Monthly Archives: May 2007

Academic Fetish: Dirt and Imperial Leather

Wife and servant are the same, but only differ in the name. – Lady Chudleigh

I’ve literally been meaning to write about this book for years — like since I first read it in a seminar in 1997.  Although I’ve read lots of pretty kinky literature in classes, including Venus in Furs, this is one of the most interesting books on fetishes I’ve ever read.   It’s called Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest by academic Anne McClintock.

imperial-leather1What makes this book such a delight to the fetish reader?  Not its prose, which isn’t as hard to get through as Foucault, but is definitely of the post-modern, post-colonial critical style.  This isn’t meant as a complaint by the way, but more by way of a warning that you probably won’t want to buy this for pleasure reading unless you tend to read academic texts more generally.

imperial-leather2There’s a lot of good stuff in the book on issues of race and fetish as well as images of imperialism in 19th century popular culture.  But it’s Chapter 3: Race, Cross Dressing and the Cult of Domesticity that makes for the most amazing reading.   It’s an account of the secret marriage of upper class, Cambridge graduate and barrister, Arthur Munby and serving woman Hannah Cullwick whom he met on the street.  They had a secret romance and marriage (facts Arthur only revealed to his family a few weeks before his death) based, in part, on Munby’s fetishization of their class differences and her status as his “slave” (she wore a leather wrist band to denote her status as “owned” by him and a locked chain around her neck for which only he had the key as further proof of her bondage to him).  He was especially fond of seeing her during and after she had labored — “in her dirt” (see image on the right) as he called it.  Both Munby and Cullwick kept diaries of their experiences / relationship, which makes for detailed knowledge of their relationship.

This fetishizing of class and Cullwick’s servant status was immortalized by Munby who took contrasting photographs  of Hannah dressed as a fine lady (her secret status by marriage) when they traveled together, as a serving woman and as a slave.

imperial-leather3Cullwick was stunning as a model (I wish I could find more of the shots of her on-line).  She posed for Munby cross-dressed as a boy, as a laborer and even as a gentleman of his own class.   Their private games were of her slavery.  She addressed him as “Massa,” knelt at his feet, licked his boots and washed his feet (again, we know this from their diaries which he donated to Cambridge though sadly the accounts of her “training” were removed).

One of the things I found quite striking as an account of fetishizing work was this passage:

…she would arrange to theatrically scrub the front doorsteps on her knees as Munby sauntered down the street, languidly swinging his cane… Cullwick visited Munby frequently “in her dirt” after a grueling day’s work, her clothes dank and filthy, her face deliberately blackened with boot polish, her hands red and raw; only to pose later that same evening freshly dressed as an upper-class lady in finery.  They spent happy hours mulling over the ordeals of her workload, ritualistically counting and recounting the incredible number of boots she cleaned. (page 137)

With material like Munby’s photographs and diaries both left to work from, it’s not surprising that there are a number of books discussing the couple’s history.  What I like about Imperial Leather is McClintock’s enlightened discussion of S/M in relation to the couple.  She sees both its theater and the realities of power as distributed between the two people in this relationship.   This means that unlike other works, Imperial Leather reads Cullwick not as a victim, but as an actor in her own slavery.

As McClintock writes (paraphrasing Foucault):

To argue that in S/M “whoever is the ‘master’ has the power and whoever is the slave has not,” is to read theater for reality; it is to play the world forward.  The economy of S/M, however is the economy of conversion: master to slave, adult to baby, power to submission, man to woman, pain to pleasure, human to animal and back again…. S/M is a theater of transformation; it “plays the world backward.”

I wish I had time to write more about this, but will happily return to discussion of it should anyone be interested.  And, maybe, even if no one but me is.

Perving on the Good Doctor

The “Good Doctor” is, of course, Doctor Who.  If you don’t know who that is, you’re missing out and should get thee to a dvd rental place.  Or onto the SciFi channel.  (Or the BBC if you’re lucky enough to live in the UK.)  Currently in its third series of this incarnation (the series and the Doctor date back to the 1960s), Doctor Who is wonderful television, even in weeks it isn’t set at a boy’s boarding school in 1913.

