“By ignoring, and even persecuting the S&M people, organised homosexuality … (has) done exactly what straight society has done to the rest of us.” Good. good. But where does the article on S&M (Gay News 6) go from there? Doesn’t it fall into exactly the same traps of liberalism that straight society has with gays? “We have no moral right to pass judgement on those who cannot help themselves.” Isn’t this identical to the patronising, alienating position taken up by drawing-room intellectuals over any group whose activities they find distasteful and therefore compromising to their ‘humane’ sentimentalities? The only use such statements serve is to maintain the writer in a state of smug satisfaciton — secure in the knowledge that the accusation “prude” or “reactionary” can’t be levelled against him.
That fetishism depersonalises was well argued, but is it necessary then to set sado-masochists apart as a bunch of wierdos bent on their own destruction? The writer seemed to be in just that state of confusion (unable to decide between what he believes and what he suspects it might be proper to believe) that produces false arguments and justifications. Now, I thought it was risky to have any sort of sexual contact with someone who has VD. You don’t have to piss on one another. The suggestion that SM is sick and dirty made by linking urination to blindness through sadomasochism has well-worn parallels. Remember the linking of buggery to VD through homosexuality first by the denouncers of, and later by the apologists for, gays? But we mustn’t condemn, we’re told, because “Within each of us there are elements of sadism and masochism.” Familiar?
The article twists and turns, caught between the extremes of radicalism and reaction that typify liberal apology. It advocates liberation for all gay people, which must surely presume the surmountability of repression in our society, but then declares that heterosexuality will always breed inequality “because of the differences between men and women.” Women’s Liberation groups may as well give up the ghost then. Woman’s role at present isn’t a despicable aberration that we have evolved into and can hopefully evolve out of again. No, no – it’s all part of the immutable plan. Or was perhaps this just an unconscious piece of gay chauvinist piggery? I hope so.
Still, the article was, as you suggest, a step forward. SM has been discussed. But let’s hope that as straight society will grow out of limp liberalism to understanding and acceptance, then gay society might do the same.
The article on S&M that you ‘lifted’ from Gay Sunshine is fascinating and valuable, but once I had finished drooling over the luscious leather lad in your first photo (but whatever is he wearing underneath? A plain rollneck sweater seems the only appropriate accompaniment for a garment as complex in cut and detail as a rocker jacket.
However, I didn’t set out to write fashion notes. Now where was I?) it struck me that Mr Hanson’s rather congested prose gives the impression, accidentally I hope, that S&M is a peculiarity of homosexuals. I’m not expert, in any sense, in this field, but I very much doubt if this is so. I can recall several court cases involving hetero S&M — the hotel keeper who accidentally suffocated his wife in their love-play; the city gent who required his wife to tie him up and trample on him in high heels, which would, even if there were no other evidence, establish the contrary. You say that ‘although gay liberationists have strongly supported transvestites and pederasts … sado-masochism has been completely ignored.’ It seems to me that sado-masochism is simply a perverted mode of expressing sexuality of any sort, be it hetero, homo, pederasty (or, no doubt, bestiality as well). It thus differs in kind from the other ‘perversions’ with which it is always lumped, as, eg in the Encyclopaedia Britannica which describes it bluntly as the substitution of hate for love in sexual relations. My point is simply that, so far from being something about which we should feel especially ashamed and guilty, S&M, in its nasty way, is something that links us to mankind as a whole. The article you reprinted might add to your readers’ psychological burdens, instead of alleviating them. Society has done enough to make us feel guilty as it is.
J. D. Blount