Cruel ArtbyCal Y. Pygia©
I guess, in my case, at least, spanking art was like a gateway "drug" to the harder pornographic illustrations of women who are not only bound, gagged, and spanked, but tortured in a variety of cruel, but imaginative, ways. The first time that such drawings produce a penile erection (or, in women, a lubricated vagina) is a bit unnerving, because, well, one is getting off, so to speak, on the sadistic treatment of another person, albeit an imaginary, rather than an actual, flesh-and-blood human being, usually (but not always) of the female sex. Knowing that one is aroused by the spectacle of torture is unsettling. It also demands reflection--on the part of the thinking individual, at least.
One of the reasons that such art is appealing is that it is aesthetic. The pictures that portray beautiful women, at least, are often beautiful in themselves. Another reason that such images are attractive, although they can be disturbing, is that they depict highly imaginative inventions and situations such as one would never (hopefully) see in real life. (Many of the torture devices look as if they were inspired by the Marquis de Sade but built by Rube Goldberg.) Likewise, such representations fascinate us because they depict only imaginary characters, not real women, in pain, and the misery of fictional figures is acceptable, since their torment, like they themselves, is purely pretend.
Taking an Aristotelian perspective toward horror fiction, Stephen King believes that such literature is cathartic, purging readers or moviegoers of the forbidden desires and socially unacceptable impulses which everyone, on some level, harbors, whether they are aware of these monstrous urges or not. By publicly airing the dirty linen of our souls, so to speak, horror fiction, King argues, allows us to express these dark desires in a socially acceptable manner, thereby essentially exorcising them. I agree with King that such fiction--and, indeed, cruel art of the sort about which I am writing--does accomplish such a purpose.
Of course, depending upon whether one identifies with the sadist or the masochist in the illustrations, such art also either empowers or humbles the viewer. To be able to do, with absolute impunity, what the men and women in such pictures do to those who are physically or mentally weaker than they is to assume godlike powers. At the same time, the dignity of the those on the receiving end of such abuse is stripped away. Power lies in both physical strength and in one's ability to effect another person's emotional humiliation, to leave marks, as it were, both in the flesh and upon the mind or soul. Indeed, even to force someone else to strip naked or to bare her (or his) buttocks is to degrade him or her and, at the same time, to empower oneself. More extreme forms of dominance--spanking, branding, hogtying, caging, ravishing, and the like--confers even greater power upon the sadist while further reducing the masochist's self-esteem, dignity, autonomy, and self-confidence. Those who have read my own series concerning such treatment, "First Timer," and especially its final installment, "The Aftermath," know full well what I mean in alluding to such transformations, both the positive and the negative.
The Nazi holocaust; the genocide of European immigrants against native Americans under the pretext of Manifest Destiny; the abusive treatment of supposedly inferior minorities and of women by racist and sexist white Americans; the misuse of Iraqi prisoners of war by American military personnel at Abu Ghraib; and other atrocities, past and present, in which one race or group of people, including straights and gays, is pitted against another in a struggle for dominance suggest, as do the Tuskegee experiments in which black men who were suffering from syphilis were denied treatment so that they could be used as human guinea pigs in the study of the progression of the disease, and the experiments of such researchers as Stanley Milgram, Solomon Asch, and Phillip K. Zimbardo, that every man and woman, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, religious creed, politics, or socioeconomic class, is potentially a sadist or a masochist.
There is a cruel streak in all of us, just as, under the right--or wrong--conditions, there could be within each of us a desire to experience pleasure through pain to the extent that, for us, pain would become no longer merely a means of obtaining pleasure, sexual, emotional, and otherwise, but pleasure itself. To paraphrase Walt Kelly's opossum Pogo, who said "We have met the enemy, and he is us," we have met the monster, and it is we. Therefore, the enjoyment of cruel art may be a guilty pleasure, but it is a pleasure, nevertheless.
Cruel art, which is also referred to by its practitioners and fans alike as "brutal art," "savage art," and "BDSM art," is nothing if not politically incorrect, a quality which makes it even more alluring to those who resent social and political pressures to conform to the behavior of the herd. As Friedrich Nietzsche observes, there is a wolf in many people, and their own savage natures, although repressed, rationalized, or denied, find expression in one way or another. Cruel art, like the horror fiction of which King writes, provides such an outlet for the predatory animal within, especially for viewers who like to spice their cruel streaks with nudity and sex.