But oh, this week it was.  And I’ve been having fantasies about it ever since Saturday night.

First off, I’m not alone in this spanking fantasy perving — the always adorable Haron over at The Spanking Writers has been blogging about this for days [and a quick look just now shows that Abel’s now gotten in on the act].  She posted a BBC picture of David Tennant (he’s the Doctor) in Edwardian schoolmaster garb holding a crook handled cane.

It’s a nice picture, full of moody shadows and I can see why she chose it, but I’ll opt for this one (thank you BBC for providing this and other lovely shots).

family-of-blood

I love seeing Mr. Tennant in his schoolish garb, but also seeing the desks and the backs of the boys heads.  With the perspective, I can easily imagine myself sitting in a back row, trying to concentrate on the history lesson, eyes drawn constantly to the cane / pointer held like a drawn sword by my teacher.

Have I imaged myself bent over one of those desks, struggling to be brave?  Of course.  But in my fantasies, Christopher Eccleston is still the Doctor.  What can I say?  He’ll always be my first.

Details

[Once upon a time in the summer of 2000, for a very brief couple of months, the usenet provider Newsguy paid me to write some articles on spanking. It was great fun being paid for writing about something I write about for free and I really enjoyed it. Sadly, they never found a way to do the age protection they felt the “adult” writing needed so my gig ended after only four articles. Still, I did love doing it. This is one of the pieces I produced.]

“A fetish is nothing if not specific.”

Pablo Stubbs made this wise remark to me at some point when I joked, with some amazement, at the effort and expense he had put into finding just the right gymslip and knickers for me (grey pleated and bottle green respectively). When one is dealing with something which has the power traditional school uniforms have for my partner, expense and inconvenience – not to mention my own physical discomfort, British school uniforms being somewhat less than seasonal in my desert clime – seem trivially unimportant.

“A fetish is nothing if not specific.”

My brain echoed the phrase again as we sat the other night admiring a friend’s canes. He’s got quite a few – all with distinct (and distinctly painful) qualities based on their length and the density of the rattan they’re made from. They are sanded and varnished to precise silky smoothness. All but one has the crook handle of a traditional English cane. Each cane has specific value to our friend for its own sake. As he flexed the canes, and swished them through the air, their number (six, I believe) obviously didn’t seem excessive to him. Choosing the right one to impart the right message was an important part of the ritual discipline h would be administering.

For me, sitting nervously watching and listening, which cane he would use seemed unimportant. Had he owned but one or two that would have been enough to make me shift nervously in my chair. The swishing of one would have made me cringe slightly, probably visibly. For me, the detail that was important – specific – was that I was to be caned in the specific and traditional manner of a very strict English school. The caning would be slow and exceptionally painful, yet I would be expected to remain as still and quiet as possible during it. Since for me restraints tend to make scenes easier, the authenticity of this caning was what would make it possible for me to restrain myself.

Our friend knew this about me, knew that how and why I was being caned was as important (or more important) than the caning itself. So beforehand we carefully discussed what I’d done which merited this level of punishment. As we talked, I became a disobedient schoolgirl who deserved the sort of strict, harsh punishment I imagined would be meted out by a traditional (and perhaps sadistic?) headmaster at a strict school sometime in the past. I felt guilty and nervous, my hand finally shaking as it tapped gently on his “office” door.

This is the power of specificity for me. My friend, knowing his role, scolded me and slowly manoeuvred me into position. In the past this part has been extended by conversation, time in the corner, essay and line writing. By the time I’m bent over, standing on tip-toe, blushing and dying of shame as my knickers are slowly lowered to my knees, I’m generally already in tears. Some might think (and sadly have thought) that the caning itself is irrelevant at this point, that the strokes don’t need to be very severe. But for me anyway this isn’t the case. Our friend didn’t disappoint; each stroke was delivered with full force, in straight lines, with a great deal of time between each. I thanked him for each one and willed myself to stay in position for “twelve of the best”, as befits a girl receiving such a traditional punishment.

