Friday, 29 March 2013
There’s something strangely alluring about the sight of a strong man in ropes and chains, struggling to be free of his bonds. Well, I think so, anyway. All that muscle, straining. His sweat making the bonds slippery, ever tighter. The struggle is hopeless; he sees defeat staring him in the face and still he is spirited enough to fight on.
You’ve only got to type in the word ’bondage’ into any search engine, to be overwhelmed with images, and stories, of men and women, bound and helpless. Mostly, it’s consensual, at least I hope it is. A little piece of BDSM, being acted out by adults involved in a highly charged erotic game.
But bondage is nothing new. The Internet generation cannot claim to have discovered it. Neither can writers of porn and erotica. Bondage is in ancient art and old, old stories.
Laocoon and his sons are bound and helpless by fierce serpents. There’s a statue of Laocoon in his death throes, in the Vatican in Rome. Pliny attributes it to three Rhodian sculptures, Agesander, Athenodoros and Polydorus.
Laocoon’s exotic, erotic punishment is for committing a sacrilegious act; that of procreation in a place holy to the god, Poseidon.
Punishment through bondage, for a sin, real or imagined and often trivial, is the catalyst for many modern bondage stories. A slave forgets to collect his master’s dry cleaning, and is tied to a whipping bar; he is helpless and is whipped. The whipping is secondary; it is the fact that he is bound and helpless, that is the important part of the ritual. In another story, a submissive craves his punishment and will contrive to get it by inventing any misdemeanour. He visits his Mistress in his lunch break and is forced to return to his office, wearing a cock cage beneath his pants. The cage is screwed tightly, pressing painfully against his balls, yet still his cock struggles valiantly for an erection that just cannot happen.
The old stories are even in the Bible. Delilah contrives to discover the secret of Samson’s great strength. This is a man so strong and powerful, he has ripped a lion in two. Eventually, he tells her. His strength is because of his long hair. Delilah tells Samson’s secret to the Philistines, and Samson is shorn of his locks while he sleeps. His strength is gone and Samson is bound and chained. His eyes are put out and Delilah pockets the silver that the Philistines have paid her.
The eroticism, the beauty of bondage, whether in art, or literature give us our images, our stories, our fantasies.
Strength and power are contained, controlled and relinquished. There is beauty in their bonds. The victims suffer in their strength.
This blog post was compiled using sources from the web.
Friday, 22 March 2013
Bernini was the first sculptor to realise the dramatic potential of light in sculpture. This is fully realised in his famous masterpiece Ecstasy of Saint Teresa (1645-1652, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome), in which the sun's rays, coming from an unseen source, illuminate the saint and the smiling angel about to pierce her heart with a golden arrow.
Saint Teresa was a nun who was canonized (made a Saint by the Church) in part because of the spiritual visions she experienced. She lived during the middle of the 16th century in Spain—at the height of the Reformation. Saint Teresa wrote several books in which she described her visions.
Here is Saint Theresa’s description of the event in her own words.
“Beside me, on the left, appeared an angel in bodily form.... He was not tall but short, and very beautiful; and his face was so aflame that he appeared to be one of the highest rank of angels, who seem to be all on fire.... In his hands I saw a great golden spear, and at the iron tip there appeared to be a point of fire. This he plunged into my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he pulled it out I felt that he took them with it, and left me utterly consumed by the great love of God. The pain was so severe that it made me utter several moans. The sweetness caused by this intense pain is so extreme that one cannot possibly wish it to cease, nor is one's soul content with anything but God. This is not a physical but a spiritual pain, though the body has some share in it—even a considerable share.”
To a contemporary viewer, Saint Theresa is a woman on the very verge of tipping over into orgasm bliss. The ecstatic expression of her slightly parted lips; the tightly closed eyes, shutting out superfluous sensation. The angel’s spear, with the flame at the tip. Bernini presents us with a sacred image; it is profane too.
You can see Bernini’s fabulous (fabulous in the truest sense of the word) in the Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome.
Friday, 15 March 2013
Italian, c. 1490 - 1576
Venus with a Mirror, c. 1555
oil on canvas
National Gallery, London
“From the man after whom "masochism" was named comes a sexual fetish novel inspired by the author’s own life.”
Venus with a Mirror, by Titian is the image from which Severin gets the idea of Venus in furs.
“Slavery is a vocation comparable and equal in everyway to any religious calling.”
