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

3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #492,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There are a lot of books on the psychology of BDSM, but relatively few study it as a culture. Weiss studied San Francisco's BDSM subculture as a participant observer, and book is an insightful, and often critical, look at it. This is not the feminist criticism that BDSM is sexist or violent, but rather a progressive criticism of why a culture that is supposedly open to all remains so very white and middle-class, and why there are such divides between the straight and queer BDSM Scenes. Along the way she looks at the particular history of the San Francisco kink scene, how the gay leathermen used to unofficially run the SOMA neighborhood until HIV and gentrification decimated that society, and how the tech-industry-based heterosexual kink scene emerged in the aftermath in the 1990s. The Scene as it exists today, despite utopian or transgressive claims, has the same problems of sexism, racism and classism as the rest of society, just expressed in different ways.

I emphasize that for all of Weiss' criticisms, she fundamentally _gets_ BDSM, even as a non-participant. She understands that BDSM makes possible pleasures and intimacies that are not possible any other way.

In answer to some of the other reviews, Weiss comes from anthropology, not psychology. She studied a particular section of the greater BDSM culture, the semi-public, heterosexual, SF Bay-area subculture of play parties, workshops, munches and other events.
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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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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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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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