Friday, May 27, 2011

One Person's Humiliation is Another's Pampering

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. 


  1. I agree... What one person sees as humiliating and degrading, another will see as love and care and pampering and bliss.

    My duty as a submissive is to him, my service and pleasure is to and for him. It's a pleasure unto itself, the ability to give like that.

  2. Years ago I read an erotica novel that took place during the Middle Ages. In one particularly pivotal scene, two minor characters, a King and a Queen, were eating side by side at the head of a long table. The author went on at length to describe the hierarchy of the table settings, who got to eat off of wood, then pewter, then silver as the table went on. Only the King got a gold plate. But the Queen did not even get her own plate; she ate off the King's.
    Back then, I thought it archaic how the Queen didn't have her own plate, but had to share with her husband. Now I think it's romantic. I can just imagine their fingers brushing against each other's as they picked at their food. They would have to constantly keep in mind what the other might choose off the plate, and be considerate of each other's choices.
    Sometimes, the way the situation looks on the surface is not what's really going on.

  3. Lissa and Shelby,

    Thank you for your comments. The scene is an important one to me, but I have to admit, I did have a moment of , "she's right, that is humiliating", until I realized I was allowing what society had established as expected behaviors to color my response.

    And that's the important issue my character confronts, how what she wants is in conflict with the expected role of women in society.


  4. Qwillia, you hit on something I've been worrying about a lot lately--how to handle the submission of my characters when I know it will be viewed through the lens of feminism or gender equality. It's really difficult.

  5. Yes, that's a problem all right. Everyone has their own limits, past which for them it becomes abuse.

    My question would be, what's wrong with humiliation? If it happens to be one's kink. One interesting point for me is that what for me would be humiliation (the good kind), for others is dedication, coddling, any number of other good things. I remember reading someone's remarks about being treated like furniture. She didn't find this humiliating; to her it just felt like proper service. For me, the humiliation aspect is the whole point.

    As for feminism and gender equity -- something I absolutely believe in, by the way -- as one of my characters said, this kink could be seen as the rather extreme expression of a woman's right to her own choice in relation to sexuality. It's one of the reasons I have trouble with non-consensual setups, even in fiction.

  6. Annabel and Anneke,

    I see exactly what you mean, and that is the biggest issue I run into myself -- the gender equality issue. I feel much the same way. That submission is a choice of empowerment for women with regard to their sexuality. And yes, Anneke, I can see how a non-consensual set up would go against that right to choose.

    As for humiliation -- that's my trigger. Issues from my past tend to make me very sensitive to situations where one person is ridiculed or humiliated for the amusement of others. Even though I know some people enjoy being humiliated, it's not something I can ever see myself writing for a main character. Secondary or tertiary, possibly, but not a main one.


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