If you’ve only got time to read one article this week, I’m going to recommend Garage Magazine’s BDSM is Everywhere from High Culture to High Fashion. In 1995, photographer Susan Meiselas explored FemDom club Pandora’s Box in NYC for Magnum Photos. She revisits it 22 years later for this assignment, along with writer Katherine Bernard. Meiselas’s practice in photography is to collaborate with those who inhabit the hidden worlds she documents, which gets her invited into private spaces and private moments. Bernard complements this with an insightful look at the way BDSM has changed from old to new, and how it meshes with fashion, and digital and pop culture.
To consider the scope of sexuality is like turning your gaze to the universe—you may love to probe outer space’s unknowable edges, or you may feel sick at the spread of stars, dizzied by the pulses. With the internet, fetish is not a dark reach; it’s right there, and the vastness of human desire—whips, chains, inflatables, exhalations, toes, latex, goosebumps, statues, mirrors, gravel, trees, hot wax, and beyond—is available to behold. “It’s uncensorable and totally sexual. If you don’t get freaked out by that feeling, you can really stretch your mind,” says Lissa Rivera, a curator at the Museum of Sex in New York.
A few weeks ago we reported in This Week in Kink about the mysterious death of Kathleen Dawn “Kat” West, a housewife with a subscription-only adult website who stirred up a lot of internet interest when she was found dead across the road from her home in Calera in Alabama.
Like many people, you might have suspected that the husband discovered her secret online identity and went crazy, or perhaps that one of Kat’s online encounters had gone too far and was discovered.
Last week her husband, William “Jeff” West was arrested on murder charges. According to the New York Post, a boozy date night drinking Absinthe led to a horrible accident. It’s difficult to understand how a drunken encounter might lead to accidentally bludgeoning someone with an Absinthe bottle, but that’s the story so far.
Possibly anticipating the conclusions that people might come to, a friend close to them said:
Jeff was well aware of his wife’s online persona and “got off” on the idea that she was wanted by other men.
The story that comes out during the court case should certainly be interesting.
When it comes to casually hooking up for no-strings-attached fun, it seems that heterosexuals are still lagging behind the gay community in the technology stakes. Mashable’s The Best Hookup Apps for Casual Daters identifies CasualX and Tinder as being best for straight hookups.
If you’re in the rural areas of Taiwan or China, music blaring through loudspeakers and raunchy pole dancing is not out of the question at a funeral. In January, a Taiwan politician’s funeral featuring a convoy of 50 jeeps with pole dancers on the roof brought traffic to a standstill.
Risque performers draw a crowd, and good attendance is a mark of honour for the deceased. A display of wealth is also often designed to show that the deceased was a good provider, so families hire actors, singers, comedians and strippers to comfort the bereaved and entertain the mourners.
The practice is currently in the news because China’s Ministry of Culture said last month that it was targeting “striptease” and other “obscene, pornographic, and vulgar performances” at funerals, weddings and traditional Chinese New Year public gatherings.
It’s not the first time that they’ve turned their focus to the practice. They began clamping down on “obscene” performances in 2006 and tried again in 2015. This time, they’ve created a special hotline to report “funeral misdeeds”.
London’s Photographer’s Gallery is hosting Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-dressers until June 3. It features the comprehensive archives of French filmmaker and archivist Sebastien Lifshitz, collected over the last 25 years, and traces over a century of gender-bending across Europe and America. It takes the concept of cross-dressing past gender constructs, from drag-soldiers who were prisoners of war in the early 1900s to secret crossdressing societies in 1950s America, and the gender-non conforming glamour of 1920s Parisian cabaret.
Michel Foucault, who died of AIDS in June 1984 at the age of fifty-seven, has been quoted in pretty much every PhD thesis written in the last 40 years. He wrote about power, and how every institution, no matter how benign it seems, is really a scene of unspeakable domination and subjugation. In a way, that philosophy spilt over into his personal life. Gay and promiscuous, his “radical approach to the body and its pleasures” included sadomasochism, exploring power as a source of delight.
Confessions of the Flesh, the fourth volume of Foucault’s ground-breaking The History of Sexuality has now been published, 34 years after his death. He began the book in the early 1980s, when he was already ill with AIDS, and as well as dealing with the subject of consent it looks at how the early Christian church was actually quite open in talking about sexuality, adultery, chastity, homosexuality and masturbation, and never made sex a taboo subject.
Feature image: Man in makeup wearing ring. Photograph from a photo booth, with highlights of colour. US circa 1920. From the exhibition Under Cover: A Secret History of Cross-dressers.