Friday, 18 August 2017
I am a self-described feminist, yet at the same time, I also enjoy reading and writing BDSM. These two traits seem to contradict each other. On one hand, feminism is about the equality of the sexes, while on the other hand “dominance and submission” is literally in the definition of BDSM. And so, it has been a bit of a grapple for me to figure out how to rationalize these two opposing values.
In this rationalization, I think it’s important to keep in mind exactly what feminism entails. For this, I would like to refer you to this speech given by Emma Watson to the UN:
If you have not yet had a chance to watch this powerful and eloquent speech, I highly recommend it. Ms. Watson perfectly encapsulates my views on feminism. Unfortunately the word “feminism” has become synonymous with “man-hating” and with cold-hearted women who only care about their career. But this is not the integrity of the ideology which feminism stands for. Feminists simply believe that both sexes should be treated with the same respect and privileges. It would be hard for me to list an ideal which I hold closer to my heart.
However, I remember back to when I was as young as seven years old having dreams in which I was a slave being whipped, which I strangely enjoyed. At that time, I didn’t have the understanding or vocabulary to describe this strange joy, but in my later years I came to realize I was experiencing arousal. This type of dream reached an apex for me many years later when I was traveling in Venice, Italy (strangely enough). In this dream I was being gang-raped by three different completely unattractive men. They were practically fully clothed and I was naked. Over the years I’ve learned to have some control over my dreams, and so I manipulated it to make the scenario as vulgar as possible. I woke myself up, soaking wet. I had to go to the restroom to dry myself off. When I woke up the next morning I had completely forgotten the dream, until I discovered I still needed to dry myself off.
At this point, it’s important to backtrack. Both of the stories I have provided have been dreams. The reality of the matter is that truly whipping a slave or gang-raping a woman are horrible crimes which will have lasting effects on the physical and mental well-being of the victim. Nearly ten years ago I was home alone at around 12:30am when a stranger tried to break into my home with the intent of hurting me. Fortunately the criminal was unsuccessful in his ploy, but it left me terrified of being home alone at night. It’s a fear that has lead me to install alarm systems in my home and avoid being home alone at night whenever possible. This close call nearly ten years ago has made me feel uncomfortable in my own home ever since. I can only imagine the impact it would have had if this criminal had actually been successful.
Clearly I become aroused when BDSM graces my dreams, but pushing this line in reality is a completely different matter. However, that’s where the important distinction lies. Dreams, much like fantasies, are not reality. Many little boys love the fantasy of killing a dragon, but if faced with the “reality” of a huge fire-breathing dragon, would probably feel otherwise. This is the same case with BDSM.
There are many authors who refuse to write BDSM because they “know too many people who have been raped.” I completely sympathize and respect this concern. However, I think psychotic men who would actually rape a woman would do so regardless of whether or not they read my work. A man who would do such a thing has a lot of other problems which have little to do with my writing.
Additionally, I personally found I could only truly appreciate my own sexuality when I learned to embrace my desire for the fantasy of BDSM. Finally learning to embrace and express this fantasy originated in the very safe place of reading BDSM. Then it progressed into role-play with my husband. While this may seem more like “reality” the fact of the matter is that I’m in a loving, committed, trusting relationship, and I know that if I ever seriously conveyed any kind of discomfort my husband would stop immediately. This is fantasy because we’re “pretending.” Finally, I continued to explore my thirst for BDSM by writing some of my own in the form of a paranormal erotic novelette, Underneath the Gargoyle. The fact that this is a paranormal novelette couldn’t underscore more the fact that this is a fantasy. Embracing and exploring my love for BDSM has enriched my sex life and strengthened my relationship with my husband.
I am a feminist who also believes that sexuality is an integral part of human existence and a happy marriage. Sometimes fully embracing our sexuality entails accepting and cultivating a desire for BDSM. I write BDSM because I believe enacting our sexual fantasies in a committed, trusting relationship is another way to express our love.
Christina Harding is a pseudonym. She is a guest blogger for Romance at Random of Random House and the author of Underneath the Gargoyle a paranormal erotic series available at Amazon US and Amazon UK
She also blogs at www.christinahardingerotica.blogspot.com and tweets @tinaerotica. Christina is happily married and enjoys reading sexy stories with her husband.
Saturday, 5 August 2017
I love Robert Browning’s poem; THE PIED PIPER OF HAMLYN. I love its lulling rhythms, the chanting, lyrical story that it tells.
I went to Hamlyn some years ago; I walked over a bridge, crossing the River Weser, deep and wide…
I came away enchanted; I imagine most tourists do. At the time I never gave much thought to what happened to the children of Hamlyn. If I did, it was of a Disneyfied version.
But it’s a strange story; a whole generation of kids just disappearing. Has anyone ever asked what exactly happened to the children of Hamlyn? Browning’s narrative poem is based on an actual event. Something went very wrong in that quaint German town, so many years ago.
Jack Marx talks about the narrative poem on his blog. The story of what happened to the children of Hamlyn.
Thursday, July 24, 2008.
“Most of the English-speaking world knows of the Pied Piper from the poem by Robert Browning, which itself was adapted from the tale as told by The Brothers Grimm. The story goes that a flamboyantly-attired troubadour promised to rid the town of its rat infestation, which he did by hypnotising the vermin with his flute and leading them to drown in the nearby river. However, when the townsfolk refused to pay him for his services, the piper took revenge by leading the children of the town to an unknown fate, never to return.
As fairytales go, it’s one of the more ghastly, whose moral appears to be little more than a warning about neglecting bills. But the legend seems based upon a true incident whose exact details have vanished into history, to be subsequently coloured in by centuries of folklorists. What is certain is that there is a town in Germany called Hameln and some children did go missing there sometime in June, 1284, the event so significant the early Hameln statutes measured the passing of time in ‘years after our children left.’
But there’s something about the silence in this tale - an event so terrible it remains forbidden to play music and dancing on a certain street in town, that suggests something more dastardly than an organised change of address took place.
Is it just possible that the fate of Hameln’s children was dealt with the townsfolk’s knowledge, if not necessarily their blessing? Perhaps they were sold, ‘donated’, abandoned en masse, or simply neglected, in a moment later regretted. At very least, they were lost, and nobody wants to be responsible for loss, especially a parent.
