Goliath’s new photo book arrives at interesting times for the kink community. On the one hand, it seems to be under renewed attack from the moralising element of the Right, who are pushing their anti-porn, anti-sex agenda with a new vigour of late with a particular focus on ‘perversion’; on the other, the Woke left are reducing BDSM to, at best, a mollified, controlled form of sexuality stripped of spontaneity and even the slightest frisson of danger, and at worst are taking the #metoo agenda to the point where any level of kinkiness is seen as sexual assault and victimisation. Perhaps this is how it should be: who wants BDSM to become respectable anyway? The new book acts as a reminder of a time when these pleasures were strictly under the counter.
History of Sexual Punishment in Pictures – culled from the Karl F. Sturer Collection – is a pocket sized, 272-page collection of kinky photos and illustrations, ranging from the 17th century to the modern day that explore the various aspects of S&M, bondage and spanking, with chapters and introductory bi-lingual (English and German) text covering things like “corporal punishment and religion”, “the dominatrix”, “lesbian spanking” and a whole range of implements and equipment designed for flogging, beating and restraint, from the riding crop and the paddle to the St Andrews Cross and The Spanish Donkey. The text, of course, is little more than a brief preface – the important thing here is the imagery. Much of this is from unknown photographers, with unknown models – the illicit and illegal porn of yesteryear, though there is more modern stuff from noted erotic photographers like Dave Naz and Holly Randall too.
The newer stuff is more knowing, more artistic, less overtly kinky; the older work is perhaps more interesting (at least in this context), as it has less of a controlled style and more of an amateurish spontaneity about it – the poses are awkward, the photography not particularly good and the whole thing has a clandestine naughtiness to it that overrides any technical deficiencies. The world shown in these old images is a genuinely subversive and secret one, even if spanking and mild flagellation has long been a popular subject for pornographers (arguably more so in the days when all porn was underground than it is now). Everyone seems to be having a jolly old time in these images, and there’s a strange timelessness about some of them, technical developments aside – sexual desire and sexual attractiveness doesn’t really change that much, it would seem.
The images range from the glamour nude to the hardcore coupling, the cheerful spanking to the heavy whipping. Some of this stuff will doubtless still raise a eyebrow today. There’s also a smattering of dominatrix advertising from old magazines, cartoon spanking images and modern fetishism scattered throughout the book, giving it a nice sense of variety. Readers might be surprised to see a chapter on “domestic violence”, which of course is far removed from consensual BDSM, even if the images shown are still performed erotica rather than actual acts of violence – it seems unhealthy to blur the line between spousal abuse and consensual BDSM, especially as that is something that both the moralisers and the RadFems cynically do. Why give these people more ammunition?
This chapter heading aside, the book is a fascinating and fun collection of kinky images. Those of you with a taste for amateur or vintage porn, well-rounded buttocks, uniforms and rubber will find much to entertain you here.