation of males (especially ‘errant husbands’ and spoiled post-adolescent children) by authoritarian/domineering females, transvestites and authority figures such as school principals, judges and law-enforcement officials.”


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Jun 132012

The Vintage Sleaze blog has the story behind the Fads and Fancies fetish magazine, published in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and its signature artist known as Janine, actually a woman by the name of Reina Bull.

The astounding drawings by an anonymous artist known only as “Janine” who drew work for the sleazy Utopia magazine “Fads and Fancies” a British fetish magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s.   The work is no longer anonymous. It was done by a woman all right, but Janine wasn’t her real name. Fads and Fancies was published by Utopia, who printed fetish material remarkably similar to Nutrix and Irving Klaw, and at roughly the same time.


Janine had an incredible, unique, eccentric and curious style likely developed to cater to the audience. Particular parts of the plump participants protrude depending on the proclivities she wished to portray. Which is an alliterated way of saying big boobs and big butts. Kinky and unreal, but then certainly enticing to the readers who must have been “big” fans (pun intended.) To the rest of us, they look hilarious…Dolly Parton on Steroids!   The work takes an “all-purpose” approach to fetishists.  The artist can not figure out if she is titillating a shoe fetish, a butt fetish, a fat fetish, a breast fetish, a stocking fetish…if the idea of a fetish is to focus on one particular object, there was something kinky for all in Janine’s curious drawings.  At the time, the fetish underground was not yet defined, but the publishers knew if they appealed to a handful of eccentricities, they would reach a market.

Fads belongs in a tradition of English fetish magazines that includes Photo Bits and London Life, and goes back at least to the 1870s when the Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine took a turn for the pervy. The business model seems to be, “give the punters what they want”.

Nowadays, Rule 34 is in full effect and every fetish has its own Tumblr.

May 102012

Gloria Brame posted scans from “Legs and Attitudes“, a leg fetish magazine published in July 1930, Paris.

1930s images of woman sitting and showing her stockings

In 1930, women’s legs and lower bodies were a relatively recent discovery, having been hidden away in Western fashion for centuries. The photos posted seem based on the idea of glimpsing a stocking top or bare thigh in an unguarded moment (in a boudoir, after tripping on the street, a woman carelessly sitting to let her skirt slip), not a brazen display.