In the morning I could see where each stroke had left the distinctive double marks or “tram-lines” that are the evidence of a traditional caning. I couldn’t help smiling at the proof of my “punishment” as I admired it in the mirror. It’s all about details, you know.

After all, a fetish is nothing if not specific.

Summer Plans

Over on ASS I’ve noticed Todd and Suzy writing about making summer spanking plans.   It’s made me wonder a bit about my own.  In years past, especially before Paul was able to move to the US, I got to spend some very fun summers in Edinburgh, London and the north east of England. Over the years I came to associate summer with trips to the UK and now I really miss getting to go and see my friends there. I even priced it out a bit the other day –or tried rather– and was a bit boggled by the cost of tickets alone. Sometimes it’s easy to look back now and wonder how I ever afforded it in terms of either time or money. 

Of course the simple answer is that I worked at a job during the academic year that provided housing as part of my compensation.  Since I didn’t need to pay rent, I could save a good chunk of each stipend check.  Add to that a kinder gentler exchange rate and I was able to afford some great summers away from the US. 

This summer I’m working.  I’ll be working on my dissertation, working at my university job (in fact I’ve logged about 50 extra hours there so far this month), helping my parents move back to Los Angeles from Portland, helping with preparation for my brother’s wedding and generally (probably anyway) not doing any extra traveling until the Shadow Lane party in Vegas in August (though if I can somehow squeeze in a trip to Denver for Thunder in the Mountains, that would be very exciting).

I’ve also volunteered to run this year’s short story contest on soc.sexuality.spanking.  Even though doing it is going to take a lot of time which would be better spent on my research, I’m really excited about doing it.  It’s the 14th contest, the 13th anniversary, happening the year of the 10th anniversary of the group’s creation / migration from the alt* to the soc* hierarchy.  (This was a big deal as it was the first time an alt.sex* group moved into the Usenet big 8.)  I’m going to try a few new things with this year’s contest, including having a theme to design both the contest and archive website around.  My sister, who’s an artist, is going to try and do some themed drawings to use as background to add a bit of visual interest.  We’ll see how it goes.

In keeping with the thread below on having versus not having children, one of the things I’ve realized in the past few years is Paul and my choice not to have children has given us the freedom to be pretty out with the spanking fetish without needing to worry about how it could affect our family.  This is fun on one level but has also meant we can be comfortable doing things for the spanking / fetish community that other people don’t feel able to do.  Example?  We host the domain and filtering software that make the newsgroup possible despite the fact the group has no content moderation (this means stories involving children — even those involving sex and children.  I’m not sure we could afford the risk of doing so if we either had kids or either of us worked with them. 

It’s not unselfish –the newsgroup has given me a huge amount over years– Paul and I met there, I’ve made my closest scene friends and it’s given me an outlet (and even validation) for every kinky scene I’ve ever been able to imagine writing.  But I do love that I can help it be there for others too. 

More on the SSC as events develop!

Flea Market Pervertables

[Once upon a time in the summer of 2000, for a very brief couple of months, the usenet provider Newsguy paid me to write some articles on spanking.  It was great fun being paid for writing about something I write about for free and I really enjoyed it. Sadly, they never found a way to do the age protection they felt the "adult" writing needed so my gig ended after only four articles.  Still, I did love doing it.  This is one of the pieces I produced.]

First, to understand this piece you have to know how much I love shopping. I really do. I can have fun doing shopping of any sort in any place – even the grocery store. My significant (as opposed to the insignificant ones?) other, Pablo Stubbs would tell you this was because I like to spend money, and while I can’t really argue with that, I think it’s also because of my own personal spanking-shopping game which I’ve happily played by myself in almost every store I’ve been in since childhood.

