Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Who’s Fucking With You? Eroticism and Power Dynamics



A dear friend and I were talking over coffee about “Fifty Shades of Grey” now that the movie has come out. She has read all three books, a very respectable climb, something like reading “War and Peace” front to back, or maybe reading the first five books of the Old Testament without stopping. To achieve something like that, I suspect she has an unexplored kinky streak inside her but so far I haven’t asked. But she got me re-thinking the world of BDSM (Bondage Domination Submission Masochism) and how all that works. I myself am not kinky as far as I can know, which I kind of regret. I think I’m missing out on something. I might be a more interesting, or relatively less boring person, if I had a kinky streak. 


I think that Dominance and Submission are to sex what espresso is to ordinary coffee. They are extreme expressions, concentrated to their essence, of what has always existed in a latent form in all eroticism - the dynamic of power.


I want to make a distinction here between eroticism and sex. To my way of thinking they are not the same, just as creativity and, say, writing poetry is not the same. Eroticism is your nature, your wiring, how you relate to the world and to the experience of union, and most especially the frustrated desire for union. Sex is a media for expressing eroticism but its not the only media of expression. Sex is an act that you do, just as writing a poem is an act. Fucking is an act. Eroticism is who you are.


The forces of nature work off a fundamental state of existence, which is the dynamic state of latent, unmanifested energy. This restless energy acquires a direction and then takes on a form that expresses it’s unique nature for that brief moment. This is the heart of the mystical experience with the spiritual. This is also the heart of eroticism, which further convinces me that spirituality, creativity and eroticism are three faces of the same god. It is the same quality of energy in three distinct, but related forms of expression. It explains to me the competitive dynamic that has always existed between religion and sex. These are sister forces vying for dominance in our psyche.


In erotic relationships, and in the act of sex, there is a dynamic of dominance and submission even among the unkinky. Its the nature of the desire manifesting itself into the motion of the act. My criticism of some of the limp wristed attempts at BDSM fiction I’ve read here and there is that this dynamic is not being understood by the authors. There’s too much spanky-spanky and mustache twirling, without any actual eroticism happening. Too much What, not enough Why.


Four skillful writers in this genre form have always stood out to me regarding this power dynamic - Lisabet Sarai, Remittance Girl, M. Christian and in the past Mike Kimera. These are good writers for the ambitious BDSM author to study because in their best stories they have never been about the What, they have been about the Why. Eroticism in it’s mysteries is what we’re talking about. I think this is partly because at least two of them have had intimate personal experience with being submissives or dominants in reality. They know the emotional territory first hand. I also recommend people who need a clue to study the autobiographies, and there are plenty out there, of professional dominatrices such as ”Whip Smart” by Melissa Febos. They tell similar tales. What does a submissive do? Allow herself to be handcuffed and spanked? No! That is incidental. Who gives a shit what she does - WHY does she do it? What need does it serve, rather than, say knitting baby booties instead? What is “subspace”? What does it feel like, how do you get there? Why is it so addictive that you crave to go back? If you don’t know what “subspace” is, you need to stop writing and start studying.


Think about this for a moment - what is naked?  There are many levels of naked, more than we usually think of associated with that word.  There is the basic nudity of the body, right before love making.  But there are deeper, non-physical levels of exposure as well.  The nudity of the raw emotions exposed in those moments we let our inner guard down.  Think of a woman in the throes of orgasm, racked with the wildest pleasure, longing to experience more and deeper, and yet fighting the feeling of emotional rawness that is tearing her open.  Imagine looking in that woman's eyes in the instant of her perfect rawness, her perfect, ecstatic vulnerability.  The mind in conflict with the body, the mind fearing to let go completely, the body demanding everything.  We long to let go.  The more in control we are, the more we long to let go of the rope for just a while.  Its what we experience dancing, that Dionysian letting go of control, or voodoo trances in which some allow themselves to be possessed, or evangelicals allowing themselves to be taken by the Holy Spirit and babble in strange tongues.  It's what we experience in mediation when the mind finally, at long last, falls silent for a moment. 


