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A Brief History of BDSM

For as long as there has been sex, there has been kink. One of the earliest images of erotic whipping came from 490 B.C. in the Etruscan Tomb of Whipping (Lazio, Italy), with stories and poems describing sexual punishment and use of pain in arousal dating back even further. The Kama Sutra, for example, describes methods for hitting during sex to cause “joyful pain.”

The terms “sadism” and “masochism” were coined after the erotic works of the Marquis de Sade (1700s) and Leopold Sacher-Masoch (1800s) – which depicted many fetishes from basic bondage to taboo practices like scat and body modification. The late 1800s and 1900s found much discussion of fetishism and sadomasochistic practices due to the fascination of psychologists, particularly Freud and Krafft-Ebing.

Modern BDSM culture is typically considered to originate with “American Fetish” (1930s and 40s) – particularly with the popularity of fetish and pin-up model Bettie Page – and with the Leather Movement (from the 1950s).

The 1980s saw the rise of online fetish communities, bringing about an explosion of BDSM interest and education, bringing together kinksters from around the world. In the 2000s, much has been done to make BDSM more mainstream and socially acceptable. BDSM activism is on the rise in parallel with LGBTQ+ activism, and popularization of BDSM imagery and practice in popular culture is bringing BDSM culture out of the closet, from E.L. James’ Fifty Shades trilogy to Netflix’s Bonding.

Gay Leather Roots

The Leather movement grew in parallel to the formation of small gay communities following WWII in the 1950s. Participants in early gay leather culture were primarily men, working to fight the stigma that gay men were all effeminate by celebrating and fetishizing a more masculine, dominant “butch” look. The first Gay Leather bar opened in Chicago in 1958, with many more following across the US and Europe through to the 1970s. Lesbians joined the leather community in the 70s and 80s. The HIV/AIDS crisis of the 80s brought the Leather community back into the public light, as activist groups defending homosexual rights and health issues.

Members of the Leather community have a long standing tradition of high-protocol BDSM practices. In most cases, members belong to larger Leather “Families” which may be headed by one or more Dominants, and in which all members begin as submissives and earn their way up to the title of Master over years of training and education. The Leather community is largely responsible for introducing the ideas of written protocols, negotiating contracts, and mentor relationships among BDSM practitioners.

Why Should We Talk About Kink During Pride?

Whether you consider kink to be a sexual orientation or a sexual practice, whether you consider it to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community or a separate one, this remains true – the same issues affect us all. Kinky people, like our queer siblings, have a history of being persecuted and discriminated against – being told their sexuality is a mental illness, losing everything from jobs to custody of children, being belittled or physically attacked, being accused of predatory and abusive behavior. It has only been as recently as 2004 in the US that BDSM practice was determined in a Supreme Court case to be decriminalized if conducted between consenting adults (2017 in parts Europe). To argue that one group be protected from this kind of injustice is to fight on behalf of all people. We should work to understand our brothers and sisters in the queer communities, and support queer members of the kink communities, and help each other to live our lives proudly and without fear.

**For more information about Gay Leather protocols and history, see The Leatherman’s Protocol Handbook by John D. Weal.

Contributors: This article was researched and written by sweetdebauchery , edited by Mistress Michelle and published by Umlindi.

These educational topics wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication from our Dom(me)sLife contributors – Thank you MM

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