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836 – 1895) was an Austrian writer and journalist who embraced utopian thinking; socialism and humanism were the ideals that human beings should aim for. Von Sacher-Masoch was born in a province of the Austrian Empire and studied law and history. He became a man of letters and an editor of a progressive magazine. He is best known for writing a series of short stories that expressed his fantasies and fetishes. The term ‘masochism’ was derived from his name by the psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing.
Venus in furs is the best known of his works; it is the only piece of his work to be translated into English. The novella was intended to be part of an epic series that Sacher-Masoch envisioned called Legacy of Cain. Venus in Furs was just one part of “Love”; the first volume of the series. It was published in 1870.
Sacher-Masoch’s novella reads like an instruction manual for Dominants and submissives. The narrative concerns a man who dreams of speaking to Venus about love while the goddess wears furs. The unnamed narrator tells his dreams to a friend, Severin, who tells him how to break his fascination with cruel women by reading a manuscript, Memoirs of a Suprasensual Man.
Severin, the protagonist of the manuscript, is infatuated with Wanda von Dunajew. Wanda is not only beautiful, but wealthy. All that Severin asks of her is that she treats him brutally. He wants to be abused emotionally and physically. Throughout the novella Severin encourages her to treat him in progressively more degrading ways. He is routinely whipped and humiliated.
At first Wanda does not understand or accede to the request, but after humouring Severin, she finds the advantages of the method to be interesting and enthusiastically embraces the idea, although at the same time she disdains Severin for allowing her to do so.
Severin describes his feelings during these experiences as suprasensuality.
Leaving the Carpathian mountains for Florence, Wanda makes Severin dress and act like a common servant, forcing him to sleep in disgusting quarters and keeping him isolated from her company unless needed to serve some whim or another. These changes make Severin feel the palpable reality of his desires. They are a reality that he was in no way prepared for; while he loathes his detestable new position, he finds himself unable to resist, and to keep from requesting new humiliations. At times Wanda offers to put an end to their game, because she still has feelings of affection toward him, but those feelings fade as her mantle of power gives her free rein to use Severin for her increasingly twisted device. In Florence, Wanda recruits a trio of African women to dominate him.
"To be the slave of a woman, a beautiful woman, whom I love, whom I worship - !"
"And who mistreats you for it," Wanda broke in, laughing.
"Yes, who ties me up and whips me, who kicks me when she belong to another man."
The relationship arrives at a crisis when Wanda herself meets a man to whom she would like to submit, a Byronic hero known as Alexis Papadopolis. At the end of the book, Severin, humiliated by Wanda's new lover, loses the desire to submit.
Sacher-Masoch makes it absolutely clear that Severin’s life has no apparent shape or meaning unless he is able to express his desire for a commanding, withholding woman. The electrical charge that Severin feels when he kneels at a woman’s feet, sensing her anger and the bristling of the furs she wears, gives him his identity; a presence to be trampled on.
Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch drew from his own masochistic experience with Baroness Fanny Von Pistor. He agreed to be her slave, and renounce all claim on his own life; she could even kill him if she wished, and this is reflected in Venus in Furs. The "contract" gives Wanda, or "Mistress" free rein to make Severin suffer in a variety of ways; whipping him regularly, kicking him around, starving him, torturing him emotionally. And Severin is in his element. In fact, he begs her to punish him "I want to be your dog". As long as she wears her furs whilst doing it, he is happy and fulfilled.
I enjoyed Venus in Furs. I had to keep reminding myself that it was written in 1869. Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch’s prose style is relaxed and he deals with intense needs and desires in an impersonal, matter of fact manner. Submission was Sacher-Masoch’s own fetish and he voices startlingly modern sentiments. It is a passionate and powerful portrayal of one man's struggle to enlighten and instruct himself, and others in the realm of desire.
As writers of erotica I think that there is a lot we can learn from Sacher-Masoch. He places the darker side of desire unequivocally at the heart of any discussion about sadomasochism. In writing about his own fetish he is stating his position quite clearly. This is what I am; get used to it!
He manages to convey an erotic experience, an erotic journey without a single prick, cock, cum, pussy, cunt, fanny, erection or genitalia. He has a unique sense of imagery; he writes in a visual way which has made the book accessible to stage and film adaptations.
So should I take Sacher-Masoch’s book as literature or as psychology --or as erotica? It doesn’t matter; there’s no question that this book, has left a distinct mark on my own imagination. Highly recommended!
