Some who find this blog might recognize me from my past FemDom life. I was a phone Mistress for five years and I dabbled a bit in the world of professional Domination. I was also active in a FemDom group for the better part of three years. And I wrote a column for a FemDom e-zine.
Saturday, May 17, 2014
by Bret Wood
Richard von Krafft-Ebing
was a German psychiatrist who spent the first years of his career working in
asylums. Eventually he became disillusioned with the institutional approach and
switched his focus to education, becoming a professor of psychiatry at the
Universities of Strasbourg, Graz and Vienna.
Although he published
numerous articles throughout his life, Krafft-Ebing is best known for the book,
"Psychopathia Sexualis" (Psychopathy of Sex), which was first
published in 1886 and eventually became an international best seller.
was actually Krafft-Ebing's second book. His first, "A Textbook of
Insanity", was published in 1879 and contained an elaborate system for
categorizing mental diseases that earned him a reputation as a masterful
Though Krafft-Ebing is
best known for beginning the study of sexual behavior, his work in psychiatry,
criminology, and forensic psychopathology also helped advance psychology as a
clinical science. He was also a forensic psychologist who investigated the
legal and genetic aspects of criminal behavior and was often consulted by the
courts as an expert witness.
is widely regarded as the first modern pornographic book and is particularly
notable because it was written intentionally as medical science. Krafft-Ebing
went to great lengths to describe the technical terms in Latin and was
successful in transforming what many would consider an interest in sexual
deviance into scientific inquiry and compassion. The extensive catalog of
sexual positions and non-procreative sexual activities identified names and
descriptions for acts that were considered unspeakable, sinful and criminal.
His work re-named these behaviors as “sexual perversions” and influenced
recognition of Sexology as a new branch in the study of psychiatry.
Krafft-Ebing also coined the terms "heterosexual",
"fetishism", "exhibitionism, "sadism" and
Krafft-Ebing coined the
word "masochist" from the sexual desires of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch,
a well-known novelist of the time who was said to enjoy being humiliated by
women. In 1869, Sacher-Masoch wrote "Venus in Furs", a novel
about a man with strong masochistic desires, including the desire to be whipped
by a woman while her body is adorned in fur.
Many of Krafft-Ebing’s
ideas were shadowed for years after Freud shifted the view of homosexuality to
be defined as a psychological problem. The Catholic Church was also disturbed
by Krafft’s attempts to draw a connection between sanctity and martyrdom with
masochism and many found his research morally offensive at the time. Despite
the controversial nature of his work, Krafft-Ebing pioneered an approach to
exploring and classifying sexuality that was accepting and sympathetic.
So what does all of this
have to do with a movie review? Writer and Film Director Bret Wood attempted to
bring to life Krafft-Ebing's notorious and groundbreaking taxonomy of sexual
variation. In his 2006 movie “Psychopathia Sexualis” Wood depicts
sadomasochistic rituals, vampirism, same-sex attraction, lust murder and
fetishism through a series of dramatizations. Krafft-Ebing is played by
Ted Manson and we see him interviewing patients, dissecting corpses and
attempting to diagnose what he believes are mental and sexual disorders.
The book “Psychopathia
Sexualis” had 238 case histories. This left Brent Wood with the unenviable task
of choosing a dozen or so for his movie version of the book. He chooses to
include the sort of sexually deviant material that made Krafft-Ebing's book
well-read and notorious. There’s the case of the French sex killer Emile
Fourquet (Patrick Parker). There's the tale of Jonathan (Daniel May), a proper
young man of some means who develops a blood fixation and abuses the family
maid until his mother (Jane Bass) has him committed.
There is the case of a
famous episode of necrophilia (a sexual fetish characterized by a sexual
attraction to corpses) from Krafft-Ebing's book. It is recalled by puppeteer
Caglios (Rob Nixon) in a command performance staged for a rich baron (Greg
There's the story of a
young gay man (Daniel Pettrow) whom Krafft-Ebing tries to “cure” of his
homosexual desires with hypnosis.
And there is the long
narrative thread where the Governess Lydia (Lisa Paulsen), a long-repressed
lesbian tutor whose desires are awakened by young student Annabel (Veronika
Duerr). Krafft-Ebing believed that "woman is passive . . . if
properly educated, she has very little sexual yearning". Lydia would
rather spend her life alone than give in to her urges, even when her new
charge, Annabel Lindstrom, reciprocates enthusiastically.
What about Femdom? The
movie depicts the Femdom tale of an aristocratic gentleman who likes to be
trampled by scantily clad prostitutes. I call this a Femdom scene based on what
we know today about the male desire for female domination. However,
Krafft-Ebing classified this as male masochism and believed it was an abnormal
sexual desire. Interesting enough, Krafft-Ebing saw women as basically sexually
passive, and recorded no female sadists or fetishists in his case studies.
