Odalisques blog

The Female Slave Market in Constantinople (1 Mar)
From the slave market to the sultan's bedchamber (17 Feb)
Buying a new slave for your harem (4 Feb)
Odalisquian books list now on Odalisques.com (29 Jan)
Edward Lane's descriptions and drawings of female clothing (27 Jan)
more posts...


"The Arab Scribe" by J.F. Lewis, 1852
"The Bath" by J.L. Gerome, in the Legion of Honor, San Francisco
"Odalisque" by Max Nonnenbruch
"By order of the sultan" by Antonio Fabres
"Idle Moments" by Frederick Arthur Bridgman, 1875
more pictures...


more books...

© Tanos

The Code d'Odalisque Myth

Posted by Tanos on Sun 23 Sep 12, 10:55 PM

After my blog about odalisques, harem slavery and Orientalism, the topic of the "Code d'Odalisque" has come up. The Code is about eight or nine years old, but was widely publicised in 2005 and sets out a detailed roleplay scenario based on Western fantasies of the harem. The original creators vanished in 2006 and the Code has been appropriated by individuals who are now promoting it with a mythical origin and history, rather like the Ancient European Training Houses myth people used to peddle in chatrooms.

As I mentioned in my other blog, my first BDSM homepage in 1997 included an image of Ingres' "Grande Odalisque" and said: "The picture below, La Grande Odalisque, was painted in 1814 by the French painter, Ingres. By odalisque, Ingres meant a female slave in a harem, trained to serve her Master's pleasure, and assigned to sexual rather than domestic duties. Today there are many men and women who enjoy owning or being slaves." and from the start I've connected many of the themes in these paintings to impulses in the artists' minds that we would now refer to as BDSM.

Early in 2000 I started working these themes into a form useful for modern Master/slave relationships and in particular I wrote a document entitled "Seven Pillars" addressed to "wise masters and good slaves". The seven principles were:

Each title was followed by a short explanation, and I wrote some brief articles using Orientalist paintings to illustrate some of the themes. This was all published on the Slave Register's website and I continued adding to it until the summer of 2001.

One of the key images was Gerome's "Slave Market", where I said:

J.L. Gerome painted the Slave Market in 1866. Describing a similar scene in Cairo, W.J. Muller wrote: 'The slave market was one of my favourite haunts ... In the center of this court, the slaves are exposed for sale and in general to the number of thirty or forty ... I did not see the dejection and sorrow I was led to imagine, watching the master remove the entire covering of a female and expose her to the gaze of a bystander.' The painting illustrates one of the main elements of Orientalist Slavery: although the central female slave is stripped naked and subject to physical examination by the buyer, access to her is still strictly controlled by her current owner. One of his servants stands behind the girl, still holding her undergarment in one hand, and a cane of authority in another. The dark cloth she also wears is cast on the ground, but ready to be worn again when her examination is finished. To the side, we can see two white or Arab slaves sitting on the ground while they wait to be sold. No doubt, they too will be stripped and displayed if anyone shows an interest in buying them, but in the mean time they sit veiled and covered - even confined - by cotton haiks. At all times, access to the slave women of the painting is ultimately controlled by whoever is their Master.

Almost the same text is on my current page about the painting, which dates from reworking some of this material into the slave markets section my home site in 2005-6.

Against this background, I became aware of the Code d'Odalisque ideas around 2004 as they were publicised on Yahoo groups, and I suspected that my writings were one of the sources that Steven and Victoria of Australia had drawn on in creating their Code.

The third edition of the Code d'Odalisque from 2005 is still available as a 116-page document. The text itself confirms they were reading my Orientalism writings, as the Muller quote about the slave market is reproduced exactly on the third page, including the ellipsis ("...") which represent the parts I missed out when originally typing it because they weren't relevant (such as "One enters this building which is situated in a quarter the most dark, dirty and obscure of any in Cairo by a sort of lane"). Furthermore they attribute the quote to "W. Muller, Cairo, 1866", but it is Gerome's painting that was painted in 1866 and Muller had died in 1845. An easy mistake to make but one which shows where they got the Muller quote from.

