In 2014, a local kink community member contacted me to say she had heard about an author compiling essays regarding different styles of the M/s dynamic, suggesting I respond regarding our 1950's relationship. I did, and what I discovered in the correspondence about the project was surprising.
The author had told me that when setting out to create the compilation he posted a poll online asking what style of power exchange dynamic people were participating in. Many of the common ones showed up, like Victorian, Leather, and Gorean. Towards the front of the pack was the 1950's model.
Yet when it came time to actually find somebody to write about their 1950's relationship model: crickets chirped. I was the last to fill the spaces available and began pounding the keyboard fast to meet such a close deadline. As I furiously typed though, the communication kept coming back into my thoughts. How could there be so many people stating they are living in a 1950's relationship yet nobody able to summarize what that looks like in practical application?
I believe many people in the BDSM world see any Male-dominated/female-followed (M/f) power exchange dynamic as being inherently 1950's. This simply isn't the case. So what is, exactly, the 1950's kink all about?
The "1950's" as it applies to the kink world is the fetishization of one of three things.
1. The look of the 1950's
2. The feeling of the 1950's
3. The relationship style of the 1950's
1. The 1950's "look" is a visual/tactile kink. It includes things such as:
- Clothing and accessories i.e. bullet bras, high-waisted underwear, corsets, saddle shoes, bobby socks, sweater sets, modest clothing, vintage clothing, party gloves, housewife dresses, aprons, high heels, vintage suits and ties, fedoras, wingtip shoes, bowling shirts, and others
- Housewares relevant to the era i.e. appliances, furniture, games, technology, kitchenware.
- Entertainment from the era, including television shows (I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Honeymooners) and music (beginning of rock and roll, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe), as well as magazines, postcards and correspondence, photographs, and movies.
- Transportation from the era like cars and trailers.
2. The "feelings" many associate with the era is an emotional/sexual connection.
When thinking of the 1950's we think of the age of innocence. It was a time of good old-fashioned fun. There was no real technology like we know of today; families spent actual time together instead of everybody in front of a different screen. Dinners were at a table and the family talked.
It was a very "men are men" and "women are women" era. The men were expected to be gentlemen, holding open doors and using manners, working hard at a career and providing for the family financially. Women were the personification of "ladylike," using proper etiquette and raising up well-mannered children.
Everybody knew their function in the home. Children were polite, neighbors cared about each other, discipline was appreciated, nobody expected a handout.
These feelings associated with a simpler time can be one draw to the 1950's kink.
3. The "1950's" can also be a reference to the power exchange dynamic in the traditional 1950's relationship.
It can be a Dominant/submissive relationship (or Master/slave) but doesn't necessarily have to be. Many times the descriptors are Head of Household (HoH) and homemaker, or simply husband and wife. It seats the male as the decision maker and one in charge and the woman as the one following the lead (Female led/male follower is often referred to as "reverse 1950's household).
In many cases, the power exchange dynamic has the HoH as the sole/primary financial provider and the wife as the one in charge of domestic duties, such as cooking, cleaning, child rearing and pampering the work-weary husband.
Examples of this fantasized relationship style can be seen through pop culture, such as television shows and movies of the era. Those seeking out a 1950's style power exchange dynamic are seeking out the highly idealized image portrayed, which is not always reflective of actual 1950's society. It is chasing a dream; trying to recreate the vision of a simple family life full of laughter, love, obedience, and everybody fulfilling their role.
In summary, the "1950's" kink can include the way the 1950's looked, the way life felt back then, or the relationships structure specific to the era. One doesn't have to enjoy all of these points, in fact, many only enjoy the look or feel but do not seek out power exchange or vice versa.
Most people involved in fetishizing the 1950's though do have a bit of a warm heart for all of it; a calling in their soul for life in a specific yesteryear.
It's so much more than being defined as Male/female. It's about the idealization of an era.
Do you have questions for Mrs. Darling about 1950's Kink? Ask them in the comments!