Jun 162019

Peter Samuel Cook was a serial rapist who attacked women in their homes in Cambridge, England, between October 1974 and April 1975. He was known in the press as the “Cambridge Rapist”.

Cook’s crimes were peculiarly theatrical. Today, we are still grappling with the idea that most rapes are committed by people the victim knew. Cook fit the stereotypical view of a rapist at the time, a socially marginal figure who broke into homes and assaulted strangers. Reportedly, if he didn’t find a victim, he would write taunting messages on their bathroom mirrors.

What’s significant for this discussion is that he wore a black leather hood with the word “RAPIST” literally written across the forehead. What puzzled me was, why and how did Cook get a leather mask? An ordinary cloth or wool ski mask or balaclava would have sufficed to conceal his identity.

Black leather hood of the “Cambridge Rapist”
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Feb 162019
  • I’m old enough to remember how different and exciting the Internet was in the 1990s. So does Violet Blue, who lays out just much has changed for the worse since then, especially with the censoring of Tumblr last year. “I can tell you for a fact that Tumblr helped a generation of frightened, isolated kids trying to figure out their sexual identity.” Her essay on Engadget.
  • David Wraith has an overview of how terrible the SESTA/FOSTA laws are, stifling freedom of expression on sexual matters while subjecting sex workers to greater danger.
  • On the brighter side, England has reviewed its obscenity laws and a number of kinks, including spanking, BDSM, and female ejaculation, are now okay in porn, as long as they are shown as consensual.
  • Kink Guidelines is a project “to explore what constitutes clinical best practices in working with those who are interested and/or involved in kink, BDSM, and/or fetish eroticism.
  • The city leaders of San Francisco have approved the construction of Eagle Plaza, a small park commemorating the Eagle bar’s contribution to the LGBTQ and leather/kink cultures.
  • Lupercalia, the ancient Roman festival that loosely corresponds to Valentine’s Day, was known for men playfully whipping women “believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy”, according to Plutarch. Today, whipping rituals are a part of fertility festivals in parts of Europe, Mexico and Asia. From Vice.
  • Even though Walmart, regular drugstores and other mainstream retailers now stock vibrators and other sex toys, sex products are still caught up in controversy. Producers risk rejection from retailers, payment processors, crowdsourcing platforms, and advertising venues. Sex toys have to toe the line of being for “health and wellness”, not for pleasure, which would be prurient. The Verge has more.
  • Puppyplay for gay kinksters seems to be on the rise lately, and Slate has a profile of a San Francisco polyamorous pack.
  • Kerrang has a list of BDSM-themed songs, including the classic “Venus in Furs” by Velvet Underground.
Feb 282012

Before the proto-punk/goth band the Velvet Underground formed, there was the book, The Velvet Underground by Micheal Leigh, published 1963.

According to Wikipedia:

The Velvet Underground by Michael Leigh was a contemporary pulp paperback about the secret sexual subculture of the early ’60s that [John] Cale’s friend Tony Conrad showed the group. [Angus] MacLise made a suggestion to adopt the title as the band’s name, and according to Reed and Morrison the group liked the name, considering it evocative of “underground cinema,” and fitting, as Reed had already written “Venus in Furs,” a song inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s book of the same name, dealing with masochism. The band immediately and unanimously adopted the Velvet Underground as its new name in November 1965.

If that was all, this book would have a spot in the history of BDSM, but there’s also the content of the book itself.

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Jul 282011

The Secret History of Rock has a post and clips on the influence of the sword-and-sorcery (known as peplum) films, both European and American, and their aesthetic, contrasted with the stodginess of the 50s and 60s.

The formula was simple- an American muscleman playing a mythic hero (usually Hercules or one of his equivalents), an evil king or queen, a scheming priesthood bent on human sacrifice, a virtuous maiden in need of rescue and lots and lots of exposed Mediterranean flesh for every possible taste. To an America stuck in the corporate monotony of the Cold War, these films were like an explosion of pure id, an atavistic knife to the heart of a denatured West.

