Saturday

Those Kinky Sixties

Bondage imagery has become increasingly prevalent in the mainstream media in recent years, especially in high-fashion photo shoots and advertisements. Although it first began to rise from the underground press and gain mainstream acceptance in the 1970s, there were earlier flashes of kinkiness in the 1960s, often riding piggy-back on the “spy craze” of the mid-decade. In England, much was made of Honor Blackman’s leather outfits on The Avengers, but the program did not gain an international reputation until episodes featuring Blackman’s replacement, Diana Rigg, reached U.S. television screens -- episodes in which her character frequently endured bondage while dressed in a leather catsuit. However, the focus of the craze in America was the series of James Bond films and the variety of TV series launched to cash in on it.

While perusing some back issues in the library, I was surprised to happen upon this advertisement in the pages of The New York Times Magazine, the November 15, 1964 issue:


As we can see, the ad plays with the common imagery of the spy genre: a fashionable yet mysterious woman in black, wearing gloves and wielding a gun, apparently does in a man in a gray flannel suit. Curiously, in the middle of the vertical sequence of panels, she finds herself locked into a pair of handcuffs, shown in another close-up. Then, she apparently springs the locks and gets free:


While the overall visual impression is of the woman’s body seen from head to toe, this sequence of panels tells a story like a comic book, and the story it tells follows the conventions of the spy genre. The mystery woman is introduced, along with her gun, in the close-up in the first panel. Next, we see that she is stylish, yet ready for clandestine action in her black dress and long leather gloves. Suddenly, she is trapped and disarmed, much as James Bond is always captured in the course of his adventures. However, as with Bond, she quickly gets free and springs into action. Finally, she stands triumphant over her vanquished foe, who is laid out like a slab on the floor.

The “spy” trappings seem to be merely an excuse to feature images of a woman wearing leather gloves and handcuffs. Interestingly, the text makes no reference to the spy genre, merely extolling the virtues of the garments and the amazing synthetic fabric they are made from. Thus, the little bondage scene tries to slip in under the cultural radar. However, despite its 1964 vintage, there is no denying the kinky flavor of this mainstream ad.

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