Behavior that would be classified as masochism in men was categorized as
"sexual bondage" in women.
So what are we to think
about a highly regarded psychiatrist who believed that women did not enjoy sex?
Time, education and the advancements in the field of psychiatry has proven
Krafft-Ebing wrong in many of his diagnosis, including homosexuality and the
male desire for female domination.
To his credit,
Krafft-Ebing was sincere in his pursuit to understand the correlation between
the human mind and the human sex drive. Perversion can exist if the human mind
is not sane. However, Krafft-Ebing had tunnel vision and he saw through the
glass darkly. His research was flawed by categorizing genuine expressions of
sexuality (such as Femdom) along side actual acts of perversion (such as
Be that as it may, Bret
Wood was intrigued by the fact that many people read Krafft-Ebing's book
"Psychopathia Sexualis" not because they wanted to learn about mental
illness. People of his day read his book because it was full of actual cases of
sexual deviance. The Science community believed it to be a groundbreaking and
important book but the general population read it for its shock value. Wood
thought perhaps a 2006 audience would view it the same way.
Despite this film's low
budget, Wood's images are evocative. Wood seems fascinated by Krafft-Ebing's
efforts to scientifically dissect and categorize the vagaries of carnal desire,
but his larger point is elusive. There is some titillating imagery among the
Victorian corsets and knickers in this erratic film. However, this is not an
There are scenes that
are not for the squeamish, and I don’t mean that in a good S&M way. Stories
of serial killers, psychopaths, male sadists who want to injure women and
fringe fetishes (such as the man who pays a prostitute to stomp a chicken to
death in front of him) are not a good mix with tales of forbidden yet erotic
desires (Femdom, Lesbianism, etc). And that is the problem with both
Krafft-Ebing's research and with Wood's film. Perhaps one or more of these
stories would make an interesting movie in and of itself, but as a series of
dramatizations, as seen through the eyes and analysis of Krafft-Ebing, the
movie comes up short.
For the readers of my
blog, the best chapter in the film (Chapter 6 on the DVD) is the section on
Masochism. Here you will witness a very brief scene of a woman whipping a man,
emasculating him through what we today would call pony play, and trampling him
by standing on his humbled body (the prostitute looking disinterested the
entire time, playing to Krafft-Ebing's analysis that all women are passive and
have no interest in such activities but are merely doing it for money).
This leads to the
dramatization where three prostitutes at a brothel play out a fantasy scenario
for a paying male client who desires to be dominated. The experienced
prostitute admonishes the novice prostitute, “Follow my lead and don’t look
at him, don’t say a word. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t laugh”.
(Again playing to the theme that women could not possibly enjoy dominating and
controlling a man.)
Once the male client is
lying on the floor, eyes closed, the two women circle him (wearing corsets,
fishnet stockings and ankle high leather boots) then proceed to stand on him,
one at time and then both together, until he rings a bell to signify his
unspoken safe word.
Next enters the third
prostitute, dressed like Marie Antoinette in a wig, white corset, white boots
and wearing a mask. The other women leave the room while the Antoinette figure
begins to whip the male client with a dozen long-stem roses until he uses his
safe signal by ringing his bell.
You might find this
scene to be erotic but I doubt it. The client is made out to be a weirdo (and I
might add a wimp since he rings his bell before his session has the chance to
get interesting). Perhaps this Krafft-Ebing case study was undeniably of a
peculiar man but I wonder what would Krafft-Ebing think today were he to browse
the internet, where thousands of women are making a living offering
professional domination be it over the phone or in person. Would he view the
innumerable male clients of these women as all being worthy of his book?
Imagine that, an immeasurable number of men just like Leopold von
And what would he say of
all of us dominant women that achieve sexual arousal and wet pussies when we
are sexually dominating the men in our lives? Would he still hold to the belief
that women are passive and have little interest in sex?
I know I should not be
too hard on Richard von Krafft-Ebing because he was living in a different time
and in a different society. He was sincere in his research and he did
groundbreaking work in the area of forensic psychology. He attempted to
diagnose some very difficult and in some cases quite disturbing sexual acts.
Freud was wrong in many of his theories as well but his work was still highly
influential. The same can be said for Krafft-Ebing.
So what is my overall
opinion of Bret Wood's attempt to make “Psychopathia Sexualis” into a film? I
must confess that I found it to be a fascinating film to watch. I would not
classify it as erotic or entertaining but it kept my attention for the nearly
It really comes down to
your motivation for watching this film. If you want to be entertained or if you
want to have your D&S senses aroused, you will be disappointed. However, if
you are seeking an educational experience, to view fetishes through the mind of
the famous Richard von Krafft-Ebing, you will probably find this film worthy of
your time. For me, it's a split decision.