Enter the Pied Piper, with his seductive ways and other-worldly appearance. It was he who took the children, and then he vanished, an alien abduction for the Middle Ages. He is an invention, a diversion, and an absolution at once. Browning and the Brothers Grimm were probably closer to the truth than the town scribes - the Pied Piper was not so much a tragedy as a dubious transaction, and the less said about it the better.”
The writer, John Boswell, casts children as a kind of burdensome currency in the Middle Ages. All over Europe, they were frequently left to die in the wilderness, sold into the slave trade, used to pay debts, made to ‘disappear’ en masse so that rivals could be blamed and forced to compensate, or, most commonly, “donated” to the church, the return being relief from that mouth to feed and a promise of spiritual dividends.
The Holy Roman Empire turned something of a blind eye to the moral question of child abandonment, (no surprise there then) its various edicts on the matter seemingly more concerned with maintaining a fluid serfdom than protection of the children.
In 13th-century Spain, for example, it was law that “a father who is oppressed with great hunger or such utter poverty that he has no other recourse can sell or pawn his children in order to obtain food.” Furthermore…
“...a father who is besieged in a castle he holds for his lord, may, if so beset with hunger that he has nothing to eat, eat his child with impunity rather than surrender his castle without permission of the lord.”
The Pied Piper story seems to have its root in an event that happened on June 26, 1284. Hamelin historian Martin Humberg states that around 1300 a stained glass window was added to the central market church in Hamelin showing "an old figure of a man in coloured clothes and surrounded by a crowd of children." The inscription around this window has been reconstructed and reads:
“In the year of 1284, on John's and Paul's day
was the 26th of June.
By a piper, dressed in all kind of colours,
130 children born in Hamelin were seduced
and lost at the calvarie near the koppen.”
Scholars disagree on the meaning of "the calvarie near the koppen" but most agree that it refers to a place of execution near an as yet undetermined hill. There are many other references to the story in Hamelin itself, including a street named "Bungelosen Strasse," literally "the street without the sound of drums," allegedly so named because dancing was forbidden in that street in memory of what had happened to the children.”
In A World Lit Only by Fire (1992) by William Manchester, Manchester makes a passing reference to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. According to Manchester the piper was a psychopath and a pederast who was involved in some sort of mass child killing. Many of our children's stories are based on real events, many of them sinister and certainly not the type of thing you would want to lull your child to sleep with, but this seems especially grim. Is this true, and if so what's the whole story?
The quote in question comes from page 66 of Manchester's book and reads;
"The Pied Piper of Hamelin . . . was a real man, but there was nothing enchanting about him. Quite the opposite; he was horrible, a psychopath and pederast who, on June 24, 1484, spirited away 130 children in the Saxon village of Hammel and used them in unspeakable ways. Accounts of the aftermath vary. According to some, the victims were never seen again; others told of disembodied little bodies found scattered in the forest underbrush or festooning the branches of trees."
Manchester doesn't footnote this passage and although he does give a long bibliography at the end of the book, the reader can't readily determine where he got it. The official website of the German town of Hamelin makes no mention of it, which is no surprise, since the romantic version of the legend has monetary value and they have an official town "Pied Piper" to this day. Perhaps Manchester got some of the details wrong -- among other things, he appears to be off about 200 years on the date. But he didn't just make the whole thing up.
The legend of the Pied Piper has probably as many variants as it does tellers. The most popular versions derive from the poem by Robert Browning and the fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. In pretty much all versions, rats infest Hamelin and the town hires a travelling rat catcher to exterminate them. When he does so, the king, mayor, or whoever decides not to pay him, so he extracts his revenge by spiriting away the town's children.
Taken at face value, the inscription suggests that Manchester was right --130 kids came to a bad end at the hands of a deviant. But there is no corroborating record of any mass execution of children in the vicinity of Hamelin, which would seem to be an important event if it really happened.
The window with the inscription was replaced in 1660 and is now lost, so we're relying strictly on secondary evidence and not much of that. There doesn’t appear to be any factual basis for Manchester's lurid tale of "disembodied little bodies found scattered in the forest underbrush or festooning the branches of trees."
The earliest versions of the tale make no mention of the piper's skill as a rat catcher--that part of the story doesn't show up in literature until about 1550. It appears that the final tale was a mixture of the true story of whatever happened to the children in Hamelin plus various European rat catcher legends. Stories of an itinerant rat catcher similar to the one in Hamelin show up in Austria, France, Poland, Denmark, England, and Ireland. Duke Froben von Zimmern (1556) was the first to put the legends together into the tale we know today. Fifty years later Richard Verstegan was the first to tell the tale in English and introduce the name "The Pied Piper" in his book A Restitution of Decayed Intelligence.
But there is still too much speculation and not enough evidence to say what actually happened to the children of Hamelin in 1284. A typical conjecture might be; the Pied Piper was a charismatic leader who, in the eyes of the ecclesiastical as well as secular authorities, misled a group of young people in a revival of pagan worship. He and his group were therefore captured and killed.
The Black Death has also been mentioned as a possible suspect, although the plague post-dated most of the legends and would have affected adults as well as children. Earthquakes and the Children's Crusade have also been mentioned as possibilities, but are far from convincing.
One currently popular interpretation comes from Jurgen Udolph and focuses on the variant that the children emerged from the cave either in Transylvania or somewhere in eastern Europe. Udolph believes that the phrase "children of Hamelin" should be interpreted figuratively and not literally. He thinks the tale may refer to an eastward migration of people from Hamelin into the area between Berlin and the Baltic. The theory has root in German historian Wolfgang Wann's conjecture that Bruno von Schaumburg, who was then Bishop of Olmutz, recruited some residents of Hamelin to settle in Moravia. This would have happened in 1281, three years before the date in question.
