History of Female Domination Magazines: 1900 - 1970
By Johnny J (with contributions from Elise Sutton)
Out of “Photo Bits” and some other magazine mergers like “Half Holiday” and “Modern Society”, there emerged “London Life”. “London Life” started in the late 1920’s, and continued through the beginning of World War II until the publication’s London office was bombed by the German Luftwaffe in 1941, when 10,000 pounds worth of machinery, and all the files, were destroyed.
“‘London Life” was really the beginning of what we would classify as a Fetish magazine with occasional FemDom content. “London Life” appeared weekly as a 'glamour' magazine; and through changing fashions always had showgirls or 'bathing belles' on its covers and similar frivolities in its pages. However, its contents combined a consistent and respectable variety of topical chat, theatrical and film news and some titillating articles. The readers' letters section grew steadily, seemingly particularly stimulated by the racier elements of some of the articles and stories.
To trace the genealogy of the FemDom magazine, we could go as far back as the late 1800’s. There were various fetish and FemDom photos and artwork that made its way into European erotica in the late 1800’s. For the purpose of this Predominant feature, I will begin our journey in the 1900’s.
“Photo Bits” was published from 1898 to 1916. Its look was distinctively Victorian and although it was not a fetish magazine per se, there were columns and features that were attuned to what “Photo Bits” referred to as the ‘bizarre world’. Columns such as ‘The Amorist’ and ‘The Cosmopolite’ discussed kinky subjects. Recurring topics were tight lacing corsets, high heel shoe fetishism, female domination, flagellation and petticoat punishment of males by women.
Advertisements for costumes, fetish equipment and photos appeared throughout the magazine. It was Editorial policy at "London Life" not to reveal correspondents addresses. However, many of the advertisers did not have this policy and would give referrals that put interested parties in touch with each other.
It was through such a referral in the late 1930`s that John Coutts (later publisher of “Bizarre Magazine”), then living in Australia, made contact with members of the American subculture in New York. John Coutts entered the fetish network when he wanders into the MacNaught Shoe Store in Sydney, Australia. MacNaught was a producer of fetishistic high heeled shoes that contributed photographs and advertised in “London Life” Magazine.
Coutts was shown copies of London Life for the first time. Mr. W. of MacNaught placed Coutts in contact with a retired mariner in Sydney who sold high heeled shoes using the trade name and pseudonym of ‘Achilles’. Achilles was a seller of High heel shoes who regularly corresponded and advertised in “London Life”. Coutts visited Achilles and the two became friends. Achilles placed Coutts in contact with the American Social Circle surrounding Charles Guyette. Coutts moved to New York and changed his name to John Willie.
Coutts’ first published works appear in London Life magazine. Coutts also contributed to other Men’s Magazines such as “Flirt” and “Wink”.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, there were a number of French publishers specializing in Fetish and Female Domination novels. The French influence to the FemDom magazine goes back to the "Yva Richard" Company. It began in France in 1913 and was the most prominent producers of SM and fetishistic paraphernalia during the 1930’s. Founded by husband and wife team of stylists, Nativa and Richard L. in 1917 when "Yva Richard" first advertised their products, their firm specialized in coutree, particularly “high-class” lingerie. In 1923, the product line expanded to include photographs and were used for advertisements and ephemera issued by the firm but also sold separately in the form of albums and photo sets. The model in Many "Yva Richards" photographs was Nativa herself, clad in costumes ranging from lingerie to bizarre fetish outfits in metal and leather.
The aforementioned Charles Guyette, though little is known about the man himself, was the key producer of erotica in the U.S. in the 1930’s. Guyette produced SM and fetish paraphernalia and photography and was a central figure in the mid-century practitioner networks. Connected to Guyette was a geographical social circle composed of amateur erotica producers and SM/fetish practitioner network in the U.S. During the 30’s and 40’s, key producers of American Fetishistic erotica, both underground and mainstream were linked directly and indirectly to the social circles surrounding Guyette.
Prior to entering the SM/Fetish market, Guyette had a background in burlesque theatrical supplies. In the early 30’s, he and his brother operated a store in New York at 116 E. 11th Street and sold costumes and shoes.
Guyette was a regular advertiser in "London Life" in 1934 and 1935 and he frequently contributed fetish and FemDom photography to the magazine. Guyette began to produce his own material and sell it through mail-order.
According to Guyette, it was the German influence that motivated him to get involved in Fetish and Female Domination photography. Two German men entered his New York store and proposed that he market German fetish shoes and boots. They also brought with them photos and negatives of fetish content that they had smuggled out of Germany. This was around the time the Nazis were closing down such stores in Germany. Guyette made copies of the photos and sold them through mail-order, which started him in the fetish business.
"Yva Richard" closed in 1943 under German occupation.
