'Bloodsisters' - Groundbreaking Lesbian BDSM Video Re-released

by David-Elijah Nahmod

Bay Area Reporter

Tuesday September 21, 2021

Originally released in 1995, Michelle Handelman's documentary "Bloodsisters: Leather, Dykes & Sadomasochism" is a film that educates and enlightens, while preserving the history of San Francisco's lesbian BDSM community. The film has been newly released on DVD by Kino Lorber, purveyors of classic cinema. "Bloodsisters" is also streaming at Kino Now, the company's in-house streaming service.

"Bloodsisters: Leather, Dykes & Sadomasochism" is a graphic, yet non-judgmental, look at a lifestyle many people still don't understand. Some in the queer BDSM community have had to struggle for acceptance even from within the LGBTQ community itself.

Patrick Califia, a noted writer of erotic fiction, poetry, and BDSM culture, appears in the film in interviews shot before his transition, when he was living his life as a lesbian. He recalls losing his entire queer family when he came out in the SM world, and movingly speaks of how much that hurt. But Califia stood his ground and became a leader in the BDSM movement.

For most of its seventy-minute running time, the film juxtaposes between images of various women engaging in a variety of BDSM acts with interviews of women candidly talking about the things they like to do and of the protocols that exist in the community.

One point that is strongly underscored is the fact that S&M sex is not abuse. There are images of women being whipped, tied up, and having clothespins clipped onto their bodies. But as long as it's done safely and consensually, it's okay. And the women who appear in "Bloodsisters" clearly love what they're doing.

Some of the imagery seen in the film might shock viewers who are not into the scene. In one shot, blood can be seen dripping down a woman's leg. Yet one woman, after being on the receiving end of a whipping, smiles joyfully as she speaks of how intense the session was.

Interviewees like her serve to open the minds of the uninitiated. Viewers who have been curious about the lifestyle, but who might not be ready to step into the BDSM world, will find that there's nothing to be afraid of.

Those who are veterans of the BDSM lifestyle will see the film as a glorious celebration of how they have chosen to live their lives. The film gives them a voice.

Anyone who's ever visited the Bay Area Reporter offices will recognize a few of the women who appear in the film. Ann Soucy-West, who many years ago served as the paper's classified ads manager, speaks matter-of-factly about what she enjoys doing when playing with a partner. And Queen Cougar, a highly respected member of the local leather community, appears prominently in the film. Until recently, Cougar worked as the paper's administrator.

Kino Lorber offers "Bloodsisters" with a plethora of extras. Included is a 25-minute interview with Handelman, presented by the Stonewall National Museum and Archive. There's a Zoom interview with Handelman, Cougar, and others, presented by the Outfest 2020 film festival and more than one hour of deleted scenes and outtakes.


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