Aug 102021
 

A few months ago, I perused the used books section at Vancouver’s venerable queer bookstore Little Sisters. In addition to a book on Kenneth Anger’s underground gay leather film Scorpio Rising, I happened across a book without a barcode or copyright date or even an author, titled The Female Disciplinary Manual. I had heard of this before and remembered something about it being connected with some kind of schoolgirl discipline fantasy operation. As it was only $9.00 Canadian and in excellent condition with dust jacket (copies on Amazon are priced at $148 or more), I snapped it up.

The book itself is a rather odd work, purporting to be from the 2030s when the school disciplinary regime of the early 20th century in England has been reinstated as the solution to a decadent culture. The prose is in an arch, deadpan tone that leaves the reader guessing how much of this is part of the school discipline fantasy and how much is sincere.

By happenstance, I also came across the strange story of the organization that wrote and published the book and apparently lived by its ethos. The fifty-year saga links into pagan cults, lesbian separatists, Victorian-Edwardian cosplay as a lifestyle, early text-only video games, the English schoolgirl-discipline fetish, and far-right politics.

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Apr 182021
 

Stein, Stephen K. 2021. Sadomasochism and the BDSM community in the United States: kinky people unite. New York : Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Stein’s first chapter, which attempts to describe the proto-BDSM culture of the early and mid twentieth century, is a necessarily scattershot collection of data points. Research any historical field long enough and the gaps in the record become clear. We know so little about the sadomasochistic subculture prior to the 1970s. There’s some data about the gay subset, precious little about straights, and practically nothing about lesbians. Stein had access to the Kinsey Institute, the Carter Johnson Leather Library, the NLA Archives and more, and even then he couldn’t shed any new light on American BDSM before 1970. 

Stein treats the BDSM culture as a whole, whereas I think it is more accurate to describe it as three parallel but separate streams (gay, lesbian, and straight), each with their own economy, and culture, that occasionally influence each other.

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Jun 152020
 

Gates, Katharine. 2000. Deviant desires: incredibly strange sex. New York: Juno Books.

Gates’s book is an exploration of a particular phase in Western sexual history. This is the pre-Google, pre-Facebook, pre-Fetlife Internet, when finding people who shared your kink was more a matter of luck and word-of-mouth than just typing something into a search bar. The people Gates interviews are an assortment of eccentrics who put their kinks out in early Internet forums, self-published newsletters, magazines and videos. Most of these media channels are hobbies and labours of love; a few attain the level of cottage industries that might break even some day. Some might even be seen as a kind of outsider art, fascinating precisely because of their lack of commercial slickness.

The why of fetishes has puzzled sexologists and psychologists since the concept was developed. Is there some deeper symbolic meaning to a fetish, or is it just a matter of a person randomly imprinting on a particular stimulus? Gates’ approach is primarily anthropological, not psychological, but she still tries to decode some fetishes.

People like to say that there are no new kinks under the sun, but the balloon fetish proves them wrong. Every era seems to have a fetish that is uniquely their own, and there’s something so post-modern/pop culture/McDonaldsTM/VH1 about balloons that the idea of eroticizing them feels particularly contemporary. […] It makes sense that the balloon fetish is such a new thing; after all, rubber latex toy balloons were not even invented until the 1920s, and have only been a routine part of the American suburban home since the 1950s. And although there exist looners as old as 70 years of age, most balloon fetishists are in their twenties and thirties. It’s really a baby-boomer and Gen-X phenomenon.

Pg.74-5

Many of the fetishists interviewed cite some childhood experience as the moment of recognition of their kink, such as seeing something in a seemingly innocuous film or TV show. E.g. the scene in the 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in which a girl blows up into a sphere is well known to body inflation fetishists. However, most don’t see those moments as causing their kinks.

The first time Inflate 123 say the film at the age of five he cried inconsolably. […] By the third time that he saw it he just shut up, stared, and kept his fascination to himself. “It was the first external ‘proof’ of the concepts that were already swimming around in my head.”

Pg.99

A giantess fetishist has a similar belief, that such moments only catalyze or activate something that already existed in the person.

Ed [Lundt] doesn’t think that seeing growth stories in his childhood caused him to be a giantessophile, however. “I think that somewhere in the soup of one’s subconscious all these elements are floating around and the trigger just acts like a magnet drawing iron filings together. I starts to form a thing, and as you get older you see Village of the Giants, and it forms even more. When you hit puberty, you add on the sexual aspect and then it becomes the sex fantasy.” Ed feels that people become macros because of a combination of genetics and circumstances.

