It all began with a simple comment made to a friend. An idea I was kicking around in regard to my latest story. A visual image of the submissive, Triss, naked and seated on the floor beside the hero, Vince, while he fed her. I could see it so clearly and it made sense to me -- it would reflect how much the Dom cared for her.
My friend's response: "That's degrading. Humiliating. Treating her like a dog. How can that resemble any kind of care or respect from him?"
What part of the scene did she object to? The fact that she was being fed from her Master's hand or that Triss was seated on the floor without clothes on? Or the placement of the scene early in the relationship between the couple?
And that's what got me thinking. What one person (me) identified as a method of pampering and care, another (my friend) saw as a form of humiliation.
If the scene had taken place in a bed, with Triss supine and Vince feeding her from a tray, would it still have been humiliating? If she were in the chair next to him at the table, would it still have been humiliating? If he'd placed her on the table, holding the plate for him, would it still be humiliating?
Then there's the question of Triss's nudity. Dressed or naked, would it make a difference in the perception of the reader?
In my mind, the answer is no. No to all versions of the scenario including the original when she's seated on the floor, because what the image reflects is how the submissive views the situation. Triss sees herself as being cared for and pampered by her Dom.
But that's when it struck me. The reason neither I nor my characters have any problem with the scene is because the connection between them has already been established in our minds. The feeding and her seating are all reflective of the love and affection the two have for one another. The bond of trust they have with formed.
My friend couldn't see that. With the scene placement too early in the story, to the reader, Triss's easy acceptance of Vince's command didn't make sense. The trust was only beginning. The relationship was still new. The pair was just starting to learn about one another.
I'm sure where I've decided to place the scene will make more sense to the readers. I'm also sure, no matter when it takes place someone who reads it will be put off by the imagery. A woman seated like a dog at her man's feet, waiting for any crumb of affection.
Stop and think about it though. What level of trust is she showing by taking that position? Her message is clear -- she loves unconditionally and is there for him. It's now up to him to show the world (or the reader) the importance she has in his life.