Saturday, 2 February 2008

BDSM In music

I'd be interested to see what you all have to say about this discussion I'm having over at BFP's about BDSM themes in music and sexism. It's sort of a sidespin off a much more important point about how we interpret sexism in music made by white men vs. music made by black men, but I thought it might be interesting to think about over here, too.

What do you all think? Do you feel solicitous of BDSM themes in sexist songs, or do you not? I have to confess that I tend to collect songs about domination and submission and enjoy them and not think too much, even if their lyrics are M/f in a creepy way, and that I've been criticized for this by other feminists in the recent past.

Opinions?

22 comments:

Mighty Fast Pig said...

There's an interesting cross pollination between BDSM/fetish and music genres like punk and metal. It's always an easy way to get attention on an album cover. You can probably trace it back to 50s rocker Gene Vincent, who knew how to rock the black leather and the white face makeup.

I see BDSM and rock and rap drawing off the same storehouse of archetypes and legends, presenting a world of glory and nihilism, absolute love and absolute betrayal, heroism and villainy. It's not always nice or PC.

So when I listen to Everclear sing: "I know the answers to my questions/They are purple black and blue/And they're waiting for me in my bed", I feel a certain recognition, but I don't get much concerned about whether this is presenting BDSM in a good or bad light, or warping impressionable young minds.

Dan Holzman-Tweed said...

I don't know if Gene Vincent was an influence on metal, but we get the leather-and-kink thing from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, who is in fact a leatherman.fd

I've also noticed a certain heteronormativity on the part of many feminist analyses of BDSM themes in metal, particularly where they think Halford's singing about M/f rather than M/m. I wind up not accepting criticism of M/f themes when they are explicitly presented as such rather than "normality" because they occur within a larger context of BDSM themes.

Trinity said...

"we get the leather-and-kink thing from Judas Priest singer Rob Halford, who is in fact a leatherman."

excellent excellent excellent point.

Mighty Fast Pig said...

"[Gene] Vincent came on in the first top to toe, black leather suit I'd ever seen. There was a ring on the outside of his single black glove.... He moved with an accentuated limp. The end of a steel leg brace was clearly visible below the cuff of his pants....

"There is absolutely no doubt that Gene Vincent was the first rock 'n' roller to make black leather a trademark. Forget about Elvis Presley. Presley didn't get himself up in a black leather suit until his NBC-TV special in 1968. Even Vincent didn't start dressing that way until the start of the sixties.... The leather jacket only became stage wear in the perverse sixties and the raucous seventies. It was for robbery and rumbles, riding a motorcycle, woofing at girls and scowling at citizens. It was punky daywear...."

Farren, Mick. "The Black Leather Jacket" Abbeville, 1985, Pg.45

Farren goes on to say that a BBC producer named Jack Good costumed Vincent, after Vincent fled the US for the UK. Good based the look on Olivier's black outfit in the 1956 film version of Richard III.

"Huge, baying crowds of teenage boys treated him [Vincent] as an ideal, badass role model, an ultimate leader of the pack. Although Vincent wasn't actually responsible for introducing the black leather jacket to Europe, he was a major force in promoting it as a symbol of discontented youth. In France, he was challenged by another American expatriate called Vince Taylor who actually brought a lawsuit against Vincent in an attempt to stop him wearing his leathers. He claimed that it was he and not Vincent or Good who had originated the look."

Ibid., Pg.28

Trinity said...

"I've also noticed a certain heteronormativity on the part of many feminist analyses of BDSM themes in metal, particularly where they think Halford's singing about M/f rather than M/m."

BTW, can you point me at this? I've actually not seen feminists analyze Priest. I tend to see people yelling at the Rolling Stones, some vitriol at that one Nickelback song recently, some aimed at the Beatles for that "I'll kill you if you cheat, girl" song (name currently escapes me), etc.

Priest, though, that I've not seen. All I remember about Priest was that one really famous suicide.

Trinity said...

relevant and amusing:

http://www.cuirmale.nl/history/pop-music.htm

ellefromtheeast said...

In a VHI special about the history of heavy metal, they even mentioned Mr. S. as Rob Halford's outfitters. :)

Trinity said...

"In a VHI special about the history of heavy metal, they even mentioned Mr. S. as Rob Halford's outfitters. :)"

SO MUCH WIN.

Alon Levy said...

The only BDSM song I know is Diggin' Your Scene, which is F/m. On the other hand, it sounds more like the average horny male's ideal of F/m than like how I imagine Trin's relationships.

Trinity said...

Yeaaaaaah, that;s not a relationship. That's. Um. Silliness cubed.

Though the gun play could be fun. Take out the bullets and it's just a scary as hell looking prop.

Or (which I'd be more likely to actually do) just convince the person something that isn't even a gun is one. It's amazing what sensory deprivation and ambiance can do.

Alon Levy said...

Yeah, it's true. I've seen someone simulate a burning sensation by using an ice cube and a heated knife. He said that with sensory deprivation, the sub wouldn't know she's not actually burned until she sees that there are no burn marks.

I guess the silliness ties in to what passes for BDSM in mainstream culture. You can't explain psychological play in a four-minute pop song.

Dan Holzman-Tweed said...

It's been decades since I've seen the critique, but it centered around the song Eat Me Alive, which is about a blow job in an elevator at gunpoint. Sounds like a hot scene to me with the proper precautions, and it was very amusing watching people assume it was a woman giving the blow job.

Trinity said...

Dan: Yes, that's *great*. I wonder what the critiquers thought when he came out as gay.

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I've been sort of chewing on this for a bit, because I don't think I have any BDSM-specific music especially (I mean, aside from Depeche Mode's 'Master and Servant', heh), but ... I do collect things.

