Emergence of Modern BDSM
Tracing BDSM in the modern context isn’t easy – as we’ve seen, there has always been shades of different aspects throughout history where restraint, pain, and unique pleasure were involved.
After the turn of the 20th century; however, things began to further emerge. There were a couple of specific movements that have seemed to influence modern BDSM that I’ll touch on in this post.
Leather Subculture & the Old Guard
In the late 1940’s, there was a gay male leather culture that emerged in the post war biker scene. Within it, there grew a tradition of protocols and rituals. The term “Old Guard” was created (and is often romanticized) from this era.
While leather is closely identified with the Old Guard, you need to know that there was a very formal hierarchy. These of course were the times when people dressed up. Etiquette was very important. Most of the S&M community was gay, but it wasn’t exclusive. And in the these days anything related to the words gay or BDSM was extremely taboo.
To gain entry into the club, a Master would apprentice you. You might receive a collar of consideration – followed by a training collar – then after years of training you’d receive your actual collar. High protocol was demanded.
Josh Lange (better known as John Norman) was born in 1931 and wrote a series of novels that were based loosely on Nietzschean philosophy as well as social darwinism. From them, a Gorean subculture emerged that places an emphasis on servitude and slavery.
Generally speaking in a Gorean relationship there is a Master and slave. While sex is an element, there is more of an emphasis on consensual slavery down to the finite details of positions and service.
Modern Erotica & the New Guard
In the late 80’s and early 90’s a new subculture appeared that the Old Guard and Goreans (for the most part) despised. This New Guard sought to change some of the traditions, fuse others, and find a new synergy.
BDSM began to show it’s face more and more in Hollywood and in paperback form. From 9 1/2 weeks to Body of Evidence, movie producers and directors began to show a different side to sexual relationships. And the underground movement soared in response. Where there is one market there is also another. Modern erotica and romance novels quickly began to sweep across the nation as different imagery and fantasies made their way into ink.
Out of the New Guard emerged a post-modern group that makes up the majority of the BDSM community today. There is no defined line that one can make to divide, as there are no set rules – no set protocols. If it is Safe-Sane-Consensual then it is tolerable and accepted.
With the rise of the internet and the increase in awareness that such a subculture exists (though it is still not embraced by society), the melting pot has grown beyond a definition.
There are D/s, M/s, TIH, DD, Tops, bottoms, switches, high/medium/low protocols. To some extent, some of these groups separate themselves from the others; and while they are not all the same, they all share some similar characteristics. The older movements still exist (Old, Gorean, New), and for the most part the don’t get along. But the post modern group tends to take what it likes from each one and mixes them together to create their own identity – not for the group, but for the individual.