Udolph rejects this particular idea but thinks something along the same lines may have occurred. He uses place names to fortify his speculation, on the theory that people who relocate to a new land tend to name their new homes after the places they came from. Therefore, it should be possible to trace new settlements by establishing the origins of their names. In an article in Time International, Ursula Sautter reports:
"After the defeat of the Danes at the Battle of Bornhoved in 1227, the region south of the Baltic Sea, which was then inhabited by Slavs, became available for colonization by the Germans." The bishops and dukes of Pomerania, Brandenburg, Uckermark and Prignitz sent out glib "locators," medieval recruitment officers, offering rich rewards to those who were willing to move to the new lands. Thousands of young adults from Lower Saxony and Westphalia headed east. And as evidence, about a dozen Westphalian place names show up in this area. Indeed there are five villages called Hindenburg running in a straight line from Westphalia to Pomerania, as well as three eastern Spiegelbergs and a trail of etymology from Beverungen south of Hamelin to Beveringen northwest of Berlin to Beweringen in modern Poland.
Udolph's explanation seems likely. Like most legends, the Pied Piper story probably has its origin in something more prosaic than fantastic.
But the fantastic does make a much better fairy tale.
This blog post has been put together using sources from the Web.
Friday, 14 July 2017
Necrophilia; it’s a tough one. Is it a fetish or a perversion? What do you think? It’s a strange and disturbing phenomenon. It’s haunting; it’s taboo. But let’s not be squeamish; we’re going to talk about fucking dead people.
Yes it’s tough, but because it’s tough and makes us squirm, that’s not a reason not to talk about it. I think it’s a good reason to talk about it. Google is always a good place to start, so that’s where I went. And going on what you can find on the Web, with just a basic search; there’s a helluva lot of folk, curious and wanting to know more.
Are they all shouting “disgusting” and running away? It seems not; they’re intrigued. Reading about it; writing about it. Yearning for it…
Janine Ashbless writes a great necrophilia story, in Montague’s Last Ride,” in her “Cruel Enchantment.” collection. Jan Vander Laenen writes another great necrophilia tale in his short story, “The Epistle of the Sleeping Beauty.”
So, necrophilia is there. It’s in the stories that we tell each other, from Classical Greek and Egyptian Mythology, to the Victorian Gothic. It’s in Fairy Tales and it’s in Popular Culture.
In the Greek legend of the Trojan War, the Greek hero Achilles slays the Amazon queen Penthesilea in a duel. Upon removing her helmet and seeing her face, Achilles falls in love with her and mourns her death. The soldier Thersites openly ridicules Achilles and accuses him of necrophilia. Achilles responds by promptly killing Thersites with a single blow. (In some traditions, Thersites' accusation is not unfounded—Achilles was so stricken by Penthesilea's beauty that he could not control his lust for her, even after her death.)
In Egyptian mythology, we are told of the myth of Osiris and Isis. It tells of the god Osiris, who had inherited his rule over the world from his ancestor Ra. Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his jealous brother Set, a god often associated with chaos. Osiris' sister and wife Isis reassembled Osiris' body so that she could impregnate herself and conceive an heir.
So the template for necrophilia is there, in our oldest stories. Mythology gives us permission to explore those dark and secret ideas.
And what about our current obsession with vampire stories? Starting with Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, are they not a fantasy about a physical union with the un-dead?
And as for Heathcliffe in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, he sure as hell didn’t dig up Cathy’s body to gaze on her beautiful face.
And there’s so many more. In Cormac McCarthy's Child of God (1973), the protagonist Lester Ballard finds a dead couple in a car, and carries the female corpse back to his cabin to engage in sexual acts with it. After losing the corpse in a fire, he begins murdering women to create dead female sex partners for himself.
Georges Bataille's gruesome novella Story of the Eye ends with the main characters performing perverse and sacrilegious sexual acts on a passive priest, who is raped and strangled to death as he climaxes. After murdering him, the characters continue to perform sexual acts with his dismembered eyeball.
Edgar Allan Poe once described the death of a beautiful young woman to be one of the most beautiful images. (By this, he was not saying that it is a good thing for young women to die; to him melancholy and pain were sources of beauty.) Also, his poem
"Annabel Lee" includes, towards the end, possible necrophilic imagery. As does his short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.”
Oscar Wilde's scandalous play, Salome, based on the Biblical story of a Judean princess who performs the Dance of the Seven Veils for the Tetrarch, Herod, in exchange for the head of John the Baptist. When Salome finally receives the Christian prophet's head, she addresses it in an erotic monologue that has highly suggestive necrophiliac overtones.
And coming closer to today’s literature.
In Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon, (1977) Macon Dead is explaining to his son Milkman that he is disturbed by the relationship that his wife Ruth had with her father, Dr. Foster. Shortly after Dr. Foster's death, Macon caught Ruth lying naked in bed with her father's corpse, while sucking on his fingers.
In Canadian author Barbara Gowdy's short story, "We So Seldom Look On Love", a funeral parlour employee learns how to make the penises of recently dead men erect, and she commits sexual acts on the corpses until she is caught. In 1996, the story was adapted into the film Kissed.
Can’t leave out Fairy Tales either. Some Commentators like Marina Bychkova read the story of “Snow White”, as having a necrophiliac theme. Disney has sanitised it, just as he has done with “The Sleeping Beauty.” In a much older version of the story, the handsome Prince doesn’t just kiss the sleeping/dead princess, he rapes her.
From the Web.
“Sigmund Freud maintained that our deep childhood experiences (or lack of them) affect our adult lives in a profound way. In other words, when people are highly functional in their childhood experiences, this mirrors their adult reality, and when adult people are highly dysfunctional as children this, too, mirrors and mars their adult experiences.
There seems to be strong indications to support this concerning necrophilia. The list of necrophiliacs seems to clearly support Freud’s viewpoint. Here is a brief list: Ed Gein, Jeffery Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Albert Fish, Denis Nilson. All of these personalities had strained strange childhoods, felt abandoned, felt rejected and felt worthless. According to Dr. Jackson it is the perverted and extremely aberrant feelings of loneliness, rejection and abandonment, this feeling of total isolation, and total inability to connect to another human being that propels necrophilia.
As disturbing as this approach might be for some, in a nut shell what is being said here is that the necrophilia evolves to a state where the surest and easiest way to have total control, total acceptance, and total success in relating to another human being tragically descends to the point that the human being which is to be the object of intimacy is, of all things, a corpse.”
