lundi 11 janvier 2010

The Psychotronic Construction of Sadomasochism

From fin de siècle “sadomania” to the “spicy” torture-chambers of the “pulp era”, popular culture has been defined by its conjoined exploitation of sexuality and violence. Heroes and heroines being violently abused in extreme sadistic fantasies are the common denominator of dozens of narrative sub-genres, from western to hard-boiled, from horror to science-fiction and from jungle adventures to historic romances. This legacy was reworked by cinema since its beginnings as massive popular entertainment with such exploitation subgenres as “vice films” or “monster features” that enacted sadistic sexual subtexts. From this initial “cinema of cruelty” emerged, outside of the increasingly puritanical Hollywood system, the sexploitation films of the 'grindhouses', assimilating different aspects of bondage subcultures in a complex web of subversion and enactment of the “repressive hypothesis” underlined by M. Foucault. “Nudie cuties” introduced violent elements that would bring to the creation of the “gore” subgenre and the boom of sexploitative violence that must be read against the other currents of the sixties “sexual revolution” more overtly publicized. Increasingly exploiting the image of the emerging SM subcultures within the frame of a problematized “male gaze”, sexploitation triumphed from the American underground to Iberian “sex and sadism”, Italian giallo, French sex-vampires or German “nasty witch-hunting”, from Brazilian psychotronia and Mexican macho horror to Japanese sexual tortures. Following the “proliferation of perversion” that characterizes the micro-powers of a disciplinary society in crisis new subgenres arise illustrating the sado-masochistic paradigm, from nunsploitation to nazi exploitation, gang girls on rampage to women in prison, rape and revenge to cannibal sex and soft-porn sadean fantasies. We will try to explain this “global epidemic” of SM imagery as a deliberate cultural “construction” that reflects the inflationary reaction of symbolic powers under stress as well as the corroding creativity of fringe subcultures liberated by a massive paradigm shift.

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