The game isn’t hard In fact, I imagine you’ve already figured it out. Basically in addition to anything else I’m shopping for, I look for something that could be used to spank me. Sometimes I overlay this game with a fantasy of needing to find the most severe implement possible in order to satisfy the whim of some cruel, dominant type. I’m, of course, their naughty, naughty girl. It’s sort of an urban girl variation on the ‘go out and cut your own switch’ theme. So I look at pervertables* [see note below]: ping-pong paddles, leather belts, wooden spoons, rulers, cheese boards, hairbrushes – I could go on here, but you probably have the picture. I don’t generally buy anything, but I always look.

As I said, I can do this anywhere in any sort of store. But my favorite is an antique store, or better yet, a flea market. Flea markets are the perfect places to look for pervertables. After all, there’s a huge variety of stuff and it’s all randomly spread out and mixed up so I need to search. There’s the thrill of the chase and all. In addition to variety, there are, of course, other reasons for looking at flea markets. As your grandparents surely mentioned in other contexts, they made things differently way back when. So when I go to search at antique stores and flea markets, I generally am looking to buy.

Now something I’ve discovered is that when I go to antique stores alone or with spanking friends I rarely find as good stuff as I do when I go with non-spanking friends to whom explaining the reason why I need a heavy leather razor strop with lovely brass fittings involves complex and creative invention (you know, lying). I consider this fact (and trust me, it is one) a lesser known of Murphy’s Laws. This being true, I of course find the very best pervertables when I go flea market shopping with my father.

Like me, my father loves flea markets and always has his own little quest for the day. Last month when we went he was looking for a fishing tackle box. I was helping him, and meanwhile playing my own little game and also looking for just the right wedding present for some spanko friends.

In keeping with the law cited above, that Sunday was apparently kinky fetish day at the flea market. Despite rumors on soc.sexuality.spanking that they are relatively rare, I saw about six different heavy razor strops at four different stalls, though three smelt of some funky mold or mildew so they wouldn’t have been as good to purchase. Another few vendors had different variations on the souvenir "board of education" fanny/spanking paddles. They were less than $10.00. Fortunately I didn’t see the ‘cute little deer’ paddle I paid way too much for on eBay last year or my frugal heart would have broken. Plaid school uniforms abounded and, further proving that it really was kinky day, there on a table with some old farm tools were a pair of nineteenth century iron or steel manacles (as opposed to handcuffs) which the vendor confided really should be in a museum, but that he would let me have for a mere $40.00. I demurred, despite knowing that several friends would weep for them.

The irresistible find came at a stall filled with depression glass. There, on a cracked bit of mirror was an oval wood hairbrush, its bristles still intact. Now, I don’t need an oval wooden hairbrush. They are evil and painful, plus the significant other I mentioned above gave me the most painful one on earth. But still. Here was a lovely one, for $6.00. Its only flaw was some chips in the finish on the back. The vendor came over; it was late in the morning and she was starting to pack up.

Now logically I knew that no one had any reason to be suspicious of me for looking at an old brush. And I’ve come a long way in the past three years. But still, my heart thudded and I’m sure I blushed as I talked with her. I bought it (after haggling the price down to $4.00 of course). I told my dad it was for a friend who collected vanity items.

Oh, my dad didn’t find the right tackle box. We’ll have to go back again next month.

*’pervertable’ refers to an everyday item (such as a wooden spoon) which is perverted from its original purpose to new and improved use by kinky types (you know dear reader, people like you). Advantages of pervertables is that they’re generally cheaper and easier to explain than say, a leather paddle. Though my feeling is you probably need the leather paddle too, of course.

Evil Eye

I’ve changed the look of the blog.

While I really really loved my old title banner that Pab made, especially with its sweet roll-over, I’d grown to deeply dislike the brown tones.  Plus I wanted to take off the sidebar calendar, add the topic cloud and, most importantly, add a "recent comments" section.

