The words I wrote six and a half years ago to celebrate the launch of Sex and Submission seem almost naive, now:

If you like your sex at all kinky, you’ll have noticed that genuinely kinky hard core porn is very hard to find. Bondage and spanking photos are a dime a dozen, but how often do you see a pretty woman in a leather collar with her wrists tied giving a big sloppy enthusiastic blowjob? Or bouncing happily up and down on some male porn star prong with her wrists clipped to the D-rings on her collar?

I’m not saying you can’t find it, but it’s not common and it’s rarely commercial.

Not only has the commercial production of explicitly-sexual BDSM porn exploded since I wrote that, but a great deal of stuff that already existed in obscure physical-format publications has found its way onto the web since then. And the web has continued to do its webby thing, constantly shuffling up and exposing to public view deep layers of our cultural history that were well-buried and almost completely invisible just a few years ago. So what once seemed radically uncommon now seems (in retrospect) to have been all over the place. Of course, it never actually was “all over the place”; it existed but it wasn’t available in any practical sense.

I was reminded of this by an old Europorn magazine cover I just encountered on Tumblr. The magazine is called Perverted Orgies #3 and the cover features a woman in bondage being screwed from behind while she sucks another man’s dick, while two more men fumble with details of her bondage. (You can see it here for however long the Tumblr link may last.)

I first saw that image before there was a World Wide Web. It was floating around on the UseNet image groups, in the form of a tiny little .gif about 250 pixels wide. It was a rectangle with an oval mask, so the actual image area was an oval about 200 pixels wide by maybe 110 pixels tall. But there was no way to tell that it was a magazine cover or what magazine cover it was — and even if you knew, the magazine it came from was doubtless long out of print, available only in the physical store of a dealer in old porn, if you could find one in your locale who had one of the sure-to-have-been-a-small-number that were ever printed.

The internet didn’t have a thing to do with the creation of this image. It’s older than the internet. But somebody with a primitive scanner liberated a low-resolution version of this “item of culture” from the bonds of paper, way back in the late 1980s, and put it on the internet. And then, with the marches of time and progress, somebody else with a better scanner did it again, in high resolution with better color fidelity, less cropping, and better preservation of the limited provenance info that is inherent to the magazine cover. And now the daily churn and ferment of the modern web brings it to the surface, from time to time and place to place, where it’s likely to be spotted, in time, by most everybody who is interested in seeing a thing like that. And I’ll wager (though I have not done the exercise) that a few minute’s effort spent typing that magazine information into torrent search engines would yield a more-or-less complete scan of the magazine.

For anybody with an interest in cultural history — and especially, aspects of cultural history that have ever been covert or officially suppressed, like porn — it’s this “everything floats up to the surface and becomes visible, in time” aspect of the Internet that is most miraculous. It’s far from complete, mind you — we have many centuries of recorded culture that have yet to be digitized and brought up from their buried layers of stone and canvas and paper and cellulose and vinyl and magnetic tape. But that’s a project that seems only to be accelerating. No day passes when I do not marvel at some internet find, some cultural treasure that “I can’t believe somebody put this on the internet!” But they do, and they (the whole world!) do more with every day that passes.

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