The Best Piece on Academia and BDSM You Will Read Today

Camille Paglia has a very good review of recent academic works on BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism). I actually don’t care that much about the topic (this is an artist rendering of me). But I think it’s actually a very good critique of the excesses of ethnography and academic work’s tendency to drift into recursive self-reference rather than focusing on describing and understanding the phenomenon of interest. Three of my favorite quotes:

Weiss does not trust her own fascinating material to generate ideas. She detours so often into nervous quotation of fashionable academics that she short-shrifts her 61 interview subjects, who are barely glimpsed except in a list at the back.

All three books under review betray a dismaying lack of general cultural knowledge…. Today’s formalized scenarios of bondage and sadomasochism belong to a tradition, but poststructuralism, with its compulsive fragmentations and dematerializations, is incapable of recognizing cultural transmission over time.

[T]he most shocking omission of them all… [is] Robert Mapplethorpe, whose luminous homoerotic photos of the sadomasochistic underworld sparked a national crisis over arts funding in the 1980s. Yet our three authors and their army of advisers found plenty of time to parse the meanderings of every minor gender theorist who stirred in the past 20 years.

Read the whole thing. (h/t irredenta.)

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