I’m not sure this is the design I’m keeping — when my computer expert gets going things tend to improve a lot — but the stripped down style of it definitely appeals to me.

Besides, I got to include an image of an nazar to protect the blog from any virtual evil eyes.  And trust me, that appeals too.

Nobody’s Mother and Somebody’s Wife

On her charming blog, A Farmwife With a Twist, Amber wrote a bit about her views of right and wrong specific to the BDSM scene in this entry.  It's interesting to read her points of view — sometimes it's easy to forget in a scene world of tolerance, of "your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay" that there are those that find our life not okay.  I've got a few acts of my own I feel that way about –for instance, I won't play with people whose partners don't know that they're playing with someone else –but that's as much an unwillingness to risk being dragged into their relationship drama.  Also, I've been cheated on and it sucks.

Anyway, as I said, Amber spells out clearly some things that bother her, writing:

I find that there's a lot room for utterly appalling moral behavior in BDSM realm, or at least from what I've learned from kinky blogs […]

Those things that steadily continue to appall me are:

-adultery

-unwillingness to have children and selfish hedonism

-polygamy/swapping partners/offering your partner to others "to use"

All of the above to me are a fundamental assault on basic human dignity and are certainly not pleasing to God […]

And there is one more thing I literally have 0 tolerance for – a weekness of character as expressed in fear of commitment to one partner for life with the purpose of starting a family.

[The dots in brackets mark places where I snipped information out just for focus (hopefully without changing the meaning.  You can go check her blog and read the whole article if you like.)]

From what I wrote above, you can probably guess I kind of agree with her about adultery.  But to me, it isn't "adultery*" when both people are honest and agree — that is, there's nothing wrong with me playing with whomever so long as P doesn't have any problem with it and vice versa.  What would be wrong (imo) would be if I did this either without regard for objections he had or somehow sneaking behind his back. 

As to the rest…

… I don't even know what would actually be an example of "selfish hedonism" in my marriage.  Staying in bed with P on a Saturday morning rather than getting up and helping my friends move?  Using all the hot water for an extra long bubble bath?  Taking all the whipped cream for my strawberries and leaving none for his? I'm not quite sure. 

Polygamy / polyamory?  I don't have a problem with that at all.  It's not my thing –I'm introverted enough that maintaining a relationship with P is about all the "primary" I can handle.  While we play with other people, they're friends (beloved friends in many cases).  But while I think poly relationships can be complicated, I don't think the idea that one can love and be committed to multiple people or that three or more adults can be a family is anything but beautiful.  From what I've seen, poly relationships can be remarkably unselfish and passionate.  In my opinion, any relationship that's honest and helps each person involved in it to be happy and grow is an honorable and a blessed one.

What I found oddest, however, on Amber's list were her statements about being appalled by people who are "unwilling" (she does make exceptions for those who are "unable") to have children and the notion that a lacking a desire to "start a family" somehow reflects an "assault on human dignity."

My first answer to that would be that P and I committed to each other and became a family years before we were married.  By then we had re-arranged our lives to be together, changed countries (in his case), lived together as much as the law allowed for several years and shared as much about ourselves as we could find to share.  In fact, I know I found things I didn't know about myself in the course of getting to know him.  While I think our relationship has deepened in the two and a bit years since we married, I think that probably would have happen anyway.  When do I think P and I started to become a family?  The first time he wrote in a whisper that he loved me.  And then 9 years ago when he came to see me for the first time.

There's nothing incomplete about our relationship now — nothing waiting for a child to somehow make it more real.

Why don't we have children?  There are a lot of reasons, but they boil down to the fact that neither of us want them.  Speaking for myself, I've never wanted to have any children– something I started telling my mom back when I was 3.  I like other people's babies and young children fine for a little while, but not enough to live with them.  I do like teens, but the odds of giving birth to a 13 year old are pretty low.  To me, what would be an "abomination"  would be someone who is pretty sure he or she (or he and she in our case)  doesn't like or want children having one on the off chance that she would 1) feel differently about one of her own and 2)hoping it would somehow deepen their marriage and somehow make them a family.