From the Web again.
“Erich Fromm, the psychologist and philosopher considered that necrophilia is a character orientation which is not necessarily sexual. It is expressed in an attraction to that which is dead or totally controlled. At the extreme, it results in hatred of life and destructiveness. Unlike Freud's death instinct, it is not biologically determined but results from upbringing. Fromm believed that the lack of love in the western society and the attraction to mechanistic control leads to necrophilia. Expressions of necrophilia are modern weapon systems, idolatry of technology, and the treatment of people as things in bureaucracy.”
It’s described as “the highest taboo,” worse than rape, paedophilia, bestiality. So what’s going to happen if you do get caught fucking a corpse? The law in the United Kingdom says that fucking a corpse is very definitely illegal.
“In the United Kingdom, sexual penetration with a corpse was made illegal under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. This is defined as depictions of "sexual interference with a human corpse" (as opposed to only penetration), and would cover "depictions which appear to be real acts" as well as actual scenes (see also extreme pornography).
As of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, it is also illegal to possess physical depictions of necrophilia, electronic or otherwise. Necrophilia-pornography falls under the governmental description of extreme pornography, of which, possession is classed as illegal under the aforementioned act.”
So in the U.K. you’re not only breaking the sexual offences act law if you indulged your profane urges and fuck a corpse, you’re going to be hauled up for possessing “extreme pornography” as well.
In the United States, there doesn’t seem to be a blanket law covering the whole country. The law varies from state to state. As of May 2006, there is no federal legislation specifically barring sex with a corpse. Here’s a few examples of how the states differ in their application of the law.
In Arizona, It is unlawful for a person to engage in necrophilia. A person engages in necrophilia by:
1. Having sexual intercourse with a dead human body.
2. Having sexual contact with a dead human body, other than the contact normally required to store, prepare, disinfect or embalm a dead human body according to standards of practice in the funeral industry.
1. "Sexual contact" means any direct or indirect touching, including oral contact, fondling or manipulating of any part of the genitals, anus or female breast by any part of the body or by any object.
2. "Sexual intercourse" means penetration into the vulva or anus by any part of the body or by any object or masturbatory contact with the penis or vulva.
F. A person who violates this section is guilty of a class 4 felony.
In California, you can get up to eight years in prison, for the act of necrophilia. In the state of Georgia, you can get ten years in prison, for the same offence. In Nevada it’s considered a Class A felony with a maximum penalty of life in prison.
I still don’t know whether necrophilia is a fetish or a perversion. Certainly the sub-text in the Sigmund Freud statement, and the quote from Erich Fromm, seem to see necrophilia as something that needs to be “cured.”
So I’m lost for a proper conclusion.
How would I feel if a relative of mine who had passed, was “played” with? I would not like it at all. I would be distressed, incensed, livid. But, as I don’t think I’m likely to come across a necrophiliac any time soon, that’s as near to making it personal as I can get.
And not forgetting contemporary literature; Post Mortem by Rose W. Sweetly gentle; a dying woman's last wish. Post Mortem is available at Amazon UK and Amazon US
Friday, 23 June 2017
His name is synonymous with the very worst that human beings can be. He plumbs the depths of depravity in his quest for mere titillation; Bad people celebrate his birthday; good people shudder at the mention of his name. He is the Marquis de Sade and I’ve just finished reading “Justine”.
It really is time that I confront de Sade. I call myself a writer of Erotica; indeed, I blushed and trembled with dizzy, giddy pride when the Christian right slammed a “Danger Pornography” notice on my tweets.
But de Sade. He was a French aristocrat, 2nd June 1740—2nd December 1814. A revolutionary politician, famous for his libertine sexuality. His works comprise novels, short stories, plays, dialogues and political tracts. In his lifetime, some were published in his own name, while others appeared anonymously and de Sade denied being their author. He is best known for his erotic works which combine philosophical discourse with pornography, depicting sexual fantasies with an emphasis on violence and blasphemy against the Catholic Church. He was a proponent of extreme freedom unrestrained by morality, religion or law. The words ‘sadist’ and ‘sadism’ are derived from his name.
He was incarcerated in various prisons and in an insane asylum for about 32 years of his life. Many of his works were written in prison. His ethos is focused absolutely on pain and pleasure.
“It is always by way of pain that one arrives at pleasure.”
“I have already told you; the only way to a woman’s heart is along the path of torment. I know none other as sure.”
“When she’s abandoned her moral center and teachings…when she’s cast aside her façade of propriety and ladylike demeanor…when I have corrupted this fragile thing and brought out a writhing, mewling, bucking wanton whore for my enjoyment and pleasure, enticing from within this feral lioness…growling and scratching and biting, taking everything I dish out to her…at that moment she is never more beautiful to me.”
“Justine,” with the subtitle, “The Misfortunes of Virtue”, is an extraordinary book. The philosophy is that of the merits of vice vs. virtue. The protagonist (a virtuous woman) falls prey to a series of libertines who use and abuse her in whatever ways they deem pleasurable to themselves.
We join the narrative at the point where Juliette, aged 15 and her sister, Justine aged 12 have been orphaned by the death of, first their father and then their mother. They have been educated at a convent, a private establishment, where they had access to the finest minds of their generation.
Their relatives deliberate about what to do with the two girls.
“Since no one cared to take care of them, the doors of the convent were opened to them, they were given their inheritance and left free to do whatever they pleased.”
They were harsh times.
Juliette is sensitive to the pleasures of freedom, while Justine, with her serious and melancholy nature, is aware of the full horror of her situation. Juliette intends to use her pretty face and beautiful figure to her advantage and become a great lady. Justine is horrified by the course her elder sister intends to take and the two go their separate ways.
The story is told at an inn by “Therese” (the name that Justine adopts for the purpose of the narrative) to Madame de Lorsagne (who is actually Justine’s elder sister Juliette. They do not recognise each other) There is irony, in that Juliette,who went briefly for a life of vice, is now in a better position to do good than Justine, who refused to make concessions and so is plunged further into vice.
