Friday, September 30, 2011

Is BDSM Scary?

I find it fascinating how people respond to writers of BDSM. For me, I don't find D/s relationships frightening, I think they are intriguing excursions into trust and understanding. You can't have the understanding without the trust and vice versa.

How vanillas find this scary, I don't know. I guess it's the wonderful toys -- kinda like the obsession with 007's cool gadgets. It's no different than establishing a relationship with a boyfriend or husband/wife, but trying to get past the fear of the "label' seems to be the  most difficult part.

I don't have much time today(I'm at a conference and short on time and brain power), and I do apologize for such a short post, but I'd love to hear how you feel about societies perception of the BDSM world and the people and practices within it.

If you're vanilla, I'd love to hear what both fascinates and scares you about the lifestyle.

Have a great day!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kink Monday: Speech Restriction

Our voice is a huge part of what makes us human. Our voices, our thumbs, the ability to walk upright -- these are the primary physical attributes that separate us from most of the animals around us.

Not being allowed to speak in a power exchange situation can be very dehumanizing. And frustrating. In a D/s sense, it's huge.

My husband and I don't play around with Speech Restriction very often, but when we do I'm usually allowed to make sounds as long as there are no intelligible words. Occasionally the restrictions include no sounds at all, though I'm rarely able to pull that off.

I know a couple who have speech restrictions within scene as the general rule, not as the exception. I believe she goes into subspace faster, and I believe she reaches that super-deep subspace a lot more often than I do.

My husband likes to hear me talk, beg, plead, tell him when it hurts, ask permission, etc. And to be honest, I much prefer being able to talk.

There is something to be said for restricting speech for a period of time, though. The mindset of not being allowed to communicate anything verbally -- it is objectifying and dehumanizing in a way that I wasn't really prepared for the first time. Even now, sometimes the intensity of it hits me like a brick.

When you're gagged you can usually still get your point across, get enough of the syllables out to be understood. But when you've specifically been told you can't speak, can't communicate in any way, even when not physically gagged...

How do you feel when a Top takes speech off the table for the submissive? Is it too much? Or is it a big turn on for you?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Icky Things

One of the things that's always fascinated me--and often troubled me--is the vast difference in intensity of the way people play. Kink and BDSM can be about the most mild and innocuous activities, or, for others, it can be about toeing that line between life and death.

I try to tell myself that all that really matters is what my preferences and limits are. But part of me still watches and judges others by my own views and beliefs about what is safe and sane, even though it's none of my business. My book Deep in the Woods was written at a time when I was struggling to understand people who pushed the envelope, and downplayed the importance of things like safety and consent.

But now, two or three years later, I'm learning to relax and just let people follow their impulses. I'm learning to accept the diversity of what turns people on, and to let them seek what they crave in the privacy of their own relationships without tacking on my own judgments and warnings. What about you? Do you ever get judgmental or stressed out about some of the edgier things people do within the "lifestyle?" Does it trouble you? Turn you off of BDSM? Make you more excited about BDSM?

I knew a D-type once...I wouldn't call him a Dominant because he did a kind of BDSM all his own, with his own labels. He was his OWN lifestyle, self contained. He was a very charismatic guy, intelligent to the point of scariness, and very manipulative. I would see journal posts from his various victi--er--submissives, and they would all speak with excited horror of this "icky thing" he made them do, or subjected them to. Of course, they were all over the moon about the experience (he only played with serious masochists.) I was fascinated to know this secret thing he was doing to all these women that was so awful.

What I came to understand is that the "icky thing" was actually different for each partner he played with. What he got off on, more than anything, was causing his partners deep emotional pain as a cathartic activity. Mindfucks, in a sense, but something more involved than the typical mental gags and tricks.

No, this D-type would take the time to really get to know his partner, learn everything he could about them until he pinpointed the thing he could do to them that would cause them maximum distress. He called this thing "the icky thing."

I have my own icky thing. A few of them really. The icky thing, for me, would depend on who I was with and the situation. But honestly, I have no desire to face my icky thing, no matter with whom or when or where. I just don't.