"Diana Slip" sold books and fetishistic clothing in France including photography by Studio Biederer and books by publishers such as select Bibliotheque. They provided catalogs of their products. Diana Slip was part of a conglomeration of several companies. In 1936 the group became Les Librairies Nouvelles, a network of bookstores, shops, press groups, papers and studios, grouped into one firm and Diana Slip was one of these companies and was able to draw the greater resources of Les Librairies Nouvelles in its marketing and distribution. Diana Slip, like Yva Richards, experienced a final decline during World War II and was gone by the end of the war.
For the connoisseur of kink and fetish, “London Life” was the most accessible and bountiful feast of kink on the planet. Mainstays such as boot fetishism and female domination were in almost every issue. “London Life” was unparalleled in its scope, content and international distribution. “London Life” was available around the globe, and believe it or not, the best place to buy a copy in the United States was in shoe stores that specialized in high heels or boots, in other words sexual footwear.
“London Life" was the most important fetishist magazine in the world during the 1930`s. Early American fetish producers advertised, read and contributed to its content. The stories, photographs, letters and ads were amazing for the 1930’s. Subjects covered included human ponies, body piercings, rubber fetishism, 6” and 7” high-heels, and female domination.
John Coutts was frustrated with the conservative content of the cheesecake magazines and he wanted to express his interest in the fetish world. He wanted to go even deeper than what “London Life” had permitted when he contributed to them. Coutts changed his name to John Willie and working with his friend ‘Achilles’, he began to produce his own magazine, “Bizarre”, considered to be the first dedicated B&D Fetish magazine.
“Bizarre” was published, somewhat irregularly, from 1946 to 1959. The magazine included many photographs, often of his wife, and drawings of costume designs, some based on ideas from readers. There were also many letters from readers. The letters covered interests such as high heels, bondage, fetishism, sadomasochism, transvestism, corsets and body modification.
As a bondage artist, John Coutts is best known for his character Sweet Gwendoline, which he drew in a clear, anatomically correct style that influenced later artists such as Eric Stanton. Other characters include U69 (censored to U89 in some editions) as the raven-haired Dominatrix who ties up Gwendoline.
Like the French, German producers created hard media of photography and art with Fetish and Female Domination themes. German style Female Domination was big into boots and cruel women. The German influence made its way to England and eventually the United States prior to the Nazi reign.
Leonard "Lenny" Burtman was born in Nebraska in 1921 and lived in California between 1941 and 1950. During this time he worked in the electronics industry and trained at California Institute of Technology. In 1950, he moved to New York to start a new career. On arrival in New York, he started to work as a professional photographer, doing some work for Irving Klaw. Burtman met and married one of Klaw’s fetish models, burlesque dancer Tana Louise. Burtman and Louise became involved in New York fetish circles, and Burtman decided to become a magazine publisher and film producer with Tana Louise as his main model and actress. By the late 1950s, her marriage to Burtman had begun to deteriorate and they divorced. Soon after she left the magazine and disappeared from the public eye. In the 1960s, Tana Louise and burlesque striptease artist Mara Gaye started an exotic bizarre costumes mail order catalog company called ‘Tana and Mara’. Tana was one of the most famous fetish models of her day, but as time went on she was overshadowed by her peer, Bettie Page.
Like Coutts and Guyette, Burtman was a publisher who was also socially linked to practioners of female domination and fetish lifestyles. In 1958 Burtman and his business associates produced the first entirely FemDom magazine, called “ Bizarre Desires”. It was big on Forced Feminzation and Female Domination themes. In 1959 and 1960, Burtman published “Masque” magazine. It only had 4 issues. Burtman started a new company, Selbee, and published such magazines as “Pepper”, “Fashion Fantasy”, “Lynda in Leather”, “Midnight Nurse” and “High Heels”.
In 1964, Burtman published “Bizarre Life”, which was dedicated to Female Domination, S&M and Fetish lifestyles.
Bettie Page at Leonard Burtman's apartment
In 1960, Leonard Burtman and his business partner, Ben Himmel, engaged in a large and novel project that was a milestone in the history of American Fetish style, the production of a 35mm feature film with explicit bizarre content, entitled “Satan in High Heels” (reviewed by Ms Kathleen in the Sept/Oct 2007 issue of Predominant) and is the first feature film created by sub-cultural producers. It was the first mass-distributed, popular culture film to employ explicit American fetish imagery.
Burtman frequently used his apartment when taking photos of fetish models which appeared in his magazines. He also used his apartment as one of the sets in “Satan in High Heels”.
In the mid 1960’s, Burtman met Jutka Goz. Jutka first tried her hand at modeling but her modeling career was a struggle until she met Leonard Burtman. Burtman wooed and groomed Jutka as an erotic model, introducing her to his readers in a 1967 girl/girl fetish shoot for “Bizarre Life” issue #5. Burtman did photo shoots of Jutka as a Dominatrix, thus she became known as Mistress Jeanette.
