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In recent months Oui and Hustler have run pictorial spreads on bondage, and February's Penthouse featured 13 pages of S-M pictures, including one of a female sadist stabbing a spiked heel into the eye of a bound woman. "Bondage is where the action is," a Playboy editor admits, "but we've been slow to pick up on it."
In diluted form, the bondage and S-M themes show up in the popular culture, from Alex Comfort's Joy of Sex, which recommends lighthearted bondage and spanking, to rock lyrics, ads and recent fashion magazine illustrations. Last December Vogue magazine featured a 12-page fashion spread showing a man alternately nuzzling and beating the model. One sequence pictures the woman being battered off her feet in her $140 John Anthony jumpsuit. Says the porn paper San Francisco Ball of the trend: " 'Flog you!' may become the mating call of the '70s."
Even Al Goldstein claims he is concerned about the S-M trend: "I'm uncomfortable with it, but you can't deny it exists." Sex Researcher John Money of Johns Hopkins University predicts it will soon subside, with little lasting effect. Edgar Gregersen, an anthropologist at New York City's Queens College who has been studying sadomasochists, is more concerned. He sees S-M "increasing everywhere. I think there's a certain experimentation going on—a 'deviant chic.' "
S-M themes are traditional in print pornography, and the emphasis appears to be growing. Since 1968 Florida State University Sociologist Don Smith has been collecting and analyzing sex novels that are freely available on newsstands and drugstore racks in small-town America. Smith calls the current crop "basically a literature of power and domination, a literature of machismo." Rape scenes, he reports, now occur twice as often as they did in the 1968 books, but the woman almost always enjoys it. "The subtheme," he says, "is that the female really does want to be subjugated: no matter how much she says no, go ahead and do it anyway, because she'll be grateful to you afterward."
Some who have defended porn are now queasy about the new sex-cum-violence trend. Boston Psychiatrist Otto Marx, who has testified in court in defense of Deep Throat and other hardcore films, draws the line at S-M films like The Story of O. Says he: "It is where this kind of mental and physical violence is being done in the context of sex that I begin to worry." Many are drawing the line at Snuff, a wretched soft-core movie in which a woman is eviscerated and sawed to pieces by a sadistic gang leader apparently modeled on Charles Manson. (Though the advertising implies the woman was actually murdered, it is a hoax.) "If anything should be censored," says Psychologist Wardell Pomeroy, co-author with Alfred Kinsey of Sexual Behavior in the Human Female, "Snuff would head the list." The movie was banned in Baltimore, Wilmington, Del., and Orange County, Calif. In New York City, protesters picketed the theater showing Snuff. Such fledgling porn fighters as Critic Susan Sontag, Historian Martin Duberman and Author Grace Paley demanded censorship and prosecution.