There is within us, a tender, wounded emotional core.  The core no one sees, no one touches, too often not even touched by ourselves.  Yet I think every soul longs to be touched there by a worthy person, someone they can trust their soul to, their ultimate nakedness to.  Maybe that's why people follow charismatic gurus, or fall in love over and over without success.  I think, in some ways, that is what subspace is.  I would like to understand that better, that soul nakedness, which is maybe achieved when you allow a person, within specific boundaries, an absolute trust and power over you, even the power to inflict pain so that for a while you are no longer afraid of pain, because in giving a person that permission  you have given yourself permission too.  Maybe subspace is when you also allow that tenderest place to be touched deeply by another, even a stranger.  In fact, maybe a stranger is best, someone whose power is ultimately disposable.


 Some are born kinky. Some have kinky thrust upon them. Some of us are forever kinky-challenged. And then there is the seduction of the innocent. Finding a girl, like Ana in the Fifty Shades novel, who has a kinky side she doesn’t even know exists and bringing it out and making it bloom like a dark rose. BDSM classics such as “The Story of O” and the “Sleeping Beauty” trilogy of Anne Roquelaure (Anne Rice discreetly disguised)are all about this dark blooming, as well as Lisabet Sarai’s early novels such as “Raw Silk” and Remittance Girl’s savage novel “Gaijin”. These are not about the old spanky-spanky, but about the unfolding of something hidden in response to a power dynamic that is bitter and delicious and sometimes terrifying.

Every act of social intercourse has power dynamics. Having a cup of coffee with a friend has unspoken power dynamics. The act of sex, as well as the act of courtship, is the constant shifting of unmanifested power dynamics coming into manifestation. Pick up a copy of Anne Hooper’s “Kama Sutra” coffee table book and look at the color photos explicitly illustrating heterosexual sex positions. Each position of man and woman joined in the act expresses a power dynamic which you can viscerally feel, either when you’re engaged in the act of copulating with a partner or fantasizing about it. And you need to be aware of the physical and emotional feel of this dynamic if you ever hope to write effectively about it. It isn’t just that a man assumes the missionary position above a woman. A manly man, a man with some big balls hanging down MOUNTS a woman in that position. Mounts her like a fucking stud horse. He takes her, dominates her gently or strongly with his rising tension of male assertiveness and sweet Jesus he mounts her and fucks her silly. Make no doubt about it. It may be rough or it may be gentle, it may be slow, tender and loving or rough and crazy but there’s no question who’s riding on top and who’s getting ridden. What if the woman is on top? If the man asks her to be on top, that’s a reduced but balanced dynamic. Partners as equals. The woman is receiving and expressing power because he wants her to. But if the woman rolls him on his back, you-come-here-to-mama-you-sexy-sonuvabitch, climbs on top and she mounts him, puts her man inside herself and works that thing good, that’s her goddess coming out. She’s taking him, and I think that is the very sexiest thing a man can pray for, being screwed brainless and fuckless by a goddess. Doggy style? Male assertive. Standing up? Could be either or. Ankles over her head? Male assertive almost to the edge of rape. Each position, and the act performed in that position, expresses a dynamic of who is asserting and who is submitting - but only in that moment. Enthusiastic and adventurous lovers might switch positions and acts several times in the moment of passion with the power of dominance and submission switching back and forth like alternating current. Rarely is it in balance for long, not if they’re having fun.


And then there’s what the dominatrices call “Topping from the Bottom”.

Think about oral sex. There’s an act which is fraught with power. In a scene in my story “The Lady and the Unicorn”, my vampire girl Nixie assertively seduces and dominates her mortal male lover by suddenly opening his pants, going down on him and taking his phallus in her mouth. This is an act, not of female submission, but of strong female dominance. She has never done this for him before, only thought of it on the spur of the moment, and at first he’s startled and then thrilled. On her part, this is a calculated and even predatory act of initiating fellatio on him in order to thoroughly cast her spell over him. As long as she has those lips around his dick, he is helpless man jelly in her hands. Experienced women know this power very well. A good lover will generously and lovingly perform oral sex on a woman, but this is a subtle act. The power dynamics in giving cunnilingus are not well defined in the moment of the act. It is more of a giving and savoring experience than a dominance. Giving oral sex to a woman in hopes of bringing her to orgasm is more of a eliciting act as if you were leading her on a dance floor, drawing something out of her carefully and patiently. When a woman is giving oral sex to a man in reality, the man clearly feels his male energy rising inside of him as though it were being honored in some way. It is a thrilling experience to see another human being on their knees in front of you giving you pleasure. You feel so powerful and men love to feel powerful and are easily seduced by this feelng. But power is an illusion we bestow. Sometimes bestowing power, as in Nixie’s impulsive act of seduction, can be an illusion, the woman giving the man the feeling of dominance when in fact she has brought him exactly to the emotional place where she wants him to be. That’s Topping from the Bottom.