'Venus in Furs' arrived at my home, delivered by mail. A gift from my dear, sweet friend Jan Vander Laenen! Thank you Jan!
Friday, 8 March 2013
Jonathan's Token to David
ARTIST: Lord Frederick Leighton
OWNER: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:United Kingdom
Many gay men believe that Jonathan and David were same sex lovers, based on the way God presents their story in scripture and based on the Hebrew words used to describe their relationship.
Some gay men and many non gays disagree, insisting that the florid language and men kissing men is typical Middle Eastern behaviour, and in no way indicates a homosexual relationship.
Non gays allege that the Bible strictly forbids all homosexual activity therefore Jonathan and David could not be gay. The reasoning is that if they were gay lovers, God would not laud their partnership in such positive fashion.
Gay Christian 101
It’s a simple enough story, the tale of David and Jonathan, yet a debate arises, as to whether the two guys were simply friends, or whether they were lovers. It’s a pretty intense relationship, whatever way you look at it. I loved the story when I was a child, these two handsome, noble men, swearing undying love for one another, despite the disapproval of Jonathan’s father, Saul.
I didn’t understand, as a child what it is that Saul is objecting to. I thought he was just jealous. Now, I do understand and I think when Saul loses it and throws a spear at Jonathan his son, well, it suddenly becomes clear.
In the King James Bible 1769. I Samuel. Chapter 20. V.30 we are told;
“Then Saul’s anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do I not know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse (David) to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother’s nakedness?”
The reference to the nakedness of one's parents is one of the methods used in the Bible to refer to a sexual relationship. Jonathan had chosen David as his lover.
When guys get naked together, stuff happens!
Here is a 1976 translation of the same passage in the “Good News Bible.
“Saul was furious with Jonathan and said to him, “how rebellious and faithless your mother was! Now I know that you are taking sides with David and are disgracing yourself and that mother of yours!”
It takes away the impact, doesn’t it?
This passage in the Good News Bible, is diluted to the extent you wonder if the translator is talking about the same event. Is the translator trying to manipulate the idea away from physical love, turning what can be seen as a clear case of the passion shared by David and Jonathan in the 1769 translation? He turns the relationship into something watery. They were friends and that is that. And if that is so, what is there for Saul to object to? Is he simply throwing a hissy fit, because Jonathan has misplaced loyalties?
The Good News translation, changes the point of view; here, Saul seems simply piqued, as opposed to livid.
Saul’s anger is reflective of the particularly vile passage in Leviticus, outlying correct behaviour.
In the King James version, Leviticus 18.22 is translated. “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”
All of the various translations agree with that sentiment.
But there is definitely something going on here that makes the later translators uncomfortable. This passage in 1 Samuel. Chapter 18 v1 of the King James Bible 1769 tells us;
“And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.”
And it continues in v4. “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.”
The extract is highly erotic. It could be interpreted that Jonathan is not only disrobing, but is turning the symbols of his manhood over to David.
This clarifies Saul's problem. One of the most important duties of being a king was producing an heir. Obviously, Jonathan had no intention of producing an heir, and therefore could not provide the final step needed to make good his claim to the kingship. He loved David and only David.
The same passage in the Good News Bible 1992, is translated thus;
“Saul and David finished their conversation. After that, Saul's son Jonathan was deeply attracted to David and came to love him as much as he loved himself.” 1992 Good News Bible.
There we go again, they were just good friends.
“And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.” - 1769 King James Bible.
And in the Good News Bible.
“Once again Jonathan made David promise to love him, for Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself.”
In 1 Samuel. Chapter 20.v42 the King James Bible says;
“David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.
And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he arose and departed: and Jonathan went into the city.”
Here is the same part of the narrative in the Good News Bible.
“ David got up from behind the pile of stones, fell on his knees and bowed with his face to the ground three times. Both he and Jonathan were crying as they kissed each other; David's grief was even greater than Jonathan's. Then Jonathan said to David,
God be with you. The Lord will make sure that you and I, and your descendants and mine, will forever keep the sacred promise we have made to each other. Then David left, and Jonathan went back to the town.”
