by Jack Rinella
First published in England in approximately 1749, “Fanny Hill, the Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure” by John Cleland was the first book censored in the United States in Massachusetts in 1821.
Leopold von Sacher-Masoch was a novelist, born in 1836 in Galacia (now Poland). He was a well-known author during his lifetime. His best-known work is “Venus in Furs,” published in 1870, a classic novel detailing his masochist fantasies. What is more amazing is that this novel is the true story of one of von Sacher-Masoch’s escapades.
The Austrian psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing published (in 1886) his “Psychopathia Sexualis,” a collection of case histories documenting strange and unusual sexual practices. These are supposedly symptomatic of certain “sexual diseases of the mind.” Among other things, he introduces the concepts of “sadism” (after the Marquis de Sade) and “masochism” (after the then still living Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch).
From 1893 to 1913, Yva Richard promoted the production and sale of SM and fetish paraphernalia from his salon in Paris. He also sold his wares through mail order.
In 1897, Berlin physician Magnus Hirschfeld founded the “Scientific Humanitarian Committee,” the world’s first “Gay Rights” organization. Its goal was the repeal of the German anti-homosexual law § 175 which punished sexual contact between men. For the committee Hirschfeld edited the “Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Stages” (1899-1923). In 1914 Hirschfeld published a 1,067 page study on homosexuality.
Magnus Hirschfeld also founded the Institute for Sexology in Berlin in 1919. The Institute combined the world’s first sex counseling center, a museum, a library and an ongoing series of educational events. In 1933, the Nazis plundered and closed his institute and burned his books.
Chicago readers should know that The Society for Human Rights, founded in Chicago by Henry Gerber (1892-1972), probably the first “gay lib” organization in the US, was granted a charter by the Illinois legislature on December 10, 1924. Together with three “inverted” friends who co-founded the group, Gerber published several issues of Friendship and Freedom, the first American publication for gays, but neither the magazine nor the organization lasted long; within a few months of the society’s incorporation, Chicago police shut them down. Authorities first learned of the group from the disgruntled wife of one of a Society member when she complained that her husband had sex with men in their home – in front of their children. The charges were spurious, but when the police came to
arrest the accused husband, they discovered papers from the Society, and hauled its founders to jail. Even though Gerber escaped conviction, he lost his job as a post office clerk when his superiors learned of the fracas.
In 1922, Emily Post’s “Etiquette” was published by Funk & Wagnalls Publishing company. For those looking to find a copy of Old Guard protocols, here it is. This tome was given to men and women (among others) who wanted to know how to serve their masters and mistresses in the correct style. Indeed it could be called one of our most-used training manuals.
You could buy all kinds of fetish photographs through ads you would find in London Life magazine (1918-1941). Among the best known fetish photographers of his day was Charles Guyette who ran ads that read like this: “Photographs — Collectors: We have costume studies of all kinds. Lingerie, corsets, high heels, etc. Female boxers and wrestlers in action. Also other types. 5/- per dozen. 30 photos for 10/-. Send cash or International Postal Order. C. Guyette, 116 East 11 Street, New York City.” It was the “et cetera” and the “other types” that showed bondage, whipping, and kinky play.
On July 4, 1947, several thousand motorcycle gang members converged on the city of Hollister, California and took it over. This nationally-publicized event became the story line for the movie “The Wild One” (1954) starring Marlon Brando as a leather jacketed motorcycle gang member, creating a sensation and giving seed to the image of the leather-clad renegade, the image adopted by Gay Leathermen. In that same year The Satyrs MC was founded in Los Angeles, the first gay motorcycle club. Satyr MC held its first Badger Flats Run in 1962 and the annual event continued uninterrupted for 33 years, until 1994. Then resumed in 1998!
In 1951 Shaw’s was opened in New York City as the first Leather bar, though the date is disputed. The Gold Coast opened as a Leather bar in Chicago in June of 1958. The first dedicated leather bar in San Francisco was the Why Not, which opened briefly in the Tenderloin sometime between 1959 and 1961. Its address was 518 Ellis St.
In 1957 in the Crittenden Report, the US Navy concluded that homosexuals serving in the military do not create a security risk. The Pentagon denied the existence of this report for twenty years. That same year in London, the Wolfenden Report recommended decriminalization of “private homosexual acts between consenting adults.”
The Federal Court of Appeals ruled in 1960 that the Post Office’s rulings are “fully reviewable” lifting the ban on Lady Chatterly’s Lover (published 1928 and written by DH Lawrence). In July of 1962, The Tropic Cancer, having been banned in several states, was declared protected by the First Amendment by the Supreme Court. In 1963, Fanny Hill, published openly by Grove Press, was attacked by “decency” groups. The highest courts of New Jersey and Massachusetts declared it obscene; on March 21, 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the unfavorable judgments, clearing “Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure, also known as Fanny Hill” for publication.
It was a wide variety of events, such as are listed above, that made our subculture what it is today. Know your past and you’ll have a much better idea about the present and what to expect in the future.
In the meantime, what are you doing to collect and preserve our kinky history? It doesn’t take a lot of work and what work there is can be fun. Support the Leather Archives and Museum with your monetary contributions. Send them mementos, memorabilia, and items of kinky historical interest especially out-of-print books about our lifestyle, both fiction and non-fiction. Do you know any older kinky folks? Arrange to interview them on cassette. Transcribe the interviews and send the transcription and the tape to the archives. Who has your club’s history? Is it safe and well-preserved? Consider sending what you no longer need to the Archives for safe-keeping.
The above information was collected with the help of the Leather Archives and Museum at www.LeatherArchives.org , The Kinsey Institute, and Robert Bienvenu www.AmericanFetish.net . The above also represents a small part of a slide presentation that I give on Our Kinky History. See my website for more details about my public speaking.
Have a great week. You can leave me email at or visit my website at http://www.LeatherViews.com . Copyright 2003 by Jack Rinella, all rights reserved.