Pg.117

Twenty years later, it’s clear that Gates was definitely thinking ahead.

The sexual conversation is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. With the desktop publishing revolution and the advent of the internet, millions of people have suddenly gained access to previously unavailable information about non-conformist sex. New erotic communities are forming every day. Deviants with the most obscure and specific kinks — who always thought they were alone in the world — can now communicate with likeminded poeple.

Pg. 11

Today on Internet porn sites like Clips4Sale, you will find media catering to a mind-boggling variety of hyper-specific fetishes. Nonetheless, it is interesting to look back at this era, when the sexual frontier was charted and settled by people following their bliss, not bent on making money by exploiting a niche fetish.

May 042020
 
Cover illustration by Michael Manning

Tales of Gor (Postmortem Studios, 2017) is the licensed tabletop role-playing game adaptation of John Norman’s notorious Gor series of sword-and-sorcery novels, written by James “Grim” Desborough and illustrated by Michael Manning. Gor is notorious for heavy themes of slavery, sadomasochism, male dominance and female submission, and for long philosophical digressions justifying those themes. Since 1966, there have been more than 30 novels published in the series. The series has inspired a strong cult following, including a small branch of BDSM culture devoted to Gorean style slavery, both in real life and online in Second Life.

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Dec 132019
 

Now that 2019 is ending and Gwyneth Paltrow’s GOOP is selling bondage gear and floggers, it’s important to remember that, not that long ago, BDSM was seen as a sign of mental illness. Case in point: The Sensuous Woman by “J”, published in 1969.

The Thing That Turns Him on You Think Is Sick

If he wants to resort to whips and chains or have you urinate on him or something of that nature, I agree with you, I think he’s sick — and he should let you alone and go find a simpatico sickie or, better yet, get professional help.

[Pg. 131]

Note that the author assumes that the reader will be turned off by such activities.

The relevant passage
Aug 192019
 

I am proud to announce that A Lover’s Pinch is the co-winner for the Geoff Mains non-fiction book award for 2019, issued by the National Leather Association: International. My book shares this honour with The Sexually Dominant Woman: An Illustrated Guide for Nervous Beginners, written by Janet M. Hardy and published by Greenery Press.

This is the second Geoff Mains award I have won, the other being for the anthology I edited, Our Lives, Our History.

Aug 192019
 

GENE BILBREW REVEALED: The Unsung Legacy of a Fetish Art Pioneer (African American Artists Series) is the latest in Richard Pérez Seves’ series of biographies of fetish artists and publishers.

Pérez Seves’ previous work on Eric Stanton gave an interesting picture of a man, his work and his time. However, the author has less to work with when it comes to Gene Bilbrew.

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Apr 172019
 

In my research, I’ve observed patterns in the past that we still see today.

Cover of Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk

For instance, in the 1830s, a woman named Maria Monk turned up in New York City. She claimed that she had been held prisoner as a sex slave in a convent in Montreal, where she had been subjected to bizarre tortures and told to sexually serve the priests who entered the convent via an underground tunnel. Any offspring of these unions would be baptized, strangled and disposed of in lime pits.

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Apr 172019
 

Because they didn’t live up to Clive Barker’s original novella:

He had anticipated this moment so keenly, planned with every wit he possessed this rending of the veil. In moments they would be here—the ones Kircher had called the Cenobites, theologians of the Order of the Gash. Summoned from their experiments in the higher reaches of pleasure, to bring their ageless heads into a world of rain and failure.

He had worked ceaselessly in the preceding week to prepare the room for them. The bare boards had been meticulously scrubbed and strewn with petals. Upon the west wall he had set up a kind of altar to them, decorated with the kind of placatory offerings Kircher had assured him would nurture their good offices: bones, bonbons, needles. A jug of his urine—the product of seven days’ collection—stood on the left of the altar, should they require some spontaneous gesture of self-defilement. On the right, a plate of doves’ heads, which Kircher had also advised him to have on hand.

[…]

The doorway was even now opening to pleasures no more than a handful of humans had ever known existed, much less tasted—pleasures which would redefine the parameters of sensation, which would release him from the dull round of desire, seduction and disappointment that had dogged him from late adolescence. He would be transformed by that knowledge, wouldn’t he? No man could experience the profundity of such feeling and remain unchanged.