Monday 8 June 2015

Around the World in 80 Gays : Part 11 - A Fetish

LAST TIME : 29) Bob Benny came last in the 1961 Eurovision Song Contest when “nil points” was given to him by the Danish jury spokesman, a well-known broadcaster called Claus Toksvig, whose broadcasting daughter 30) Sandi Toksvig, studied archaeology. Sandi’s fellow Danish archaeologist and Claus’s broadcasting predecessor on Danish national radio, 31) Eigil Knuth, trained as a gym teacher at the college founded by 32) Niels Bukh.
32) Niels Bukh (1880-1950) has gone down in lgbt history as a misguided villain who was, almost unwittingly at first, dragged into the Nazi propaganda machine. I wrote about his involvement in the Olympic Games of a century ago here. Today we’ll look at how his gymnastic training influence another nation.

Niels founded his world-renowned gymnastics training college at Ollerup, Denmark, in 1920. The touring troupe formed from his star pupils became very popular, performing around the world. It was at this time that 31) Eigil Knuth attended the college and graduated as a teacher. Eigil decided, however, to pursue a career in archaeology, though I imagine the physical training he received proved beneficial on his many expeditions trudging across the harsh environments of Greenland.

While Bukh’s reputation and the propaganda value to the Nazis of his young, muscle-bound gym troupe was growing his gymnastic techniques were beginning to be just as influential to another power in World War II, Japan where he and his troupe toured in 1931. The tour was soon hijacked by the Japanese government, whose own militaristic expansion led to the invasion of Manchuria during the tour’s progress. The remainder of the tour was used as propaganda by the military government who, like the Nazis, saw the gymnasts as examples of superior manhood and discipline.

The Japanese also saw Niels Bukh’s gym techniques as being perfect for the training of their troops who were now mobilised in their thousands to “pacify” the newly conquered Manchurians. In 1937 the government formally adopted Bukh’s gym training as compulsory for their troops and schools. Although gymnastic techniques have evolved since then, Japan is still the only country in the world which uses Bukh-inspired gym training in schools.

So, it is safe to assume that every Japanese schoolboy after 1937 has been trained in Bukh’s techniques. This includes an artist and former Japanese World War II veteran whose meeting with a famous author in a gym led to a change of name and an artistic passion for a fetish. That artist was 33) Goh Mishima (1924-1989).

In the aftermath of the war Goh Mishima began frequenting the underground gay bar culture in Tokyo and became involved with the Yakuza, a Japanese mafia-style network where hyper-masculinity, violent behaviour and body tattoos were the norm. This was to influence his artwork.

In 1955, while training in a gym, Goh met that famous author I mentioned, 34) Yukio Mishima (1925-1970). They struck up a friendship immediately and recognised that they had so much in common, including BDSM – bondage, domination and sado-masochism. It was Yukio who suggested to Goh that he should include more graphic BDSM imagery in his already homoerotic art. After Yukio Mishima committed suicide in 1970, Goh (who’s real name was Tsuyoshi Yoshida) adopted Mishima’s name as his artistic pseudonym and his art became more violent and explicit.

Japan took to BDSM in a way that surprises the West. In fact, some BDSM practices in the West today originated in Japan, in particular a type of tight rope-binding technique. The whole culture of BDSM has moved on from the deliberate, cruel, torture techniques practiced by one of its most famous practitioners. The “S” in BDSM is named after the notorious 35) Donatien Alphonse François, the Marquis de Sade (1740-1814).

The Marquis de Sade’s reputation is legendary. It is also factual. There are very good reasons why the word “sadistic” is named after him. His father may also have been quite sadistic, and both father and son displayed homosexual tendencies. The famous Marquis spent many years in prison and had his wife have an enormous ebony dildo made for him to keep himself “happy” every morning in his cell!

For two centuries de Sade’s reputation had been a blot on his family’s honour to the extent that they avoided using their title. However, during last year’s bicentenary commemoration of the Marquis’ death the present family changed their mind. Today the current Marquis de Sade is more than proud to use the title of his famous ancestor. And it is his more ancient ancestry where a sharp contrast towards names is displayed by the inhabitants of an island over which de Sade’s ancestors once ruled – Lesbos.

The Byzantine emperor gave the title of Lord of Lesbos to his son-in-law, an ancestor of the Marquis de Sade. The name of the island of Lesbos is the origin the word “lesbian” (with a small “l”). The island’s inhabitants, the Lesbians (with a capital “L”), didn’t like the sexual connotations this name had given them since the 10th century. Even today Lesbians prefer the abandonment of lesbian as a description of sexual orientation (despite having benefitted from decades of lesbian tourism and income).

The whole association of Lesbos and lesbian goes back to ancient Greece and the world’s first named female poet in history who lived on the islands, 36) Sappho (6th-7th century BC).

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