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Guest Article

Here I Come, Leather or Knot

by William Dean

Kink Image 1 It still happens, sometimes in very unlikely places, among very unlikely people. You know what I mean. "Well, but, how did you even know these things were going on?" It's always about kinky sex stuff. And it's always about "the old days."

In the mid-to-late 1950s, now almost a half-century ago, Americans began being exposed to the hanky-panky and hi-jinks of their neighbors and the people in the next town in ways that rocked their placid, "We Like Ike" Pleasantville sensibilities. In 1953, Playboy appeared. In 1956, a young mother and housewife of 32, named Grace Metalious ripped the lid off small town sexiness with a best seller called Peyton Place. That was the same year that home grown American sex sociologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey died, but his studies had prompted literate and intellectual people to look at things differently. Sly and leering reports -- couched in the "we can't say this" language of the day -- of wife-swapping parties started filtering into the media. While Middle America lounged by pools, sipping their prerequisite pre-dinner cocktails and rebellious youth necked and petted (and more!) in the nation's drive-ins and at local lover's lanes, a few, very few, people started to reveal that, indeed, there was kink happening in the same world.

Among the underground, so to speak, which included the new Beat and Hip Generations and young teens sneaking girlie mags (not Playboy, by the way, but the raunchy ones), there was ready acknowledgment that leather, whips, being tied up, tied down, and so forth was pretty edgy and exciting sexual stuff. Semi-blurry copycats of Bettie Page and many unnamed models posed in bustiers of black leather, sporting whips and riding crops, wearing stockings and lingerie or grinned at the camera lens while artfully trussed in loops and knots of rope. Those who'd done their historical homework discussed everything from Sacher von Masoch's Venus in Furs to the legendary tales of modern Nazi sex orgies and "depraved behavior." As Americans and Europeans slid euphorically into the Free Love 60s, sexual liaisons became casual, immediate, and, yet, "no big deal." And the kinks came out of the closet more and more.

Thirty years ago, as the 1970s lurched unsteadily into being, the swinging lifestyle seemed everywhere. Discos, key parties, and group sex were what was happening, not just among the Jet Set, but out in Mom and Pop America, too. Singles Only apartment buildings promised nude pool parties, open apartment doors, and open relationships that smiled a lot. Even greeting cards appeared that invited friends and neighbors: "Let's Have an Orgy! BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze or Babes or Bachelors)." It wasn't just heterosexual, vanilla sex going on, either.

Kink Image 2 Those days, it was Pickup City, and you never really knew what you were getting into until you got right down to the nitty and the gritty. The stranger who'd become your new (probably very temporary) lover might take you back to their place and say "Let me slip into something more comfortable" and then re-appear in tight black leather corset and high boots, flicking a nasty-looking whip and giving you the then-famous Bridget Bardot pout. Or you might be struck by the intentional pun when you saw the real swing in the living room, ropes knotted into overhead beam hooks. Or the new "friend" might present you suddenly with a handful of silk scarves, look up through heavily-fringed eyelashes, and whisper "I like to be tied up, baby."

Before the hysteria and tragedies of AIDS, we hung loose sexually -- some of us. We'd messed around in Kinksville from somber, pre-Gothic black, Beatnik explorations and then dug the scenes in the free-wheeling Hippie chaos where freaking was cool as long as you "maintained." Many of us were "on the road," some around the globe -- from Viet Nam to Turkey, and we took our new sexual freedoms with us. The response to kinks was "outtasight" or "groovy" or simply "I can dig it."

A lot of people today think kink simply started when the Internet got popular. The D/s and BDSM folks, the Tie 'Em Up crowd, the Leather Boys and Girls have their websites, their online shopping malls and their archives and the newbies shyly exchange URLs like enthusiastic explorers bound for new worlds they'd barely dreamed of. It's a good thing. This new openness, this new urge by men and women to examine what turns them on and on and on. But the various kinks aren't newly invented. They didn't just spring forth full-blown from the Web.

So when people ask me today "How did you know these things were even going on?" I have to answer, "Well, I was there. And the kinks were there, too, so..."

©2001 by William Dean

Reader Comments

William Dean is a longtime media professional and producer. He writes erotica under the pen name Count of Shadows, and has published extensively online. His work is included in two erotica anthologies, Tears on Black Roses, and Desires. He also writes the monthly column Into the Erotik for the Erotica Readers Association.





Old Kinks, New Links

Dating in the 1950s

The Bettie Page

Kinky Sex Forum

Caring for Your Kink Toys

Bondage FAQ list

Bedroom Bondage

Bondage University

Leather Web: Heterosexual Leather Events Calendar


Peyton Place

Sex-Crime Panic: A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s by Neil Miller

Bettie Page: The Life of a Pin-Up Legend by Bettie Page, Karen Essex and James Swanson

The Real Bettie Page: The Truth About the Queen of Pinups

Swinging Single: Representing Sexuality in the 1960s, ed. by Moya Luckett

Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples by Nena and George O'Neill

Come Hither: A Commonsense Guide to Kinky Sex by Gloria Brame

Kinky Sex Games by Herbert Kavet

Fetish: Masterpieces of Erotic Fantasy Photography, edited by Tony Mitchell

Erotique: Masterpieces of Erotic Photography, edited by Rod Ashford

The Harrad Experiment by Robert Rimmer

DVDs and Videos:

Peyton Place (1957)


"Swing Lessons!" An Alternative for Open Minded Couples! Directed by Dr. Robyn Deval

Betty Page: In Bondage

Love in Hot Leather

Leather For Lovers

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