As Saul continues to pursue David, the pair renew their covenant, after which they do not meet again. Eventually Saul and David reconcile. Jonathan, however, is slain on Mt. Gilboa along with his two brothers Abinadab and Malchi-shua, and there Saul commits suicide. David learns of Saul and Jonathan's death and chants a lament, which in part says:
Saul and Jonathan, beloved and pleasant in their life, And in their death they were not parted; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions... "How have the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan is slain on your high places. "I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me. Your love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women. "How have the mighty fallen, And the weapons of war perished!"
2 Samuel. Chapter 1. V25 -27 New American Standard Bible.
David’s lament comes right out with it; “Your love to me was more wonderful Than the love of women.”
“The traditional and mainstream religious interpretation of the relationship has been one of platonic love and an example of homosociality. Some later Medieval and Renaissance literature drew upon the story to underline strong personal friendships between men, some of which involved romantic love. In modern times, some scholars, writers, as well as activists have emphasized what they interpret as elements of homoeroticism (chaste or otherwise) in the story. WIKI
“But some modern scholars and writers have interpreted the love between David and Jonathan as more intimate than platonic friendship. This interpretation views the bonds the men shared as romantic love, regardless of whether or not the relationship was physically consummated. Jonathan and David cared deeply about each other in a way that was arguably more tender and intimate than a platonic friendship.
David's praise in 2 Samuel 1:26 for Jonathan's 'love' (for him) over the 'love' of women is considered evidence for same-sex attraction, along with Saul's exclamation to his son at the dinner table, "I know you have chosen the son of Jesse - which is a disgrace to yourself and the nakedness of your mother!" The "choosing" (bahar) may indicate a permanent choice and firm relationship, and the mention of "nakedness" (erwa) could be interpreted to convey a negative sexual nuance, giving the impression that Saul saw something indecent in Jonathan's and David's relationship.
Some also point out that the relationship between the two men is addressed with the same words and emphasis as other love relationships in the Hebrew Testament, whether heterosexual or between God and people:
When they are alone together, David confides that he has "found grace in Jonathan's eyes", a phrase, proponents say, normally refers to romantic or physical attraction. Throughout the passages, David and Jonathan consistently affirm and reaffirm their love and devotion to each other, and Jonathan is willing to betray his father, family, wealth, and traditions for David.” WIKI
The debate often surfaces. It is surprising to me that the case of David and Jonathan is so little discussed. Whenever there is a heated discussion about whether or not God loves homosexuals, the passage from Leviticus Chapter 18. v 22 is always quoted. With Leviticus, the language has simply been brought up to date. The contemporary ear can be in no doubt about what is heard, just as the people did who heard the message long ago.
“No man is to have sexual relations with another man. God hates that.” The Good News Bible
Here’s a reminder of what it says in the King James Bible.
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”
Whether it’s “hate” or “abomination” the sentiment hasn’t changed.
Concerning David and Jonathan, it seems to me that the translators of the Bible have a lot to answer for. The sentiment has definitely changed.
“We do not control language, it controls us.” I’ve used that quote from Jacques Lacan before. We mess with words, and they have a way of biting us in the foot, or any other extremity. How ironic it would be if language were to have the opposite effect to the effect that the Biblical Scholars were intending.
There’s an opportunity with David and Jonathan’s narrative to see homosexuality in a positive light. But that can’t be allowed to happen.
It is almost as if a slow realisation dawns, as the centuries pass, of what is really going on here. The Bible, which many believe is God’s word, is telling us that David and Jonathan were lovers. Really? They had sex!! Gosh! As I said, when guys get naked together -- stuff happens! The translators don’t exactly change the narrative, they turn it into something different, they make it uninteresting, and in doing so, they take away its power.
What is it that the Biblical authorities of all denominations are so afraid of? Perhaps because David and Jonathan’s narrative gives gay men, particularly, young gay men a positive role model. There is no way that the authorities want to lose their power. The power to condemn. The story gives young gay men the awareness, and a power to stop feeling fear, guilt and shame, because of their sexual orientation.
And that would never do. The Biblical translators really are a piece of work and they want gay men filled with self loathing and repelled by their desires. They want them contrite and eager to be reconciled to Biblical teachings. They can be redeemed by obeying God’s word in Leviticus.
I think that the thought processes must have gone something like this.
Something has to be done -- after all David became a powerful King of Israel. The Bible tells us of how much God loved David. Jesus was David’s descendant. Jesus’ earthly father, Joseph, was of the House of David. There is no way that the authorities can hear it said that Jesus was descended from a homosexual/bisexual. So the translators water the language down. The words lose their impact. The language used really has taken away the story’s power. And in doing that, they have taken away the essence, the heart of the story too. The beautiful, and yes, erotically charged, love story of David and Jonathan has lost its poetry.
