Recently, there seems to have been a sudden outbreak of discussion about modern day members of the "Old Guard" or earnest claims about Ancient European Houses of D/s. Under closer inspection, the claimants retreat into quite innocuous statements, but it still makes you ask why the extreme claims in the first place, even if they're not defended when challenged?
I think all this is fundamentally a consequence of the BDSM subculture being such a loose and frequently secretive group of people. First this means that myths are easily perpetuated: it's difficult for fake history to be obvious, and it's possible to find some little corner of the world where pretty much any story will be swallowed. But secondly, this looseness itself makes it harder for people to establish themselves: there are no qualifications to point to, no "Guild of Masters" to vouch for you. It's not suprising that some unscrupulous people just invent a fake tradition to fill this gap ... for their own benefit of course.
There are several good accounts in print and online of the real history of what is now called "Old Guard Leather" - very roughly, the gay SM subculture that grew out of biker groups and leather bars in the 1950s and 60s, had its peak in the 1970s, and then rapidly declined in the 1980s after the onset of AIDS and new generations which rejected some of its formality, and were often called New Leather or New Guard. (I've cut and pasted links to some essays about Old Guard at the end of this post.)
All this is real history, no question.
But what also happens is that modern day (especially online) het BDSM people (especially male doms) make claims about being "Old Guard" themselves. Sometimes their age is even about right (over 50, say) but, well, it turns out they were a bit too straight at the time to be Old Guard (And often they're even rather offended when pointed in the direction of accounts of Old Guard which explain it was a gay subculture.) Or maybe when pressed, they weren't around at the time, nor were they trained by some tenuous lineage that somehow survived the 80s and 90s, but instead they're actually "recreating" Old Guard ... ah, ok
On to the next one: Ancient European Houses. The bizarreness of this beggars belief quite frankly.
You're reading a mailing list, or a chatroom (or if you're really unlucky you're at a real life event) and one person starts explaining how someone they know was trained in a European House or in "Euro D/s." It's explained to those who don't know (how ignorant of them) that this House is part of a larger organisation which has existed for hundreds of years, and which traces its history back to medieval torturers / a boarding school / an order or knights / or some other bit of history which has caught Hollywood's attention in the last 30 years.
Funnily enough, these stories about European history are almost exclusively told by North Americans to North Americans. (The few versions from Europe tend to involve Oriental Houses of course...) The very idea that such institutions of hundreds of people existed for hundreds of years, through countless wars and revolutions, without ever once being exposed, is utterly ridiculous. I mean, European printing presses have been churning out accounts of sexually titilating scandals on handbills, pamphlets, newspapers and books since the 1400s, so the demand for exactly this kind of revelation has been there for hundreds of years - but not a word ever made it into print.
But for reasons of self aggrandisement, it's easy to see why some people would pick these myths up and peddle them to anyone who will listen. In some ways, they're even better than claiming to be Old Guard, since there really was an Old Guard and so it's easier to be confronted with a firsthand account and caught out
To read accounts of the real Old Guard, based on first hand experience: The Old Guard: The History of Leather Traditions by Guy Baldwin M.S.; Old Guard? If You say so. by Joseph W. Bean; The Old Days, a serious essay by Jay Wiseman; Old Guard New Guard by Viola Johnson; The Myth of the Old Guard by Jack Rinella; Old Guard, New Guard by Gayle Rubin; Why Old Guard? by David Masterson
Accounts of people claiming membership of Ancient European Houses can be found on the late Tammad Rimilia's site and on Castle Realm (Removed in 2006, but still at http://web.archive.org/web/20050305065836/http:/... )
A good place to read objective discussion of these issues is the LeatherHistory Yahoo group
(If anyone has more Ancient European House or Old Guard
myths they can
share, I'd be really interested in a pointer to them.)
Edited Tue 22 Jan 08, 11:52 PM
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