Aug 202020
 

Sex and the City S02E12, “La Douleur Exquise!”, aired August 22nd, 1999 IMDB Title translates to “the exquisite pain”

Sex and the City was a popular dramedy series about single women in New York City around the turn of the millennium. 

The opening narration of this episode makes it clear that BDSM is just another aesthetic to be adopted, consumed, and abandoned, befitting the series’ consumerist ethos. 

Carrie (vo) “New York City restaurants are always looking for the next new angle to grab that elusive and somewhat jaded Manhattan palate. Last year it was fusion Cajun. Last month it was mussels from Brussels. And tonight, it’s S&M.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 172020
 

“Escape from the Dungeon!”, aired September 26, 2010

Bored to Death is an American comedy TV series (IMDB) about Jonathan Ames, a struggling writer who moonlights as an “unlicensed private detective”.

In “Escape from the Dungeon!” (S02E01), Jonathan meets Drake, a mounted NYPD officer, who needs his name removed from the hard drive of the BDSM dungeon he frequents before it is raided by the police. He says the dungeon is involved in money laundering, not that it will be raided for sex work charges.

Mistress Florence (Kristen Johnson) is not impressed with Jonathan
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Sep 192019
 

The Girl on a Motorcycle, also released as Naked Under Leather, was a 1968 romance/psychedelic film directed by Jack Cardiff and starring Marianne Faithfull. It was the first movie to get an X-rating in the USA.

The framing story is that Rebecca, a young, recently married woman, leaves her husband Raymond in bed, dons her one-piece black leather riding suit (and nothing else), revs up her motorcycle, and rides through France and West Germany to her lover Daniel.

Rebecca (Marianne Faithfull) in full black leather
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Aug 312019
 

Satan in High Heels (1962) is a drama/exploitation film most notable for being produced by Leonard Burtman. Burtman was a major publisher and entrepreneur in the American fetish scene in the 1950s and 1960s. This film and a 1953 film short called Cinderella’s Love Lessons, starring Lili St. Cyr, were his only producer credits. Jerald Intrator, the director, had previously made Striporama (1953), featuring Bettie Page, Lili St. Cyr, and other 50s burlesque queens.

If Bonanza and The Andy Griffith Show were 1962 America as it dreamed of being, Satan in High Heels is the seedy underbelly. Stacey Kane (Meg Myles), a burlesque dancer on a skeezy midway, robs her junkie ex-husband and heads for the big city, where she becomes a nightclub singer and gets involved in the twilight world of quasi-mobsters and sexual deviants. Everybody in this movie smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. 

Stacey Kane (Meg Myles) in her iconic outfit
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Aug 262019
 

The Duke of Burgundy (IMDB) is a 2014 drama film written and directed by Peter Strickland, and starring Chiara D’Anna as Evelyn and Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia. Shot in the UK and Hungary.

One of the oldest cliches in BDSM is “the submissive has all the power”. This is not always true, nor is it necessarily a good thing, as the life of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch demonstrated. Submissives and masochists can be abusive, as shown by The Duke of Burgundy.

Evelyn (D’Anna) serves Cynthia (Knudsen)

Somewhere in Europe, sometime in the mid-20th century, two women play out elaborate sadomasochistic scenarios. Evelyn, playing the meek maid, comes to the house of Cynthia, playing the haughty mistress. Evelyn’s duties of cleaning and laundry are, inevitably, unsatisfactory, which results in punishment. Cynthia drags Evelyn to the bathroom, closes the door on the camera, and urinates on her. 

Obviously, the MPAA would not give a film could give a film with an explicit golden showers scene an R-rating or even an NC-17 rating. (IMDB says it doesn’t have a rating in the USA.) 

A few days later, they do it all over again. It’s a bit reminiscent of Secretary or the Munby-Cullwick relationship, a private world between two people in which mundane activities are elevated to erotic rituals. 

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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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Aug 152019
 
Poster

Venus in Furs (1967) IMDB

As far as I know, this is the first feature film adaptation of Venus in Furs, or more accurately the first to bear that name. (According to IMDB, there was a short film released in 1965 titled Venus in Furs, though the description sounds nothing like the book.) It was also released the same year that the Velvet Underground released their debut album (having been formed in 1964), which featured the song “Venus in Furs.” I don’t know if there was any direct connection between the two. 

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Jun 052019
 

The People Under The Stairs (1991) is a horror film written and directed by Wes Craven

Though categorized as horror, People is better understood as a contemporary Gothic fable. A young African-American man, known by his nickname “Fool”, is desperate to help his poor family in the ghetto. He breaks into the sprawling home of a wealthy couple who are the neighborhood landlords. The couple, who call each other “Daddy” and “Mama”, look and act like they stepped out of the 1950s, but they and their house is not what they seem. (They’re a bit like Paul and Mary from Eating Raoul, just taken a few steps further.)

“Fool” (Brandon Quinton Adams) confronts “Daddy” (Everett McGill)
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