But I'm coming to accept that there are a lot of people out there searching for someone to do their ickiest icky nightmares to them. For them, that is the pinnacle of the BDSM experience. And I just have to accept that that's okay.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BDSM in Mainstream Books

I recently read Frost Moon and Blood Rock by Anthony Francis -- books one and two of the Skindancer series. Dakota Frost is your typical kick ass Urban Fantasy heroine, and while she appears to be pretty vanilla sexually, there are people around her who are not. Add in that the author mentions a few spots in Atlanta that cater to the BDSM crowd, and I'm wondering just how into the scene Mr. Francis might be. Not that it is any of my business, of course.  Back to the story -- Dakota's ex-girlfriend is an ex because she and Dakota broke up when the girlfriend decided to be turned into a vampire. The ex-girlfriend is now the (sort of) head vampire of Atlanta. I say sort of because with vampire politics things are never that simple. But the point here is that this uber-powerful vampire is submissive to her new not-powerful girlfriend -- but only in private, of course. Or when Dakota comes on official business and really doesn't care to see it. Still, it shows the new couple as a loving couple who trust and understand each other. Their D/s play adds to their relationship - it's shown as a positive. Dakota is happy for them, I was happy for them.

This got me to thinking about other mainstream books with BDSM in them in a mostly positive way. The Anita Blake series comes immediately to mind, though I'm not sure we can call anything after Obsidian Butterfly a truly mainstream book. The BDSM is mostly negative (and non-consensual) in the first dozen or so books, but eventually comes around to something that can bring people closer to each other and form bonds of trust.

In her Night Huntress series Jeanine Frost hints around that Bones has enjoyed such things in his past, but there are no fun and games in the present tense with Cat. Though there was one scene that came dangerously close to S&M, where Bones used the pain of his vampire venom on her delicate bits to give her a pleasure/pain experience. Mmmmm.  He also has to chain Cat up a few times (for non-sexual reasons), and he seems to enjoy it a touch more than he should. It's not BDSM though, just a hint that Bones has enjoyed it, and we get to know Bones well enough to understand he would have made sure his partner enjoyed it, too.

I've been told the Stieg Larsson trilogy has elements of BDSM, but I haven't read it yet.

And that's all I can come up with. I know there are plenty of books about BDSM that are sort of in the mainstream -- Nine and a Half Weeks, Story of O, Exit to Eden. And there are plenty of books that deal with it negatively, as LKH does with her Meredith Gentry series, where the BDSM is beyond brutal and not at all consensual. But I'm having trouble coming up with mainstream books that do not focus on BDSM, but have it included, and that show it in a positive light.

There are some books and series that have elements of D/s strictly because of the hierarchy involved. Werewolf Kitty Norville has to be submissive to her Alpha couple at the beginning of the series, for instance. And Nalinia Singh's Psy-Changelings have layers of Dominants and "those who must be protected" in both the leopard and wolf structures. It's not a good kind of sexual in the Kitty Norville series, but it works out nicely with the wolves and leopards in the Psy-Changelings series. But those are not BDSM, not even close.

Have you read a mainstream book that handled BDSM in a positive way?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tongues belong in cheeks, too

No, the other cheeks. Turn your head. That one.

I love books that make me laugh. Kinky books are no different. You might imagine, given my Delusions of Literature, that I would be in favour of deeply serious, meaningful works of erotica – kink as if written by Jean-Paul Sartre. But no.

Okay, I was being ironic there, but I just had a look at the BDSM Theory group in Fetlife (which is NOT a group I frequent). Lo and behold, top of the page, there’s a post about Sartre! His idea that we are “condemned to freedom” is being used to argue against those engaging in consensual nonconsent relationships. Obviously I’m incapable of being nearly as funny as a philosophy major.

I love serious themes mixed with humour. Lightness. Irony. Self-deprecating wit. I won’t say I can’t enjoy totally serious books, but they’re not the ones I return to.

Oddly, as a child I took myself far too seriously, a predilection only intensified by teenaged angst. My sense of humour – at least of the self-deprecating sort – required maturity to develop. But it seems to be pretty intrinsic to me now. At least, I find all sorts of situations funny that don't seem to raise a smile for anyone else.

Humour comes up here and there in bdsm erotica. Jay Lygon’s Chaos Magic is hilarious when the quirky gods get into the action (the God of Traffic is my favourite). Incidentally, the book is also hard m/m bdsm and very hot. Molly Weatherfield’s Carrie doesn’t fail to capture the intensity of the moment, but she also provides the perspective of an ironic, amused and analytical mind. Morgan Hawke’s characters banter more or less constantly as they bite and fuck; not exactly high or subtle humour but at least they have some.

How can a character be human and engaging without laughter, without some perspective on themselves and their world? One-track doms, unreflecting subs – god, how dull can you get?