In another story of mine, “You Belong to Me”, Frankenstein’s creature is having a passionate love affair with a blind woman in the mountains, which is fated to end badly. They live together, absolutely adore each other and hump like bunnies. She has carefully and meticulously trained him how to make love to her. In a scene of love making he pleads, demands, over and over for her to say to him “I’m your woman”, and she refuses because this is the power dynamic of that scene. He needs to hear those words and she teasingly dangles the words just out of his reach every time, making him more and more fiercely passionate as he tries to excite her into saying them. That’s a power dynamic.


 That scene is not about sexual expertise, although she has made him an expert. It’s about power between two people who love and understand eachother and know how to play off eachother’s hunger, working it up into a frenzy. They don’t just fuck, they make love, with knowledge. The sexual tension in the scene doesn’t come from what they do. It’s from why they do it.


 I think so many of the sex scenes I see these days fail to reach me emotionally, because that is the missing element. The dynamic of power. I don’t want to know what they’re doing, I want to know why. How did they get there? What do they see in eachother that makes them different? Why don’t they play miniature golf instead? It’s not always the guy doing the mounting, who maybe just thinks he’s on top when he’s actually being played by his lover; “topped from the bottom” in the dominatrix parlance, like an expert fisherman with a lure.


 

17 comments:

  1. Such a great post! You make many excellent points, but I especially appreciate the elegance of this observation:

    Fucking is an act. Eroticism is who you are.

    How many words have I spent trying to explain the difference between erotica and porn? From now on, I only need nine.

    Also, I have to respond to the idea the Fifty Shades phenom seems to be encouraging--that being "kinky" means you're more interesting in bed. Actually it's more like buying stuff like BenWa balls and cable ties makes you more exciting. What I've found to be most exciting is a partner who pays attention and cares. Toys and purchased props have nothing to do with it. Good erotica writers--like you--are paying attention. That's the sexiest thing possible. It might involve BDSM power exchange or it might not because eroticism is who we are. But buying stuff is a lot less scary than owning our desire.

    Again, thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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  2. Hi Donna!

    Thank you for reading it. Owning our desires as you say, and I would add exploring them. I think the best most of us can do is thought experiments unless we're lucky enough to have found a special partner who isn't afraid to go dark or weird to let us go cave exploring in the dark corners of our soul. I've often found that it is relatively easy to tell people about our real world sexual experiences and even exaggerate them, guys in locker rooms do that all the time, but people are much more shy about telling their sexual fantasies. I think this is because we have more freedom in fantasy, and consequently our fantasies reveal more about us inside. Also when we explore the power dynamics of our fantasies we find there is a certain common thread running through them, leaning towards dominance or maybe submission, or some subtle form of both.

    Owning our desires may or may not mean expressing them, but fantasy is one way we own them. I think it would be a very erotic thing to offer ourselves to a lover and say "Use me to explore your desires." What would we say to such an offer?

    Garce

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    1. Ooooh, I think we have the beginnings of a great erotic story!

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    2. When I said those words, soon after he asked me to marry him. And I said yes. Fantasies are safest when internal only, but sharing them can be mind-blowing!

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  3. Oh Garce!

    It's clear that you understand the essence of kink much more thoroughly than you believe.

    This is an incredible post (and not just because you praise my work LOL). You get to the heart of the issue. I particularly liked this:

    "spirituality, creativity and eroticism are three faces of the same god. It is the same quality of energy in three distinct, but related forms of expression. It explains to me the competitive dynamic that has always existed between religion and sex. These are sister forces vying for dominance in our psyche."

    A great truth, I believe, worth pondering.

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  4. Hi Lisabet!

    I'm beginning to learn about it in theory. I've become more open with my friends about my writing now. One thing, good or bad, that Fifty Shades did for our crowd is it brought us out of the shadows and gave us a certain kind of legitimacy we've never had. It doesn't feel as dangerous as it once did to write this stuff. I hope that doesn't take the fun out of it.

    But anyway, my friends and I were talking about Fifty Shades and I mentioned your name as my First Reader, personal friend and writing mentor and - by the way - Lisabet was an active submissive and knows that world. They were instantly very curious about you. Maybe you should write an advice column "Ask the Submissive".

