Sadomasochism: The Process of Transformation

I found this week’s discussion of McClintock to be particularly interesting in her analysis of S/M relationships and the experience of transformation.  She explains S/M by stating, “S/M, however, is less a biological flaw, or a pathological expression of natural male aggression and natural female passivity, than it is an organized subculture shaped around the ritual exercise of social risk and social transformation” (143).  Most people assume that S/M or other BDSM activities are focused on only dominate and submissive roles, but McClintock believes the experience and pleasure obtained by these roles also derives from change.  This type of change or transformation often take the form of many different roles found in industrial imperialism such as “class (servant to mistress), race (white woman to black slave), gender (woman to man), economy (land to city) and age (adult to baby)” (142).  McClintock also points out that the majority of fetishes or roles that are acted out usually belong to the masochist.

Cullwick’s use of her slave band as a form of resistance also provided a way of demonstrating her submission to Munby.  This form of resistance also spoke to the invisibility of domestic servants and women’s labor in relation to the presence of dirt.  McClintock explains that, “in Victorian culture, the bodily relation to dirt expressed a social relation to labor…  Dirt was a Victorian scandal because it was the surplus evidence of manual work, the visible residue that stubbornly remained after the process of industrial rationality had done its work” (153).  Thus, Cullwick’s resistance in removing the slave band could also be seen as a way of resisting the invisibility of dirt within Victorian culture.

BDSM culture is becoming an increasingly acceptable form of sexual pleasure within our society.  However, it still possesses a number of negative stigmas as well as misconceptions.  A group of people in Bloomington have formed a group called Bloomington Kink that seeks to educate people about the correct ways of performing BDSM techniques as well as increasing acceptance and understanding of the culture.  I thought I would share some information about the group in case anyone would like to check it out!  Here’s the link:  


-Krystal McKenzie


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