A couple of reviewers describes As She’s Told as being “a serious book about bdsm.” Which is true. It does, however, have its moments. I amused myself with this bit, when Anders and his brother Svend both play with Maia:

“The two brothers had unquestionably a long shared history with construction toys. They fell instantly into a lively collaboration, and I was posed, arranged and manipulated into one weird position after another. Although Anders naturally did a lot of directing, Svend soon had his own ideas. I began to feel like a kids’ action figure after the make-believe runs out and the imagination turns to how wide those plastic legs will go.”

There are playful, albeit deeply kinky interactions involving hide-and-seek, Halloween, and slave-as-Christmas-decoration (the excerpt is here if you’re curious). Those are actually the parts I had the most fun writing.

On the other hand, I’ve seen fatally jokey bdsm novels in which the action is described with a comic air by characters that are no more than paper-thin (G.C. Scott comes to mind). Lightness with no substance is nothing but candy floss. There has to be something serious going on to be light about.

Now, our beloved Annabel Joseph is irresistibly funny in online conversation. I’ve been pleading with her to bring more of this humour into her work. Romantic bdsm comedy could work, I just know it! Help me persuade her.

What do you think? Does humour belong in your bdsm world? Have you got some favourite bits to share?

Friday, September 16, 2011

It's Just Not The Same

For the last four years I've been writing erotic romances with BDSM elements in them. I enjoy those stories, the characters, and the relationships that grow between them. It's all about trust and caring, and confidence in pleasing your partner by providing the stimuli they want.

More recently I've tried my hand at erotica. And I have to say, I'm not sure I like it. I mean, yeah, I can write the sex and the physical reactions to the foreplay and all. I can even incorporate spanking, bondage, and other bits of kink, but I'm not feeling it. I don't get the same rush from the situation, from the characters' response to what's happening. It's just sex. Scratching an itch -- so to speak.

In my mind, the key to BDSM, to a D/s relationship is the emotional connection between the participants. It's more about the mind than the body. Creating that bond between the two (or more) people involved in the relationship.

It wasn't until I intentionally tried to write erotica that I truly realized the difference between erotica and erotic romance. When dealing with the characters in an erotica novel, there isn't any real deep emotional connection between them and there isn't any intention for a relationship, and I think that's where I falter. I want that connection. I want that bond. And as the author, I don't enjoy my work if I don't get what I want out of it.

Let me know what you think. I like hearing others' opinions.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Kink Monday: Clothespins

Most BDSM tools can be used for both light play and heavy play, depending on how the tool is used. Even a cane, one of the scariest implements, can be used lightly or with power.

Clothespins, in my opinion, are not so versatile. I suppose someone could make them weak by loosening the spring mechanism, but under normal circumstances clothespins are pretty intense. I've even used the word brutal to describe them a few times.

In the right headspace I can enjoy them. In the wrong headspace I'll safeword fairly quickly. I always have a safeword in place for clothespins. I've said before that my husband and I have been together for 15 years and we rarely have a safeword in place, the exceptions being certain kinds of edge play and new things. Add clothespins to that exception list. When I give the safeword for clothespins it's usually followed by expletives and then the safeword again and then more expletives... and repeated over and over until the offending bits are removed. If there are fifty on me and they aren't zippered then it may take thirty seconds or so to get them all off. If they are zippered then he'll ask "One at a time or should I pull the chord?" If one gets put onto a nerve in just the wrong way it hurts like you wouldn't believe - sometimes I safeword for that one clothespin and the rest are okay.

But in the right headspace, they are like nothing else.
Restrained, lying comfortably on your back with your arms tied out to the side, loose enough to be comfortable and to give a few inches of movement. Ankles also restrained in some way, opening you up. Clothespins start at the outside of your breasts, and are slowly added, spiraling in, closer and closer to your nipples. One is placed on your right breast. Then the matching one is placed on your left breast. Another on your left breast. The matching one on your right breast. Every once in a while one is added to your pussy lips. The pain grows. Each clothespin building the spiral, layering the pain.

 There is some kind of epic music playing in the background -- parts of the soundtrack to LOTR perhaps. Or the soundtrack to Blade Runner. Everything grows and shifts and weaves. You fall into the pain, you welcome the next clothespin. And the next. There is heat. You can feel your pulse around the pinched skin. The spiral continues marching closer and closer to your nipples. Near the end, before clips are placed on your nipples, fingers are used inside of you, edging you closer to orgasm, without getting you too close to the edge. It's all surreal. The pain, the pleasure, the music, his voice. You can't tell where one stops and the other ends.

