How I stumbled into my VSSM project

VSSM Research

As it is almost spring, let me tell you a story of an Easter egg. Once upon a time (about a month ago), I was reading a kink book. Yes, I know, it’s surprising. Well, in that book, my eye fell on a footnote. And in that footnote, it said that the first BDSM organization for women in Europe, was founded in the Netherlands. Now, as I am Dutch, and a Kink researcher, it surprised me I had never heard about that before. I was intrigued. One day of Easter egg hunting later, I had found out that it was not entirely true. Fifty years ago this year, the VSSM (Organization for the Study of SM) was founded in the Netherlands. A few years later, the women in that organization started two separate groups within the VSSM. And one of those groups developed into a rather infamous group of individuals.

The origin of the VSSM project

Let me just hurry up a bit with this story here. What I found is that both the organization (the VSSM) and one of the women’s groups (WVSM) released a few publications. In the case of the VSSM, this was a monthly magazine called Kerfstok (“tally” or “notch stick”). Now, the magazine was discontinued in 2017, as the website has taken over most of the tasks. But I think it’s rather marvelous that the organization still exists! the WVSM only existed for about a decade. But in that time, they released a Dutch translation of the very notorious American Samois volume “Coming to Power,” as well as collections of essays written by Dutch female sadomasochists.

Three years worth of Kerfstoks from the 80s, as well as the volumes published by the WVSM still exist in the Netherlands. However, the only copies I could find were in the Royal Dutch Library of the Netherlands. (About two hours from my house.) Now, as they are quite rare, you can not check these books out. Instead, you have to go over to the Royal Library. Put your coat and bags in a locker. Put the stuff you want to take in a basket. And carry that basket to the desk where they deliver the books to you. What’s more, there’s no way to enter without proper identification, and you’re not allowed to take notes with anything but pencils. As you can imagine, I felt pretty special.

My time in the library

So, there I was. Sitting at a table in a formal, dusty environment, with 36 kinky magazines from the 1980s in front of me. As you can imagine, I had a wonderful time! And what’s more, I started noticing significant differences in BDSM discourse between these documents and the ones written in the US and UK at that same time. They are so significant, in fact, that they will be at the core of an article I’m working on. In this one, I will use discourse analysis (when comparing the WVSM’s translations to the American originals); as well as my five pages full of tallies (from when I was tracking vocabulary-choices in the “Tally Stick” magazine, ironic, eh?) to show how the political strategies of the BDSM movement in the Netherlands in the 1970s and early 1980s were completely different from their siblings abroad.

As I only know of American works on this topic, with the occasional British paper, I think that this paper can be quite an asset in the study of the history of kink communities. And the fact that the VSSM organization celebrates their 50th anniversary this year, convinced me that there is no better time to write it. I am really excited about this project. And if you are as excited as I am, and would like to read a rough draft or talk to me about this paper, don’t hesitate to contact me through either social media or e-mail!

With this project, as well as any other project I’m working on, I can always use your feedback. So if you’d like to read it and give me some pointers, just send me a message. As a thank you, I will acknowledge you personally on my website, with a link to your personal website attached. And if you want more updates on my projects, just look in the sidebar and subscribe to the newsletter!