Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Consent / Non-consent and My Fantasy Dilemma

I’m struggling with something at the moment. (A months-long moment, if I’m being honest.) My third book is barely out of the gate. The concept requires some fantasizing on the part of the protagonists. And what I’ve got’s not working. Contrary to my comments on Qwillia’s thread, I do have non-consensual fantasies. I just can’t seem to write about them. When I write, the characters get real very fast. And once they’re real they can’t be victims. Real victimization is something I can’t deal with; for me it’s the antithesis of sexy.

My non-consensual fantasies are all about the setup rather than the personalities. Institutionalized slavery, women as an underclass, that kind of thing. Nothing I’d want to see or would find the least bit alluring in real life. So, you may ask, how is it I manage to find my unwritten fantasies sexy? I think there’s an undercurrent of consent going on – these nonspecific women are happy in their chains. Let’s face it: great literature it’s not.

So what about consensual fantasies; what’s wrong with writing about those? The brave, adventurous submissives like Phaedra in Kushiel’s Dart; the sensuous courtesan in lace and silken bondage; the club denizen who scenes one night with just the right man. What about those?

Nope, doesn’t work for me. Too tame. Insufficient power involved. What turns my crank is something beyond negotiation, beyond kinky sex play. Genuine power and control, of one person over another. Pervasive, meaningful, and not a little frightening. Requiring serious levels of trust and responsibility.

The fantasies I’m trying to write span a period of time in my heroine’s life, from mid-adolescence to perhaps her late ‘20’s. So I’m struggling to remember what my fantasies were like back then. What I’ve dredged up has fallen pretty hard into the non-con category above, and hasn’t been helpful. I don’t want to scare readers off with extreme stuff right off the bat. On the other hand, I could try using them and have her thinking through all the contradictions herself. (That’s always a useful way to deal with a problem like this: have the protagonists struggle with it themselves.) In which case I’d have to find a way to write them that doesn’t sound totally stupid.

There’s also the question of whether I really want my heroine to be a total reflection of myself. These women start out with a lot in common with me, and then take their own (far more submissive) path. Can I make this one her own woman with her own fantasies? So far my imagination is coming up blank. I think if I’m ever going to write this book, I’m going to have to write from my own erotic imagination. Damn.

Any advice? I could really use some. Not that I promise to take it. ;-)


  1. Oooh I'm right in that age range (21). My darkest fantasies involve the non-consent and it's hard reconciling that with being a feminist.

    Also, the best advice I have is to "write what you know." It might be too difficult or come across fake trying to write a fetish you don't really "get" or like.

  2. Scare off your loyal readers, Ms. Jacob? Try us - we can take it:)

    Seriously, I think Mockingbird's advice is sound. IMO if you write with your personal fantasies in mind, you can never go wrong. Trust in your dreaded editor to keep you "in bounds". I have no doubt you will find a way to make it erotic and uniquely yours.

    Having the heroine struggle with what these impossibly non-con fantasies might say about her is the essence of characterization - getting inside her head. You can use your fantasies as inspiration, and yet, since the heroine only thinks about them, keep it enough at "arm's length" not to drag the story down into a darker place than you intended. It's a great idea, and it has limitless possibilities for a deft writer (an apt description for you).

    At the risk of sounding like a drooling fanboy, your first two fearless efforts hinted at a deep vein of fantasy and erotic imagination you've only just begun to mine. Please, for our sakes, don't doubt yourself!