Mistress Jeanette appeared in some other of Burtman’s publications, like “Bitches In Boots” and “Whip Mistress”. Lennie Burtman also took Mistress Jeanette to fetish events and around FemDom social circles in New York. Young Jutka made quite an impression on Mr. Burtman as he made her his third wife. The early relationship between Jutka and Burtman resulted in dozens of photo shoots for Burtman’s fetish magazines.
Burtman was constantly being prosecuted and harassed by New York law enforcement for his publications. He was repeatedly fined and even sentenced to jail. Finally, in 1972, Burtman moved his publishing company to Hollywood and Mistress Jeanette became Jennifer Jordan where she starred in FemDom magazines and 8mm and 16mm FemDom films.
Jennifer Jordan became a star in the fetish industry and she became a household name to the thousands of submissive men who read Burtman’s magazines and bought his films. It was a marriage that would last into the 1990’s until Leonard Burtman passed away.
Leonard Burtman's legacy was the scores and scores of FemDom and Fetish magazines he published over his career.
In the Fall of 1964, House of Milan, initially and briefly called Futura Fashions, was formed as a fetish clothing company in Chicago. House of Milan evolved into a company that today is called HOM. The principal founders of House of Milan was Yogi Klein (a cousin of Leonard Burtman) and Barbara Behr.
In its formation, House of Millan was linked with Burtman in New York. "The Bizarre Costume Catalog" House of Millan's first fetish catalog, was purchased from Burtman in 1964. "The Bizarre Costume Catalog" was a thick digest filled with pictures of various fetish clothing and accessories. Burtman originally published the catalog in 1960. These were extravagantly priced in order to discourage sales. The goal with the catalog was not to sell fetish clothing, which Burtman did not possess, but rather to sell the catalogs.
A few hundred copies of the catalog still existed in 1964 when House of Millan was founded and Klein talked his cousin, Lenny Burtman, into letting him purchase the remaining copies. Klein stamped the name of his new company on the back and he distributed them in adult bookstores in the Chicago area.
Barbara Behr, known simply as Ms B, became Klein's business partner. She obtained financial backing to make House of Millan into a publishing company dedicated to female domination and bondage themed magazines.
Behr slowly assumed control of House of Milan and in the 70’s moved the business to California and changed its name to HOM. In 1971, HOM published ‘Aggressive Gals’ and ‘Dominique’ magazines.
During Behr’s creative leadership in the 70's and 80’s, House of Milan developed into one of the best bondage companies in the U.S, selling magazines and adult videos.
Behr sold her interest in HOM and the company is now owned by Lyndon Distributors Limited, and continues to publish material.
The 1950's and 1960's were the launching pad for the FemDom magazine but the sky was the limit in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's.
Guyette developed a network and a social circle of people, a chain of personal and professional relationships, who were into female domination and S&M. It is believed that ‘The SM Society’ (see the ‘Leather Sex’ chapter in “Female Domination”) had some ties to people in Guyette’s circles. It is also believed that some people who met through Guyette’s social circles, including the Day circle (named after wealthy businessman and patron of bizarre lifestyles, Greg Day, who held fetish parties at his beach house close to New York City), would later become ‘The Red Queen Society’, one of the first known Female Domination social groups.
The next big event in the evolution of the FemDom magazine were the cheesecake magazines. The cheesecake photo and magazine had been around a long time but it was in the 1930’s and 40’s that fetish and female domination themes appeared in the cheesecake genre. Magazines such as “Film Fun”, “Wink” and “Beauty Parade” began to show glamorous women with dominant tendencies. This was not a coincidence as some of the contributors were the same men who contributed to “London Life”, including John Coutts and other members of the Guyette social circle.
A man who went by the psuedonym “Little John” and was part of the Guyette social circle would introduce John Coutts to Irving Klaw during the year Klaw began to produce fetish material. Coutts sold Klaw some of his fetish photos, which helped Klaw in his fetish photography business. As a sidenote, Coutts was portrayed by Jared Harris in the 2006 movie “The Notorious Bettie Page”, which featured a meeting between John Willie and Bettie Page.
After publishing 20 issues of “Bizarre”, Coutts moved to Hollywood, California. He developed a brain tumor in 1961 and was forced to stop his mail order business. He destroyed his archives and returned to England, where he died.
By the early 1950's (1951-55) Irving Klaw was publishing his Nutrix Booklets. It was in 1951 that Gene Bilbrew begins his employment with Irving Klaw. Gene Bilbrew was also known as the fetish artist ENEG (which was Gene spelled backwards). Eric Stanton also began to sell his female domination drawings to Klaw but the relationship didn’t last when Klaw demanded Stanton cover up the whip marks in his drawings with clothing. Stanton began to sell his work to Lenny Burtman.
By 1955 Lenny Burtman was publishing “Exotique” magazine. “Exotique” ran for 36 issues from 1955 to 1959. Exotique was distributed nationwide and was one of the key fetish publications of the late 1950’s.