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Coco d’Hont | On Sadomasochism, Fantasy and Transgression: Rethinking Power and Gender through Histoire d’O

Abstract

Histoire d’O by Pauline Réage is described by some critics as horrible sadomasochistic pornography which glorifies patriarchy and violence against women. However, if one reads the novel as a fictional exploration of certain ideas instead of a depiction of reality, and if one takes into account the assumption that sadomasochism is a game with strict rules, it becomes possible to use Histoire as a tool for rethinking power and gender dynamics. In this article, this subversive function of Histoire is explored by analyzing the role of consent and the position of women in the story.

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