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What a Difference a Decade Makes: "Coming to Power" and "The Second Coming"

Sue O'Sullivan
Feminist Review
No. 61, Snakes and Ladders: Reviewing Feminisms at Century's End (Spring, 1999), pp. 97-126
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1395576
Page Count: 30
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What a Difference a Decade Makes: "Coming to Power" and "The Second Coming"
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Abstract

A critical look at two books, Coming to Power - Writings and Graphics on Lesbian S/M, published in 1981, and its 'long awaited sequel', The Second Coming - A Leatherdyke Reader, published in 1996, yields many differences and similarities. Both books have been judged negatively or positively on the basis of their sadomasochistic content and in line with knee-jerk positions around the lesbian 'sex wars' of the 1980s. The feminist politics represented in each book and the connections to more general lesbian feminist concerns and developments of either the late 1970s (Coming to Power) or the late 1980s and early 1990s (The Second Coming) are often overlooked or dismissed. Comparing the kind of sex acts and personas fetishized in each book as well as the claims made for lesbian sm by its adherents often reveals more than the writers may have intended. A more nuanced reading of both books also reveals connections between lesbian feminism, particularly lesbian radical feminism and the sm dykes. Rather than being the 'illegitimate children' of lesbian feminism, as Coming to Power maintained in 1981, it is clear now that sm dykes and lesbian feminists are strange sisters who needed each other to define their particular politicized identities.

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