May 142023
  • The Imgur image sharing platform is planning a purge of adult content.
  • Sanctum Unmasked is a podcast series about Los Angeles’ most elite swinger/play party series, perhaps as close as the real world has ever come to the kind of masked orgies for the wealthy and powerful as depicted in movies like Eyes Wide Shut. It gets into the backgrounds of the organizers and the “atmosphere girls”, and describes how the business model slowly shifted into being more like a brothel than a club. It affirms the truism that “money changes everything”, then shows what happens when you add sex and drugs to that.
  • Flagellation and other forms of physical ordeals have been used in religious practices for millennia, as a means of achieving altered consciousness. Modern paganism in particular has an interesting parallel history with erotic flagellation, via the “father of witchcraft” Gerald Gardner.
Apr 152023
Mar 162023
  • Slate magazine has an article of a woman’s recollection of how she joined a Playboy journalist to be his “ticket” to explore New York City’s sexual underworld, circa 1983. “…675 Hudson St. that night was the entry point to a narrow staircase descending to the dark basement entrance to the Hellfire Club. Referred to as “Little Flatiron,” the 1849 triangle building was a natural fit for storied sex clubs, like the Manhole and the Vault, where gays and straights mingled in the brick-lined vaults that crisscrossed underneath the building and extended under the street.”
  • The American Sex Podcast has an interview with Fetish Diva Midori, who compares and contrasts the American and Japanese BDSM subcultures and explains how they evolved independently.
  • The Leather Archives and Museum is screening a series of fetish/kink films, including Cruising, In the Realm of the Senses, Hellraiser and Belle de Jour.
  • For better or worse, online media platforms like Instagram and TikTok are how a lot of people learn about BDSM. When platforms don’t try to exclude BDSM content, they may also end up with a lot of harmful misinformation, like the idea that consensual non-consent means you give up safewords. Mashable has the story.
Dec 272022
  • The Baffler has a review of Jordan S. Carroll’s Reading the Obscene. This falls into the class of think piece called “The professional-managerial class (PMC) ruined everything (including sex).” The book argues that “Instead of seeing sex as the zone of rationalism suspended, it became the ultimate staging ground for a systematization of life in which everything could be bureaucratized. Thus were PMC erotics born, as a technocratic desexualization of sex itself.” I’m sure this critique would extend to modern BDSM. I’ve encountered this line of thought before, and always considered it unfair. The very PMC-nerdiness of BDSM is what keeps it from being exploitative. (See also “The PMC has sex” excerpt from Catherine Liu’s Virtue Hoarders.)
  • High fashion intermittently draws on BDSM/fetish for inspiration (like it does with everything else) and Trendhunter showcases 49 fashion magazine editorials that get their kink on. This shows that the aesthetic of BDSM is quite separate from the practice or ethics.
  • Mardi Gras magazine has an in depth look into the making of Preaching to the Perverted (1997).
Nov 282022
Oct 162022
  • Lash of the Penitentes (1936) is a post-Hays Code exploitation film. Producer Henry Revier put together actual documentary footage of religious practices in rural Mexico, sensationalized recreations of certain acts, and a mystery story based on the actual murder of a travel writer living in New Mexico. There are at least two versions, one of which showed a young woman being stripped naked and whipped. This is a classic example of anti-Catholicism being “the pornography of the Puritan”, to quote Richard Hofstadter.
  • Historia flagellantium (1700) by the Abbe Boileau is one of the classic texts about flagellation, concerning the improper relations between the Franciscan priest Cornelius Adriaensen and his secret, flagellant order of young women. It was preceded by another, anonymous book, The Historie of B. CORNELIS ADRIAENSEN, which also probed into the secret flagellant order of young women.
  • The Independent examines the literary and cultural legacy of the Marquis de Sade, now that his chateau has opened as a luxury hotel.
Aug 202022
Jul 172022
Jun 162022
  • The newly launched Zipper magazine has a feature article on “How the Pandemic Made Us Kinkier“.
  • Cornell University has an online exhibition on the making of On Our Backs magazine, the pioneering lesbian sex magazine in the early 80s.
  • Get Your Hands Dirty has an essay on the history of bootblacking, going back to our friend Hannah Cullwick, and the rise of bootblacking contests in the 1990s.
  • I had long thought Robert Yang’s Hurt Me Plenty was the only videogame to incorporate BDSM themes directly into the gameplay, but further research led to Mighty Jill Off, a platformer game that makes playing it an act of masochism, and Consensual Torture Simulator, a text-only game about a sadist negotiating with a masochist.
  • By 2022 standards, the nude photos published in Penthouse that cost Vanessa Williams her title as Miss America back in 1984 were a bit tame, and the controversy even more quaint. What I didn’t realize was that the images had her in black leather boots, harness, cuffs and collars, in other words, BDSM gear. Penthouse has always been a little racier than Playboy (within the constraints of the heterosexual male gaze), and would tiptoe onto the side of fetish and kink imagery. Perhaps that was what pushed the pageant into de-crowning Williams. A black Miss America was already a stretch, but one who associated with deviant sexuality was too much.
  • My interview on the Betwixt the Sheets podcast introduced me to another historical figure with at least an interest in kink: Christian apologist and fantasy writer C.S. Lewis, best known for the Narnia books. He was one of those individuals whose sexuality was hard to pin down; was he closeted homosexual, closeted bisexual, asexual, or just upper-class British? Regardless, he did have an interest, if only theoretical, in the idea of whipping beautiful women, including Lily Greeves, the sister of his friend Arthur.