Feb 152009

Karl Marx wrote, “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great, world-historical facts and personages occur, as it were, twice. He has forgotten to add: the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.” (Karl Marx: Selected Works, vol. 2 (1942))

Consider the film Reefer Madness.

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Feb 102009

O’Malley, Patrick R. Catholicism, Sexual Deviance, and Victorian Gothic Culture Cambridge University Press, 2006 Link

He had a special passion, also, for ecclesiastical vestments, as indeed he had for everything connected with the service of the Church. In the long cedar chests that lined the west gallery of his house, he had stored away many rare and beautiful specimens of what is really the raiment of the Bride of Christ, who must wear purple and jewels and fine linen that she may hide the pallid macerated body that is worn by the suffering that she seeks for and wounded by self-inflicted pain.

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

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Jan 102009

I think that if we could ever somehow travel back in time and directly observe the past, ancient Rome wouldn’t look like Russel Crowe in Gladiator. It would look more like Caligula or Fellini Satyricon. Not because those two films are particularly historically accurate, but because watching them conveys the constant sense of “WTF?!?” you get when you visit a very different culture.

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Dec 212008

Largier, Niklaus. In Praise of the Whip: A Cultural History of Arousal. Zone Books, 2007 Link

I finally got through Niklaus Largier’s In Praise of the Whip. It’s long and pretty heavy going at times, and being translated from German probably didn’t help. There’s also some Foucauldian theory in it, though not a huge amount. If I ever do this book, it will be a lot more accessible than this book.

Largier starts off by saying that flagellation is not only a tactile experience, but a visual and even performative one. “The voyeur, then, is already on the scene, even when he or she never openly appears.” (pg.23) This jibes with Freud’s “A Child is Being Beaten” and Anita Phillips’ assertion that the masochist always suffers for somebody.

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Sep 092008

Gossett, Thomas F. Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture Southern Methodist University Press, 1985

Roberts, Diane. The Myth of Aunt Jemima: Representations of Race and Region Routledge, 1994

Schick, Irvin C. The Erotic Margin: Sexuality and Spatiality in Alteritist Discourse Verso, 1999

First, I want to reiterate my position that consensual Master-slave roleplaying relationships as practiced by Munby and Cullwick and afterwards have only a tenuous connection to the actual institution of Atlantic slavery. It’s more about the fictionalized version of slavery as seen by people who had no direct experience with it.

Second, getting off on a scenario does not necessarily mean the fantasizer agrees with the politics or ideas behind it. In fact, a masochist might get a stronger charge off a scenario if the suffering is not just.

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Jul 272008

Colligan, Colette. “Anti-Abolition Writes Obscenity: The English Vice, Transatlantic Slavery, and England’s Obscene Print Culture” International Exposure: perspectives on modern European pornography, 1800-2000, edited by Lisa Z. Sigel. Rutgers, 2005. Link

While I’ve known for a while that Atlantic slavery was the inspiration for the Master-slave motif of BDSM, exactly how this happened is a bit of a mystery, and I’ve been forced to do a bit of hand-waving when I give presentations. We know that books like Robinson Crusoe and Uncle Tom’s Cabin were inspirations for sexual fantasies, as documented by Krafft-Ebing and Freud. But what happened after that?

Colette Colligan has the answer. The Rosetta stone of BDSM history is two texts: First, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861 in the USA, available in the UK in 1862) written by Harriet Jacobs under the pen name “Linda Brent”, and its sexualized parody The Secret Life of Linda Brent, a Curious History of Slave Life (1882) written by George Lazenby and published in The Cremorne.

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Jun 232008

The Night Porter, 1974, dir. Liliana Cavini IMDB, Wikipedia

If there’s an image that epitomizes 1970s kink, it’s Charlotte Rampling in the Nazi-exploitation classic The Night Porter: topless, wearing an SS officer’s cap, trousers, boots and suspenders, singing something in German to soldiers. It’s an iconic image, perhaps echoing Marlene Dietrich’s equally memorable turns in male and military drag. It’s also rather disturbing, suggesting a kind of fascist chic that no doubt had people making crude theories about the link between deviant sexuality (i.e. fetishism) and deviant politics (i.e. fascism).

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Jun 052008

Deforges, Régine. Confessions of O: Conversations with Pauline Réage. Trans. From the Frech by Sabine d’Estrée. Viking Press, 1979.

Algernon Swinburne once wrote a letter to the late Marquis de Sade, expressing his disappointment that Sade’s works weren’t half as disturbing or shocking as he thought they would be after hearing about the suppressed books for so many years. Swinburne claimed that any young girl could create darker and viler tales than the notorious Marquis.

Such as young girl would have been something like the reclusive and notorious Pauline Réage, author of the masterpiece of female masochism, The Story of O. Réage didn’t come on record about her true identity or past until the early 1990s, but before that she did give an interview with a French novelist and publisher, Régine Deforges.

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May 142008

Frost, Laura Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism, Cornel University Press, 2002

I once interviewed an elderly French woman who had been a courier for the Resistance in occupied France. In Paris, she was captured by the Milice, French fascist collaborators, tortured without divulging anything and held prisoner for months. A Milice officer named Cornet would visit her cell and point her out, saying, “That one didn’t talk. She has courage.”

One night, Cornet and she drove to a nightclub for Miliciens and German soldiers, the Green Parrot, which she soon realized was also a brothel.

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