Justine’s tale begins. On departing from the Convent and leaving her sister, Justine goes to the house of her mother’s dressmaker and asks to be taken in. She is turned away.
A tearful Justine goes to see her priest. De Sade describes her beauty. A perfect picture of innocence.
“..she was wearing a little white close fitting dress, her beautiful hair carelessly tucked beneath a large bonnet. Her bosom could just be discerned, hidden beneath a few ells of gauze, her pretty complexion a little pale owing to the troubles that weighed upon her. Her eyes welled with tears, making them even more expressive..”
The priest does not have Christ, the Holy Spirit or the Our Father on his mind. He drools over the pretty girl.
“God’s spokesman slipped his hand into her cleavage, kissing her in a manner far too worldly for a man of the church.”
When Justine rebuffs him, he throws her out.
In prerevolutionary France, the Church is corrupt and the rich and powerful can get away with more or less anything; Justine’s ideas on how to live a decent and good life are hopelessly out of time. Her tale follows an odyssey of misadventure as she moves from place to place, determined to lead a good and honest life, but encountering abuse after abuse. Always, she is taken in and promptly imprisoned. She takes refuge in a monastery, hoping to claim sanctuary and it is in the Holy place, inhabited by Holy men that she is degraded, abused and defiled to a hideous extreme; all described in explicit detail. She is witness to, and has inflicted on her, every sexual depravity you can think of. Child sex, rape, sodomy, coprophilia, endless whippings, orgies and multiple partners. Every encounter follows the same pattern, followed by an exercise in, quite remarkable, lengthy sophistry as the lecher explains his own version of the Libertine’s credo with passionate intensity and the certainty of experience. This is in contrast to Justine’s assertions of Christian principles which are expressed pathetically in the moment, stubbornly, and with the certainty of blind faith.
So what does de Sade’s novel offer BDSM today? Does what de Sade describe have any relevance to BDSM as we know it in 2013? Probably not. The world is a very different place, we have different values and different ways of understanding.
I wasn’t expecting to find fun in de Sade’s work, neither was I expecting to find anything like joy, there is certainly no sense of playfulness in any of the sexual acts that he describes. What he does do, I think, is to touch on many common fantasies such as the need for pain, inflicted or inflicting that brings to the foreground the means for some of us to celebrate our sexuality.
Is de Sade onto something when he talks about pain and pleasure? He wouldn’t have known about endorphins; the mysterious little opioid peptides released by the pituitary gland at times of great excitement, pain, stress and orgasm. We only know about that sort of stuff because of 20th century research methods.
A friend, whose sexual orientation is submissive, tells me that the rush of endorphins, when the pain of a whipping is almost too much to bear, is almost exquisite. “Better than morphine…”
Freud wrote about the pain pleasure principle. He understood that ‘something’ happened, he just wasn’t sure what…
“When pleasure and pain occur together, a certain amount of confusion may occur, which itself may be pleasant or painful and hence determine what happens. Simultaneous pain and pleasure is a basis for masochism.”
In The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, Angela Carter suggests that de Sade is perhaps the first writer, and in this respect he is surprisingly modern, to see women as more than mere breeding machines, as more than just our biology.
And that, I think, is liberating.
Perhaps we are wrong to take de Sade so seriously? Is he actually talking about an achievable, or even desirable philosophy? de Sade didn’t just write about sex; he had very serious things to say about life, oppression, equality and power. But he said them in such an uncompromising, aggressive way, laughingly indulging himself in his most extreme fantasies and perversions that we recoil in horror. His particular proclivities have a place in his argument and his refusal to excise them, using them and himself as examples, shows, I think, that he is not lacking in integrity.
Still I’m not happy. Let me just throw this in; something to contemplate. I haven’t looked at intent. What is de Sade trying to achieve with his pen? Is he just a dirty old pervert, masturbating into our faces sniggering and sneering at our self-righteous disgust? Or is he laughing at our naiivity, our inability to see through what could be considered a sophisticated piece of satire?
We are so busy being shocked, we miss the point.
It is neither inappropriate nor inconceivable to interpret de Sade’s work as a biting parody in the same tradition as the satirist Jonathan Swift, or the great satirists of today. How many times have you watched (the show that keeps me sane) South Park, with your gut clenching, cringing, as you wonder how the writers dare put such corrupt words into the mouths of children? Nothing is sacred in the hands of Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Even the Sacred are a target. God, Satan, Christ, the Virgin Mary. As is the President, sex, age, sexual orientation, social media, popular culture, child abuse, paedophilia. Nothing is off limits: make up your own list from these scatological writers. With wonderful belly aching laugh out loud hilarity, they prick the bubble of pomposity of anyone who takes him, or herself too seriously; no one is exempt. No one escapes.
We know that it’s funny; we give ourselves permission to laugh as Cartman directs yet another totally anti-Semitic ranting tirade at his Jewish friend Kyle. The writers put into the child, Cartman’s mouth, all of the old nonsense of why it’s right to hate the Jews. There is even an episode where Cartman talks enthusiastically and chillingly about “his final solution.” The Nazi euphemism for the total annihilation of the Jewish people.
Is de Sade’s work a brilliant, way ahead of his time, piece of satire? Or is it gratuitous porn; porn for porn’s sake?
You know what? I still really don’t know!
Friday, 2 June 2017
It seems a strange notion; a link between sex and death. I think most people would agree, that life's greatest drives are to reproduce and to avoid death. The Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the French social theorist Michel Foucault argued that the two are fused, that the death instinct pervades sexual activity. I’m not sure whom came up with the idea; Eros and Thanatos, Freud or Foucault, but that is the term generally used to demonstrate the concept. Sex and death are inextricably linked.
Our lives seem to be governed by polar opposites. I think it is helpful to think of Thanatos (death) in these terms suggested by Doctor Stephen Farrier.
“But Thanatos (death) is often overlooked. I think of it as the desire for zero excitation - total non desire (which of course is death)."
And, of course, the French have given us the concept of “La petite mort”; “the little death.” A wonderful metaphor for the orgasm.”
