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Hey kids! I know that you eagerly awaited my scathing rant on chapters 2 through 5 that I promised, but too bad. I will dispense with an analysis of all the problems in chapter 5 to zero in on a particularly repugnant snippet therein.

To set the stage, immediately before chapter 5, Ana and acquaintances go out drinking to celebrate the successful end of finals. Ana becomes sloshed and drunk-dials Christian. Her so-called friend Jose sexually assaults her, only to be fended off by Christian, who has tracked Ana's cell phone and come to pick her up. Jose leaves as Ana, no doubt mirroring the reader's disgust, pukes everywhere. She and Christian dance for a little bit until she passes out.

Chapter 5 begins with Ana in an unfamiliar bed. She quickly realizes that Christian has taken her to his house and removed her pants. Inevitably, Ana wonders if he raped her. Christian assures her that he likes his women "sentient and receptive" [p. 66], so he did not assault her while she was unconscious. Ana appears disappointed by Christian's assertion. In a paragraph discussing her confusion about his apparent lack of hots for her, Ana muses [p. 69]:

"He said he likes his woman sentient. He's probably not celibate then. But he's not made a pass at me... I don't understand. ... Am I repellent to him? You've slept in his bed all night, and he's not touched you all night. You do the math. My subconscious has reared her ugly, snide head. I ignore her."

As we have already observed, the math is pretty easy to follow. Here's the equation:

Christian + unconscious Ana rape

Ana, however, seems to wish that Christian had touched her when she was unconscious. In her perspective, his sexual assault of her in her unconscious, unable-to-consent state would prove his desire for her. Because she apparently subscribes to the trope of romance novels that men can't control their libidos, she conflates rape and desire. It's a testament to how deeply she has been indoctrinated with a misogynist rape culture that she regrets not having been fucked over in her sleep.

This instance represents possibly the only moment in the series that Christian exhibits a modicum of basic human decency, and yet he gets no credit. I'm not expecting the the story to glorify his not raping an unconscious woman. However, it would be nice if the main character, with whom we are supposed to sympathize, didn't fault him for it.

I think this excerpt represents E.L. James' troubling inability, on a global level, to assign the appropriate ethical weight to...well...just about anything. She treats Jose's sexual assault of Ana like an awkward date, after which Ana feels guilty that she doesn't call him. She treats Christian's tracking of Ana through her cell phone as charming protectiveness on his part. She treats bdsm as a dramatic secret nurtured by broken psyches and peeing on a consenting partner as something akin to pedophilia. Whether she's dismissing significant problems of surveillance, control and consent or using her sense of revulsion as a moral proxy, she gets it wrong again and again.

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As I previously mentioned, I have put Daz and various stuff back on my computer for the purpose of goofing off. No therianthropes have been generated, but I have been making some fetish pin-ups. Today's silly effort is the CynBot.

Cynthia 1.2 base, ASP bracers, Sisters of War gas mask and Bootylicious boots by bvh3d.com. V-BORG042V-1 and -2 by Reika-Kano. Background by propschick. Minor adjustment morphs to Cynthia and V-BORG parts by me.

This picture started with the Bootylicious boots, which are pretty much the Platonic Form of fetish footwear, as far as I'm concerned. They did not fit my go-to model, Daz Victoria 4, so I had to download the Cynthia 1.2 base just to have someone to put the shoes on. Fortunately, bvh3d also provides several extravagantly silly sets of fetish armor/underwear for Cynthia, pieces of which I used to make my bot.

The core of this picture depends, of course, on the lovely robo-parts made by Reika-Kano. These are not figures, meaning that they lack articulation. They are simple props that can be parented to the chest [the top part] and the hips [the bottom part] so that they will follow the poses that the body is put into [within reason]. For simple props, these parts feature stupendously detailed sculpting and many different material areas, meaning that the color, texture, reflectivity and opacity of pretty much every part can be adjusted. You don't have to be a technosexual or an agalmatophile to appreciate the love and care that went into the development of these models.

Oh yeah, and the aforesaid robo-parts, as well as a bunch of other related stuff by Reika-Kano can be downloaded for free from sharecg.com. Not only has this person put immense amounts of time and skill into creating these models, but they have done so for free! In fact, I constituted this render entirely from free items, from Daz Studio itself to all the elements of the picture.

