In the previous episode of the podcast I reviewed the classic Different Loving: The World of Sexual Dominance and Submission by William Brame, Gloria Brame and Jon Jacobs, as well as the follow up, Different Loving Too: Real People, Real Lives, Real BDSM by Dr Gloria Brame and William Brame.
This is the text of that review.
[Full disclosure, I received both of these books for free, but I’m pretty much incapable of lying about what I think of books. Go listen to episode four for my philosophy on free books and reviewing integrity.]
When Different Loving came out it was the first book of its kind. No one had attempted to publish a survey of kinky people and what they do. At the start of Different Loving Too, the authors talk about the difficulties being taken seriously by the mainstream book-reviewing public.
‘The review copies keep disappearing at The New York Times,’ [their publicist] Sharyn said, ‘but then they act like they are too good to review you. Do you know what someone at the New York Review told me? They said it was too heavy to read one-handed!’
HA! This reminds me of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, which was the first catalogue of perversions written for learned men and the general populace snapped it up…and not for learnin’s sake. ‘What filth! Wait… don’t turn the page, I’m not done with this one yet.’ Except this time around the authors weren’t setting out to show the perversity that exists in the world, they were trying to open people’s minds.
The authors persevered and wound up with 525 pages of information, quotes and interviews about what kinky people got up to at just about the birth of the internet. At one point in Different Loving someone explains what having sex online is like and they call is CompuSex and go on to say that it’s not that weird. I’m in the future thinking, ‘We have books on sexting now. Don’t worry, your time will come.’
The original book is divided into sections based on activities or fetishes or interests. In the second book, they explain why they did it that way:
When we wrote the original Different Loving, we let anecdotal evidence drive the organization of material. Our findings in 1991 were that BDSM was a deeply segmented world. Fetishists in particular tended to concentrate on meeting others who shared their specific fetish, rather than, say, leather/D&S culture at large. We organized our book to reflect the small communities which operated, to one degree or another, under the umbrella of ‘The Scene’ yet whose members often had little or no contact outside of their group. Today, it is impossible to segregate the fetishes or organize BDSM according to what people do because BDSM today reflects decades of experimentation and melding of SM, fetish and leather communities.
When I was reading it, I just thought it was a logical way to organize the book. I hadn’t realized it was put together that way because people would only be interested in their little thing and look for others interested in that little thing. BDSM is about (or should be about) being allowed to look at the myriad options out there and seeing what appeals. Everyone brings their interest—like an obscene potluck—and you don’t have to try it, but now you know it’s there. As glad as I am there wasn’t an internet when I was writing all of my emo teenage poetry, I’m incredibly glad there’s one now so I can be witness to the obscene potluck and work out what I might like for myself. I wouldn’t have come up with a great deal of things I’ve learned about from other people— whether reading or seeing online.
Reading Different Loving now – besides the difference in the way technology worked then versus now — terminology has changed, sometimes radically, over the last twenty-two years. The section on transsexuals and transgender issues was the most jarring to a contemporary reader.
In the rest of the book, I enjoyed the word ‘switchable’ whereas people would say they are a switch now. ‘I’m switchable.’ It sounds like a changeling. ‘Did you used to be a faun? Can you change into a corvette?’ ‘Are you a Transformer?’
It makes me wonder how the language will change over the next twenty years.
Also, people used to go to BDSM support groups rather than munches. That sounded sort of … sad. To my mind, people need support groups when they have a problem. It doesn’t sound celebratory. And kink should be about celebrating. I got this picture of people sitting around a school gymnasium in a big circle, middle of the say, in full fetish gear, slumped over, defeated. ‘Hi, my name’s Bob and I’ve been into heavy bondage and public humiliation for ten years.’ ‘Hiiii Booooob. Dickheeeeeead.’ ‘Thanks, guys.’
Reading people’s interviews, which were generally one to three pages long in Different Loving and then catching up with them in the second book was, poignant. Seeing them at one point in their kink journeys then twenty years later was … I’m going with poignant. It reminded me of the long-running British documentary series 7-Up, where they’ve been following the same people since they were seven years old, checking in on them every seven years. They’ve done eight now, so the original ‘kids’ are now 56 years old. It’s fascinating watch people age and become wiser or simply go through the typical stages of life. It also makes you face the reality of your own progress through the years. Reading the second interviews with the people in Different Loving Too had a similar effect.
Anyway, the advice the people from Different Loving Too had for people currently in the scene was enlightening. I wanted to sit down with them and ask more questions.
There were so many excellent quotes and outstanding advice. I want to share a few.
This is from Chrissy B, who was interviewed for the first time for Different Loving Too.