In the Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying, the writer suggests that;
“…with the AIDS epidemic their (Freud and Foucault’s) view has become particularly poignant. A 1992 study from Amsterdam, for instance, found that about one in six U.S. soldiers surveyed said that sex without condoms was worth the risk of getting the AIDS virus. A year later a story released by Planned Parenthood counsellor offices in San Antonio, Texas, explained how teenage girls were demonstrating their toughness by having unprotected sex with an HIV-infected gang member. It seems that, for some, sexual desire is intensified in the presence of taboos and boundaries, even deadly ones."
On television, I heard Stephen Fry tell the tale of a young, gay man, being “gifted”. He had anal sex with as many HIV positive men in one night as he could; hoping to get the virus.
Are human beings inexorably drawn to what can damage, or even kill them? Is there really a pleasure in dicing with death?
The Encyclopaedia of Death and Dying again;
“Attempts to enhance one's sexual experiences can be deadly as well. In 1998 the Food and Drug Administration reported the deaths of several men taking the highly popular Viagra impotence pill. Each year, attempts at sexual self-gratification accidentally kill between 500 and 1,000 individuals, predominantly men, because of autoerotic asphyxia. To heighten their sexual orgasm during masturbation, these individuals cut off the supply of oxygen and blood to their head, often by tying a belt or rope around their neck. Consciousness may be lost, and the individual dies by strangulation.”
It seems that the sex drive and the death drive are powerful forces. But hang on a minute, we don’t all take dangerous risks, do we? Surely, most of us live quite sedentary lives. Sometimes life has a way of tripping us up. Someone lets us down, badly. Love may be unrequited. Our own bodies might betray us.
From the web:
“To be betrayed feels like surrendering to a painful process of death, like being forced to experience the pain of abandonment and loss. Each death, however, seems to be a “sacred” process of transferring to new forms of existence. As Carl Jung reminds, the development of personality almost always passes from a deathly sacrifice, and if we manage to process the experience of betrayal and mourning, the result may be transformation.
Betrayal might seem abhorrent to our conscience. Nevertheless, without maturation deriving from the experience of betrayal, we remain trapped in the unconscious, repeated questing of a merger with another person. We remain out of the mystery of life forever. If we never change direction, we refuse to undertake the responsibility of existence as unique and separate entity, because the repetition of the miraculous discovery of the ego, according to Jung, is possible only if rupture takes place in its temporal consistency and in its beliefs.”
In other words, we have to allow ourselves to experience rupture in order to mature and grow. If we don’t, we remain as children for ever.
The Eros/Thanatos equation has not been unnoticed by Artists.
Aubrey Beardsley’s ink drawing of Salome, conveys the pivotal moment of the Biblical tale in all its gruesome detail. In a rapture that is indecent in its intensity, Salome gazes at John’s severed head with glutinous glee. Beardsley’s line is perfection. Over a blank white paper he gives us a story that is grotesque, weird, macabre, sinister, in a perverse and playfully theatrical style. Salome clutches at John’s decapitated head, as if she is about to devour it. Beardsley has conveyed the tale in all its erotic glory. Salome is sex personified: John’s death is down to her lust. The viewer is repulsed, feeling that Salome is about to burst with terrible laughter.
Here is the story of Salome from the Bible. Mark 6:21-29:
“And when a convenient day was come, that Herod on his birthday made a supper to his lords, high captains, and chief estates of Galilee; And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom. And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist.
And she came in straightway with haste unto the king, and asked, saying, I will that thou give me by and by in a charger the head of John the Baptist. And
the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath's sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her. And immediately the king sent an executioner, and commanded his head to be brought: and he went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head in a charger, and gave it to the damsel: and the damsel gave it to her mother.
And when his disciples heard of it, they came and took up his corpse, and laid it in a tomb.”
The Belgian artist, Antoine Joseph Wiertz painted a confrontation of Beauty and Death, Deux jeunes filles—La Belle Rosine in 1847. You can see it at the Musée Wiertz, Brussels.
It’s a hauntingly beautiful painting. A lovely, almost naked, nubile young woman stands before a skeleton. The young woman is not daunted by this presentation. Is it a confrontation, or is there a narrative of which the viewer is unaware? I don’t know any stories in mythology that this could have been drawn from; Wiertz is weaving a tale, but I don’t know how to read it. I have the feeling that there is more to this painting than meets the eye. Wiertz’ pictorial language is enigmatic, perhaps hinting at the Surrealist movement that was not to show its face until the following century.
Dissatisfied with the shiny effect of oil painting, Wiertz developed a new technique combining the smoothness of oil painting with the speed of execution and the dullness of painting in fresco. He has used this to effect, in this painting. It gives the work a sombre feel, even ominous. Something is about to happen to disturb the woman’s quiet contemplation. Her head is very slightly tilted, as if acknowledging the skeleton. She could be looking into a mirror, maybe admiring what she will one day become. You would expect her to recoil, yet there is no horror in the young woman’s face, there is even a hint of a small smile.
The Pre-Raphaelite painter, John Everett Millais, gives us the doomed maiden, “Ophelia.” Millais painted the picture in 1852; you can see it in the Tate Gallery, London.
Franny Moyle talks about the painting. “The model is dressed up in Shakespearean reference, it is nevertheless the depiction of a woman committing suicide and an exploration of female sexuality. Ophelia is ecstatic at the moment her life expires. The sexual charge in the picture is heightened by the abundant, competing natural world of the river bank that, portrayed with almost photographic faithfulness, surrounds this woman not only resigned to but aroused by her fate. The depiction of an offering to a greater natural order.
Franny Moyle commentating again. "The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse, draws from Tennyson’s poem, a mythical lady, cursed never to look out of her window, chooses to sacrifice her life for a glimpse of Lancelot and then float to Camelot in a barge to face her doom.
In an allegory of sexual longing and capitulation, Waterhouse freezes Tennyson’s story at the moment the lady is about to release the chain that ties her barge. And so he anticipates the abandonment of the rational self to subconscious sexual impulses."
I think that “The Lady of Shalott,” is also at the Tate Gallery, London.
The encyclopaedia of Death and Dying.
