Jun 252012

Jay A. Gertzman’s article “1950s Sleaze and the Larger Literary Scene: The Case of Times Square Porn King Eddie Mishkin”, in eI15 fanzine, provides an intriguing glimpse into the proto-BDSM scene of 1950s America, particularly the previously mentioned publishing empire of Eddie Mishkin.

Mishkin employed fetish artists like Eric Stanton and Gene Bilbrew, as well as writers, some of whom wrote pornography under pseudonyms or house names to pay the bills while working on above-ground books or television.

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Jun 212012

According to a post on Vintage Sleaze, “Justin Kent” is a name that appeared on many American digests published in the 1950s, short novels with racy covers that promised more than they could deliver in terms of sex, bondage and sadomasochism. It was actually a pen name for an unsuccessful writer living in Harlem named Kenneth Johnson (possibly African American, but the record isn’t clear.) Johnson wrote at least ten digest novels, many with illustrations by Gene Bilbrew.

1950s pulp cover, shirtless man begging woman in dominatrix outfit

The Strange Empress by Justin Kent Collection Jim Linderman

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Licentious Gotham, by Donna Dennis

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Oct 102011

Dennis, Donna. Licentious Gotham Harvard University Press, 2009 Amazon

As I’ve observed previously, there’s a lot of historical coverage of the European/British history of pornography, but not so much of American porn, at least in the 19th or early 20th centuries.

Dennis’ book bears this out, saying that while there was plenty of porn produced in antebellum New York, it was largely pirated editions of English or translated European works, notably John Cleland’s Fanny Hill (1748), easily the most popular, and Laurence Sterne’s Sentimental Journey (1768, published in New York as early as 1795). Little if any was actually written by Americans, at least until during and after the Civil War, when demand grew greatly. (Illustrations may have been created domestically, though the text isn’t clear.)

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Mar 192010

Via Clarisse Thorn’s blog, the murder (manslaughter, according to the courts) of Steven Morris by his submissive’s estranged husband, John R. Moore III.

Thorn’s analysis of this case suggests that this is a variation of the gay panic defense, which would explain why Moore got manslaughter instead of homicide. Thus, when the media and the general public look at this tragic affair, they look for a person with whom to identify. Morris? Nope, he’s an adulterer and a BDSM dominant; doesn’t make a good victim, and he’s dead besides. Laurie, Moore’s wife and Morris’ lover? Nope, she’s an adulterer and a BDSM who met Morris via collarme.com; must be either crazy or a slut, and therefore not a good victim either. That leaves Moore, even though he shot a guy, violating his wife’s protection order in the process. He’ll have to do for the audience’s sympathy. There’s a marked failure of empathy in the coverage, without any quotes from Laurie Morris, who’s been through a horrible experience even before the shooting. (Presumably there’s a reason she had protection order against her husband.)

As a side note, I notice that Moore is a Blackwater defense contractor who had spent time in Afghanistan. This dovetails with the news item that David Grisham, the leader of the Texan Christian organization Repent Amarillo, is an armed security guard at Pantex, a company that works with nuclear material disposals and high explosives. Grisham’s organization drove the Route 66 swinger club (with some BDSM elements) out of business, by noting down license plates in an adjacent parking lot to the club and notifying family members and employers.

These are the men we should fear: not the Islamic terrorist, not the big black guy on the street. Fear the middle class white guy with the military-industrial complex job who keeps his gun and his Bible in the same bedside drawer, who loses it when his control over the world begins to crumble, when anything disrupts his view of how the family should be. Both Moore and Grisham reacted violently to perceived threats against the family and sexual normality. There’s only going to be more of that in the future: more visible gays, poly people, kinky people, trans people. How will men like Moore and Grisham react?

Oct 222008

While reading about the Paul “Max Hardcore” Little and Extreme Associates trials, I came across other evidence of just how out of control American prosecution of obscenity is these days.

Strategically, going after Little is a brilliant way to rack up a victory. He’s male, he’s scary, he works in a visual medium (more arresting than print), he specializes in humiliation and other edgy issues, he performs in his own films, and even free speech and sex-positive advocates have a hard time defending him. He’s the stereotypical pornographer, a pre-packaged bogeyman ready to be ritually scapegoated in a purification drama.

Compare Little to Karen Fletcher. She is a 58-year-old agoraphobic woman who lives alone on disability. She was indicted on six charges of distributing obscene materials over the Internet. These were prose stories (no video or images) of children under 10 being molested and killed on a members-only web site. Fletcher plea bargained and got five years of probation and forfeiture of her computer.

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Sep 132008

While this is hardly a scientific survey, Slate magazine’s compilation of alleged dreams about Alaska governor and Republic vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin reveals some interesting themes.

The most common representations of Palin have her associated with death, destruction and deprivation, as when she orders the dreamer to stop nursing her baby and go to jail. Not surprisingly, she appears as a “bad mother,” punishing and killing and violating family bonds and bodily integrity, to both men and women. She appears in a classic castration fantasy, with the male dreamer reduced to a helpless, submissive animal by a huntress/dominatrix:

“Sarah Palin’s standing over me (I’m naked, she’s not) and shouting, podium style, through a pair of great, floating glasses, ‘And you know what? I’m going to cut it off. I’m gonna CUT IT OFF.’ I hear cheers. Are we onstage? I don’t see it, but I feel the presence of TV camera everywhere. She continues, ‘And you know why? Because, well why shouldn’t I? If you’re good, I know God will put it back.’ I look down and realize I have the biggest pot plant ever growing up between my legs. I mean, the thing is beautiful. I think something happens next, but I can’t remember what. All I know is we are in a field, and Sarah Palin is kneeling over me decked out in hunter gear. She cradles her rifle pragmatically and smiles pathetically as if to say, ‘You silly bear,’ and ruffles my stomach. The plant is gone, but I am now covered in fur. And blood. And bits of grass. And as much as I want to bite her face off, I can’t be angry at her. Or rather, I can’t argue it. I’ve got nothing. And she knows it too. Her triumphalism is effortless.”—Joshua Mensch

Yet, there are also dreams of reconciliation and compromise. One dreamer uses the animals killed by Palin to feed the homeless. Another dreams of marrying Palin:

“I dreamt her hubby was killed in an strange accident, and we somehow met in Germany. My wife was also gone, not sure how. McCain became ill, and Sarah and I were married. My son and I moved into the White House, and I gave a speech about Americans not using common sense, etc. Of course there are some romantic portions of the dream I will not go into detail about. She is very attractive—as you know. My speech was powerful, as Sarah and I both scolded the media for not holding the right folks accountable for certain accounting scandals, etc. I also tried very hard to give America a wakeup call on issues like common sense parenting, buying more house and car than we need, being very wasteful, etc. The dream was a bit foggy, but in the end, I wrote several books, and Mrs. Palin-Kaiser ran the country for a year, doing a very good job. I also see her shaking her finger at the media over and over in the dream. But she always gave me a kiss afterward, so I only got on her case a little about the finger-wagging. Much of the dream is foggy, as I did not even know she existed until six weeks ago. Now I think about her a lot.”—Michael A. Kaiser

Marriage (after her husband conveniently dies) makes Palin into at a centrist instead of a religious conservative.

This immediately reminded me of a passage in Laura Frost’s Sex Drives about the relationship of fascism and sexual fantasy. A woman fantasizes about being Adolf Hitler’s lover and gently talking him out of the Holocaust, as if they were having a lover’s quarrel. It’s a strange relationship between sex and politics, the idea that love really could affect the state.