Bondage and Discipline is almost always heard in the same breath with sado-masochism, that is, B&D and S&M. Other countries perceive Americans as a very violent people. We allow all kinds of violence in films and television; we do not allow any love making. They laugh at the idea that it is alright to show a man getting his guts or brains blown out, but you can't show a woman's breast. Sex is something to be done in secret behind closed doors, but not in the open.
Most of the foreign press which has interviewed me, say that what I am doing - having sex with men as part of my religion - would be totally legal in their country - that America only pays lip service to having freedom of religion. Where sex is taboo in America some sexual practices have been named after other countries, such as Frenching for oral sex and Greek for anal sex. But alas, there is no "American sex" -- in this country, the police throw people in jail for having sex, so America is known throughout the rest of the world for it's sexual hypocrisy.
As a theological hedonists I am definitely not into pain. Our religion was termed hedonism by the Greeks because they considered the Egyptians to be the most pleasure loving people they had ever encountered. The word hedonism is from hedon, the Greek word for pleasure. It is used very loosely modernly to mean any old pleasure seeker in general, but anciently it was a very strict philosophy.
There were many different schools of hedonism, but the Epicurean from which our modern word for one who gets pleasure from fine foods is derived, is probably the best known. However, there are very few people outside the academic world who understand its precepts, and even fewer knew what the Cyrenaic believed. These schools of philosophical hedonism, like the later Utilitarianism of Mills, put man at the center and makes pleasure the principle good and aim for all man's actions. The contrasting Greek philosophy was the Stoics who believed in depriving themselves of most everything.
The religion of the Goddess has always had pleasurable, sexual religious rituals. In contrast, the patriarchal religions which supplanted the religion of the Goddess, largely by killing off its priestesses, look at the body as being something carnal and devilish. They believe the physical body keeps man from being godlike and that one of the ways to control those horrible urges that come over the body, is to mortify the flesh. In other words, beat it into submission through self discipline or discipline by someone else. Although modern adherents of S&M tend to avoid, if not deny, the religious connotations, they cannot be ignored, nor can they be brushed aside, as it was Christian doctrines which promulgated torture and pain.
There has always been a fine line between pleasure and pain, and in the religion of The Goddess, discipline has its place within certain orders of the priesthood, but these are also connected with pleasure - especially sexual pleasure.
Early Catholic leaders spoke much about avoiding pleasure. St. Jerome ordered, "Regard everything as poison which bears within it the seed of sensual pleasure". St. Augustine established the doctrine that sex is the root of original sin and the means of transmitting Adams guilt to all generations; that said intercourse was never without sin, even within marriage. He is attributed as saying that birth is demonstrably accursed because every child emerges, "between feces and urine". As time went on this doctrine became even more extended in Christian practice. Christians taught that Adam lost his innocence and his immortality when Eve taught him about sex, so women were very dangerous, to be avoided. Christianity became a religion of asceticism, characterized by self-inflicted or disciplinary pain, hunger and other austereness.
Let me not leave out other religions like the Jain Buddhists and Jewish sects like the Essences which also had very ascetic practices, but they have had little influence on modern culture and I will not dwell on them. After all everyone expects Jewish rabbis and Buddhist monks to be self denying, but they are a minor, inconsequential part of western culture where Christianity has had very direct influence on our attitudes.
The Catholic Church created legends about saints who would prefer extreme physical pain to sexual pleasure. In fact "legends" were a Catholic invention designed to counter and replace Mythology. Myth is not the simple fairy tale or heroic adventures we read about today. Originally myth was a very precise way of expressing historical events in their relationship to the Cosmos, or heavens. During the first three hundred years of Christianity, myth was well know by the intellectuals and upper class. Early Christians were Jewish converts (or more precisely, Christianity was a Jewish cult) who for the most part were illiterate and ignorant of the world outside their small country. The gentiles who became Christians were not much better. Early Christian "fathers" knew little or nothing about true myth, but they knew that the people were enthralled by it. If Christianity could not have myth, it could have a new creation, legends. Some legend is complete plagiarism of myth, others are gross exaggerations of actual events, while most are pure fairy tales. But a common theme in legend is the extreme pain and agony inflicted upon the saints and which they inflicted upon themselves.
In legend St. Catherine of Sierra is praised for whipping herself 3 times a day. Once for her own sins, once for the sins of everyone else living and once for the sins of the dead. St Francis of Assisi, better known for his kindness to birds, (but obviously not the birds and the bees) is said to have had a fellow clergy drag him through the streets to mortify his body. When the Emperor Decious tied down St. Paul the Hermit and had a harlot caress him, St. Paul is supposed to have reacted to his erection and defended himself against the woman's sexual advances by biting off his tongue and spitting it into her face. Obviously he wasn't into using his tongue for better things.
