Friday, January 15, 2016
I read a lot of BDSM erotica and erotic romance. While what I write is fairly specific, I enjoy reading a wider diversity, all different sorts of pairings and groups. I enjoy the sort that is all about building a fantasy for the reader, from the billionaire natural alpha dom, to the corral where you park your submissive at the club. I also enjoy the sort that is intended to feel real, to reflect the realities of kink life. I’m not one of those folks who do BDSM and need fiction to be realistic; I’m perfectly fine sinking into a fantasy story about a magical mind-reading dominant, whether it comes with a critique of kink life (e.g. Cecilia Tan’s Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords) or is purely there to fulfill a fantasy (e.g. Cherise Sinclair’s Club Shadowlands)
What I’ve found is that there’s a particular thing that’s pretty much guaranteed to spoil my investment in and enjoyment of a BDSM story: carelessness in the context of a scene or D/s dynamic.
To be clear, I adore mean, cruel and even cold dominants. I’m not talking about sadism here, or needing to go easy on bottoms in a way that treats them as fragile. I’m not even just talking about tops. Bottoms can definitely be careless too.
I’m not talking about stories where folks have casual play, or play that’s not centered on emotions or caring for each other romantically. I’m not even talking about psychological edge play scenes that center on a top seeming careless. I’m fine with that sort of play as long as I know, as a reader, that the top is actually seeing to the well-being of the bottom, and that the bottom knows somewhere in the back of their mind that they can trust the top to be careful with them.
What do I mean when I talk about carelessness?
I mean carelessness in terms of leaving a bottom tied up and unattended. I mean carelessness in terms of casual selfishness where the character is solely focused on their own needs to the point of ignoring the basic well-being of the folks they are doing BDSM with. I mean carelessness in terms of launching into heavy humiliation play with a novice with no negotiation. I mean carelessness in terms of deliberate ignoring of basic bodily needs. I mean carelessness in terms of deliberately fucking with someone’s head when mindfuck was not on the table. I mean carelessness in terms of a dominant giving a submissive away to someone without ensuring that the submissive is ok in that person’s care.
For the most part, what it often boils down to is a character treating another character like they are not a real person, but an object, not as part of an agreed upon D/s dynamic or humiliation scene, but in actuality. Treating them as if they are a tool to get off with, not a human being with, y’know, needs and vulnerabilities, who is worthy of a basic modicum of respect and care.
Is it realistic to have characters do this? Absolutely. This behavior abounds in kink life, just as carelessness does in many other kinds of communities.
Do I want it in my erotica or erotic romance? Absolutely not.
Please do write about miscommunication, misunderstandings, secrets, scenes that go wrong, common novice mistakes, times when people need to safeword, accidents that happen in play, times when folks are not aware of their feelings or not up for talking about stuff they should, and all the other ways that people are human and have opposing needs and fuck up and things fall apart and need to be repaired, especially if you are writing realistic stories about BDSM. I’d love to see more of that in the kinky fiction I read. I don’t need or even want characters to be perfect.
Carelessness is in a different zone for me.
I don’t trust the character any more as a practitioner of BDSM. I wouldn’t recommend them as a player to a stranger, must less to someone I care about.
I am not rooting for the couple anymore. I want the other character to dump that asshole, not make excuses for them or sink deeper into connection with them or ignore the problem or want to be treated that way.
I don’t want to witness them playing or falling for each other. It’s not hot. I wouldn’t watch that scene in a public dungeon; I definitely don’t want to read it.
I don’t want stories that support, elide, apologize for or excuse carelessness in kink. Especially not in a main character I’m supposed to be identifying with or desiring or rooting for. Especially not in a story that supposedly has a HFN or a HEA ending.
Want me to love your BDSM erotica and erotic romance and invest in your characters and story?
Show the reader moments where characters are careful with each other.
Where dominants take an extra moment to ensure they still have consent. Where submissives consider a dominants needs. Where tops check in after a scene. Where bottoms share information a top might need in order to fully consent to something. Where a dominant pays attention to body language and tone of voice and not just the words a submissive uses. Where a submissive notices that a dominant seems off and checks in. Where a top thinks about what a bottom might need from play. Where a bottom thinks about the shit a top had to deal with today and treads carefully around sensitive subjects. Where characters negotiate in a way that shows they are invested in each other’s well-being.
It’s those moments that make me fall for your characters, root for them as a couple or triad or group or whatever they are together, want to follow them to the end of the story. Those are the moments that make me sigh and smile and swoon.