By Lewis Call (auth.)

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Additional resources for BDSM in American Science Fiction and Fantasy

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Here Marston made a powerful plea for erotic female dominance. Indeed, he suggested that such dominance could only improve the psychological health of society. Two years before Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents sent modern Western civilization to the psychoanalyst, Marston’s Emotions of Normal People sent it to the dominatrix. Marston’s emphasis on female dominance anticipated another significant trend which would develop in late twentieth century kinky cultures. In the early 1980s, Gayle Rubin found that the largest subpopulation of sadomasochists were the heterosexuals, and of these, “most” appeared to follow the female dominant/male submissive 30 BDSM in American Science Fiction and Fantasy configuration (1981/1982: 219).

Molly Rhodes is quite right to call Marston’s work “deviant science” (2000: 97). Marston used the science of psychology in the service of a radically pluralist vision of sexuality. This vision endorsed polyamory, along with homosocial and homoerotic behaviors which bordered on outright homosexuality. Most importantly for this chapter, Marston’s psychological model advocated dramatic forms of BDSM, especially DS. Marston’s emphasis on DS anticipates an important late twentieth century trend. Kink educators Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy have described the “rapid growth and evolution of the dominance and submission aspect of BDSM” in the years around the millennium (2003: ii).

Marston would eventually become famous for his willingness to disregard the boundaries between academic and popular culture (Bunn 1997: 92). Indeed, this may help to explain the stunning success which Marston eventually scored with Wonder Woman: the Amazon princess let Marston combine philosophy and fantasy in a popular format that could potentially reach millions (Daniels 2004: 20). But Marston was blurring these boundaries long before Wonder Woman. In 1932, he published Venus With Us, a lurid, semi-historical potboiler which purported to recount the erotic adventures of Julius Caesar.

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