The most powerful lesson I’ve learned from life as a kinky, transgendered person is that we’re all different but we’re all the same. Our kinks vary by person, and few are truly identical. But at our core we’re all seeking fulfillment on a very deep level. Some of us are simply more honest about it than others.
Another person who was interviewed for the first time for Different Loving Too was Race Bannon—listed as A proud, public face of BDSM and LGBT activism since the 1980s, Race is an indefatigable innovator, creator, author, and leader in the leather/BDSM communities, this is the advice Race had:
When you first enter the scene, especially the organized scene, you believe deeply that your BDSM identity, preferred kinks and relationship dynamics are set in stone. You truly believe, ‘This is how I am and this is how I’ll always be.’ Then the reality sets in that the only constant is change, and that applies as much to people and BDSM as it does to everything else.
This was a sentiment echoed by many people and which I found comforting for personal reasons, which I may share during a later podcast. Lots of people talked about how you can count on the fact that what will interest you will change.
Lady Elaina was interviewed for the first book. This was what she had to say:
The scene opened my eyes about human power dynamics at a level that most regular folks probably don’t consider. My advice pertains to everyone: watch out for the unhealthy people who hide among us…they are numerous and often tell a good story. Sometimes they are obviously angry people, and sometimes they are slick like a snake. Listen when people warn you that someone has a bad reputation. Don’t jump into the lifestyle with so much trust that people hurt you. Take your time, if it is any good, it can wait a minute. Just because it is on the Internet, doesn’t mean Master Moron has an opinion you should respect. Listen to respected leaders, there is a reason they are considered leaders! And get many different opinions about everything.
Patrick Mulcahey’s interview was a stand out piece for me—I will definitely be seeking out more of his writing. Some things he said:
I’m not big on ‘identifying.’ Now, I am not one of those ‘labels are meaningless’ people either. They are meaningful when employed with care and precision.
‘Identifying’ is about explaining yourself to other people: my project is about explaining me to me.
I love this concept. It’s very much like the ‘coming in’ concept from Coming Out Like a Porn Star, where you spend less time worrying about how others perceive you and more growing into your own self.
Mulcahey also said:
What we call normality is a feeling you’re in a movie everyone is watching, so you goddamn better get it right. One you stop believing (or caring) that you’re being watched and start looking inside, you can get on to more serious things. There a quality of attention you have to pay to yourself and to your partner in BDSM that’s rare, and revelatory. I kept wanting more of it.
I love ‘quality of attention’.
Eve Howard was interviewed in both books and boy howdy, this woman is hilarious. I’m interested in spanking, anyway, so I’d probably wind up reading Shadow Lane at some point, but my god… This part made me laugh out loud—this is from Different Loving Too.
How many vanillas do you know who just play with each other? What would they even do to call it play? Dribble food items into each other’s mouths? Erotic massage? Slow strip teases? You could die of boredom waiting for a straight person to come up with something new and interesting as a preface to or substitute for sex.
I love this woman. She reminds me of the bit in ‘Love Valor Compassion’ (by Terence McNally) about the straight people being everywhere. God, what do they even DO?! I had to look up the quote:
I am sick to death of straight people. Tell the truth, aren’t you? There’s just too goddamn many of them. I was in a bank the other day; they were everywhere – writing checks, making deposits. Two of them were applying for a mortgage. It’s disgusting! They’re taking over. No one wants to talk about it, but it’s true.
Eve Howard’s exasperation reminded me of that bit—it cracked me up.
There were lots of laugh out loud moments, though. And enlightening in the pants moments, too. Where your pants say, ‘Well, I hadn’t thought about that that way before, why didn’t you say?’ In the interviews in Different Loving people often explained what they got out of their fetishes and so I suddenly understood some things I hadn’t before. That was nice.
In Different Loving Too I felt seen. Or understood myself. It was rather a reverse situation. Whereas in the first book I was understanding other people, in the second, I was reading interviews either from people who’d been in the scene for many years or who were contributing to something called Community Dialogues. Those were questions Brame would ask on her Facebook page in private forums and 150 or so people in the BDSM community would answer.
Some of the responses were like they had come from myself, only put into words I hadn’t found yet. Like this one from an interview with Nigel Cross, where he talks about what he gets out of submission:
It’s because I’m most comfortable in this role. I feel wonderful when I’m doing something for woman I care about. When I see her smile and acknowledge that I was important to her because of my submissive acts, I’m at the top of my world. When I am needed by her, desired by her (not just sexually but just in a general sense of being), and appreciated by her, I can’t imagine another place I would rather be. The accoutrements of our lifestyle are great and can be great turn-ons, but they pale in magnitude to the wondrous revelation you receive when she smiles and shows how pleased she is with just being in the same room as you, and you know you exist as something that only makes her life that much better.