The saintly Pope Leo is supposed to have been so pure that when a woman kissed his hand and aroused in him a violent temptation of the flesh, he cut his hand off. Of course, he had the good fortune to have the hand miraculously restored by the Virgin Mary so he could continue in his calling.
That must have been some kiss - of course it may have depended on where his hand was when she was kissing it. Monks and nuns developed the practice of scourging themselves to subjugate the flesh and remove any sexual desires, and to become more like the legendary saints.
Towards the end of the 11th century the Catholic church began urging lay men and women to chastise themselves through whipping and scourging as a form of penance. An Italian Benedictine monk organized group flagellation for laymen -- the beginning of a TupperWare party, with a twist, invite your friends over for a beating. Why should the priests and the nuns have all the fun?
In 1260 processions of scourgers paraded through Italy and southern Europe, each member of the procession whipping the man in front of him. The flagellant movement really took off with the advent of the Black Death. Thousands of people would tear off their clothes and beat themselves with rods and scourges. The Bubonic Plague was considered god's punishment for sins, much like Christian fundamentalists view AIDS today. But unlike AIDS which has claimed fewer than 60,000 victims in the United States in 10 years, thirty million Europeans died from the plague in its first 10 years. Within 30 years Europe was devastated. One third of the population had died from the disease. It is easy to see how self inflected punishment would be better than that given by the Christian god. Beat yourself so god won't kill you.
But beatings and floggings were not reserved for the very "righteous", it was the accepted form of punishment in all cultures around the world. Public floggings were common and drew huge crowds, not just to see an offender get his punishment, but because of the perverse excitement it engendered in the spectators.
From scourging to remove sexual desires and prevent the black death, whipping became more identified with sexual pleasure rather than its denial. Instead of removing all thoughts of carnal pleasures, whipping actually aroused their sexual appetites. Public floggings always attracted huge crowds, especially floggings of whores and adulteresses who were stripped to the waist and then beaten. It was not uncommon to strip the woman naked and parade her before the crowd before administering the punishment. Sexual excitement which these public events instilled became so great that the practice had to be abandoned - not because beating was cruel or unusual punishment, but because the crowds were unmanageable and sexually aroused. Much like public executions, public floggings were not done away with because of the outrage of the public - the public flocked to the events - floggings were in fact, too popular. People were forgetting the "Christian moral" such punishment was supposed to engender, instead they were enjoying themselves. It was Christianity's finest moment. Christianity had taught the people well. Too well.
Barbara Walker, in The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, writes, "Western Civilization came to choose pain over pleasure: to think pain-giving permissible, fit for public display, even pious, whereas pleasure-gaining of the physical sort was suspect, hidden `evil'. The two types of behavior seem to be inversely related. If a society suppresses one, the other will flourish. Studies with laboratory animals show that individuals conditioned to be highly aggressive have below normal sex drive and display little interest in copulation. It has also been observed among human beings that angry, hostile individuals have little sexual appetite."
Many books were written about whipping as a sexual pleasure, especially in England, which is noted for sexual flagellation. (I won't speculate on the effect all the bottom paddling in boarding schools had on the sexual attitudes of the British.) Flagellation, beating, whipping, spankings, birching, caning and so on was termed "le vice Anglais" by the French, that is "the English Vice", because it was so prominent in Victorian England. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne said, "One of the greatest charms of birching lies in the sentiment that the flogee is the powerless victim of the furious rage of a beautiful woman".
In the 19th century England, many high class brothels were known for their specialty in chastisement and discipline. The most famous was run by Mrs. Therasa Berkeley who kept her whips in water "so they should be green and supple". She became the Dame Female Flagellant in 1828 when she invented the Berkeley Horse, or Chevalet. This was a comfortably padded rack which could be adjusted to fit the customer's height, and inclined to suit the whims of the "governess". The customer was tied to the rack with his face projecting through one space, and his genitals through another.. A scantily dressed girl sat in front and "massaged his cock and bollocks" while the governess laid the whip to his back or buttocks. Mrs. Berkeley made a good profit from selling her "horse" to other "governesses".
In the diaries of William Gladstone, four times Prime Minister of England, he documents being a regular patronizer of flagellation brothels. And of course there were English Boy's schools which were notorious for caning the bare bottoms of the students. This was portrayed quite well in the popular film, The Dead Poets Society.
The British "gentleman" had been disciplined by his "governess" as a child and a "governess" disciplined him as a adult. This was not the task for a "mistress" as the commoner would have. Since America had no aristocracy, and few governesses, the "mistress", became America's symbol. This was most likely taken from the title of best-known early manual, Venus Schoolmistress, or Birchen Sports which was first published in 1788 and reprinted until 1898.
