lundi 15 février 2010

Leatherman's Handbook

This “global epidemic” of S&M imagery needs to be acknowledged and interpreted 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. Symptom of a major crisis as well as an important factor playing in it, psychotronic sado-masochism is both an agent and a result of the multiple contradictions of an era of violent readjustments in class, gender and race relationships as well as radical socio-economic changes, starting with the film industry itself.

Whereas the second edition of APA’s diagnostic manual (DSM-II, 1968), strongly aligned to psychoanalysis, listed masochism and sadism as „sexual deviations“ and homosexuality as mental illness, one year later, the US anthropologist Paul Gebhard puts “Fetishism and Sadomasochism” in cultural context, a “scripted behavior” essentially marked by role-play breaking with Krafft-Ebing’s essentialist “perversity” paradigm. Following the Fromm and Reik debate, Foucault's influential History of Sexuality was to use the concept of sado-masochism as part of a critical strategy against the reductive notion of repression, generalizing the concept as the model for the social and the psychological in general. S&M subculture itself was becoming hugely popular as hundreds of gay leather bars opened in the USA and Europe during the seventies, as well as S&M groups following the The Eulenspiegel Society (TES) in New York (1971).

In 1972 Olympia Press published the Leatherman’s Handbook by Larry Townsend, the first S&M safety manual, breaking open the isolation of the gay Old Guard. A major shift to consensual bondage, as opposed to sexual abuse so insistently portrayed in fictions, was also bringing S&M elements to the whole sexual liberation scene, presenting it as an ars erotica emancipated from repressive and normative scientia sexualis, a new way to extend the sensual experience of sex. Sadomasochistic games (master-slave, parent-child fantasies) do not typically involve real acts of punishment but rather offer an arena in which past suffering, pain and humiliation can be enacted (this time with happier endings), thus underlining the theatrical and mastery elements in erotic life (J. O’Connell Davidson & D. Layder, Methods, Sex and Madness, Routledge, 1994).

1 commentaire:

Jack Fritscher a dit…

As the longtime intimate of the wonderful Larry Townsend, may I mention that the book pictured is not the first edition of "The Leatherman's Handbook" and it is no more complete than the 1972 edition. To read the introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of "The Leatherman's Handbook," visit www jackfritscher com.