QSM offers BDSM adventure of a different sort

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By Juliette Tang

It started as I was digging around for an old Janus magazine for a friend of mine (sigh, I swear).

Janus -- the classiest and cheesiest British spanking magazine from the 1970s, and still being campily produced to this day -- reads like the Vice Magazine of softcore spanking. There's something that is, strangely and inconceivably, almost high-brow about this periodical, with its modestly made-up and un-enhanced models who look like they stepped out of a Richard Kern photo. The lo-fi, soft-focused, 35mm photos and the intentionally retro design of the layout and typeface -- plus the fact that the magazine's design philosophy has not changed in the last three decades -- imbue the publication with a toothsome genuineness noticeably absent in its more explicit modern day counterparts.

The publication also makes no secret of its aspirations toward a "higher standard." Janus also runs a popular sex shop in Soho, London, that boasts a storefront more fitting of a Prada boutique than a sex shop, and which in the past has participated in an homage to Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine, two French poets who had a famously violent affair in the 1870s.

It was by pure accident that, through searching for Janus magazine, I discovered QSM, an online BDSM bookstore, its warehouse located here in San Francisco, woman-owned and -run since 1989.

QSM's Web site states, "We specialize in British publishers, including Olympia Press, Silver Moon, Erotic Print Society, X Libris, and Tawsingham. We also carry such hard to find American publishers as Blue Moon, Allegro, and Pink Flamingo." The amount of BDSM fiction, magazines, comics, DVDs, and guidebooks on QSM's online catalog is impressive. Much of its catalog, especially the international magazines and comics, is not available on Amazon and expensive to special order on the Internet. For those interested, it is (potentially) possible to shop at QSM's San Francisco warehouse by appointment (415-550-7776), but the process is elusive.

I qualify with "potentially possible" because, given the circumstances, it is likely that it's actually, um, the opposite of possible to get anywhere near the QSM warehouse, despite what the Web site says. Wanting to write about QSM for Sex SF, I called their main line to ask some questions about the company. After disclosing that I was with a press outlet, the woman on the other line told me, "I'm not looking for any press," and ended the call. That was fine, but it still did not solve the fact that I still wanted to purchase Janus, issue 167, without paying $7.25 in shipping and handling.

Unperturbed, I asked a male friend to call (fearing that the woman would recognized my voice) and ask if he could stop by and buy it at their San Francisco location. He later recounted the experience to me. Basically, he inquired if could shop the warehouse and was asked, "Where did you hear about QSM?" He replied that he'd discovered QSM online. At which point, he was told that he couldn't shop the warehouse. The woman was nice enough to cushion the blow, however, by telling him to send an email to to qsm@comcast.com (which is publicly listed on the QSM site) with details regarding his proposed visit, and that someone might get back to him in the future if it was ever decided a visit was allowed.

Perhaps she wanted to hear some begging?

So, while it is theoretically conceivable for San Franciscans to shop via QSM's warehouse, the exact details remain murky, and you might have to do some verbal maneuvering. In the meantime, its online inventory seems quite excellent, and they are still the largest purveyor of exclusively BDSM literature in San Francisco.

And, on a related note, as I continued to peruse QSM's online shop, I noticed Xaviar Duvet's amazing 80's flavored Discipline comics. Some band needs to pay this man to do their next album cover.