mardi 9 février 2010

The Depraved

The transition from pop imagery to sexual subculture and back is adamant. In 1966 American sadomasochists adopt some terms from John Norman’s sci-fi trash epics Tarnsman of Gor, illustrated by cult fantasy artist Boris Vallejo. The same year Andy Warhol and musicians Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker found the group The Velvet Underground, named after the S&M novel by Michael Leigh. In dark contrast to the Flower Power movement, the group performs in black leather, delivering songs loaded with S&M context, the best known being the explicit "Venus in Furs". Some of the more explicit underground films, often incorporating S&M iconography (K. Anger’s Scorpio Rising or Warhol’s My Hustler) crossed over into the commercial sexploitation arena by playing Times Square adult houses. Andy Milligan’s career highlights this transitional area, his sexploitation films prolonging the underground post-beatnik, pre-freak, off-Broadway theater experience of the Caffé Cino where he had staged Jean Genet’s The Maids. As Warhol and Morrissey Milligan understood he could subversively vent his sexual concerns using the horror genre. In The Ghastly Ones (1968) the murder scenes have heavy sadomasochistic undertones as the victims are intricately bound, gagged and hanged before being pitchforxed, disemboweled, dismembered and decapitated, (the image of a woman’s head in a salad bowl reinvents the traditional Isabella and the Basil-Pot motif) while The Depraved directly incorporated elementary bondage sex.

Increasingly exploiting the image of the emerging SM subcultures within the frame of a problematized “male gaze”, sexploitation triumphed in yet another stage, following the disappearance of the Hays Code during the “Summer of Love” and competing with the arrival of hardcore films. It suddenly seemed as if sado-masochism encompassed the whole of psychotronic productions, being the main force behind them and their massive consumption. The extent of this boom still challenges conventional narratives about the “sexual revolution” and the “golden age of heterosexuality”. Not since the Naughty Nineties had the pleasures of pain, sexual phobia and anguished misogyny –to the point of gynecidal imaginary violence- dominated high and low culture to such extent. Following the logic of “proliferation of perversions” that characterizes the micro-powers of a disciplinary society in crisis new subgenres arouse 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.

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