The bondage photos? Why, I thought they were cute

Posted by | January 10, 2012

Her provocative pin-up images violated all manner of the era’s sexual taboos, finally invoking a United States Senate Committee investigation into pornography. In 1955, Bettie Page was summoned from New York City to Capitol Hill by Sen. Estes Kefauver, a moral crusader known for wearing coonskin caps.

Bettie PageKefauver, a Madisonville, TN native, was at the time a Democratic presidential hopeful. His detractors routinely called him “too liberal for Tennessee,” and so his choice to target Nashville born Page certainly appears to have been politically calculated. Tennessee kept re-electing him to the U.S. Senate, first in 1954 and again in 1960.

In 1951, Bettie Page had fallen under the influence of photographer Irving Klaw and his sister Paula, who specialized in S&M. They cut her hair into the dark bangs that became her signature and posed her in spiked heels and little else. She was photographed with a whip in her hand, and in one session she was spread-eagled between two trees, her feet dangling.

“I thought my arms and legs would come out of their sockets,” she said later.

When asked by Kefauver in preliminary Senate sub-committee hearings what she thought of the bondage photos she simply replied “Why, Senator honey, I think they’re cute.” Page told truthfully that she had never even been shot topless in Klaw’s studio, let alone anything pornographic. The committee had nothing to gain from getting Bettie Page to testify; subpoenaing her could be seen more as a scare to show some power and authority over who Bettie Page was and what she represented.

Sen. Estes KefauverKefauver maintained that FBI rulings found that Klaw’s photos were obscene. He stated in a subcommittee report that “It’s rather difficult, unless one has an understanding of the particular perversion involved, for the average person to completely understand and notice the pornographic nature of Klaw’s material.”

Page arrived early to attend the Committee’s formal 9 a.m. Saturday session, and then anxiously waited sixteen hours with no food, toilet facilities or water in a witness room, hoping for a chance to testify in support of her friends the Klaws, something that she never got to do.

In the end, the Kefauver pornography hearings led to the laws under which the federal government to this day prosecutes pornography.

Pressure from the Kefauver committee drove Page out of the modeling business and ruined a number of the photographers who worked with her; the Klaws closed their business and Klaw eventually burned most of his negatives, including the Page photos.

Page retreated from public view, later saying she was hounded by federal agents who waved her nude photos in her face. She also said she believed that, at age 34, her days as “the girl with the perfect figure” were nearly over. Shortly before Christmas 1957, Bettie Page left New York City, never to return to modeling or acting again. She became a born-again Christian but never apologized for her work, because if God created the female form, why would he be offended by its display?

Despite Kefauver’s best efforts, Page won. Her face still appears on the covers of albums, as pinup art, in books, and even tattoos. Her name and image are used for all sorts of commercial appeals, including a 2006 film starring Gretchen Mol.

sources: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081212/ap_en_ot/obit_bettie_page
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/thedailymirror/2008/12/voices—-betti.html
www.feralchild.net/?p=1043
www.shamanalternative.com/bettiepage_com_page_3.htm
www.populist.com/96.10.kefauver.html

appalachian+history Bettie+Page Estes+Lefauver Madisonville+TN appalachia +appalachia+history

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