samedi 6 février 2010

Sadistic Thrills

Like gay iconicity, camp culture of the sixties was to increasingly exploit the image of S&M, from leather-clad agent Mrs. Emma Peel to Bondian femmes fatales. Echoing its Romantic sexual persona, the vampire became one of the dominant figures of the increasingly explicit fusion of sex and cruelty that ironically accompanied the Sexual Liberation. Starting with R. Polselli’s L’Amante del vampiro (1960) and Vadim’s high culture Et mourir de plaisir it was a mythical counterpart of the new figure of the psycho-killer, often obsessed with S&M sexual motifs. Following Peeping Tom and Psycho, this figure determined the giallo subgenre in Bava’s Sei donne per l’assassino (1964), being the ultimate construction of the medical and legal micro-powers (“a madness that would be a crime, a crime that would be madness” according to Foucault’s famous analysis (1)). It combined with earlier Sadean prototypes as the mad doctor or the deranged and sublime artist (from Corman’s humorous Bucket of Blood of 1959 to Jack Hill’s cheap and crude Blood Bath in 1966).

The traditional Sadean imagery was also revived through figures as the beautiful women tortured by lecherous priests in Andy Milligan’s Naked Witch (1961) while more modern iconography was being introduced from men’s adventure magazines. Exotic sadism was introduced by the Mondo films, promising “authentic catalogs of cruelty” like Sadismo (1967) that combined newsreel footage of Nazi atrocities with a lengthy medieval torture chamber sequence. S&M sexploiters Bob Cresse and R. L. Frost indulged in their own variants of the genre, Mondo Bizarro and Mondo Freudo while Stan Borden repackaged his Olga trilogy as Mondo Obscenita (66).

Representation of S&M iconography and constitution of a distinct subculture run in parallel. While the London rubber fetish magazine Pussy Cat was published in 1964, the first European gay leather club, Sixty-Nine Club, was founded in London two years later. The pornographic “undergowth of literature” studied by G. Freeman in 1967 was literally invaded by S&M from Two Spanking Teenagers or Teenage Thrashing to The Duchess of Pain or My Naughty Wife. “Women are pounded to a bloody pulp under the hooves of horses ridden by other women who are themselves constricted by harnesses which cut the flesh; monks and nuns perform medieval cruelties on young girls, tramps rape the bleeding bodies of women trapped in the cellars of old houses; prison wardresses in boots with spiked heels stamp under the faces of bound men”, summarizes Freeman in his cult essay on The undergrowth of literature (2). The major trends and genres of sexploitation are already recognizable in this literature derived from earlier Spicy pulps

“It came as something of a shock, says Freeman, to find that almost all the pornography available in England must be centred round sadism. 90% of pornographic books imported are sado-masochistic” (p. 79). Ten years earlier, in his seminal cultural study of working-class Uses of Literacy, R. Hoggart signaled the rise of novels “in which sex seems to be regarded as thrilling only when it is sadistic” (London, Penguin, 1957, p. 260). The massive presence of English vice sub-literature was a constant trait of British erotica since the Victorian era but its exclusivity at the end of the sixties is in itself an important symptom, as analized at the very same time by I. Gibson in his classic study The English Vice, Beating, Sex, and Shame in Victorian England and After (Duckworth, 1978).

(1) M. Foucault, Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977-1984, ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman, 1988, 135-6
(2) The undergowth of literature, Londres, Panther Books, 1967, p.111

Aucun commentaire: