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Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality Paperback – December 20, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

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"In what Weiss calls circuits, readers see the complex interactions among beliefs, experiences, fantasy, freedom (laws/rules), individualism, opportunities, and public expectations in sexual performance... The analysis of these circuits is quite fascinating and could be expanded outside the BDSM scene to explore sexual fantasy and performance in any affluent, educated, tech-savvy culture. Recommended to readers interested in human sexuality." Scott Vieira, Library Journal

"I cannot emphasize enough how vital the analysis in Techniques of Pleasure is. Margot Weiss reveals the half-lie of 'safe space' in the BDSM world and, in doing so, artfully unveils the half-lies that propel ideas of 'agency' and 'choice' in neoliberal culture." Annalee Newitz, author of Pretend We're Dead: Capitalist Monsters in American Popular Culture

"Techniques of Pleasure is a wonderful, theoretically significant, and ethnographically rich book. Margot Weiss contextualizes the development of the Bay Area's BDSM scene, analyzing contemporary BDSM as bio-political practice. Examining the complex connections between discipline and freedom, subject formation and subjugation, power and play, Weiss extends feminist and queer theoretical debates about identity, community, sexuality, gender, race, and the nature of power. This book breaks new theoretical ground in relation not only to BDSM but also to questions of personhood, political economy, and embodiment in late capitalism." David Valentine, author of Imagining Transgender: An Ethnography of a Category

"Margot Weiss, author of the ethnographic study, Techniques of Pleasure, visits Mr. S and many other venues of S-and-M play, unknowingly recalling the quest for pleasure offered at Mrs. Berkley's salon... her book is a useful scholarly monograph on how once perversions of the select have become indulgences of the many... Weiss's book needs to be read as a case study of this new sexual culture, an anthropologist's exploration of a distinct sub-set - the San Francisco S-and-M scene - of this revolution." David Rosen, The Brooklyn Rail

“Techniques of Pleasure is an impressive book that does much to humanize BDSM to those who wish to get involved in the community or simply wish to be better educated about the topic. . . . Weiss exposes a world that is typically viewed as dank and dark by the casual outsider; through her insightful analysis, she brings this subculture into the light and shows us the ‘softer side of kink.’”--C. J. Bishop, Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality

“... Weiss’s book offers a fascinating extension of debates about the sexual politics of neoliberalism, and a consideration of how local economic changes in the San Francisco Bay Area have reconfigured sexual communities there...”—Gavin Brown, Society and Space

About the Author

Margot Weiss is Assistant Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books (December 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0822351595
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822351597
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #221,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa C. Venable on March 1, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Weiss'a objective, thorough study of the Bay Area BDSM culture reveals the way in which this subculture, influenced by neoliberal values and beliefs, is linked to capitalism, racial Othering, and focuses on self-mastery and technique. I don't believe, however, that Weiss slams BDSM or is in any way anti sex positive culture. Instead, her work can make us think about the ways we live our life and how we feel empowerment, and see more clearly when we are reproducing harmful normative discourses such as class exclusion. This wasn't an easy or a fast read, but it was well-written, detailed, and intriguing.
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18 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Carol Siegel on August 24, 2012
Format: Paperback
Imagine a book about homosexuality based entirely on people's behavior in a very limited number of sex clubs. If that sounds like a useful way to understand the sexualities of others, then this is the book for you. If not, not. The book fails to give an accurate portrayal of SM in San Francisco past or present because the groups studied are not representative (leaving out gay men almost entirely is a big problem, as is assuming that all people with this orientation are affiliated with clubs, and that most belong to one particular one) and because the author ignores the majority of published accounts of SM activity in San Francisco. Also disturbing is that, although the author's informants repeatedly tell her that SM is their sexual orientation, she treats SM almost exclusively as an activity they engage in (with groups) rather than in terms of their desires. The latter she spends considerable time arguing are determined by external influences such as social and political contexts. That seems to me fairly obvious. Of course, if there had never been slavery in the world the term "slave" would not have erotic charge for anyone -- there wouldn't even be such a term. And if none of us grew up in families within a culture where babies are normally cherished the term "baby" wouldn't have erotic charge for anyone. But we do and so these terms do arouse feelings in many of us, whether our sexuality is conventional or SM. (The author might have achieved a bit of sensible balance by examining how often slavery is evoked to describe perfectly "normal," but intense feelings of romantic attachment in popular songs, for instance.Read more ›
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By SexReader on July 14, 2014
Format: Paperback
Aside from being riddled with academic jargon, Weiss's book is a considerable disappointment for those seeking a thorough and objective study of the BDSM/kink/fetish community. In the first place, her study focuses on a rather narrow cross-section of this subculture. On top of that, she views the community through a highly political/ideological lens, and attempts to "deconstruct" it to fit into that box. The Procrustean result is a slanted view of a complex and diverse community. I suggest people instead turn to "Sadomasochism: Powerful Pleasures" by Charles Moser and Peggy Kleinplatz.
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