Sex and Sadism front cover

Sex and Sadism front cover

by Val Vane
Published in 1967 by Stewart Gordon Publications

I looked forward to reading Sex and Sadism.  The blurb on the cover promises “An intimate look into the lives of people actively obsessed with the need to inflect or to receive pain in the spirit of pleasure.” This book is also listed in the Leather Archives and Museum’s Leather History Timeline.  With both those things going for it, I envisioned a sweet candy treat for my twisted literary tastes.  Unfortunately, I got a sourball.

This book has any number of problems.  I’m sure I could list them all but frankly gave up carefully reading this mess after 100 or so pages.  Written in a faux scholarly tone, it compares it to moralistic treatises of the early 1900s.  For example the book’s opening words, “Contemplating the squalid story of Human Evolution, one is inevitably forced to the conclusion…”  The prose in the mess never gets better, just longer.

More annoying than the tone and prose is the author’s habit of relaying stories without providing sources or enough detail to verify the veracity of his assertions.  I’d provide lots of examples, but since Val Vane doesn’t think it important why should I?

The book fails to deliver its promised “intimate look” into the lives of sadists and masochists.  Instead, we get a roundabout history review of chattel slavery and crime and punishment through the ages.  The only real hint of sadomasochism is a series of letters hastily tacked onto the end of the book.  Again, the author fails to give us any evidence of the letters’ origins.  I recognized several from John Willie’s Bizarre magazine. (I’d research that and give you specific issues, but again Val doesn’t care so why should I?)  I suspect the rest of the letters are similarly cribbed from other period publications.

Why these letters are included or why this book was written is unclear.  My best guess is that this book was originally written as a “legitimate” history of torture similar to A History of Torture throughout the Ages by George Ryley Scott, but was so poorly written no mainstream publisher would accept it.  Unlike Sex and Sadism, George Ryley Scott’s book is a brilliant treatise.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Scott not only understands history and cites sources, he shows he also understands the nature of sexual sadism.

Sex and Sadism proves neither arousing nor informative.  Worse still, it commits the worst transgression I can think of: it’s boring.