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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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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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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Jan 212008

Bruhm, Steven. Gothic Bodies: The Politics of Pain in Romantic Fiction University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994

You’d think a book with a title like Gothic Bodies would have entries for “sadism” or “masochism” in the index, but it doesn’t. Sade is name checked a few times, but Sacher-Masoch isn’t. Then again, Bruhm is interested in the English Romantic/Gothic period of the late 18th and early 19th century. It starts out with Eugene Delacroix’ Orientalist painting The Death of Sardanapalus, based on the myth which was the inspiration for Byron’s play, which in turn was a profound influence on Hannah Cullwick before she met Arthur Munby.
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May 182007

Brissenden, R.F. Virtue in Distress MacMillan, 1974

My readings on slavery and sympathy brought me to the concept of sensibility. This is a key concept in how we think about human nature, and I think will prove to be a key issue in the history of BDSM.

We’re used to thinking of reason and emotion as being opposing forces in the human mind. In the late 18th century, however, thinkers like Rousseau and Locke developed the idea of sensibility, which is part of a related cluster of related words with shifting meanings, including “sense” (both as in “the five senses” and as in “common sense”), “sentient”, “sensation”, “sentiment” and “sentimentality.”
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Jan 102007

I finally finished Richard Davenport-Hines’ Gothic: Four Hundred Year of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin. It’s a big, sprawling book, rather like the sprawling mock-castles that the author spends a lot (perhaps too much) time describing.

There are, however, a lot of tidbits that are useful. Davenport-Hines defines the Gothic as the counterpoint to the Romantic. Romanticism is about rationalism, the perfectability of human nature and human society, the conscious, rational mind, the unified, authentic self. Gothicism is about fear and passion, the uncontrollable unconsciousness and the corrupt society, unchangeable fate and destiny, multiple, performed selves. Davenport-Hines touches on BDSM several times, the idea that “fear could sublime,” but also the idea that power was unstable and that social hierarchies could be inverted.
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