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.

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.

Jun 122012
 

Shorter, Edward. Written in the Flesh: A History of Desire University of Toronto Press, 2005

Caveat: due to time restrictions, I’ve only read the “SM and Fetish” chapter of Shorter’s book.

This chapter presents a lot of fodder for further research, and I’m intrigued by Shorter’s idea of Western society moving towards an idea of “total body sex”, from an origin narrowly focused on heterosexual missionary coitus. Sexual behaviour in the early 21st century seems so varied that it’s hard to draw boundaries around “the sexual.”

Continue reading »

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.

Apr 112012
 

Two women in fetish clothing, one bound

The Seduction of Venus blog has a more detailed discussion of Penthouse magazine’s first BDSM pictorial in the February 1976 issue. It includes some unpublished photos from the same shoot.

Taking a very different approach to the likes of Jeff Dunas’ and Earl Miller’s location-based, soft-focus romanticism he [photographer Stan Malinowski] posed his unnamed models in a studio with just a standard studio backdrop and bright, even harsh, lighting.

[…]

The text, as it is, consists of a number of four line verses of poetry (you can see some examples further down) which are very much themed on the idea of one woman inflicting pain on the other. No lovey-dovey “friends who became lovers mush” or, indeed, any suggestion that really the ladies, of course, prefer men, as most of the other girl/girl sets suggested. So the text is as radical for Penthouse, as the pictures.

While it may be a bit of a stretch to associate Penthouse with progressive views of female sexuality, this pictorial and its accompanying text at least breaks with the idea of female-female sex as an adjunct to heterosexuality or associated with pastoralism and coy “friends become lovers” narratives. Despite apparent reader approval, Penthouse did not take a turn to the hardcore after this.

This is obviously a much more professional piece of work than was probably common in BDSM porn of the time, and also in a publication that had a much wider distribution and larger readership than your typical under-the-counter bondage magazine. It may have been the first-encounter for a lot of people.

Mar 312012
 

The Venus Observations blog focuses on the history of American newstand porn magazines, particularly the competition between Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler and their various spin-offs and competitors. In the mid 1970s, the major magazines were in a one-step-forward, one-step-back dance between the softcore, soft-focus, lots of pubic hair, arty aesthetic and the harder, sharp-focus, exposed labia aesthetic of later decades. Fear of alienating advertisers and censors kept editors nervous, but fear of losing market share made them experiment. E.g. a nude pictorial with a 22-year-old, very young looking model wearing a tank top with “12” on it.

Two women in fetish gear, one sitting astride the other on all fours

In February 1976, Penthouse ran its first fetish-themed pictorial.

The real barrier breaking pictorial for February, however, was one called My Funny Valentine. Penthouse had had a (comparatively) few girl/girl pictorials before but this month they published their first fetish photographs. Dressed up in leather and vinyl the girls were depicted by photographer Stan Malinowski indulging in light bondage and whipping each other.

[…]

This pictorial, in the days when this sort of fetish was very underground and not displayed as a matter of course by female pop stars, caused some controversy in the press. Letters to the magazine, however, were universally appreciative (and Penthouse did, as we have seen, publish critical letters at this point) and asked for more.

At the time, mainstream magazines were nervous about showing a woman’s anus or labia in interior pictorials or their nipples on the cover, so this must have been a bold experiment for the publishers to show this kind of underground sexuality. Perhaps they discovered, as Irving Klaw and others had discovered in earlier decades, that fetish pictorials could tap a niche market without being sexually explicit.