The work of mainstream artists, past and present, often contains cruel art themes, as do, for example, the paintings of H. R. Giger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Art Kinbaku, Salvador Dali, Guido Reni, George Grosz, Hieronymus Bosch, and many others. In their paintings, sadism, masochism, misogyny, racism, sexism, and chauvinism are often represented. Motion pictures such as Blue Velvet, Klute, Sudden Impact, Eyes Wide Shut, the Saw series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and many others also depict sadomasochistic torment. However, in fine art, as opposed to popular art forms, whether they are illustrations or full-length motion pictures, where cruelty intrudes, it is usually disguised as, or is symbolic of, something else and is depicted as a means of expressing a theme of universal or lasting significance rather, than as a means of simply depicting cruelty for cruelty's sake. In the cruel art of which I speak, which is readily available on many Internet websites, the art's primary purpose and appeal is the cruelty itself that such art--usually line drawings, charcoal sketches, or, less often, watercolors or illustrations in colored chalk--depicts, and the emphasis is upon the pain, humiliation, and suffering themselves.
Usually, the victims are women, but men are also subjects to torment and "discipline" as well, on rarer occasions, sometimes at the hands of other men but more frequently at the hands of dominant women. Women also suffer at the hands of men more often than they do at the hands of their own sex, although other women abuse them with far greater frequency than men abuse other members of their own sex. When the tormentor is male and the victim is female, he's often obese, bald, ugly, and unlikely ever to be able to attract a woman of any description, which is his motivation, perhaps, for torturing the beautiful women whom he has bought or captured. The allure of beauty, in such art, endangers the beautiful.
Much of the art is itself well executed, and it attracts for its aesthetic qualities, to be sure. However, besides its forbidden character, cruel art also attracts because of the imaginative means by which the artists envision the abuse, torture, humiliation, and degradation of their characters.
Many are spanked, whipped, caned, paddled, or otherwise beaten; some are branded; others are kept in cages on the floor or suspended from ceilings. Still others are hung from a harness or an assembly of hoists and pulleys. Many are hogtied or bound in extremely uncomfortable positions. Not infrequently, victims are kept in excruciatingly restricted spaces that would guarantee claustrophobia.
They are shaved bald, subjected to tit torture, gagged, led upon leashes, made to serve (and to service), publicly humiliated, made to straddle toasters so that their labia are cooked, made to bear weights attached to rings inserted through their labia or areolas, forced to wear metal collars, bound to wheels which make of their bodies circles so tight that their heels rest over their shoulders, made the playthings of wealthy debauchees, chained breast to breast to other women, subjected to enemas, and broken upon a wheel.
They are spat upon, shat upon, urinated upon, and ejaculated upon. They are ravished anally, orally, and vaginally, by men, machines, dildos, and mechanical or robotic devices of all kinds. They are pilloried, cut, chopped, pierced, gouged, pummeled, stuffed, electrocuted, axed, and struck; forced to pull chariots or wagons; ridden as ponies; used as furniture; forced to have lesbian sex or to participate in orgies; and bought, rented, and sold. Some are used in bizarre sex rituals in which, after they've been used sexually, they may or may not be sacrificed to a monstrous god. They are dismembered, disemboweled, beheaded, crucified, stabbed, shot, hung, and/or sawn in half,
Many of the cruel art drawings depict scenes that have occurred in media res, and, as such, they could be used by writers as inspirations for stories. Several of my own BDSM stories, some of which are available on Literotica, are based, in part, upon scenes portrayed in such drawings: "A Lark," "Quality Control," "Spoiled Brat," "The Princess of Pain," "The Horse," "The Sitter," "Vintage." Imaginative in themselves, the works of cruel art inspire the cruel art of others as well. One man's cruelty is another man's muse.
In any picture (or story) that involves two or more characters, two or more perspectives are possible. If a picture shows a woman sucking a man's cock, the viewer, as voyeur, can imagine him- or herself in either the role of the man who is being fellated or in the role of the woman who is performing the fellatio. One can identify with either character, regardless of his or her own sex, and the same is true whether the partners comprise a heterosexual, a lesbian, or a gay homosexual couple. Cruel art which shows both a victim and a victimizer also allows its fans to imagine themselves in either role. In doing so, it lets its viewers become either a sadist or a masochist or, alternately, both a sadist and a masochist. The same person can spank or be spanked, cage or be caged, brand or be branded, pierce or be pierced, hang or be hung, suck or be sucked, fuck or be fucked, kill or be killed.
No matter how we try to justify cruel art, whether we say that it is cathartic, that it is aesthetic, that it is imaginative, that it is (at least implicitly) narrative, that it expresses important themes, or that it can be inspirational to other artists, one thing remains clear and undeniable: cruel art is disturbing. It confronts us with insights and truths that we'd rather not face about ourselves and others. It shows its viewers a deep, dark truth about themselves and about humanity itself: we are all sadists, just as we are all masochists. We are both predator and prey. It's not just "perverts" who enjoy inflicting pain upon others or who delight in being tortured and humiliated; as the sheer number of BDSM stories on Literotica (15,106 at this writing) suggests, we all do.