What about America today? Certainly it is portrayed in XXX film and every adult magazine and newspaper lists dominant, submissive and houses specializing in Discipline. Usually these houses state that no sex is involved, so that automatically lets me out. It is not uncommon in films and videos for some female dressed in black leather to whip a groveling male, or some black caped male to tie up a limp female on her knees. But are these acts or are ordinary people indulging? Back in the 1940's Alfred Kinsey reported that only 4% of males who masturbated ever did so to sadomasochistic fantasies. More recently Morton Hunt's report funded by the Playboy Foundation asked people who masturbate if they ever had thoughts of forcing someone to have sex. 18% of males under 35 and 3% of females said yes. When asked if they had thoughts of being forced to have sex 14% of males and 24% of females said yes. That shows still the terrible double standard in sex, women are taught to be submissive, its drilled into them by Christian preachers from the time they are little girls.
"Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands" - the Bible teaches it. Women can't even escape it in fantasy.
In answer to the question, "Have you ever obtained sexual pleasure from infliction of pain on another?" 4.8% of males and 2.1% of females said, yes.
To the question, "Have you ever obtained sexual pleasure from having pain inflicted on you?" 2.5% of males and 4.6% of females said "yes". Almost a complete reversal in statistics for the male and female givers and receivers.
These data show that there very few people in our society who are actually deriving sexual pleasure from giving or receiving pain and those few that do still have the same Christian stereotype of male aggressor and female receiver.
The kinds of activities those studied engaged in included hitting, punching, slapping, scratching, pinching and pulling and twisting the flesh and biting. The two activities featured in most films and stories, that of spanking and bondage with discipline - with the classic strung up male or female being whipped - are not common at all.
With some, B&D is used as foreplay to enhance sexual activity. One of the most common themes in the fantasies of women involve rape or forceful seduction in which she fantasizes that she is taken by force and required to submit to the man. This will often call up guilt because the woman becomes aroused while fantasizing. Intellectually or religiously she thinks she should not be enjoying it. In reality, if she were really raped, she'd probably not enjoy it at all. But in the safety of fantasy play, healthy women can become aroused and also enjoy themselves.
A second theme common to women's fantasies is the exact opposite, in which the woman is the aggressor and forces a man to give her pleasure. This woman seldom do in reality except in controlled bondage and discipline where people can act out their fantasies in a safe and exciting manner.
Controlled bondage and discipline sets out parameters where those involved agree what is to be done and how it is to be done. They establish signs and code words which they use to let their partner know when he or she is approaching, or has overstepped the threshold. This tends to be the type of domination most men want. At least the ones who have called me. They say they want a woman to dominate them, to be her slave. But they want to tell her exactly what they want her to do to them. I am not into pain. Nor am I into this form of male superiority, where the man wants to act out a fantasy of being dominated. In reality, he would still be the one dominating. He is the one controlling what is done and how it is done. The woman would be his slave, doing his every bidding - how to inflict pain, where to inflict pain - that is not domination. In the S&M business these men are called SAM -Smart Ass Machochists.
Among many male homosexuals S&M is not a game. It is a real life and death situation in which they willingly participate. Each year scores of men submit themselves to torture by other men and the threshold is overstepped. The result is the death of one of the participants.
In order to do whipping, you've got to have both a whipper and a whippee, the beater and the beatee. The most famous inflictor of pain was Donatien Alphonse Francois Sade, the Marquis de Sade, born in Paris in 1740. Of course there were people beating each other long before that, but De Sade's books dealing with pain and sex became so well known that the word, Sadism, was given in honor of him to refer to a person who derives pleasure from another's pain. He was first convicted, in his absence, of poisoning and sodomy of four girls. He received a reprieve and then after beating a man to death - for both of their pleasures - sentenced to death, but his mother imposed on the King of France to spare his life. It is reputed that in exchange for his life, de Sade's punishment was to be forced to watch his mother enjoy sex with the king. Most of de Sade's books were written while he was in jail, where he spent a good deal of time, 27 years. At the height - or low - of the French Revolution he was arrested for having written, Justine and was eventually sent to the Charenton lunatic asylum where died in 1814. His most famous work, 1000 Days of Sodom received a cool welcome when it was published in English a few years ago. There are no originals of his works, and those that are "unofficial" are often considered to be "obscene" by the courts. How works which have had profound influenced on writers such as Dostoevski, Kafka can be obscene cannot be imagined, but branding a writing as obscene, is the ultimate form of censorship.
