2.5
August 5, 2014

5 Interesting, Wacky Facts about BDSM.

Red Heart and Handcuffs

The other day, I came across to a link to blog post urging readers to burn their copies of 50 Shades of Grey.

Usually, I don’t visit sites like the one where the post came from. I already knew that I probably wasn’t going to agree with the author on much. (Full disclosure: anyone who advocates burning books in general is not someone I am ever going to have much in common with.)

However, I was interested in hearing what was the author’s main beef with the popular novel.

Before I go further, I should I confess that I am not a fan of the novel. I never got on the train even when it was the must-read book a few summers ago. It has nothing to do with the context. Rather, I think it is poorly written with cheesy dialogue that could have been lifted from a 1970s porn flick.

Still, it’s one of those novels that has been an undeniable publishing success, and everyone seems to have an opinion about.

While the author’s complaints about the novel’s sex acts didn’t surprise me, I was surprised by the fact that BDSM was being called a new phenomenon.

It’s not.

While the novel may have brought knowledge of some of the practices into the mainstream, the fact is BDSM existed well-before author E. L. James was ever born or even C.S. Lewis—the well-known Christian author that the blogger quotes.

I first learned about BDSM years ago when I was a graduate student living in London, and became friends with a man who casually mentioned over lunch together that his ex-girlfriend had been a professional dominatrix. (It was via him I learned about “safe words” and other such things that while they may not have made for appropriate dinner party conversation where nonetheless interesting.)

Frankly, while it’s not my cup of tea, I don’t find it’s my place to judge the sexual practices of consenting adults. Also, I find some of the facts about it pretty interesting. Despite it’s depiction in the media, the average person who practices BDSM is pretty ordinary as far as looks and profession goes. It certainly isn’t reserved for wealthy, young, or unbelievably attractive people like Christian Grey.

Plus, who knows? Given the anticipation of the movie adaptation of 50 Shades of Grey perhaps the following facts below may be an interesting thing to bring up some dinner parties in the near future. (Just make sure all attendees are adults.)

1. Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895) is considered by most to be the granddaddy of BDSM thanks to his novel, Venus in Furs. (It is from his last name that we get the word “masochism”. ) Venus in Furs was a popular “underground” book during Victorian times and that probably had as much to do with the fact that the woman in the story was the dominate as it did with the “usual” sex practices.  (By the way, by today’s standard, it’s pretty tame. It’s possible to find far more racier things in the romance section of the local Barnes and Noble.)

A writer and journalist, von Sacher-Masoch was related to Franz Sacher, inventor of the famous dessert the Sachertote, and his great-great-niece is the singer/former long-time girlfriend of Mick Jagger, Marianne Faithful.

2. Alfred Bloomingdale, heir to the famous Bloomingdale’s department store fortune and close friend to Ronald and Nancy Reagan, shocked New York’s high-society when tales of his decade-long affair with a whip-yielding mistress several decades his junior became public. It was also claimed the elderly man like to whip prostitutes with leather belts.

3. Despite the popular stereotype, the vast majority of people who engage in BDSM are not psychologically  damaged. A 2013 study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that “BDSM practitioners may be better off psychologically than the general public.” It also revealed that the vast majority don’t appear any more troubled than the general population nor are they more likely to have victims of abuse.

4. Madonna’s 1990 music video for her hit single “Justify My Love,” which showed amongst other things couples in BDSM gear, was banned from MTV, and the first music video to be issued as a VHS “video single.” That same year, Madonna released her controversial photo book Sex which featured a number of simulated BDSM images.

5. The Box night club in London’s Soho area is known for showing various “fetish burlesque” acts, and A-List celebs who have visited the club include actresses Emma Watson and Keira Knightley as well as Britain’s Prince Harry.

 

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