I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan in the cheesy sense. Of course, I love the flowers, but that’s about it. In honor of that sentiment, I told M that we would officially turn Valentine’s Day into a sex holiday from this moment onward… This meant that we’d be having a lot of sex and buying each other sex-related gifts. I encourage all of you sluts to also turn Valentine’s Day into a kink day of the biggest proportions! 

Then, another thing happened… I got a huge outpouring of support about the BDSM primer I did a few weeks back. And I thought that due to the timeliness of 50 Shades coming out mid-month, why don’t we really dive deep into the waters of BDSM this month?

And where better to start than at the beginning?

 

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I first heard about BDSM on the History Channel’s “History of Sex” documentary series. My mother is a sex educator of sorts. Growing up, I’d seen her receive dozens of books and DVDs about sex and she happened to receive this, as well. At 17, let’s just say it was the coolest history video I’d ever seen and still comes highly recommended by me. 

 

 

 

Episode 3 of the series discussed Marquis de Sade, whose name would be lended to the term Sadomasochism (see Sade) due to his “singular” interests. The other guy responsible for the term? An Austrian named Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Let’s talk about these two for a moment.

Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was a French aristocrat, philosopher, and revolutionary who was most famous for his “libertine sexuality.” He wrote a variety of novels, short stories, and plays depicting erotic scenes that not only back talked the Catholic Church (a big no-no at the time), but also *gasp* depicted sexual scenes that were violent and criminal. As you can probably imagine, he was imprisoned for most of his life (32 years of which were spent in an insane asylum). Many of these writings were written in prison. Can you say hello, dungeon fantasy?

For more on de Sade, check out this article from UK’s The Telegraph. 

 

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Okay, so we got ‘sadism’ and ‘sadist’ from a French guy. But what about the Austrian guy?

Here’s the deal with Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895). Mr. von Sacher-Masoch was a journalist and author, famous for his works Legacy of Cain and his most famous, Venus in Furs, in which he discusses ideas of female dominance. The main character of this story falls for a woman and tells her he wants her to take him in as her slave and encourages her to treat him measurably more degradingly as time goes by. 

Even more? Von Sacher-Masoch even encouraged his wife to enact the book with him, taking her all the way to Venice so that no one would know what they were up to! Want more? Check out Venus in Furs on Amazon!

 

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But did these guys really have such revolutionary ideas? Not so much. Turns out that archaeologists and anthropologists have found records of BDSM-style practices that date all the way back to early Mesopotamia (4000-3100 BCE). These records found domination-style celebrations and sacrifices involving cross-dressing, altered states of consciousness, and lots of combined pain and ecstasy.

 

 

 

All through ancient Greece and Rome, examples of ritual flagellation (whipping, flogging) can be found, such as 9th century BCE in highly religious areas of Sparta. Or in 5th century BCE, the famed Etruscan Tomb of the Whipping has been found to have images of two men whipping a woman in a sexual situation. In fact, Roman poet Juvenal discusses flagellation in the sixth book of Satires; meanwhile anecdotal evidence has been found of people volunteering to be bound or beaten for sexual pleasure all the way back to the 3rd-4th centuries BCE. Meanwhile, in Pompeii, a winged Whipstress is pictured in the Villa of Mysteries, an ancient villa in which youth went through “rites of passage.” According to these records, this Whipstress used to initiate young girls into various Greek religions using techniques like flagellation or bondage. 

 

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These practices weren’t localized in these areas, however. In fact, India’s coveted, beloved Kama Sutra, one of the oldest and most famous Sanskrit works on human sexuality includes sections in which certain sexual practices involving pain and pleasure are discussed. In fact, the book specifically states that these practices must only be done with women who enjoy such things. It is arguably one of the first texts to discuss consensual kink activities, too!

 

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As humanity continued, so did BDSM practices. Experts have found accounts of people willingly submitting to beatings and being tied up throughout the 14th century. In fact, many have also attributed the slavish devotion to lovers famous of the Courtly love trend to be the beginnings of the bottom practices of BDSM! 

Okay, so that’s all well and good but that was a long time ago. What about BDSM today?

 

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Okay, so spoiler alert… Even though people have been inflicting pain on themselves and others, tying each other up, etc all in the name of pleasure for thousands of years, the acronym, BDSM didn’t actually come about til around the 1950s and 1960s.

Dr. Robert V. Bienvenu, PhD., studied the origins of fetishism and sadomasochism. In his report, he attributes the rise of modern day BDSM to three sources – “European Fetish” (1928), “American Fetish” (1934) and “Gay Leather” (1950), which were all essentially studies of the types of costumes and props fashioned out of industrial materials like PVC, leather, and metal. Between the pre- and post-war periods in both Europe and America, these costumes were taken pictures of and passed around in underground but very popular magazines. In fact, in the 1950s, a man named Irving Klaw published the first black and white photography and film with famous pin-up girl, Bettie Page. 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, as heterosexual audiences rallied around the European and American fetish trends, Gay leather came out around the same time period as a response to California’s motorcycle culture. The Gay Leather movement spawned the Leather subculture, which with its masculine themes seemed to directly counter a preconceived notion about homosexual masculinity. 

 

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Our journey from the past to the present incarnation of BDSM of course culminates in the rise of the Internet. Once that happened, it seemed like everyone with “singular tastes” could join together to discuss such interests and meet likeminded partners.

Today, there is everything from online social networking sites dedicated to BDSM (like FetLife) to online sex shops that specialize in toys and outfits targeted to BDSM lovers.

 

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If you’re a history nerd like me or are just curious about some aspects of this kinky history walk, take a look at a few of the resources I found. Turns out, I’m not the only one who wanted to know how long we’ve been inflicting pain for pleasure!

http://www.asubmissivesjourney.com/history_bdsm.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BDSM
http://dailyxtra.com/life/sex/brief-history-bdsm-95798
https://dominationsubmission.wordpress.com/2013/07/07/bdsm-history-a-research-in-the-human-sexuality-and-the-bdsm-culture/
http://bdsmunveiled.blogspot.com/2012/11/historical-origins-of-bdsm.html?zx=9f762f738770c6eb#axzz3Q4547ti6

 

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 Next time someone says that BDSM is some new weird thing that the kids do today, you can show this to them and remind this person that actually, BDSM really is a tale as old as time.

 

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