Bondage and Domination didn’t begin with 50 Shades of Grey any more than pornography began with Deepthroat. The practices, as we know them today, go back over a century. To be fair, they go back much further, but they weren’t formally discussed or written down until it became important to have set rules in London’s Red Light District. Yes, stuck up, posh London society during the reign of Queen Victoria was the soil that grew all those kinky vines we love today. That dirty, dirty soil. It was watered with tears of mourning for thousands of men sent to die around the world in defense of the Empire. The glorious British Empire, on which the sun never set, had a very naughty streak when the sun went down.
At the end of the colonial era, Britain was ruled by the Queen Victoria. She has often been depicted as devoutly set against sins of the flesh, lust, and passion. It’s true most sex practices we think of today were crimes punishable by exile under her crown. However, Queen Victoria was actually rather bawdy, and kept several lovers. How she got the reputation was more political than anything else. Like Queen Elizabeth, her highness was a woman in a man’s office and likely the appeal to purity was to protect her.
It was also a moment in history when necessity threw the traditional patriarchal family out the window. At the time, Britain was dealing with wars and revolution all over it’s empire and it was expected of the aristocracy to serve as officers in the Army. This led to a high number of casualties among the noble houses and to many families being led by a elder Matriarch. These Matriarchs decided who to marry, where to go to school and how much money you got from your trust per week. It was enough to drive a man balmy, I tell you! Men were supposed to wear the pants, after all, my good chap! What, what!
The thing was that none of the younger generations of men knew how to be men, only that they were not doing it correctly. This made some of them angry and restless, and some of them meek and restless. In both cases they were extremely restless, because they were chaperoned constantly and lustful meanderings were dealt with brutally. This was an age with a consumer market for chastity belts and spiked anti-masturbation devices. Sex was strictly for procreation, even with married couples. This is going to end one of two ways.
One kind of man is going to begin to crave direction and seek approval from strong women. The brothels began to cater to these tastes with the knack and flair that only the oldest profession can muster. Submissive men were coming from all sides! Well, when they were allowed to and only after their chores, or other tasks were done.
You simply couldn’t beat up, cut, pierce or overly exert the paying customers though, especially when they were, in fact, the most powerful men in the most powerful nation in the world. So the houses implemented a standard set of rules, as years of inbreeding among the middle and upper class left a surprising number of them dumber than a bag of hammers. These were listed, a safe word was chosen and the prostitutes were directed exactly what was desired and what was off-limits. These men shaped the roles of “bottom”, “submissive” and “slave” as we know it today. Not all men accepted their fate meekly though.
The other kind of man is going to rebel and seek a symbolic power over something and the best resource he had was money. They flooded to the brothels for sex slaves, submissives and all things ropey and messy and just… wonderful. They also were catered to by the brothels, who applied the rules they had defined as good practices for clients to their girls as well. After all, a girl who was scarred or bruised up couldn’t work and a girl who’d been truly terrified may take off and never work again. In even the worst houses, where humanity was scarce, the girls were merchandise and you did not fuck with the madams and managers of the house, no matter who you were. You would quickly find yourself black listed from every bawdy house in the city, due to the first ever sex-worker’s union. I think of it as the first “peer review” of kink practices to make sure things were still safe and consensual between client and call-girl.
So, human sexuality found more ways to express itself than ever before. People were whipping, spanking, and flogging long before your favorite performer’s grandparents were even born. It was a buried hedonism, and yes the time was unforgivably stilted towards catering to the men. I didn’t do it, I’m just reporting it. However, I feel there was the root of female sexual empowerment, as well. The first Dominatrices came about and many of the professional submissive ladies learned to relish in the wonderful filth that is kinky, dirty sex. This evolved into the roles we have, and we’ve learned more and more as people become brave enough to discuss sex and kinks. I encourage you to embrace your kink! Do it for all those lilly white asses that took a beating to bring you the joy of BDSM.