"Guest Column by Lily Emerson, 2014/2015 Visiting Scholar
Elizabeth Freeman has argued that sadomasochism is an unusual sexual technique not only because its rise and elaboration can be traced to particular historical figures (Sade, Sacher Masoch, Krafft-Ebing) and moments in time (the French Revolution, the late nineteenth century) but also because it is a ‘hyperbolically historical, even metahistorical way of having sex’. During my research on the history of American sadomasochism, as a part of my PhD thesis, I have become immersed in the ways that thinking about and practicing sadomasochism constantly invoke, challenge, and solidify historically constructed racial, gendered, and sexual identities. Sadomasochism offers a unique example for the historian to look not only at the ways in which sexual identities and cultures are shaped by practices and discourses in their contemporary context, but the ways in which practitioners themselves knowingly invoke historically produced identities through their sexual practice. This thesis therefore turns its attention not only to the production of sadomasochistic identities and culture, but to the historical discourses that sadomasochists themselves appropriate through their practice."