The unbound fury of the unremitting rebel who seeks to inflict and exceed the limits of human endurance is prominent in his works (though unedited versions of his works are hard if not impossible to find even in French). The brutality he expresses is not that of his own invention. He was a man born out of time. Three hundred years earlier he would have risen to great power and influence as an Inquisitor. His "perversions" in an earlier time would not only have been justified but extolled. He was a man who could have been Pope.
Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch was the opposite of de Sade. Born in 1836, he wrote over 90 books in which he attempted to espouse his political and sociological views. His most famous works dealt with the sexual pleasure that can be derived from submission and pain. Sacher-Masoch's, Venus in Fur, published in 1870, received great critical acclaim and led to his receiving the French, "Cross of the Legion of Honor" in 1883. Masoch expressed what was common belief in his day, that women were bestial, carnal and only one step above other animals - hence the duel representation of women with "fur" symbolic of the animal in her. But Masoch expressed more than a regurgitation of popular views. The theme of contrast between the pleasurable Goddess religion and the cold ascetic Christian religion was well developed in Venus in Furs.
Why does Venus, the vision of the body beautiful hide herself in furs? Venus gives the answer, "To you Nature is an enemy. You have made devils of the smiling gods of Greeks and you have turned me into a creature of evil. Stay in your northern mists and Christian incense and leave our pagan world to rest under the lava and the rubble. Do not dig us up. Pompeii was not built for you, nor were our villas, our baths and our temples. You do not need the gods, they would freeze to death in your climate."
Not much has changed in over 100 years when Severin, the male protagonist in the book comments, "Venus must hide herself in a vast fur lest she catch cold in our abstract northern climate, in the icy realm of Christianity." The nudes of Playboy, Penthouse, Hustler and the volumes of other "adult" publications still find themselves catching cold in Christianity's icy realm.
The term Masochism was not coined by Sacher-Masoch, who was quite disturbed at the title, but by Richard Van Kraft-Ebing, who was one of the noted psychologist of the day - which doesn't say much for psychology.
In Krafft-Ebing's book 1886 book Psychopathia Sexualis he defined masochism as, "the wish to suffer pain and be subjected to force". According to him and his fellow pseudo-scientists, the phenomenon of masochism as a true perversion existed only in men. "In woman voluntary subjection to the opposite sex is a physiological phenomenon. Owing to her passive role in procreation and long existent social condition, ideas of subjection are, in woman, normally connected with the idea of sexual relations". In other words it is normal for women to want to be beaten and subject to men because they have, "an instinctive inclination to voluntary subordination to men", and that masterful behavior by men is, "accepted with secret satisfaction".
As for woman's pleasure, Kraft-Ebing describes the desire to perform oral sex on a woman as, "a perverse impulse to perform cunnilingus." And further, "These horrible sex acts seem to be committed only by sensual men who have become satiated, or impotent from excessive indulgence in a normal way." I'd prefer one of those perverted clit licker to a supposed normal ass beater any day.
Such was the state of the science of psychology and sexology at the turn of the century. It was one big mountain of bull shit - scientific veneer for the Christian dogma that by the Christian god's command, women should be subject to her husbands, no matter now the jerk treated her. With Christian priests teaching that woman should be lowered to submission by Gods command and a supposed scientist declaring that women by nature actually like to be abused. Naturally the average domineering male chauvinist would seize upon such crap as giving validity to his abusive treatment of woman. Krafft-Ebing, though he certainly guaranteed immortality to the name of Sacher-Masoch by giving him a place in everyday vocabulary, must be looked upon as a primal male voice railing the twilight of Christianity. He did more than a disservice to the man whose writings are more than a shallow portrayal of a giver and inflictor of pain, he did an even greater disservice to womankind with his totally unscientific statements.
Sacher-Masoch made more than a statement on the contrasts between Christianity and the ancient Goddess religions. What Christians often called the pagan religions, originally meant the religion of the people, the common people. He also made commentary on how woman was visualized during his time which was largely a product of Christian woman hatred. In the 19th Century, indeed even until the mid 20th century woman was considered bestial, just one step above the animal whose nature erupted in her without warning. In furs, she symbolized the cat who was loving but arrogantly distant, yet there was something of the bear in her which rose to devour the man. That is still the concept of woman in the twilight of Christianity. Now as we enter the post Christian era and emerge from the dark and icy cold of northern Christian dogma, once again women are permitted to feel the warmth of the love of The Goddess and the harmony She brings to man and nature. Sacher-Masoch had no idea how close the time was when Venus could shed her furs and openly declare, "If I can conquer nude, why should I bear arms?"
When the nude Venus arouse man's desires, but he does not rise, men must turn to those things which are named after Aphrodite, the aphrodisiac.