I wish that I could read David and Jonathan’s story in the original Hebrew. I think that must be the language it was written in. Or would it have been an even more ancient language; Sumerian perhaps?
I have a feeling that my emotions would take me over. I would tremble and weep.
This blog post has been compiled using sources from the web.
Friday, 1 March 2013
I watched the 2011 film “Hysteria” a few days ago. Directed by Tanya Wexler and set at the end of the 19th century the film depicts the management of “hysteria,” a then popular diagnosis of women displaying an array of symptoms including nervousness, insomnia, exhaustion, depression, cramps, and sexual frustration. It’s an atmospheric film, evoking images of Victorian London; it is also a romantic comedy. The humour comes from the way in which upper class women were treated for hysteria, both from the female’s point of view and the young Dr Granville’s technique for masturbating them.
Medical practitioners of the day tried to manage hysteria by massaging the genital area, decently covered under a curtain, to elicit "paroxysmal convulsions", without recognizing that they were inducing orgasms. In the film, the young physician Dr. Mortimer Granville gets a job helping Dr. Dalrymple, who runs a successful practice treating women.
Granville seems to be good at massaging, getting a sizeable following, while at the same time developing a liking for the Dalrymple's very proper Victorian daughter, Emily Dalrymple. As the practice prospers, Dr. Dalrymple proposes marriage between Emily and Granville; in the meantime, Granville finds himself assisting Dalrymple's other daughter, Charlotte, a premodern feminist firebrand who runs a settlement house in a poor section of London.
Dalrymple forbids Granville from offering any future assistance to Charlotte, hoping to dissuade her from her work in the slums. Meanwhile, the increased clientele at the practice is hard on Granville, and his hand musculature is unable to keep up with the task. In terms that we, today understand, he has repetitive stress syndrome. This leads to dissatisfaction among the patients and his dismissal by Dalrymple.
Fortunately, his friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe has developed an electrical feather duster, and its vibrations give Dr. Granville the idea to modify the gadget for use as an electric massager.
As such, the vibrator enters the stage as a medical device for the treatment of the condition, reducing treatment time while greatly increasing customer satisfaction. The royalties from its sale result in independent wealth for Granville, who has since fallen in love with Charlotte. Pledging to use some of his wealth to establish a clinic at her settlement house, he proposes marriage to Charlotte and she accepts.
As with anything to do with the Victorian era, the contrast between rich and poor is apparent. The wealthy, upper and middle class ladies, can have their sexuality fulfilled. The poor women, whom Charlotte endeavours to help, rely on charity for their most basic medical needs.
In the 19th century, masturbation was seen as deviant behaviour, and as even more inappropriate for women than for men, since women were believed (and taught) to be free from any form of sexual desire. Some physicians treated "female hysteria" -- symptomized by insomnia, irritability, nervousness, or "excessive moisture inside the vagina" -- with what was termed "medicinal massage", inserting a finger and gently rubbing the woman's genitalia. This led to "paroxysm", a sudden outburst in the patient which doctors (being men) believed was not orgasm, since women were thought incapable of orgasm. "Physician-assisted paroxysm" became popular among patients, but for doctors it led to pained, sore fingers and wrists. Sometimes taking anything up to an hour for the female patient to achieve the desired result. Regardless of Dr Granville's intent and protestations, his device was soon adopted for the task, allowing treatment which had taken as long as an hour (and often failed) to instead be completed in mere minutes (and virtually always successfully).
At the height of his worldwide fame, Sigmund Freud sought to discredit medical masturbation, but by then many women viewed doctors as an unnecessary intermediary. Vibrators were soon offered in the Sears Roebuck catalogue, but with the advent of motion pictures came pornographic films, and when men realized how these machines were being used by women, vibrators were withdrawn from ordinary commercial distribution and even outlawed in many areas.
In 1952, more than half a century after Dr Granville's death, the American Psychiatric Association concluded that female hysteria was a myth, not a disease. The sale of vibrators for sexual purposes remains illegal in many nations, and in the American states of Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia. In 2007 the US Supreme Court declined to hear a case questioning the Constitutionality of such prohibitions, leaving these laws in effect.
This blog post was compiled using sources from the Web.