Do you ever read something and think ‘That person gets me? That person right there.’
Because I’m a big book nerd, I have to share this quote from Different Loving Too, where they asked the community if they’d read de Sade, what they’d thought.
One person who went by CS said:
So much philosophy… this isn’t what they said it would be… where’s the… OH MY!’ Got through Philosophy in the Bedroom, Justine seemed a little off, but Juliette was everything I heard de Sade was supposed to be, with a decent ratio of sex to pages of philosophy, long lists of exotic execution styles and the French equivalent of supervillians engineering famines just because it got them off. Whoa!
I tried to read 120 Days of Sodom years ago but it was a little too much ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ for me, if you know what I mean. Juliette is going on the To Read list, though. Thanks, CS!
In Different Loving I enjoyed learning or, more accurately, seeing what the history of the scene was like for people who were in it at the time.
Some things have changed but some have definitely remained the same. I’ll be interviewing Gloria on the show soon and will be asking her why she thinks certain things have or have not changed.
Sometimes there were assertions about how a particular activity was primarily male or was quite rare but there were no studies to back it up—because why would there be—so of course I’m curious if those things are more popular now or if their demographic has changed.
For example, forniphilia (the desire to be used as furniture) was ‘not very common’ and adult babies were mostly male. Hot wax is listed as ‘esoteric’ and electricity is listed as ‘uncommon’, though, now I think most people have at least heard of those last two if not tried them. Ah, the wonders of the internet.
One of the sections in the original book is about body modification—tattooing, scarification, piercing, that sort of thing. One of the interviewees is listed as The Doctor because he’s a doctor. He says this during his interview:
Plastic surgery has been well accepted in our society for a long time, It’s a process, though, of conformity. One has the ideal nose in mind and tries to shape many noses into that one ideal image. I think that’s why extensive plastic surgery is found to be socially acceptable and tattooing is considered to be quite radical. Tattooing is the ultimate individual expression. By the time it is done, the person looks like no other individual in society.
This is a concept I’ve long believed, but this guy beat me to it by a few decades! I think that once you go so far with plastic surgery you become an individual again and are, once again, an object of ridicule.
In the original book they talk about John Money—who clearly missed out on a promising rap career with that name—and his classification of fetishes. I mean, his name is Mr Money. MR MONEY. Johnny Money.
Anyway, he had two classifications of fetishes that were, I shit you not, ‘smellies’ and ‘feelies’. Here’s a quote from Mr John Money.
There are two classes of fetishes: the smellies and the feelies. For the fetishist, the smell or feel of the fetish is, in each instance, associated with the human body—for example, the smell of shoes or jockstraps, or the feel of hair, fur, silk, rubber (from training pants), and so on.
Then, because the authors were working from that point, they wanted to add a few. This is from the book:
We add to these the tasties and the seeies, and even the hearies, as fetishists describe other senses beside smell and feel as key to their arousal. Some interviewees believe that fetishes engage all the senses.
[I can’t believe they don’t have more clinical sounding names for the types. Good grief. But it also sort of sounds like something from a kids’ show to teach about the senses. ‘Let’s go visit the Smellies and see if they’ve sniffed anything interesting today! Ooh, roses and cake and fresh linens!’ This is how my mind works, people.]
Of the two books—they make a great pair. If you’re new to the scene and reading Different Loving the terminology is going to be a little incorrect, but it’s an education in where the BDSM community has come from, and in a relatively short period of time. There are more recent, more up-to-date books on kink, but this is the first. I think having the background on some of the interviewees from this book before reading the second one was interesting.
They were two very different books—I can’t recommend one over the other one, as they achieve different goals. I probably connected more personally with the second one because I felt I was engaging with people involved with a scene I recognized and was receiving advice I could use. But having read the previous book, I felt I knew some of the interviewees.
I highly recommend both of these. 5/5 for Different Loving Too, maybe 4/5 for Different Loving because I recognize not everyone is going to be in love with the history of BDSM.
One last thing, in regard to knowing the interviewees, in the original book one of the people interviewed was named Laura Antonio and in the back of my head a was voice saying, ‘That’s Laura Antoniou.’
But the person said they were using their real name and they were out and everything.
I started Different Loving Too and checked the list of people they caught up with to reinterview. Sure enough. I was right. It’s a stupid thing to grin about but I was very much: HA-HA! I KNEW IT.
As I said, I will be interviewing Dr Brame in an upcoming episode and I am very excited about that.