Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Let's Talk About Sex

With all due respect to Salt N' Peppa, I'm about to get graphic about sex, writing, and writing about sex. So if reading about various sex acts offends your fee-fee's, then you'll want to click away from this page now.


Still here?

As most of my regulars know, I write some paranormal erotica under my name and more extreme stuff under The Alter Ego.

Two weeks ago, another erotica writer, let's call her Lady X, commented that I hold myself back in writing BDSM scenes. It took me several several days to realize what she really meant. I wasn't writing the Cinderella/rape fantasies that are super popular right now, things hitting the bestseller lists like 50 Shades of Gray.

In one way, she's right. I don't write rape fantasies because they don't turn me on. It's the reason I didn't like 50 Shades. Rape fantasy has replaced the "forced seduction" scenario that were so popular in the romance genre twenty/thirty years ago.

I do get why some women like these concepts. When you're working full-time, raising kids, performing your civic/religious duties, etc., you're tired of being totally responsible for everything. If you kick back to relax and have fun, then you feel guilty for enjoying yourself and not accomplishing more. So if the hunk of your dreams forces you to have a good time, then it's not you fault, right?

The problem is I find it disturbing that so many people equate BDSM with rape fantasy. There are some shared elements, but they are two different subjects.

Another factor with Lady X's criticism is I admit that I'm not a good enough writer to put something on paper that makes me ill. And quite frankly, I've seen too many writers I respect forced by their publishers to write something in a genre the writers don't like or are not comfortable with. Their lack of enthusiasm was obvious in their prose, and I dread to be in that position. Thankfully, as an indie writer, I don't have to write rape fantasies if I don't want to.

Please understand I'm not condemning writers or readers who are into fantasy rape scenarios. I know there are subjects I love to write that are turn-offs for other folks. For example, I'm working on a scene where my super-macho cop hero thnks he's about to be pegged by his domme. She messes with him and has another guy ass-fuck my hero. And my hero likes it! I can already visualize my editor cringing because she has an aversion male-male action.

Anyway, what my decision comes down to, I want to be respectful to those folks who practice BDSM, whether it be the lifestyle or the occasional weekend playdate. I truly believe in the SSC ("Safe, Sane, Consensual") philosophy when it comes to BDSM, with a particular emphasis on the "consensual" aspect. I make it clear my characters choose to do certain acts even if fear and/or anxiety get in their way sometimes.

By making sure my female characters are agreeing to certain sex acts like mutliple partners, they are taking control of their sexuality. And frankly, this is the positive example I'd rather leave with my readers.


  1. I agree about not writing stuff you don't want to write. That's one of the main reasons I'm still with Torquere, rather than shifting to one of the bigger publishers in the same pond that sell more on the averate; they also tend to demand more sex in their books, while Torquere doesn't specifically demand any at all. I like having the control in that area.

    I also agree that... let's say it takes an excellent writer to write something they personally aren't into, or even find distasteful, and not have their attitude come through in the story. I've read a number of BDSM romances where it was appallingly clear that the writers not only knew very little about BDSM, but that they personally held it in some contempt. I can only assume they were jumping onto what they saw as a lucrative bandwagon, because of BDSM's popularity as a fad in the genre. Writing something you're not into can be done well, but these writers clearly weren't good enough to pull it off. That annoys me.

    I also agree that tossing every kink up to and including out-and-out rape and slavery stories under the "BDSM" umbrella is annoying. Clear non-con isn't BDSM, and it reinforces the twisted view the general public has of BDSM and its practitioners, which can cause real harm.

    At the same time, though, there should be room for fantasy stories which would appeal to many/most of the same readers who are into BDSM fiction. I like to describe them as narrating the fantasy that goes on during the scene, as though it were real. So frex., if you negotiate a fantasy rape scene with your partner, with hard limits and a safeword and such, then the book would be about what happens between the time the Dom says "play" (or whatever you use) and the time the scene ends. Narrating the fantasy as a story on its own should be valid.

    I think the problem is when the story isn't clearly a fantasy. Sometimes, in fact, it's masquerading as real life. If the story seems to be grounded in the real world, especially if there's some token gesture toward SSC, or if they're careful to use condoms, that sort of thing, then it can sound like the writer is trying to show that this story is realistic. But if one of the characters is brutally and forcibly raped and then falls in love with the rapist and they get an HEA.... Umm, yeah, not so much. It works as a fantasy, but if the story seems to be set in the real world then that's problematic, to say the least.

    I've ranted in the past about characters in a BDSM story being shown doing horribly unsafe things, like binding and gagging a sub and then leaving him alone in the house, frex. Similar to my complaint about not making fantasies clearly fantasies above, it's not that you can't have your characters do dumb things, but rather that you should let the reader know that you as the author know they're dumb. Maybe the sub gets a stuffy nose while the (idiot) Dom is gone, and Dom comes back just in time to let him loose while he's still at the struggling to breathe stage, but before he strangles to death. Or maybe nothing happens, but they're talking to a more knowledgeable friend later on about what they did, and friend does the, "Are you two out of your freaking minds?!?!" thing, and explains to them in small words just how wrong that could've gone. Something. But let me know that you as the writer knows better, even if you want your characters to be ignorant.

    If the writer doesn't do that, I'm going to assume that he or she is the ignorant one.

    It's all about how you do it, though. You can pull off just about anything if you do it right. What really gets me muttering bad words and fantasizing about baseball bats is when the writer can't do it right, or perhaps could have but can't be bothered.


  2. LOL I was wondering when you'd comment, Angie. You might want to cut and paste your comment since you wrote an entire post-worth of thoughts.

    Yeah, putting the character in a rape situation and calling it BDSM, then the whole falling in love with the rapist thing, really hits my squick buttons.

    On the other hand, I have a LOT of fun deciding on safe words for my characters. *grin*

  3. Sorry, I'm at WorldCon and not living on the internet the way I usually do. :)

    Hardly any of my regular blog readers are into BDSM fiction, so far as I can tell, so I'll just leave it here where it's comfortable and fits in. [wry smile]