We spoke to the mysterious founder of Cold Meat, the Instagram account on a mission to showcase the best of vintage erotica
“Sexual intercourse began,” Philip Larkin famously pronounced, “in nineteen sixty three.” On this, Larkin was wrong. Humans have been having sex, and depicting it through art, since our earliest recorded history. Whether it’s ancient etchings of prehistoric fucking in Paleolithic cave drawings, or the spiritual sexuality of the Kama Sutra, humans have celebrated carnal pleasure through art for almost as long as they’ve been having sex.
Nowadays, technology allows for a lot more tits and willies to be represented than ever before. And despite the many positive opportunities for affirming the sexual experience that the internet offers, for the most part what we’re inundated with doesn’t celebrate sexuality as much as it reduces it to a commodity.
Darryl (he doesn’t want me to share his surname) is on a mission to change all this with Cold Meat, the Instagram account that showcases the best of sex-positive vintage erotica. With more than 383,000 followers, the blog has so far managed to escape the Instagram censors wanting to keep the platform anodyne and nudity-free (although a back-up account exists, just in case). From 1960s ‘lesbian fetish’ calendars to spanking engravings from the 18th century, Cold Meat skews heavily towards depicting female sexual desire and pleasure. Dazed caught up with Darryl to find out more.
“I’ve always been interested in erotica, but it wasn’t until I moved to San Francisco about five years ago that I first started collecting material seriously. It was a chance visit to this KAYO Books, which specialises in vintage pulps and sleazy 1960s sexploitation mags, along with a recommendation to check out local adult bookstore Auto Erotica, which deals in gay erotica, that really got my collection started.”
Although influenced by the local San Francisco erotica scene, many of Darryl’s finds come from further afield. “A lot of the stuff I post is completely random eBay finds. As a consequence of San Francisco’s extreme gentrification, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to source stuff locally, so I’m expanding my network. Two of my favourite dealers based in Paris are Alexandre Dupouy who runs Galerie Les larmes d’Eros, and Jean-Pierre Dutel, who owns a storefront in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter.” But it seems that erotic publishing is beset by the white privilege that affects almost every other corner of cultural life.
“I’ve found that most of the high-quality rare erotica and original art especially is currently being hoarded by relatively few older (predominantly white) men.”
I ask Darryl about his favourite period for erotica. “Definitely France in the mid-1920s through the 1930s. It’s widely regarded as the golden age of clandestine French erotica publishing. The sheer breadth and quality of work that was published during this time has no equal.”
The fear that Instagram will take down Cold Meat and its back-up account is a constant concern. “I’m on my third account, and there have been several near-successful attempts to shut this one down too. It’s a constant concern. I get that part of reasoning for censoring and banning erotic content is to protect children from stumbling upon such content, but it’s far easier for them to access explicit hardcore sexual material just by going online.”
For Darryl, the fact that Instagram keeps shutting down Cold Meat demonstrates how regressive our attitudes towards sexuality remain. “It’s depressing how people’s views on nudity and sexuality haven’t changed since the 1930s. The main purpose of my Instagram account is make formerly clandestine and underground erotica available to a wider audience.”
In the meantime, Darryl is always on the look out for original artwork. “I’m especially interested in cover artwork originally used to illustrate fetish digests, flagellation novels and other clandestine publications. African American fetish artist Gene Bilbrew remains a favourite, but it’s hard to find as a lot of his art was destroyed by censors in the 1960s.”
We asked Darryl to open his collection exclusively for Dazed readers and share some of his favourite art. Here are his top picks.
SOUS-MARIN?, ARTIST UNKNOWN
“I love the general mood of this piece, the word ‘driftwood’ comes to mind. Is the penis floating towards the woman or drifting away, representing a lover that got away? I guess we’ll never know.”
CARICATURE OF NAPOLEON, ANONYMOUS ARTIST c. 1800
“I’ve come across this theme in several erotic paintings of Indian and Persian origin, but this is by far the best execution that I’ve seen. A few details that drew me to this image include the incorporation of the mane and the tail, and how the woman up front seems to be deep in thought despite the fact that reigns appear to be tied to her vagina.”
ILLUSTRATION FROM CINGLANTS CHATIMENTS, HERRIC AKA CHERI HEROUARD (c. 1932)
“Herouard worked under the pseudonym Herric when he illustrated spanking novels for various French publishing houses including Jean Fort’s Collection des Orties Blanches. In the non-BDSM world, he was most famously known for his 45 years of work for the French society magazine La Vie Parisienne.”
WATERCOLOUR ILLUSTRATION, ANONYMOUS CZECH ARTIST c. 1920
“Thirty two of these watercolours were collected and published under the title Kugelrunda by S&K in 1983. It is not known for sure, but this could have served as inspiration for the more recent erotic face-sitting art of Namio Harukawa.”
ILLUSTRATION, PIERRE TEULON c. 1930
“I found this piece through an auction listing that I unfortunately did not win. It’s supposedly part of a larger portfolio of 28 drawings, and if this is any indication of the quality of the entire portfolio, I would love to see the rest of it. I’m very inspired by the mix of surrealist and gay themes, something that I haven’t come across too often.”