OK, so probably opening up a can of worms here (or tightly sealing a can, as per the title), but I had prepared this as a response to a posting in the Mark Waid thread and thought "Let's not derail Mark's thread into this category. Just make a new thread." Et voila.
In response to Mark talking about "what Marston was trying to say about men and women and their roles through the symbols of bondage and light s&m that peppers the first years of that strip in a way that's quaint and innocent because we're seeing it from a distance but which would be inflammatory today," many people brought up the kinkier side of WW.
Trina Robbins has made the point before that the WW comics were not nearly as kinky as people read into them.
At that point in time, villains didn't kill, rape, or torture heroes on panel. They tied them up, and then PLANNED to kill them. The amount of times Batman and Robin were tied up? Thousands. Ditto many other characters. Or they would get knocked out, or exposed to kryptonite. Anything that would incapacitate/imperil the hero/heroine was fair game except outright sexual degredations. The serials were full of the same thing, whether it was Red Ryder or Perils of Pauline.
What made it more sexual in nature for comic book heroines was the manner in which the bondage was done. Men would be strapped to a chair/buzzsaw/deathtrap without their crotches being highlighted. Women would be strapped to the same things, but in ways that emphasized their breasts and sometimes splayed their legs to make their crotches highlighted. WW was different in that she was rarely spread-eagled, and the only reason her breasts were emphasized while in bondage was because they were "out there," not because HG Peter was doing "headlight comics."
I've argued back with Trina that the main difference in WW bondage versus other comic bondage was the frequency of it. In some stories, there's hardly two pages go by without bondage in them, often in multiple panels. It's interesting to note as well that many of the bondage situations in which WW was put predated John Willie's more fantastical and clearly SM/fetish-themed illustrations in Bizarre post-1946. I don't recall if Willie was ever interviewed about whether WW influenced him, but it certainly influenced many fetish artists through the 1950s and 1960s (or Eric Stanton's Blunder Broad in the 1970s).
There was definitely fetish-oriented kink in the mind of Marston, as has been shown in public papers (and some private ones I have), but it was all in support of women (contrary to what other writers were doing), not in a way that turned them into victims. Marston definitely felt that women should be dominant and men subservient -- not just sexually, but throughout all aspects of society -- and the attitude is prevalent in his work.
But to say that he was purposely being kinky in the comics in a sexual manner is to grossly misjudge his intentions; it's like saying that bra-burning's purpose in the early 1970s was to allow straight men to see more nipples. That wasn't the point, in either case.
Hopefully that didn't ramble too far into a wall, but I'm on deadline and really should stay off the board! Writers are the masters of "oh, let me just get to this one thing and then I'll get my work done." Maybe we should be tied to our chairs?