Renowned Sadomasochists: Percy Grainger

Percy Grainger's Whips

Percy Grainger's Whips

Percy Grainger’s whips

Originally uploaded by mystroh

Fifty years ago today, the composer Percy Grainger died. He left his whips and his bloodied shirts to the Percy Grainger Museum.

According to his biographer,

At no time in his life after the age of about fifteen did Grainger abandon his sadistic and masochistic pleasure-seeking. Blood-letting was often part of his activities and he nearly always laundered his own shirts because of the telltale bloodstains. With the possible exception of Mimi Kwast, all his girlfriends were to be drawn into his particular form of lovemaking and there is ample photographic evidence of this. Several photographs exist which he took himself after one of his bouts of auto-flagellation. An indication of his extraordinary mentality can be detected from the fact that as he stood before the camera lens with bleeding wounds he also held up a notice which gave details not only of the exact time of day, location of session and number of lashes with what kind of whip, but also the type of film used in the camera and the exposure and aperture. Whenever he went on tour he took a selection of several dozen whips with him.

Percy Grainger Self-Portrait with Bruises

Percy Grainger Self-Portrait with Bruises

So what’s the point? Why post about a minor composer’s obsessive flagellation?

The point is not just the pretty pictures of a well-whipped naked man, or the sinister and beautiful collection of whips on display. He wanted his kink to be talked about, or he would have arranged to have these items destroyed. The museum had to wait for decades before they could be displayed.

When I was growing up, any kind of queer sex was considered sick, filthy, and horrible. I thought I was crazy for wanting what I wanted, but I could not stop craving it. In my experience, very few people ever can step away from their basic orientations, whatever those may be. The pull is too strong, even if you have to indulge your needs in an atmosphere of secrecy and terror.

I talk about these things publicly because I don’t want anyone else loathing themselves for their desires. And believe me, despite the changes in our society in the past 20 years, plenty of people still think anything but missionary sex is actively evil.

Thank you, Percy, for the music, and thank you for the courage to talk about your needs at a time when that was taking a huge risk.

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