My philosophy of art... and bondage
I draw because it is fun, but also sometimes because the images in my head demand to be let out. I draw people and places and things, but most of all I love to draw women. Beautiful women, elegant women, lovely women. I am not a particularly romantic person, but the artistic part of me loves romantic imagery. That is why I choose to draw such glamourous women. They do not need to be idealized, because they define the ideal.
And yet... amidst all this glamour, there are cuffs and gags and damsels most certainly in distress. Where does this bondage fetish come from? I have no idea. Don't I feel ashamed of something so vile? No, and nor should I. This is my attempt to explain why.
Bondage is all about... rape and torture?
There is a common, and unfortunate, misconception that bondage is about raping and torturing and degrading women. This is simply not the case. Bondage is one of the most common "fetishes"- think about how often it crops up in film and television if you are in any doubt. Many people have played with tying their partner to the bed for a little kinky fun. Surely these people do not all secretly want to mutilate and injure their lovers?
Of course not!!!
To suggest so is to miss the critical distinction that even a young child can make- the difference between play and reality.
Bondage is all about... trust
Yes, bondage FANTASIES can be about rape and torture, but the huge, overwhelming majority of bondage devotees are perfectly and totally aware that they are playing in a safe, sane and consensual fantasy with a partner they trust. Indeed, "Safe, Sane and Consensual" is the slogan of bondage communities worldwide.
Those who cannot tell the difference between a willing woman pretending to struggle against the bonds her lover has placed upon her and the unwilling victim of rape and kidnap are sick, and dangerous. But why is it so hard to accept that sane people can find the pretence of helplessness fun, exciting, sexually arousing?
Bondage is all about... make-believe
Some people like their bondage done with a straight face, like Andrea Neal playing her role as the helpless heroine to the hilt in order to make the fantasy more vivid. Many others are prone to fits of the giggles and their enjoyment is plain for all to see. Go and see Sara's site- there is NO WAY that anyone can force someone to enjoy something that much against their will! Are all these people sick? I contend that we are not. We know the difference between play and reality.
So maybe you can accept that pretending to be a princess captured, waiting for Prince Charming to rescue you, can be fun.
But what about all these whips and clamps and stuff? That's right out of the Spanish Inquisition, isn't it?
Well, it is all designed to look like it. But being flogged by a lover with a soft, short, multi-bladed whip designed to spread out the impact into a warming caress is a world away from having your back opened up by a man wielding a bullwhip with the full strength of his arm. Nipple clamps, carefully smoothed and designed to squeeze, not to crush, are a world away from thumbscrews and the pear. Drips of carefully applied candlewax are hardly on a par with being boiled alive in oil.
Again, it is all fantasy... play... make-believe.
No-one genuinely wants to be in anguish and agony with no possibility of escape. That's why when people play bondage games they use safewords, words that the submissive can use to indicate that something isn't right, too intense, too painful, or just not fun right now. Only people who trust their partner totally play without safewords, people who are sure that their partner is so attuned to their needs that they will not force them to go anywhere they do not wish to go.
Bondage is all about... the pretence of rape and torture
So, while it would be disingenuous to pretend that there was no link between bondage and rape and torture, the vital point is that all concerned know that the connection is in fantasy, not in reality.
Bondage is all about... having fun
Did you play cowboys and indians as a kid? Did someone get tied to a tree? Was it fun? Sure it was.
Why can't it be fun as an adult to play the same game, with a little variation? Tying your lover to the bed (or being tied yourself) and being tickled, caressed, kissed... maybe being blindfolded, so you don't know when the next touch will come, where the soft kiss will land next... acting the sinister crime lord and the helpless superheroine... sometimes bondage is just plain fun. Hell, it can often be downright silly. Everyone needs their own way to have fun and being silly means you aren't being stressed. Laugh more for a longer life.
Bondage is all about... the exchange of power
But there is a more serious side to bondage. Some submissives have a deep need to surrender to someone strong, someone will look after them, who will make sure that they are safe and happy...for an hour, or an evening, or all the time they are at home. If you have a stressful, responsible job, sometimes you just need to let go, and trust that your lover will catch you.
In Britain, scandals have often been created around powerful men who have liked to have their wives, or lovers, or even a professional dominatrix tie them up and treat them as if they were small children. But if you are a powerful banker or politician, is it so strange that in private you may not want to be in charge all the time?
Interestingly, with the lifting of the glass ceiling we have started to see the flip-side: powerful women who by night like to be tied as helpless slave-girls- free from worry, with someone else to take all the decisions.
I hope that we will soon mature enough as a society not to treat this need for a break from power as a weakness, something to be mocked, but as a perfectly understandable and sensible pressure release mechanism.
Bondage Art is all about... the exchange of stereotypes
Back to the art.
A friend who has studied art history told me about the theory that all portrayals of women in western art tend to be either very sexual, or very virginal: "Madonna or Whore". How much you believe this is up to you, but it is clear that the Madonna and Whore stereotypes are very powerful in our culture. I believe that bondage art gains a lot of its power from the deliberate subversion of these stereotypes.
The damsel-in-distress is a Madonna, a respectable lady placed in a perilous position, menaced with very sexual overtones. Even the old black and white movie serials knew this. The helpless heroine bound to the rails before the oncoming train always had highly developed sexual connotations. Hell, it goes back a lot further- think about Perseus and Andromeda. What was the monster going to do to Andromeda, do you think? Eat her or screw her? It is part of our culture. The revolution in sexual equality has not removed the power of these scenarios, just made it more acceptable for the man being the one in need of rescue.
So the damsel-in-distress is Madonna being placed in a sexual situation, threatened not only with pain and suffering but also with her own sexual arousal. Madonna becomes Whore. This is what I find so powerful, and why I love to draw romanticized portraits of damsels in distress.
Sometimes, though, it can be the opposite way around. A sex slave, desperate to satisfy herself sexually, is not permitted to do so. Instead she is bound, unable to bring herself to a climax, forced to wait upon the pleasure of her lover. Whore is forced, unwillingly, to become Madonna. This is powerful also, although for me personally not as appealing as the damsel-in-distress.
ll have to negotiate.
Comments or suggestions to Hywel Phillips (email@example.com)