I put together, for part of my Feri training, a playlist for the Sex point of the Iron Pentacle, and only afterwards when I was listening to it did I realise that all of the things that said 'sex' to me had power inflections in them too (Power is a different IP point) -- stuff like "Faster than the Speed of Night" ('You're such a pretty boy -- let me show you what to do and you'll do it').

Sometimes stuff is creepy; sometimes framing it in a d/s concept is creepy even if it isn't. It's one of those bring-your-own-framing things, I think, a lot of the time, art as collaboration between artist and observer ....

Ritualistic said...

I'm often surprised that the following song doesn't come up in discussion more often - Faster Pussycat's "Where there's a whip, there's a way".

For me Faster Pussycat were the quintessance of late 80's cock-rock cliche (BIG hair, scarves tied round cowboy boots and a singer who went by the moniker Taime Downe).

The song in itself represents an incredible achievement. It actually defies any attempt at sub-textual reading. As all the sexual references are explicity text and not sub-text:




Where there's a whip, there's a way.

Nobody knows how to tie the simple knots that I know
Getting weak in the knees and your bruises are beginning to show
The only way she knows how to take it is blow by blow
Strapped to the rack with a slap on the ass should make her eyes
glow

I ain't no boy of bondage, you can use it, you can use it
I'm a loose lip talkin jockey with a whip & track to prove it
I'm the dehumanizing master
You better start your talking, cause I get what I go after

Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
The devil in she likes the sweet beatin dreams everyday
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way

When it's time to leave the baby I'll let you know
I've got you buckled to the floorboards
Got you screamin like a pooch on a leash to let you go
She grinds her leather like Liberace rhines a stone
She rides just like a pony gonna sign that filly up for the rodeo

I ain't no boy of bondage, you can use it, you can use it
I'm a loose lip talkin jockey with a whip & track to prove it
I'm the dehumanizing master
You better start your talking, cause I get what I go after

Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
The devil in she likes the sweet beatin dreams everyday
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way

Nobody knows how to tie the simple knots that I know
She grinds her leather like Liberace rhines a stone
Getting weak in the knees and your bruises are beginning to show
She rides just like a pony gonna sign that filly up for the rodeo

I ain't no boy of bondage, you can use it, you can use it
I'm a loose lip talkin jockey with a whip & track to prove it
I'm the dehumanizing master
You better start your talking, cause I get what I go after

Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way
The devil in she likes the sweet beatin dreams everyday
Where, where there's a whip, there's a way

ellefromtheeast said...

I was thinking about this, and I just remembered Madonna's song "Hanky Panky", about how she likes "a good spanky". (The link is a YouTube safe-for-work video, with dance routine from the Dick Tracy movie.)

Anyway, I was twelve years old when that song came out, and I remember my mom saying something about how horrible it was that Madonna was promoting the idea that domestic abuse was okay. And even though I wasn't (consciously) having any kinky fantasies at the time, I distinctly remember thinking, "Um, no, that's not at all what she's talking about, but I'm not getting into it with you, MOM."

Trinity said...

"I remember my mom saying something about how horrible it was that Madonna was promoting the idea that domestic abuse was okay. And even though I wasn't (consciously) having any kinky fantasies at the time, I distinctly remember thinking, "Um, no, that's not at all what she's talking about,"

yeah, people JUST DO NOT GET IT.

ΑλφαΚαπαΒητα said...

hello!
well if you collect bdsm music
you should check the sex pox/surreal/rythm industrial group last days of s.e.x. (www.myspace.com/lastdaysofsex)

or the brilliant band Die Form. (www.myspace.com/dieformofficial)

For me sexism in music has to do with egoism. When someone is a racist he does not treat other people as equals he JUST uses them to reach his own goal. He simply does not care about his sexual partner and he treats him/her like an object (to make it clear when someone WANTS to be treated like an object is something totally different and wonderful hehe).When i listen to songs like the rnb ones, i think those people are very selfish they just care about theirselves (either by making money,being famous,smoking pot,being rich,having sex without caring about their partners,ect)

littlespy said...

There's three prongs as I see it. There are bands/artist that use fetishism & bdsm imagery for titillation purposes and to get attention and it's in no way represented lyrically or in the band's style. (Check out All Saints - Rock Steady video or numerous girl band videos - Sugarbabes writhing around in latex etc.)
In my mind this has no clear link to BDSM other than some stylist thought it would make them look edgy or get more men to listen/watch/wank.

Secondly you get artists who reference BDSM imagery knowingly and conciously - Lady Gaga's Alejandro springs to mind. She very conciously uses latex, bondage, female dominance in her videos and some lyrics - although a lot of the songs are loosely connected.

Finally you get bands who knowingly and overtly reference BDSM. Peaches - I, You, She for example. She acknowledges bondage and aggressive sexuality in her music.

For me the most overtly BDSM music I can think of comes from electro bands - Robots in Disguise 'The Sex Has Made Me Stupid' and it's refrain of "When he's up against the wall, Another act of agression,I want you on the floor, get down, go." She Wants Revenge 'Monologue'
"This is the time of night when the moonlight shines down
and we can reveal who we truly are within the darkest most depraved Of joys.

If your afraid to say
But you'd like to try
Just give me the safe word and take your hand
And smack me in the mouth , my love"

It's very overt and about opening yourself to new experiences.

Finally Recoil probably has some of the most clearly BDSM songs I've come across - Breath Control kind of speaks for itself. The music is dark and the lyrics graphic without being explicit or crude it's both beautiful and unnerving at the same time.

I think the 'vanilla' world finds it easier to be titillated by the first, intrigued by the second and not entirely sure what to make of the third!

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