Hilarious cyborg with silly gas mask and meretricious boots ahoy!

Read more... )
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I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

Apologies to Simon & Garfunkel. Ever since I abandoned Daz and digital 3-D models for use in my comics and went back to dolls, I have installed and uninstalled Daz, Poser and much of my purchased content more times than I can count. I keep jettisoning it because it's a huge space and memory hog, but then I keep recalling it because I wish to execute projects that I can only do in Daz/Poser. Most recently it was Jareth's custom head that needed Daz/Poser. Previous projects include the Library of Intellectum and copious use of all the digital kinky accessories available for free online if you know where to look. >:}

Daz/Poser returns to my hard drive this time for a few reasons. 1) Therianthropes! I get on therianthrope kicks occasionally, and I'm on one now. I have all the tools required to make kick-ass therianthropes. 2) Make-up concepts. I still have the files that I developed for Jareth's head, as well as a bunch of texture kits for doing custom make-up on characters. Since his make-up changes every single time I imagine him, it would be lots of fun to replicate this outside of my head, if only in digital. 3) Copious use of all the digital kinky accessories available for free online if you know where to look.

Some of my digital experiments might make the leap from digital to doll in the future. I've been thinking, for example, that it's time to let Juniper out of my head, where she has been pacing restlessly for about 4 years, rolling her eyes, sticking out her tongue, fluttering her ears, sticking up her middle fingers and generally making an adorable nuisance of herself. Anyway, watch this space!

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One of the many reasons I enjoy my new avatar photo is that Jareth looks both considering and on the verge of laughter. In other words, he has on his face the same expression that I had on mine when I was reading Flush Blush Crush Rush by Maya Banks. Well, at least I exhibited aforesaid expression up till page 33, which I just lost it and cracked up.

Rush is not written as a comedy, however. It's the first in a trilogy of novels about a young, inexperienced ingenue hired to work for an older, richer, wiser dude who overmasters her with his sexy sexiness and seduces her into the thrilling, glamorous world of BDSM, where he dominates and she submits and -- hey wait -- where have we heard this before? Oh right, in E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Tedium Grey, Sylvia Day's Bared to Complementary Neuroses You and the herd of other BDSM lust novels that have sprouted like post-rain mushrooms since about 2011. For Pete's sakes, people -- find a new template!

Anyway, at first I thought that Flush might prove better than 50 Shades, as it's written by an experienced, prolific author. Well, no dice. Bank writes in generic statements and superficial vagueness. A paragraph on page 29, wherein the ingenue eyeballs the rich dude's office, epitomizes this flaccid style:

[The office] screamed classy and expensive. Rich mahogany wood, polished marble floor that was partly covered with an elegant oriental rug. The furniture was dark leather with an antique, old-world look. Paintings adorned three walls while the last wall was all built-in bookcases filled with an eclectic mixture of works.

As anyone with a modicum of real-life and/or reading experience knows, looking into someone's personal space -- bedroom, study, den, boudoir, office, etc. -- provides a wealth of information about their activities, routines, interests, preoccupations and general character. The paragraph above, full of missed opportunities, demonstrates Banks' generic, inexpensive style because it, technically speaking, contains detail, but doesn't really communicate anything. The mahogany, marble, oriental [sic] rug, leather furniture, paintings and stocked bookshelves stereotypically signify wealth. Without any further modification to particularize them so that they reveal the character of the rich dude, the stereotypical signifiers just lie there limply like the authorial equivalent of spaghetti flung against the wall in a test to determine its adhesive properties.

As I intimated, Banks passes up a huge chance for the reader to get to know the dominant dude. If she would just give us more specifics, we might ground the story and the characters a little bit more. What's the design on the rug? What figures, palettes and styles appear in the paintings? What subject matter fills the books? How is everything arranged within the room? Are there focal points or salient details and, if so, what? Music, traffic noise, computer keys clicking? Garish fluorescent lighting, natural light from huge windows, cave-like dimness? The smell of carpet shampoo, dried spooge, expensive cigars, floral perfume? We'll never know. In paragraph after paragraph like this, Banks builds empty edifices of stereotypical tropes that may seem to evoke certain worlds, personalities and feelings, but which ultimately leave the subjects that they describe mysterious and cipher-like.

