Our Lives, Our History – Consensual Master/slave relationships from ancient times to the 21st century
Peter Tupper (editor)
@: buy it online
To most people BDSM is, understandably, a very nice way of spending a few hours now and then, getting freaky with cool toys and outfits as they explore sensations and emotions they don’t normally experience during their daily lives. They get on all fours or bruise themselves a little, they let their inhibitions go until they finally reach the kind of orgasms no “missionary position quickie with the lights out” will ever give them… and then they’re done; time to go back to the real life. A few of them maybe go to the lenght of perusing a bondage guide, but that’s about it – and there is nothing wrong about that.
Still, a small minority of people takes erotic power exchange way more seriously. They are those who devote lots of time and introspection to learn all about BDSM and their attraction to it, who attend topical social events and workshops, or who even transform their whole lives to follow what they see as their true call. They are those who, as they say in some circles, have a master’s or a slave’s heart: to them, “real life” is BDSM, and everything else from work to family to social obligations is merely what necessarily exists beyond what is really important, sometimes seen more as an unavoidable annoyance than else.
Our Lives, Our History is all about this second group of people and what they really care about. Which is, maybe surprisingly, not whips and butt plugs but a strongly intellectual experience that borders on spiritual and with pretty serious social and political overtones. The book creation was in fact sponsored by an association called MTTA, which according to its charter is ‘dedicated to education about and support of consensual Master/slave relationships’ – and they are very serious about that.
This anthology consists of eighteen articles that wouldn’t feel out of place in an academic setting, all of them clearly well researched and full of footnotes and references to ensure their reliability.
The bulk of them deals with the history of MAsT, Butchmanns and MTTA, the three North-American organizations that since 1988 research “anything beyond the play sessions” of BDSM and educate the public about it. While occasionally dull as basic historic records can be, this section can also be breathtaking in the description of how a very small bunch of hellbent people fought every convention both of mainstream society and within the kink communities to build from the ground up what we today recognize as the modern BDSM culture. Established cornerstones like safety, respect, diversity all somehow originated from there, and there is little doubt that more recent fields of research such as kink as an inner (I shudder to call it “spiritual”) path of growth and healing will similarly spread out and reach far beyond the organizations themselves.
Another very interesting section of Our Lives, Our History analyzes power exchange relationships throughout history. It reframes and contextualizes Greco-Roman slavery, Biblical slavery or otherwise romanticized periods such as Medieval vassalage and Victorian serfdom noting where some ideas or misconceptions come from, but it also clears things up about the murky history of post-World Wars “leathersex”, finally defining what the fabled Old Guard was really about.
The final and unfortunately shorter section of the book deals with what the editor (Peter Tupper, of the great History of BDSM website) labels as minor aspects of BDSM relationships: those where the dominant is female, where one or more partner is colored and those focused on more declared spiritual goals through erotic submission or physical practices. The very last article is an interesting example of that intellectualism mentioned above, as it examines how the actual codes of conduct of ancient samurais can translate into a contemporary master-slave relationship.
At the end of the day, Our Lives, Our History surely isn’t a book I would suggest to someone just casually interested in BDSM – but it represents a priceless source of information and examples for those harboring one of those special hearts, or maybe still trying to figure out whether they have one. Also, it makes for a great answer (or statement) any time you face one of those simple finger-pointing people who laugh at kink wondering why somebody may ever want to do “those silly things”. These three hundred and so pages will tell you – if you accept the challenge to read them.