Anyway, I had some more thoughts, but they've drifted away and it's time for bed.  I've probably written enough anyway.

The title of this entry is adapted from Sanda Cisneros's author description in her first book, The House On Mango Street.  In it she writes she is "nobody's mother and nobody's wife."

I'm not talking about strict Biblical law here, but rather about when the act (whether sexual or spanking) becomes immoral / unethical.

Do You Capitalize?

…the "T" in "top" even if it’s not the first word of a sentence? If so, do you also do the "B" in "bottom," the "D" in dominant and / or the "S" in "submissive"?  If so, is there a reason or is it just convention?  Do you do it in special cases (ie, for a specific person "my Top" or "my Bottom") or is it something you use generally?  Does the verb get the capital "Topping" as well as the noun?

I’m asking because I’m curious (duh!) — it’s something I’ve noticed increasing in the last couple years and am wondering where it’s come from.

Also because it always reminds me of my grandmother (she’ll be 101 next month and is maybe the last of the Victorians in style).  She’s always used capitals for emphasis so I have letters from her with wonderful gems like:

Judith told me she forgave David after all That, but she is An Angel.  He does Not deserve Her.  That man is a Devil and a Very Bad husband.

Anyway, I wondered if I was being left behind somehow.  Though I don’t think I can adopt the capping thing.  I love her, but I just can’t keep from hearing my Nan when I see posts about "playing with different Tops."

Would love to read / hear your thoughts.

[this entry was also posted on soc.sexuality.spanking]

Googling the Third Eye

So I was checking my stats and Google searches this morning (as you do) and noticed a couple of interesting hits:

  • tawse male hands – I’ve never seen male hands tawsed.  Only tawses in male hands.
  • hand tawsing Mija school girl – yeah, that probably would get you here.
  • spanking vice fiona – Ah, are you perhaps looking for Over the Knee by Fiona Locke?
  • Niki Flynn age – Goodness!  I can’t help you there other than to say "a lot younger than me!"

And the one that filled my heart with the most joy, mean thing that I am:

  • katie spades punishment scam – Yeah.  I’m less angry today though.  After all, she’s young and karma’s a bitch.

However you got here, glad to see you.

SCAM Artist Alert OR I Feel So Dirty!

A year or so ago "Katie Spades" wrote to the Punishment Book authors telling us how much she liked the PB (including some dreck on us having "inspired" her and her partner) and asked us to link to her as she was starting a career as a spanking model.

Now we never do the "I’ll link to you if you link to me" thing but a couple of PB writers liked the blog and said they were following it (that’s always our criteria).  So a link to her blog went onto our sidebar.

Today one of the other authors sent me this link from the A.S.S. blog.

Apparently Katie’s been scamming us all.

(Katie: from the quoted beer.com podcast)
Here was the deal, like I wanted to make money. And to get a name for myself, but I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, and I didn’t want to go like straight up porn. So I looked around… and I saw the, well it’s like this little community, the spanking industry… and for the most part… I mean there are a couple of pretty models… but for the most part there aren’t many. So I looked at it as like okay, here is an easy way jump to the top of an industry like that, because I can totally take it over with the way I look. So I decided to do that.

I haven’t actually listened to the whole podcast yet –I’m at work– but I’ve heard enough.   A friend had pointed me to her "SAVE KATIE" campaign which was raising money to supposedly off-set expenses brought on by an "illness." The interview doesn’t seem to mention that, but there’s no reason to think that’s true either.

As my grandfather would have said, what a piece of work! My sympathies especially go out to the kindhearted folks who were taken in by her "SAVE KATIE" scam to get money out of the community for help during her  supposed "illness."

Feh!

PS: Sending even more love out to the real models in our scene. You’re 100X more fun to watch anyway.