The gummy, rubbery prose, impervious to all attempts at the incision of fine detail, does this book in. I bravely put up with it until the ingenue's discussion of her impending BDSM contract with the rich dude on pages 32 and 33:

"And this relationship you propose. What exactly do you mean by nontraditional?"

..."I'll own you. Body, soul. You'll belong to me."

Whoa. That sounded so...heavy.


Right there was where I bust out laughing. The 24-year-old ingenue has evinced no particular idiolect up until this point, except for a distressingly ableist propensity to describe stuff that she thinks is pathetic as "lame." Suddenly, for no reason that I can discern, she sounds like a mash-up of Neo from the Matrix and Marty from Back to the Future. The odd combination of two elements totally anachronistic for this character's generation struck such resoundingly wrong notes that I just had to give up. When the supposedly steamy and erotic BDSM novel has me snorting and rolling my eyes at the glaring infelicities of style, it ain't really having its desired effect.
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Bared to You by Sylvia Day [Crossfire #1] shares a lot in common with the [unfortunately] more popular Shades of Grey by E.L. James. As in the 50 Shades trilogy, the Crossfire trilogy follows the first-person adventures of an administrative-assistant-level young woman, Eva in Bared to You, and her rollercoaster relationship with a young rich man, Gideon in Bared to You, who owns the company for which she works. They have sex and fight a lot, sometimes simultaneously. Their relationship involves some bdsm, submission for the protagonist, domination for the love interest. A series of assumptions, piss-offs, misunderstandings, apologies, jealousies, running-aways and reconciliations passes for plot. And don't forget the sex. At the end, the reader is exhausted, but there are still two books to go!

But that's where the similarities end. Crossfire exceeds 50 Shades in quality at every level.
Read more... )
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I conclude that Slate keeps around certain commentators [Camille Paglia, Katie Roiphe, William Saletan] precisely because their uninformed, reactionary blatherings piss people off. That's the only reason I can think of. I mean, surely no one takes these clueless blowhards seriously?

This week's bloviation comes from William "Pointless and Sententious" Saletan's column on The Trouble with Bondage. That's bdsm, by the way, and the article discusses the reasons why bdsm will never go mainstream.

I thought the reason was that the majority of people weren't interested in it. But no, silly me. Saletan's article, as near as I can figure out, goes something like this:

blah blah blah lifestyle blah blah blah voluntary pursuit of pain wtf?! ewwwwwwwww blah blah breath play is dangerous blah blah anti-feminist sickos who like rape scenes blah some people take it to extremes blah blah I have no idea what I'm talking about, so I'm just going to call bdsm "consensual domestic violence" and cash my paycheck blah blah blah lifestyle choice.

As a human being with a functioning sense of decency, I find it repulsive that Saletan trivializes intimate partner abuse by using it as a metaphor for something it has nothing to do with. Way to go, you picayune, misogynist fuckhead. I'm glad to know that you're more interested in making false equivalencies than dealing with actual deleterious symptoms of kyriarchy.

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I just finished reading my Tartarus edition of Sarban's Doll Maker a few moments ago. I enjoyed it as much this time around as I did when I read it the first time. This reading actually increased my appreciation for the story because I realized that the author takes protagonist Clare's travails seriously.

As I've noted before, The Doll Maker has a simple, trite plot, in which an Innocent Girl falls in with a Devious Older Dude and becomes Swept Away with Infatuation, which leads her to do some Truly Stupid Shit, which she must save herself from in an Act of Maturity. Lonely and naive, Clare welcomes attention from Niall the power-hungry doll maker. He grooms her to become his latest puppet, while she interprets his caressing focus on her as love, which she, in turn, believes that she feels for him. Sarban demonstrates so clearly the deleterious nature of Niall's predatory interest that I started yelling at Clare, "Don't hang out with the creepy man!!" [She didn't listen.]