I should make it clear that I don't have a problem with them doing this, and they do seem to have had several other influences, including a couple (Old Guard and John Norman's Gor books) which they reacted against. However, it's clear from the highly detailed list of numbered articles in the Code that it largely represents fantasies of their own making and suited to their own tastes.

Their introduction confirms this last point:

Code d'Odalisque is a genre of slave play and also a style of aesthetics. The Gorean genre of slave play draws its aesthetics from the barbarian world. The so-called 'Old Guard' style of play draws its aesthetics from the French Revolution. The aesthetics of Code d'Odalisque are developed for a sophisticated world of luxury and taste. It draws upon ancient Levantine opulence - the glory of King Solomon - and the sumptuousness of Ottoman High Culture. Its default styles draw upon 19th C. European imaginings of Near Eastern slave culture from the Victorian and Edwardian eras especially.

Furthermore, the FAQ and a post of 1st April 2006 to their FemaleSexualServants Yahoo Group provided more background:

Where did Code d'Ode come from? It grew out of our personal dissatisfaction with existing genres of slave play. We wanted a style of play just for the sex slave, the bedroom slave. Code d'Odalisque is a codification of this style. It draws upon the opulent slave traditions of the Near East, ancient Egypt, the Levant, Persia, Turkey
After many bad experiences on the fringes of the BDSM scene we began to explore the historical institution of the 'odalisque' - the female sex slave. With help from several other couples we then began to write 'Code d'Odalisque' so as to offer a non-violent, hedonistic alternative for contemporary couples who enjoy sex slave games. We do not have a hidden agenda. Code d'Ode is free. We promote it through our yahoo groups and websites. We enjoy a small private scene of our own (in Sydney Australia) and are not looking to make contacts with other players.

Their original The New Odalisque and Elegant Submission groups had been deleted by Yahoo, but they started again with FemaleSexualServants which is still there but dormant, and has a Word document of the third edition of the Code. They did publish a fourth edition in May 2006, but this was in another Yahoo group which has also been deleted. They appear to have withdrawn from their groups and websites later in 2006.

In November 2008 the current Code_d_Odalisque Yahoo group was started by different people who found the third edition and other documents: "The 'couple from Australia' you mention are not maintaining yahoo groups or their websites anymore, but we (Charles and julia) are, and we are using (reusing) material from those groups. We have decided to keep promoting it online. We think there is a need for it as an alternative for contemporary adults."

This has led to a fifth edition, which is available from that 2008 Yahoo group and which makes some suprising claims in its introduction:

The tireless and highly imaginative work of Stephen and Victoria Rose from Adelaide, Australia, is largely responsible for this achivement. Without their efforts Code d'Odalisque would never have reached its present stage of development and refinement. Responding to their own dissatisfaction with modern violent and woman-hating forms of sexual bondage, they delved into ancient and medieval traditions and, drawing upon the previously untended inspiration of the Turkish eroticist Emir Roland, they reshaped the culture of odalisque slavery according to modern requirements. ... Early in 2003 the growing Code community was formally brought together by the founding of the Guild of the Black Pearl which has since taken over the task of editing and publishing the Code itself and subsiduary literature. This present edition is the first full revision not undertaken by Stephen and Victoria. ... The biggest changes made to this edition involve replacing the term 'sex slave' with 'cockslave' throughout.

Emir Roland? The Guild of the Black Pearl?? I'm sorry, but this is a myth created by someone who has appropriated the original couple's document and is now peddling a fiction to give it a history and legitimacy its creators would never had pretended it had. Last month (August 2012) the "Guild of the Black Pearl" even acquired a website.

Above all, this reminds me of the Ancient European Training Houses myths, in which sleazy guys in chatrooms used to claim membership of centuries-old secret slave-training houses located in Europe, or Japan, or somewhere conveniently distant from the person being hit on.

And on the subject of distance, Adelaide is 700 miles west of Steven and Victoria's home in Sydney.

Edited Tue 16 Oct 12, 1:45 PM