Blacks in BDSM - literature and film
There is evidence of BDSM in artwork and literature throughout history. Probably the most famous descriptions come from the works of the Marquis de Sade (from whom the word "sadist" is derived) in the late 1700s, however there are countless other examples to be found in books, illustrations, and early photography. Unfortunately people of color were sadly underrepresented in most cases.
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It wasn't until bondage magazines became popular in the 1970s that we began to often see women of color engaged in acts of BDSM. Previously detective magazines, which were published as early as the 1930's, had covertly provided a way of publishing bondage imagery but they rarely featured models of color. Although these images largely objectified and over-sexualized Black women, bondage pictorials did create a successful niche in the industry and for many people of color these magazines were their first exposure to BDSM.
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In the 1970's adult films featuring BDSM content often used ethnic actors and actresses because of the added interracial taboo. Early porn films had BDSM content that distributors today would never dare include because of today's harsher obscenity laws. Blaxploitation films first came on the scene in the mid 70's and were frequently criticized for stereotypical characterization of Black people and glorification of violence. The heroes and heroines of these films had extremely dominant personalities, and most of the films featured dominant/submissive sex scenarios as well.
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Black BDSM magazines and newsletters began publishing in the 70's and continued for many years. "Black Amazon Digest", "Black Mistress Review", "Obeah" and "Black Leather In Color" are a few of the more recognizable publications. Most of the early magazines were used primarily by White males searching for Black female mistresses. "Black Leather in Color" was the first fetish magazine created specifically for people of color by people of color. Today most Black BDSM newsletters have been replaced by online versions or ezines.
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By the 80's Black bondage pictorials had become fairly commonplace, and in the late 90's the fashion and entertainment industry seemed to discover BDSM. Corsets, chains, latex and leather were increasingly displayed on runways, in movies and music videos. Celebrities began sporting daring fetish styles and sometimes made veiled comments about BDSM. Janet Jackson's "Velvet Rope" album hinted at her enjoyment of BDSM and during a magazine interview she talked about her high threshold for pain and how she enjoyed pushing the limits of pleasure.
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The new millenium ushered in an age of both sexual expression and censorship. A fetish attired Janet Jackson "accidentally" bared her pierced nipple during the 2003 Superbowl halftime show causing an outrage among viewers. Halle Berry's catwoman doll came complete with leather mask and singletail but was criticised as being too perverted for children. Rap and goth musicians turned leashes and collars into fashion accessories and black bdsm websites continued to sprout up all over the internet. It is now fairly easy to find tasteful, well composed black bondage imagery, however representation of heterosexual black male dominants is slim to non-existent.
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Today it would seem as though certain aspects of the BDSM lifestyle have become somewhat socially acceptable. Lets take a look at the past...