Despite Clare's obvious cluelessness, she does not come across as painfully stupid. This is because Sarban does not use a third-person omniscient viewpoint, which would permit him the Godlike distance from which to judge Clare. Instead, he employs a third-person limited perspective, which looks in from outside, but perceives only what Clare perceives. This viewpoint, free from sententious authorial asides on Clare's foolishness, treats Clare's infatuation, peril and self-rescue with exactly as much gravity as she herself experiences it. I really appreciate that because it's very very rare to find a naive young woman taken seriously as a protagonist, especially by a male author.

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This is awesome! How often do you see fat, kinky, androgynous, pierced people with disabilities in stocky photos? WOOOOOO HOOOOO! What a cute pair. ^_^

EDIT: I fixed the link!
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Is there any interest in seeing the first three episodes in an aborted 1:6 scale melodrama, The Pink Squad, written [and crappily photoed] nearly a decade ago?

It was my earliest scripted photostory series [as opposed to my earlier, pictures-only attempt], and it contains many of the characters and themes that we know and love today:
  • Female protagonists
  • Queer characters
  • Trans characters
  • Disabled characters
  • Characters of color
  • Vermonters
  • Kinky sex
  • Horny robots
  • Mad science
  • An amazing amount of sarcasm
  • PINK HAIR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111eleventy

DISCLAIMER:
If I do post this story, please note that it contains humor that I thought was funny back then, but which now strikes me as blatantly racist, sexist or transphobic. That's the main reason I've refrained from making it public again.

On second thought, maybe I'll just summarize it or something. There are some cool, engaging, humorous, well-developed aspects to it, but it's also a glaring example of How Not to Write People with Marginalized Identities.

Or maybe there's no rehabilitating a bigoted piece of personal history, as fascinating as I find it for reasons of historical creativity. Arrrrgh, I dunno.

EDIT: Fuck it. Discretion is the better part of valor. No Pink Squad for you.

P.S. Earlier I wondered if Baozha started me on my pink hair kick. Uhhhhhhh, nope. I place all the blame at the feet of the Pink Squad.
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I finished the book...and the series! God, I thought it would never end. After the official conclusion, there is, of course, an epilogue in which Ana and Christian gambol about with their son [because the Penis of Doom always generates a first-born son] and coo about their upcoming daughter. The epilogue contains awkwardly inserted flashbacks and serves no purpose whatsoever except to hammer home that Ana and Christian live happily ever after in true love, perfect bliss and harmonious, nurturing parenthood. Yeah, I'm not going to believe that until I read transcripts of their kids' therapy sessions.

And then, after the epilogue, we get a 50 Shades of Christian section, which, I assume, is bonus material supplied for the Vintage republishing. James gives us a first-person report of Christian's first Christmas with his adoptive family, the Greys, which adds nothing to the story because we've already been inside young Christian's head in the prologue when he was telling us about his nightmares. If anything, this section tickles my gag reflex, as James writes the 5-year-old Christian without nuance, realism or complexity. It's just...baby talk for pages and pages.

Just in case you haven't had your fill of redundancy, 50 Shades Freed finally, finally, finally closes out with Meet 50 Shades, an exhaustive recap of Ana and Christian's first two meetings from Christian's point of view.

Insights I gained from Meet 50 Shades:

1. Christian is an asshole.

2. He has the hots for Ana.

3. Even though he has no "subconscious" or "inner goddess," Christian's interior monologue sounds exactly the same as Ana's: repetitive, shallow and unindividualized.

4. Wow, that was a pointless section.

On second thought, scratch that victory lap. Now that I'm done with the 50 Shades trilogy, I'm too exhausted to put forth more effort. I just read 514 [book 1] + 532 [book 2] + 579 [book 3] = 1625 pages of erotic romance over 9 days. It was clearly a feat of endurance for which I should get a prize [preferably in the form of well-written erotic romance]. I understand the commercial impulse behind stringing the story out over 3 books and thereby making $$$ [or, for E.L. James, £££], but oh my God...the trilogy could have been easily cut down to 400 pages by a ruthless and judicious editor without losing any of the traits that make it such a gloriously bad read.

It's victory nap time instead.
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I read advice columns for the same reason I watch mediocre TV shows. I gain entertainment not only from the stories told, but also from the advice supplied by the columnist and, frequently, the commenters. Plus there's always the opportunity to castigate the TV show or the advice column for how good it could have been.

