Aug 262013

I had hoped to finish the first draft of Chapter 7 by the end of July, but that wasn’t to be. Once part of a completely overlong chapter, I mainly just knocked it down to 8,000 words and restructured a bit. I removed some redundant quotes, particularly the bits from My Secret Life.

This is mainly about the upper class kinksters of the Victorian era, and how they interacted with the psychological establishment of the era. There was an interesting dialectic between art and science in this period, with artists looking to science for inspiration about the extremes of human nature, and scientists borrowing names and concepts from artists.

Next chapter is “Every Woman Adores a Fascist”, formerly “Age of War”. I’ve decided I can’t follow a linear chronology, at least in this chapter, which covers the Nazisploitation aesthetic and the tenuous links between fascism and sadomasochism, running from at least the rise of fascism in the 1930s to the Italian Nazisploitation film boom of the late 1970s. This is one of the trickiest subjects to tackle, which can be loosely grouped under the heading of “cultural trauma play”, along with raceplay.

Jul 022013

It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but the first draft of chapter 6 is done (6,800 words). This was parts of another, very long chapter split into two, and covers things from the Victorian era like flagellation erotica, fetish letter columns and the flagellation culture of Eton. The remainder will go into chapter 7, with more Victoriana like Krafft-Ebing, Sacher-Masoch and the network of kinksters that coalesced around Richard Moncton-Milnes, later Lord Houghton. This probably won’t take long to get to first draft stage, just some reogan

I’m still not completely happy with the organization of these two chapters, and may reorganize them in a second draft. There’s a lot of information to cover, and it all interconnects in loose ways. Alan Moore, in the preface to From Hell, quoted somebody else as saying, “One measures a circle, starting anywhere.”

I’ve decided to press on instead of editing (or writing more blog posts), as I think it is more valuable to get a presentable complete draft finished than to refine. There are still areas I haven’t really begun to research.

I should also mention that my fiction short story “The Thing in the Printer” has been accepted by Ghostwoods Books for their Cthulhu Lives Lovecraftian horror anthology.


Jun 182013

The first draft of Chapter 5, “The Peculiar Institution”, is now complete and backed up, all 11,000 words of it. It’s about Atlantic slavery and its erotics, and spends a lot of time talking about the master-slave relationship of Hannah Cullwick and Arthur Munby.

Next is Chapter 6, “Class and Classification,” covering the late Victorian flagellant subculture, plus Krafft-Ebing. This is actually in a first draft state already, from years ago, but it is 17,000 words, and I’m trying to keep chapters under 10,000 words or so. I could cut it in two, renaming the first half “The Extraordinary Gentlemen”. However, there’s some redundant material in the chapter as well, and I intend to cut that out, though probably not 7,000 words of it. I will probably cut out the fat and then subdivide into two shorter chapters.

After that comes the early 20th century. This is kind of a lacuna in my research, because I’m not really sure what was going on in the 1900-1950 period. I’d probably mostly talk about film, particularly pre-Hays Code, particularly how American racial anxieties figured in films like Freaks, The Sheik, Frankenstein, the 1931 version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, etc. If there was any kind of formal BDSM subculture at this time, I have yet to find any evidence of it.

Jun 072013

If I’ve been posting less, it’s that I want to devote more energy to finally getting at least a first draft of this book finished.

It’s a week later than I hoped, but I finished a draft of Chapter 4, on Orientalism, weighing in at a little over 7,000 words. It covers the centuries-long influence of Europeans being held prisoner in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire, and the lasting influence on pornography and sexual fantasy. I also touch on American captivity narratives, which are largely about white settlers abducted by Native Americans.

There are a few points I would like to cover, like Burton’s quasi-translation of the Kama Sutra and the vogue for exotic sexuality among certain Orientalist elites, but that may have to go in a later chapter. One of the things I’ve realized in this process is that I can’t include everything I’ve researched. I have to pick and choose, both for length and to keep the narrative pacing going. Just accumulating information and references will bore the reader.

Next is Chapter 5, “The Peculiar Institution.” This should be relatively easy, as I already wrote an earlier draft that covered Atlantic slavery but proved to be too long. I particularly went overboard describing the Munby-Cullwick relationship. Chop that down to 6-8,000 words and that should be good, at least for a first draft. The goal is to get it done by the end of June.

Apr 302013

Actually coming in a day ahead of schedule, I’ve finished the first draft of Chapter 3. I’m aiming for about 6,000-8,000 words per chapter, but this one came in at 9,800 words. There was a lot of material to cover: erotic flagellation in the late 17th and 18th centuries, the culture of sensibility and the Gothic, and the life of Sade. I’ll probably trim some of it in revision. I’m not writing a biography of Sade, just telling his part in the evolution of BDSM.

I didn’t even get to subjects like the Hellfire Club. It’s become apparent that this book can’t be an encyclopedic work. It has to be a story, and that means deciding what is and isn’t relevant, and removing the latter, sometimes ruthlessly.

Onward. The next chapter is about Orientalism, and covers centuries from the expulsion of Muslims from Spain in 1492, to Babary Coast white slavery, to the erotics of slavery in 19th century literature, art and sculpture.

After dwelling on this project for the past eight years, I’m also thinking a bit about what would come after this. This isn’t the only book I want to write, nor even the only book on BDSM. Some ideas: a non-fiction book about Story of O, the “threat porn” idea about the use of porn as propaganda (e.g. PETA), a more forward-looking book on the future of the BDSM subculture (will it follow a similar trajectory to gays or transgenders, or a different path?)