“In a 1992 book, Camille Paglia claimed that it was in the West that sex, violence, and aggression are major motivations for artistic creativity and human relationships. There is little doubt that these are qualities of audience appeal. Hollywood has long known of the attractions to the erotic and the violent, which is why 60 percent of R-rated movies and nearly half of X-rated movies contain violence. The long-term success of the James Bond movie series derives from its fusion of sex and death.
"According to Geoffrey Gorer, such seductions derive from cultural pruderies to matters of sex and death. William May observed that as sex becomes pornographic when divorced from its natural human emotions of love and affection, so death becomes pornographic when divorced from its natural emotion, which is grief. Perhaps the pornographic connotation is why designer Christian Dior chose in the 1990s to label one of his perfumes "Poison."”
Thanks to Jan Vander Laenen, Fulani and Doctor Stephen Farrier, for helping me put this essay together. And, of course, sources from the Web.
Saturday, 20 May 2017
“The number of women prosecuted for domestic violence rose from 1,575 in 2004-05 to 4,266 in 2008-09. "Both men and women can be victims and we know that men feel under immense pressure to keep up the pretence that everything is OK," said Alex Neil, the housing and communities minister in the Scottish parliament. "Domestic abuse against a man is just as abhorrent as when a woman is the victim.”
Denis Campbell The Observer, Sunday 5 September 2010
I am not going to go into detail about violent stuff inflicted on guys by women. Most of it is too horrible to think and write about. There is plenty of stuff online if you care to search.
If you share a pint with a mate at the match and he turns up with a black eye, would you automatically believe it if he said he walked into a door?
Look across your row before kick-off. One in five men are a victim of domestic abuse at some stage in their life.
A lot of men suffer in silence, fearing pals will laugh. Most domestic violence help is for women but there are confidential help-lines for men.
“If you are a victim and in danger, the advice given is leave if you can and call police, who have officers trained to help.
Don’t retaliate physically or verbally — you may end up arrested. Keep a diary of incidents and photos of injuries. If kids are involved, seek council help.”
And it isn’t just physical violence. Many men suffer screaming, shouting or controlling behaviour from partners. This can, and I am sure in some cases, go on for years. A woman embarrasses her partner in front of their friends. It might be something that is deeply personal -- his sexual prowess. His habits in the bedroom. Even his habits in the bathroom. It doesn‘t matter what his hobbies are; she will be scornful about those as well. The ring of laughter in his ears humiliates him into silence. Perhaps later, when they are alone, he complains.
“But I was only joking!” he is told. “Can’t you take a joke?”
Or she might say; “I was only being honest!”
It isn’t joking. It isn’t being honest. It’s bullying. If he persists, or complains another time, he is told that he is “whiny, wimpy, uptight, insane, paranoid.”
Any word will do, as long as it demeans, cuts deep, makes him feel less of a human being.
We hear so much about female domestic violence, it seems only fair to redress the balance.
It happens in the pub, on a night out with friends. If the two work for the same company, it may happen in the workplace. It is hardly a surprise that it even happens online, on Facebook! The absolute, venomous control and humiliation is there -- for the whole world to laugh and sneer at.
Here are the details of one help line in the UK. If you search online, there are many more.
The Men's Advice Line is a confidential helpline for male victims of domestic violence and abuse.
We welcome calls from all men - in heterosexual or same-sex relationships.
The Men's Advice Line offers emotional support, practical advice and information on a wide range of services for further help and support.
Our focus is to increase the safety of men experiencing domestic violence (and the safety of their children) and reduce the risk.
0808 801 0327 - free from landlines and mobile phones.
Friday, 5 May 2017
It was the first notorious killing of the twentieth century. July 1910 Britain was gripped by the progress of a huge manhunt. It was on a scale that hadn’t been seen since Jack the Ripper.
The fugitive was Doctor Hawley Harvey Crippen and he was wanted for the murder and mutilation of his wife Cora. Together with his mistress, Ethel le Neve, Doctor Crippen had fled from London. Handbills had been printed and pasted everywhere and distributed to police around the world. Everyone was talking about this case.
The Home Secretary, a certain Winston Churchill had organised a reward of £250, worth £20,000 in today’s money for their capture.
So where were Doctor Crippen and his lover Ethel le Neve? In fact, they had already left the country and were holed up in a hotel in Belgium. They had plans to leave for North America.
Henry Kendal was the captain of a steamship heading across the Atlantic to Canada. But two of his passengers had aroused his suspicions. The SS Montrose had only been at sea for one day when Captain Kendal noticed a father and son behaving strangely on deck. He thought it was very odd that they squeezed each other’s hands immoderately, as he put it, and that they would sometimes disappear behind the lifeboats. The two of them were travelling as Mr and Master Robinson.
What happened next was just like a detective novel, with the Captain playing the part of Sherlock Holmes. Captain Kendal decided to carry out an experiment to try and confirm his suspicions that he had Doctor Crippen on board. He took a newspaper photograph of Doctor Crippen and using chalk he whitened out the Doctor’s moustache and then blackened out the frames of his spectacles and it was a photo fit. Without his moustache and spectacles, the mysterious Mr Robinson was clearly Doctor Crippen.
Captain Kendal had access to a pioneering piece of technology that would speed up the process of twentieth-century crime investigation. It was the Marconi wireless, but the transmitter only had a range of 150 miles. When Captain Kendal made his breakthrough he was already 130 miles from the nearest receiver; he had 20 miles left to get the message out. Rushing along the lower deck to the wireless room he handed the wireless operator the message that would electrify the world.
“Have strong suspicions that Crippen the London cellar murderer and accomplice are amongst the passengers. Accomplice dressed as a boy but with voice manners and build undoubtedly a girl.”
But would the message get through in time?
So what exactly were the events that had led up to this extraordinary situation?
Doctor Crippen, an American, who dabbled in cheap patent medicines and dentistry had been living what seemed a pretty conventional life in a North London villa. His wife, Cora, was a would be music hall artiste. But the marriage was troubled and Crippen had begun an affair with his young secretary, Ethel le Neve. On the 19th January 1910, Crippen visited a chemist to purchase five grains of hydrobromide of hyoscine; an enormous dosage of a deadly poison. He signed the poison book like he was supposed to, with the words “for homoeopathic purposes.”