Before I go into critiquing the NYT's most recent Social Qs, let me just say that the only advice column I can currently take seriously is Captain Awkward. She's a person with no official credentials to tell other people how to live their lives, but she, along with the trenchant commentariat, manages to provide practical, straightforward, explicit, helpful advice to the questioners. Be warned, though; she does use sexist slurs ["bitch" and "dick"], as well as ableist adjectives ["crazy"]. Despite her failings, I approve of her generally open-minded approach.

Now back to my original subject. In the most recent Social Qs, a letter writer says that her daughter's future mother-in-law loves Fifty Shades of Grey, a BDSM romance novel. "As a feminist," the writer dislikes the books and wonders how to respond when the future MIL asks the writer what she thinks of the books.

Philip Galanes, author of Social Qs, advises the following:

Engage your future in-law, mother to mother. Steer clear of judgmental terms like “offensive,” but try to get to the bottom of her excitement. Say: “I’d hate for a man to treat me or my daughter that way. What do you think the big appeal is?” She couldn’t object, and it might start an interesting conversation.

Good advice. When someone asks you your opinion of something controversial with which you disagree, you can neutrally state that you have a different view and, if you're interested, attempt to start a more general discussion and go from there. Of course, you can react in other ways [for example, "I don't really feel comfortable talking about that" is also perfectly acceptable], but this is a polite option.

I agree with the advice, but I resent the snide tone in which it's delivered. Galanes spends one paragraph of four answering the writer's question and the other three making sneery judgments about BDSM. In effect, he undermines his advice to be respectful and tolerant about things you don't know anything about by being derisive and dismissive about a subject with which he is [clearly] unfamiliar. Wow, he's really shoring up his credibility.

Besides an anti-BDSM stance, I also detect some misogyny in Galanes' response. Romance novels are predominantly read by women and, for that reason, are frequently not taken seriously, especially by male critics. Galanes' incredulity that female readers could find romance novel tropes interesting seems to subserve his distaste with Fifty Shades of Grey.

P.S. We're not even getting into the letter writer's assumption that feminism is incompatible with BDSM.
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Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality by Margot Vice Weiss. See previous entry for details.

The Story of Vermont: A Natural and Cultural History by Christopher Klyza and Stephen Trombulak. I suppose this will overlap heavily with one of my favorite books about Vermont, Hands on the Land: A History of the Vermont Landscape by Jan Albers, but I don't mind.

I am currently reading The View from Vermont: Tourism and the Making of an American Rural Landscape by Blake Harrison. It is about the history of tourism in the Green Mountain State starting in the mid-19th century and how the competing forces of urbanization, tourism and industrialization have shaped the landscape. It's fascinating!
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So Margot Weiss wrote an ethnographic study of San Fran's kinky scene, Techniques of Pleasure, finding it much more conservative and less transgressive than it would like to believe itself. Weiss challenges BDSM's portrayal of itself [see review/interview in Salon], saying that:

It's not diverse. Weiss finds that, at least in San Fran, the community is boringly white in its racial homogeneity.

It's not wild. Strict rules govern scenes.

It's not transcendent. It's mired in consumerism [all those special toys!] and reproducing societal inequities.

I'm definitely interested in reading this analysis. In parting, I leave you with one of my favorite Onion articles: S&M Couple Won't Stop Droning On About Their Fetishes.



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How awful is this commercial? Not only does the male protagonist clearly privilege the alcohol over the woman, but he doesn't give a care that the woman is smothered in the couch. That's not funny.
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I find Jacqueline Carey's books about Terre D'Ange [wherein Jesus' son settled down in France and produced gods of bdsm -- it's better than it sounds] entertaining, but oh my Lord...someone please stop telling her to use "betimes" and "apurpose" in every third paragraph.

Just to make matters more irritating, Carey uses "betimes" as a synonym of "sometimes," but the first meaning for this archaic word  is actually "in good time; early," as in, "The farmer got up betimes to milk the cows in the predawn darkness."

