Hello there, Kinky readers!
If you’re interested in learning about the history of BDSM then keep on reading my interview with Peter Tupper!
1) You’re most well known for authoring ‘A Lover’s Pinch, BDSM history’. Tell us your background and how you became a writer
I have wanted to be a writer since childhood, but specifically a science fiction writer. I only published a few short stories. I started working as a journalist, mostly feature articles, and that branched into blogging about the history of BDSM. From the beginning, I had the eventual goal of writing a book. It took 12 years between starting the blog and getting a publisher, but I’m glad it got out there.
2) Your book is about the history of BDSM, what brought you to this subject and why is it of interest in the contemporary world?
Around the same time as I was first getting into the kink world in the early 90s, I was also studying Victorian history. One of the books mentioned the consensual master-slave relationship between Arthur Munby and Hannah Cullwick, as told in their diaries. I kept that in mind for years.
As I got into the kink world more, I noticed that people had only vague ideas about BDSM’s history. They’d mention the same few items– the Marquis de Sade, the art of John Willie, the Christian flagellants– with no idea how to connect them into a coherent narrative. There was a gap in the world. Toni Morrison said you should write the book you would love to read, and that’s what I did.
Today, BDSM and related practices are more visible (if not necessarily accepted) than ever before, and it’s important to have a history that is detailed enough for academic study and accessible enough for the general public.
3) You have written a number of other books, some referencing the 50 shades universe. Tell us about your other books and how they all connect
The Curious Kinky Person’s Guide to the Fifty Shades trilogy was a compilation of blog posts as I read through the books, chapter by chapter. I figured I should get at least a few crumbs of the Fifty Shades pie for reading it, so I edited it into an ebook and put it on Amazon.
Our Lives, Our History came about because people affiliated with Masters And Slaves Together (MAST) wanted to publish an anthology about consensual Master/slave relationships, somewhat like Leatherfolk or Coming to Power. A friend recommended me as editor and I wrote up a proposal. The project took much longer than anyone anticipated, but the end result was a very interesting and informative book. It includes some material which went into A Lover’s Pinch later.
The Innocent’s Progress & Other Stories is a collection of steampunk erotica short stories by me, published through Circlet Press, who published my very first professional story. A lot of that was also based on my research on Victorian sexuality and society, but filtered through an alternate history, with characters based on real-world historical figures like Catherine “Skittles” Walters, Sir Richard Francis Burton, and Oscar Wilde.
4) What are you trying to achieve through your writings? What message are you trying to convey?
Mainly, I want to tell a story that hasn’t been told. History is essential to building a sense of identity as a kinky person, which is essential to collective action. Understanding how “BDSM” was constructed, just like the construction of “homosexual” and “heterosexual” as sexual categories and individual identities, helps us to recognize our collective culture and avoid following the dictates of that culture without thought.
5) Through your writings and those of others such as myself do you see kink and fetishes are becoming more socially acceptable?
I’ll answer that with a firm “maybe.” Over the past few decades, the production and distribution of BDSM books, toys and fashions has certainly become more corporatized. So you can buy “pleasure kits” with cheap cuffs and blindfolds in department stores. That also means capital gets leached out of the artisans and merchants who directly support the community.
The ethos of BDSM, the radical possibilities of consensual self-expression and pleasure, is what gets lost in this move, in favor of something very white, middle-class, and heteronormative. That’s why I have many reservations about media like Secretary and Fifty Shades of Grey, which rake in millions, while educators like Evie Lupine and Watts the Safeword keep getting kicked off of Youtube and Facebook for their content. You can see the same creeping influence of conservative organizations working through the private sector, specifically credit card processors, to block content on social networks like Fetlife and video sites like ManyVids.
My big fear is that in, in a decade or two, reactionary groups will turn on kinky people the way trans people are currently being targeted by a coalition of reactionaries and radical feminists. We may get to a point at which gay kinksters have more common cause with straight kinksters than vanilla gays.
6) For aspiring writers such as myself and others, how do you go about getting published and seen?
Publishing is a very different industry now compared to just a few years ago. As an author, you’re best off if you already have a platform of followers via blogging, podcasting, Youtube videos, self-publishing, etc. In other words, you have to do a lot of work and put out a lot of content to get to the point where an agent and a publisher will consider you. Then you have to consider whether what they’re offering is worth their portion of each sale. I blogged and did podcast interviews for years before I got an agent.
I went through the conventional path to publish A Lover’s Pinch: get an agent, who got a publisher, who gave me an advance. However, there are some aspects of the process that left me unsatisfied. First, they published it as a hardcover, which raised the retail price. Second, they didn’t quite know how to categorize it, which meant that retailers shelved it in wellness/sexuality, not history, which I think could reach a larger readership. In hindsight, I wish I had been more assertive with my publisher, via my agent.
One thing I did insist on in my contract was buying hard copies at a discount. A significant portion of my total sales has just been me selling books in person at events like Kinkfest and Folsom Street Fair. So, I would have ended up hustling to sell books anyway.
7) Lastly, what are you working on next? Feel free to shamelessly plug your products
My current non-fiction project is The Celluloid Dungeon, which is about BDSM in mainstream television, films and video games. It’s inspired by Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet and Stephen Capsuto’s Alternate Channels about queer people in mainstream media. BDSM representation in mainstream media today is about where queerness was in the 1970s. It’s there, but there’s a lot of work done in the narratives to contain the deviance and make it tolerable. For example, Secretary has a lot of BDSM in it, but the story itself is ultimately a very conventional, heteronormative romance narrative. The movie goes out of its way to make maledom-femsub kink look beautiful, but it also makes any other form of kink look silly or frightening. I’m documenting my research at historyofbdsm.com.
There we have it, Kinky readers! A big shout out to Peter Tupper – Thank you for answering my questions so comprehensively.
Kinksters, please follow Peter Tupper on his Amazon Author’s Page here!
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Much Kink Love