    I've noticed for a long time the link between my unconscious and its hidden currents and my creativity and my level of desire. I think because the unconscious has so much to do with these things they are linked as they are with our spirituality. I think that there is a great and unmanifested Consciousness underlying existence and that our unconscious is closer to it than we are, including it's darker currents. God and the devil in a way.

    Garce

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    1. I'm hardly qualified. I've only had one D/s relationship. I'm not in "the lifestyle". (I'm reading a book for review right now, called SAFEWORD: ARABESQUE, by someone who clearly is, and learning things in nearly every chapter.) Most importantly, I think my view of kink is not universal. There are many submissives who really need pain - need to be humiliated - get a sort of satisfaction from total degradation. That doesn't describe me.

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    2. Hi Lisabet!

      I can sort of understand the need for power or surrender, but I have to admit the need for physical pain escapes me. I suppose the easy answer is such a person feels guilty but I'm not sure that's it either. People surprise you. Their needs are ultimately unfathomable.

      Garce

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    3. I don't understand the "need for physical pain" either, but I doubt it can be easily explained as a reaction to guilt. Have you read Allison Tyler's memoir "Dark Secret Love"? It's some more complicated dynamic, not about being punished but about being released. I think Annabeth has expressed it well in some of her posts on the Grip. It's as if pure pleasure just doesn't "get through".

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    4. HI Lisabet!

      The name Allison Tyler sounds familiar but I haven't read it. I should look it up. That's an interesting thought - pure pleasure doesn't get through. Maybe some people need that power dynamic, but maybe others need the intense experience of pain to get through? Like sipping very hot coffee compared to merely warm coffee?

      Garce

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  5. Bravo, Garce! Very thought-provoking. I love your idea of fellatio as putting the female in charge. I've always thought that because one clamping of her jaws, and your family jewels are worthless. Such an act of trust, on the part of men, that their manhood will still be intact when she opens her mouth again. (Hmm, maybe I have a darker side I've never explored?)

    I've said for years that if a man tried to force me to do an act I didn't want to do, I'd fight him tooth and nail. But if it's my idea to do that same act, then I'll do it gladly. I can be had, but not forced.

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    1. Hi fiona!

      Had but not forced. It does take a lot of trust to place your manhood in the same space as sharp teeth. Its an act of trust. But had not forced describes so many things, maybe female orgasm itself, which can be elicited but not forced. I think this idea of "making her come" is an illusion we men cherish but in truth you can't make anybody come, you have to bring her there. On the other hand I'm remembering a strong scene in RG's novel "Gaijin" where a young woman is raped and experiences an orgasm in the midst against her will, as though betrayed by her own body. I can't imagine how disorienting that must be.

      Garce

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    2. "Making a woman come" is a female fantasy as well, judging by the romance I read. I believe this is partly because so many women (myself included) find it difficult to achieve orgasm. They'd like to believe that there's some magic button someone else can press that will cause them to explode into the ultimate pleasure.

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    3. HI Lisabet!

      I have to believe that orgasm will always be more complex for women than for men, because the danger dynamics of sex are so much higher for women than for men. Men get to have sex and walk away clean, nothing happens to them. Women risk their lives. Not only do they receive diseases more easily than men, but they get pregant. If that goes well you have a little human being who will radically change yourlife, if it goes badly that baby can kill you at child birth, at one time a very common way for women to die.

      Also women are in the biological position of opening up and receiving which must be a source of fear and emotional difficulty as well. So they get to have more orgasms but reaching that emotional space fr a human being in those circumstances must very complicated compared to men.

      Garce

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    4. My experience has been that I experience many different kinds of orgasms...and I like them all! Some are merely physical, and are more easily achieved, especially by myself. These are the kinds that I think are closest to what most men achieve easily also. But some involve emotional sharing and take longer, but are more intense and can last much longer. Men can achieve these "multiple orgasms" also, but it has to be with someone with whom there is a very strong emotional connection, and you have to have the time and the trust to make it happen. But when it does, it's unforgettable!

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  6. Garce- you have a way of explaining sexual phenomena that is not only poetic but immensely informative. I feel as though I know *more* after reading your work. You bring out in words (implying cause and effect) what we previously knew only as reaction and instinct. And that goes for pretty much all of your work. I'm envious of your insight.

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  7. Hi Daddy X!

    You're very generous to me, thank you. And isn't the subject of eroticism we explore the most fascinating and the most human of all?

    Garce

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