Carey's lexical problems really interrupt my enjoyment of her mind candy.
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Is it porn? An anti-abuse PSA? An ad for a kinky sex club? Nah...it's just part of Declare Yourself's "controversial" print campaign to encourage voter registration. I take it to task on SocIm.
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As illustration for a dipshitty article about "Mistress Palin," the dipshits at Salon added a dipshitty Photoshop of Palin dominating a moose, which is supposed to represent the country.Read more... )
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Summary: Creepy, luxuriously described dark fantasy about lonely, intelligent Clare and her seduction by titular doll maker. Convincing, sympathetic main character, smooth prose, kinky subtext and great insight into the weird, ambivalent relationships people have with their dolls -- all these things make The Doll Maker a neglected gem.
 
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The Turning by Jennifer Armintrout has one interesting idea in its pages: the concept of the blood tie, a BDSM-like compulsion that exists between new vampires and the person who vamps them. The blood tie, like lust, short-circuits the new vampire's brain, strongly predisposing him or her to submission before his or her maker. The comparison between sexual desire and the blood tie is apt because, at least how Armintrout writes it, the blood tie often occasions hot monkey sex between maker and new vamp.
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Subject: Vacuum cleaner ad below, ganked from Inventorspot. Sorry...I don't have a larger version, and the only context that I have is that it's an ad for a German appliance. Too good to pass up, though.

Topics of discussion: "sex sells," objectification, gender roles, mainstream commodification of BDSM subculture, differences between advertising norms in different countries.

Ready, set, discuss!!
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Phoenixmasonry, a Web site for and about U.S. Freemasons, contains scans of a fascinating catalog, DeMoulin Bros. Fraternal Supply Catalog No. 439. Published in 1930, this pamphlet contains elaborate, expensive gag devices designed to trick and entertain people at Masonic gatherings. 

Many of the pages feature items containing goats, such as the Ferris Wheel Coaster Goat, which combines a blindfolded rider, a toy goat, bleating sound effects and a starter's pistol, all in some gyroscope-like device, for maximum disorientation sadism larfs results. 
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 ...I finally have enough skills to realize a project that has been bugging me for years: my music video to I Go Wild. Of course, it would be like a movie slide show because I refuse to animate it [it would take years], but I could do it nonetheless!! It's a great excuse to get a straitjacket and some fiendish devices. [It's a toss-up between MADLAB-4 and the Re-education thingy.] Alas, alas, no one would ever see it unless they personally came over to my home computer and looked at it because there is no way that I would put anything so explicit up on the Web.

I'm really looking forward to illustrating...

You left me; I'm braindead
I'm feelin' nothing, strapped to my bed
On life support, tubes in my nose
Tubes in my arms, shot full of holes

In other, not really related news, Sadotronic would be a great name for a band, preferably a Norwegian death metal one that thinks it's really edgy and blasphemous.
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...Then kinky sex results??!?!?!?!? I swear that this picture looks like what happens after the very end of Secretary, when Maggie Gyllenhaal's character puts a bug in James Spader's character's book [?] specifically for the purpose of provoking a BDSM scenario of "punishment" later. I say this because the scenario looks so obviously staged [notice how neatly the woman's hair is styled], and she appears to be faking a look of distress while actually smiling. I found this ad on the community vintage_ads, which contains boundless beautiful examples of the art used to sell things.
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The best Xmas prezint I received was the knowledge of a beloved children's author's kinky side. I did not know that Shel Silverstein, known to generations of kids as the author and illustrator of such classics as Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Missing Piece, The Giving Tree and A Light in the Attic, wrote and sang pervy songs like The Freakers' Ball. See excerpt below:

White ones, black ones, yellow ones, red ones
Necrophiliacs looking for dead ones
The greatest of the sadists and the masochists too
Screaming, "Please hit me, and I'll hit you!!"

I have listened to other songs by this man, and they are equally cock-eyed [nur hur hur hur] and amusing. I must get me a copy of his greatest hits.

HAH!

Sep. 6th, 2007 08:51 am
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On podcast 45, in response to a woman who thinks that S&M represents emotional disability and mental sickness, Dan Savage points out that S&M is PLAY, and he says, "What S&M is is cops and robbers for grown-ups without your pants on." Now I'm just imagining law enforcement professionals chasing crooks out of a bank in a completely serious context, except all parties are lacking pants. :p
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Hah! I know people like this. Not me, though. I just drone on about Labyrinth.

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