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A Lover’s Pinch: A Cultural History of Sadomasochism – See true research at work

A Lover’s Pinch – A Cultural History of Sadomasochism

Peter Tupper
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
344 pages
Language: English
Isbn: 978-1538111178
@: buy it online

Let me say this straight away, so as to dispel any doubt: my opinion about A lover’s pinch – A cultural history of sadomasochism is definitely partisan. So partisan it borders on fanboyism, actually, but for a good reason. I followed the creation of this book for years, getting excited every time the author published in his blog a new article describing his research. Post after post, it has been a motherlode of unparalleled discoveries and insights, thanks to an impeccable philological expertise.

Here’s an example. Have you ever heard about Arthur Munby? Probably not, since he was an extremely minor historical figure in the mid-Nineteenth century: a Victorian poetaster who today is only remembered by a few kinksters due to his relationship with his maid Hannah Cullwick. They had one of the earliest documented erotic domination relationships, so much so that some people consider them the patron saints of 24/7 couples.
When Peter Tupper decided to tackle them, however, he didn’t just copy the fifteen Wikipedia lines about Munby. Quite the opposite, he cloistered himself away with their private diaries and letters and read them from top to bottom, taking notes on inconsistencies, lexical peculiarities, possible inspirations for certain fantasies and so on. It took a while, but in the end he distilled their story (quotations included) in ten surprising pages – especially because it turns out that the “slave” was actually an extraordinarily emancipated woman, and far from submissive. That’s the difference between an amateur and a true researcher for you.

The book counts almost 350 such pages, so you can imagine the information density in this ‘cultural history of sadomasochism’. The author painstakingly analyzed every aspect that concurred to form the current idea of BDSM: the shamanistic and religious influences; the literary provocations and escapism; the artistic representations; the ethnical conflicts; the Afro-American slave trade; the politics and its symbols; the social revolutions; the ideological exploitations and more. He then made a remarkable bibliographic work on each subject and he peppered it all with anecdotes as fascinating as they are enlightening. Finally he allowed himself to ask the one question which, in the end, we all wondered about: «what is the meaning of it all?» And yes, he also gave an answer.

As I said, I cannot but call such a feat a miracle. No matter the bland title (which is actually a Shakespearian quote about our ambivalent relationship with death), this is undoubtedly the best book written so far about the cultural side of extreme eroticism. If studying unusual sex is your thing, it is worth every cent of its somewhat steep cover price. But what about the others?

Well, this is a good moment to note that this is no light reading. Even with all the efforts spent to make it a mainstream book, A Lover’s Pinch remains an academic text at heart, for good and for bad. In other words: if you are allergic to footnotes and bibliographical references you are probably better off with more basic volumes.
Otherwise, you can trust the quote printed on the back cover:

Peter Tupper’s remarkably detailed work answers two key questions: Where does BDSM come from? And, even more importantly, What does it mean? Whatever your interest in kink is, A Lover’s Pinch deserves a prominent spot among your references. (Ayzad, kink educator and author of “The Sexual Explorers Manifesto”)

Yup: I did write that one. I told you I am a fanboy.

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