Aug 262013
 

I had hoped to finish the first draft of Chapter 7 by the end of July, but that wasn’t to be. Once part of a completely overlong chapter, I mainly just knocked it down to 8,000 words and restructured a bit. I removed some redundant quotes, particularly the bits from My Secret Life.

This is mainly about the upper class kinksters of the Victorian era, and how they interacted with the psychological establishment of the era. There was an interesting dialectic between art and science in this period, with artists looking to science for inspiration about the extremes of human nature, and scientists borrowing names and concepts from artists.

Next chapter is “Every Woman Adores a Fascist”, formerly “Age of War”. I’ve decided I can’t follow a linear chronology, at least in this chapter, which covers the Nazisploitation aesthetic and the tenuous links between fascism and sadomasochism, running from at least the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the Italian Nazisploitation film boom of the late 1970s. This is one of the trickiest subjects to tackle, which can be loosely grouped under the heading of “cultural trauma play”, along with raceplay.

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Jul 192013
 

McInnis, Maurie D. Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade. University of Chicago Press, 2011

Group of African slaves sitting, waiting for sale, white men in background.

Slaves Waiting for Sale, by Eyre Crowe

This is an excellent work as a reference from the Virigina slave trade in the 1850s. The author includes all kinds of “you are there” details, including clothing and architecture.

Built around work of British artist and journalist Eyre Crowe, who travelled in America in the 1850s as secretary to author William Thackery on a lecture tour.

Crowe read Uncle Tom’s Cabin before he saw any actual slavery, but was moved by it. (Pg.4) Purchased from street book merchant, also selling Thackery’s books. Crowe was “properly harrowed” by the book. (Pg. 19)

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Jul 022013
 

It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but the first draft of chapter 6 is done (6,800 words). This was parts of another, very long chapter split into two, and covers things from the Victorian era like flagellation erotica, fetish letter columns and the flagellation culture of Eton. The remainder will go into chapter 7, with more Victoriana like Krafft-Ebing, Sacher-Masoch and the network of kinksters that coalesced around Richard Moncton-Milnes, later Lord Houghton. This probably won’t take long to get to first draft stage, just some reogan

I’m still not completely happy with the organization of these two chapters, and may reorganize them in a second draft. There’s a lot of information to cover, and it all interconnects in loose ways. Alan Moore, in the preface to From Hell, quoted somebody else as saying, “One measures a circle, starting anywhere.”

I’ve decided to press on instead of editing (or writing more blog posts), as I think it is more valuable to get a presentable complete draft finished than to refine. There are still areas I haven’t really begun to research.

I should also mention that my fiction short story “The Thing in the Printer” has been accepted by Ghostwoods Books for their Cthulhu Lives Lovecraftian horror anthology.

 

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Jun 182013
 

The first draft of Chapter 5, “The Peculiar Institution”, is now complete and backed up, all 11,000 words of it. It’s about Atlantic slavery and its erotics, and spends a lot of time talking about the master-slave relationship of Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby.

Next is Chapter 6, “Class and Classification,” covering the late Victorian flagellant subculture, plus Krafft-Ebing. This is actually in a first draft state already, from years ago, but it is 17,000 words, and I’m trying to keep chapters under 10,000 words or so. I could cut it in two, renaming the first half “The Extraordinary Gentlemen”. However, there’s some redundant material in the chapter as well, and I intend to cut that out, though probably not 7,000 words of it. I will probably cut out the fat and then subdivide into two shorter chapters.

After that comes the early 20th century. This is kind of a lacuna in my research, because I’m not really sure what was going on in the 1900-1950 period. I’d probably mostly talk about film, particularly pre-Hays Code, particularly how American racial anxieties figured in films like Freaks, The Sheik, Frankenstein, the 1931 version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc. If there was any kind of formal BDSM subculture at this time, I have yet to find any evidence of it.

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Nov 102012
 

Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Oxford University Press, 1993. Amazon

In tracing the long and crooked path from the reality of slavery to the fantasy of slavery, I’ve passed through blackface, or more generally whites imitating blacks.

Blackface minstrelsy was a very complex phenomenon. To begin with, it originated in the North East of the United States, not the South, and it was first performed by working-class whites, often Irish, who were perceived as only slightly above blacks in the grand scheme of things. Minstrelsy was an insulting parody of blacks, and an appropriation of black music, songs and dialect; it was also an expression of working-class whites’ anxieties about their precarious position in society, their resentment at efforts to free the black southern slave while leaving the white northern “wage slave” in the same dependent state.

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Aug 272012
 

While trying to learn more about the Orientalist slave paintings I’ve been posting on Tumblr and Pinterest, I found there are a lot of these kinds of paintings. There’s the slave market set on Flickr, the entire Orientalism tag at Onok-Art, and a collection of slave market paintings on Tanos.org.uk.

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Aug 212012
 

A Fetlife post directed me to an entire page of Victorian paintings about slavery, or rather the Romanticized European view of slavery in “the Orient” or in ancient Rome, which was also a vehicle for female nudity. (Contrary to popular belief, Victorians had no problem with nudity if it was within the proper context.)

The page is in Turkish, but there’s little text anyway.

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Jul 082012
 

The model in contemporary art nude photography: Postcard Orientalism has a short photo essay on Orientalism in early photography.

More interesting are the cards taken in North Africa. These tried to evoke the image of the harem, a fantasy of erotic mystery and subjugation. It is again believed that most of the models would have been prostitutes. Given the strictures of Arab society it is hard to imagine ordinary women posing nude; nor would photographers, who were European, have had ready access to real harems….

Of course, this very exclusion could become a source of fetishism.

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Jul 082012
 

Over the course of this research, I’ve looked at BDSM in prose, poetry, painting, dance, illustration, music, fashion, sculpture, film, comics, television, live drama and video games. Is there an art form I have overlooked? Yes, the most ephemeral of arts, that of scent.

The Perfume Shrine talks about the frequent references to scent in the proto-fetishists, like Emile Zola and JK Huysmans, and the first synthesis of the leather scent chemicals.

The leather note, of course, is one such artificial scent, a hybrid of “flower and flesh” created by industry. It is strangely redolent of the human skin which leather approaches, both by its texture and by its proximity to the body of the wearer whose shape it retains…
Can it possibly be a coincidence, then, that leather scents and leather fetishism are strictly contemporary, born in the same decade of the late 19th century?
Check the dates: quinolines, which lend their characteristic smoky-tarry notes to most leather perfumes, were synthesized around 1880. The first recorded Cuir de Russie was composed by Aimé Guerlain in 1875; Eugène Rimmel launched his the following year.

Now, it was precisely in 1876 that French psychiatrist Alfred Binet coined the term “fetishism”; the leather fetish itself is studied in Austrian sexologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis (1886).

While the fetish is often considered primarily a visual phenomenon, we may be neglecting one of the most powerful and evocative senses, smell.

…Messieurs Guerlain and Rimmel sold their Cuir de Russie. The name may have referred to the Cossacks who rubbed their boots with birch, and certainly bore a virile, military or equestrian connation. But the scents themselves alluded to more private passions.

So we have an engineered scent with associations of virility, the military or the equestrian, which aligns with fetish fashion’s visual gestures towards the soldier and the equestrian.

The blog has more information on the use of leather in scent products, including Orientalized leathers, quirky leathers, butch leather, and more. Just like the material of leather, the scent of leather has changing meaning many times, sometimes worn by men, sometimes by women, and sometimes both. Just like visual fashion, scent fashion is part of the process of how we present ourselves.

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