On the 31st January, the Crippens held a little party at home. Later, Crippen would claim that it had been followed by a terrible quarrel between him and his wife. Cora had said that she was leaving him the very next day. Whatever really happened that night the guests at that party were the last people to see Cora Crippen alive. To explain Cora’s absence Crippen claimed that she had gone back to America and then he later said that she had died out there. Very suspicious Cora’s friends now paid a visit to New Scotland Yard. The case was taken up by Detective Chief Inspector Walter Dew, a veteran of the Ripper murders. He was a member of the Yard’s newly formed “murder squad”. Its members prided themselves on their prowess and their skills in disguises – however unconvincing. Chief Inspector Dew searched Crippen’s house for evidence but found nothing. But he wasn’t quite satisfied. He went back three days later for another look and discovered that Crippen had disappeared. “My quarry has gone,” he said.
Crippen’s house, where a block of flats now stands held a strange attraction for Dew. “That sinister cellar,” he wrote, “draws me to it.” His sergeant began to work away at the brick floor, then to remove the earth beneath. There was a nauseating stench and Dew and his men had to rush out to the garden for fresh air. Fortifying themselves with brandy, they returned to the cellar and soon made a grim discovery. There, in a shallow grave, lay a limbless headless torso. What kind of person could have done this? Surely not gentle Doctor Crippen?
The story caused a frenzy of excitement, with lurid headlines in the popular press. Inspector Dew was now under enormous pressure to catch the killer.
And then, that sensational telegram arrived from the mid-Atlantic.
Chief Inspector Dew now hatched an ingenious plan – he had to take a faster ship to overtake the Montrose before it reached Canada and to arrest Crippen on board. And the press were hard on his heels. Word had leaked out about what was happening on the SS Montrose. Newspaper readers could follow Dew’s pursuit as he closed in on his suspects at the rate of three and a half miles an hour.
This story has it all. As well as a gruesome murder, there is an illicit romance and a chase across the Atlantic. And best of all, the suspects didn’t have a clue that the police were onto them, although every newspaper reader in Britain did. Doctor Crippen had become the most famous murderer in the world.
Dew attempted to evade the journalists by disguising himself as a harbour pilot in order to board the Montrose. But it was no good. Reporters were there to capture the moment when Dew finally greeted his suspect with the words; “Good morning Doctor Crippen.” Can you imagine an actor and director lingering over that line – the pace, the dramatic pause?
Press photographers caught everything that happened next. The crowds waiting at Liverpool docks. Dew escorting Crippen off the boat. The anticipation outside Bow Streets magistrate’s court for the committal of Crippen and Le Neve.
The press had made the couple into a highly marketable commodity. This was a very modern murder.
Bizarre offers now began to come in. If they were acquitted Crippen would get £1000 a week for a twenty week tour. le Neve would receive £200 a week for a performance including a musical sketch entitled “Caught by Wireless.”
On the 18th of October, the trial of Doctor Crippen began at the Old Bailey. This was going to be a huge spectacle. Four thousand people applied for tickets, the court had to issue special half day passes so that double the normal numbers could get in. In the words of the Daily Mail’s reporter;
“…the crowds begged, pleaded and argued for seats in the public gallery.”
Inside there was even more chaos. There was a rowdy atmosphere, like a music hall. People were shouting ‘blue tickets that way, red tickets up here.”
The trial ended on Saturday the 22nd of October. The jury only took twenty-seven minutes to find Crippen guilty of wilful murder. He was sentenced to death.
In his evidence on oath, Crippen said that his wife had often threatened to leave him and had picked a quarrel with him over his behaviour while they were having friends round for dinner. Recounting the last time he saw her, he said:
She abused me, and said some very strong things; she said that if I could not be a gentleman she had had enough of it and could not stand it any longer and she was going to leave. That was similar to her former threats, but she said besides something she had not said before; she said that after she had gone it would be necessary for me to cover up any scandal there might be by her leaving me, and I might do it in the very best way I could. I came back the next day at my usual time, which would be about half-past seven or eight o'clock, and found that the house was vacant.
The trial ended on Saturday the 22nd of October. The jury only took twenty seven minutes to find Crippen guilty of wilful murder. He was sentenced to death.
The jury took just 27 minutes to reject Crippen's explanations for his wife's disappearance and convict him of murder.
Crippen was executed on 23 November 1910, less than four months after his arrest. His last request was to have a photo of Ethel Le Neve in his top pocket when he was hanged. He was buried in the cemetery at Pentonville prison.
Ethel le Neve, at a separate trial, was acquitted and she lost no time in selling her side of the story. A publicity shot shows her in her infamous disguise as a boy. But her fame was short-lived. It was Crippen himself that would be immortalised. Even during his trial sculptors at Madame Tussaud's had been preparing a wax figure based on those snatched court photographs. Within days of the passing of Crippen’s death sentence, Taussaud’s unveiled their new addition to the chamber of horrors. Crippen was on display to the public before he’d even met the hangman.
And over one hundred years later he is still on show.
In the 1912 catalogue to the Chamber of Horrors he takes his place amongst the greats. His fellow doctor, William Palmer the poisoner. And opposite the 19th century murderess, Maria Manning. They have a description of their crimes in the catalogue. Doctor Crippen has none. Everyone knows who he is; what he did.
And a contemporary journalist described this place, the Chamber of Horrors as “the holiest of holies.” These were the people everyone wanted to see. What does that say about the Edwardians?
Indeed; what does it say about all of us? Public hangings are no more; but I bet people would go to see them if they were. I recall watching the Crime channel (I’m addicted to it. It’s my version of a seat in the public gallery at the Old Bailey) there were crowds outside the jail where they’d got Ted Bundy. They cheered when it was announced that his death sentence had been carried out.
It seems that a lurid fascination with murderers and death did not die with the Edwardians.
You can read statements taken by the police and transcripts from the trial here; http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=def1-75-19101011&div=t19101011-75
TV viewers of BBC 4 will recognise that I have plundered parts of “A Very British Murder” presented by Lucy Worsley. The rest of the post has been put together using sources from the web.