A Lineage of Literary Influence on Modern BDSM Communities




Rothbauer, Emily

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All literary representations of alternative lifestyles have the potential to impact alternative lifestyle communities and practitioners, but this influential power is under-explored with regard to some minority groups. My intention is to study literature's potential to impact BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Domination and Submission, Sadism and Masochism) practitioners, while carefully dissecting depictions of eroticism that are distinguished by a distinct power imbalance. As a case study, I use Clive Barker's novella The Hellbound Heart, while analyzing the powerful effect its film adaptation, Hellraiser, has had on both mainstream audiences and BDSM communities. This reading does not attempt to use psychoanalytical criticism to uncover allegedly repressed/sublimated desires of individual authors; rather, this thesis takes a more pragmatic approach that pays attention to ethics and the writer's accountability for positive/negative portrayals of sexual power fantasies. Additionally, it draws a lineage of artistic heritage between modern BDSM communities and various authors in the gothic and transgressive literary movements, particularly Georges Bataille, Edgar Allen Poe, and Matthew Gregory Lewis, who have had a substantial influence on Barker's fiction and subsequently on modern BDSM communities.



literature, critical theory, alternative lifestyle, activism, BDSM, Honors College


Rothbauer, E. (2013). A lineage of literary influence on modern BDSM communities (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


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