I would add a lot of slavery-type imagery: women imprisoned and auctioned, virtue in distress. This of course went into the Frank Frazetta-Boris Vallejo school of paperback cover art and heavy metal album covers, etc, etc.

May 112011

Steele, Valerie and Jennifer Park. Gothic: Dark Glamour Yale University Press, 2008

Trunk, Jonny. Dressing for Pleasure: The Best of AtomAge 1972-1980 Murray & Sorrell FUEL, 2010.

S/M as fashion is not exactly the same thing as S/M as a sexual practice. There’s considerable overlap, but they have followed different paths into the mainstream.

As of 2010, we’re so used to seeing BDSM/fetish fashion in Hot Topic, in music videos, on fashion runways and in big budget movies that it is hard to believe that the look was ever countercultural.

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Aug 212010

From A Sound Awareness, a 1965 album called Tortura: The Sounds of Pain and Pleasure, released by Bondage Records, nothing but people screaming, moaning, crying, groaning and laughing while being whipped. Note the sub-Willie/Stanton/Bilbrew art. (Mediafire download, streaming audio at WFMU.org)

This blog has some other images of historical kinky ephemera, including a collection of pro domme advertising cards, and some Atomage rubber fetish fashion images.

Jun 162010

“Alejandro” is the second time Lady Gaga has visually referenced The Night Porter (dir. Liliana Cavani, 1974) in her videos.

The first time was in the “Love Game” video, in which she wore the dark pants, suspenders and officer’s cap look Lucia wore in that iconic scene. This seemed to be gesturing towards the early 70s, post-Stonewall/pre-AIDS downtown New York City scene as an image of sexual freedom and adventure. However, the video doesn’t engage with the implications of the source image. It’s just a bit of early 70s nostalgia, bereft of any particular meaning for Gaga’s primary audience who wasn’t even born when The Night Porter came out.

The video for “Alejandro” does address the themes of the source material: the militarism, the eroticism, etc. There’s a problematic connection drawn between fascism/militarism and homoeroticism. The nun imagery at the end seems to suggest that the only way Gaga’s character can be acceptable to a fascist man is to become an asexual image of virtue, nun-like.

There’s something a bit paint-by-numbers in this, particularly considering the similarities to Madonna’s videos. Homoeroticism? Check. Fascism? Check. Bra with gun barrels? Check. Swallowing rosary? Check. Latex nun uniform? Check. It’s pretty easy to generate 15-minutes of controversy with this kind of material, without sparking any particular debate or getting people to change their minds about anything. There’s certainly a long (if not always noble) history of anti-clerical agitprop, but whether that has actually made any difference is another question.

It put me in mind of MIA’s notorious “Born free” video. (Not currently on Youtube.com) Mia’s video employs the simple strategy of depicting pogroms and ethnic cleansing, but targeting red haired men. It’s a simple inversion strategy, one that generates shock, but doesn’t necessarily spark any deeper understanding or change attitudes. This is what the philosophers and poets in the late 1700s/early 1800s did when they tried to imagine themselves into slave bodies. I don’t know if this had any direct impact on the debate over slavery, but it did eventually contribute to the evolving form of BDSM porn.

May 262010

The video for Christina Aguilera’s single “Not myself tonight” is aptly titled. It’s full of blatant visual quotes from Madonna’s “Express Yourself” (1989) and “Human Nature” (1995) videos, plus George Michael’s “Freedom.” The pop singer is channelling Madonna from 20 years ago, when Aguilera herself was in the Mouseketeers.

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Jul 162009

From Boing Boing Video (fast forward to the 2:00 mark):

This film was a 1944 “Soundie”, kind of the prototype of the music video, played on a film projector jukebox in dance halls.

Nerdcore pioneers DEVO more-or-less recreated this clip for the video for “Whip It“. Here, the whip-stripped woman doesn’t object.

That’s what I miss about the 1980s. You could be a complete dweeb and still get a record deal.