And then clips go on both nipples and you are gasping from the sensations just as a clip is put on your clit and you are ordered to come. And you do. Explosively so.

If your Dom happens to be especially sadistic he will have zippered the clothespins and he'll wait until you are mid orgasm and rip them all off at once. One level even more sadistic? You've been blindfolded and don't see it coming.

Zippering them just means a piece of string or twine is run through the ends of them, so that once they are on you can pull on them and they will rapidly come off.

I do not recommend cheap clothespins for this - they slip sideways and grab the skin all wrong. I personally like the good wooden ones, but my husband prefers the good plastic ones. The plastic ones have little teeth. Unfortunately, it's the plastic ones that come with little holes in them, making them ideal for a zipper. So it's usually the plastic ones. (I have no idea why the holes are really there. I doubt if the manufacturers put them there just for the zipper effect.)  We also have some wire clothespins that are especially evil.

Do you have a favorite way to play with clothespins? A favorite scene from a book that involves clothespins?

.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Playing with someone you don't really know...

I've been missing some people lately. They're people I've met at online kink forums, or blogs, or local play parties. One thing all these people have in common is that I never really knew who they were.

Oh, I "knew" them in a kink sense. I knew if they were tops or bottoms, what their fetishes were, what pushed their buttons big time. In fact, with many of them I had deep conversations about kink, love, and life. But something I've come to understand is that--in the kink world--people come and go. And really, you never reeeeally know who that person is.

Of course, we all have a need for privacy, and many of us also have a need for deniability. We hold jobs where morality and reputation are of utmost importance. I understand why people I meet in the kink arena can't share real names or real lives. I've talked to men and women, become really good friends with them, not even knowing if they were married or single, whether they had kids going off to college or a horrible tragedy in their early lives.

Being kinky with someone involves a lot of trust, and perhaps that trust feels even more acute when you realize you have so much to lose. When you realize you have to hide a lot of things about yourself, and yet be forthcoming about the things that matter most.

I don't know. I've really been missing people lately who have slipped out of my life. People who used to inspire me, who used to make me laugh until I cried. Who used to turn me on, just for fun because they knew what buttons to push. People who were online one day, and then disappeared into thin air the next. People who used to come out to play parties who just stopped coming. We've stopped going ourselves too, for the moment. Maybe we'll go back out someday.

But there's something kind of sad about getting to know a lot of people you'll never really know. It's something I'm still coming to terms with.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Angst

I'm not big on angst. In fact, more than just a little bit of it annoys me. Until recently, I haven't read very many Young Adult books for this reason -- all of that teen angst drives me batties. I read the Twilight series, and enjoyed the story lines, but had to grit my teeth at all of the teen drama.

My oldest daughter is a tween and I am now reading the same books she's reading so we can talk about them. I often point out how much more productive it would be for the main character to stop sitting around and feeling sorry for herself and just get up and do something to make herself feel better. I get a lot of eye rolls out of that, but she knows I'm right.

The official definition of angst is:

  1. A feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically an unfocused one about the human condition or the state of the world in general
  2. A feeling of persistent worry about something trivial

But I kind of like two of the Urban Dictionary definitions:
  1. Angst is about downtrodden teenagers thinking they're the only bloody people in the world who have it tough, and thinks that gives them an excuse to wallow in their own self-pity instead of actually doing something about their situation
  2. Describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.

I'm talking about angst here because so many romance books seem to dive into it, and I obviously have issues with that. Sure, if there is something keeping the parties apart then there is bound to be some pain, hurt, possibly even depression around it. And most romance books, by definition, have something either keeping the couple apart or threatening to split them apart once they begin to come together. But I'm a bit of a realist -- even when I do sink into depression over something in real life, I usually give myself a time limit. For instance, I'll give myself the weekend to sit around and eat mint chocolate chip ice cream with chocolate syrup on it while reading or watching movies or whatever, but once the weekend is over then the pity party stops. I pick myself up and move on. For something very serious - like the death of someone I'm close to, I give myself longer... but I form a plan of how to deal with it, and get help if I see that I'm not dealing well and not likely to meet my deadline.

So it's probably no surprise that I don't write a whole lot of angst into my books. When my couple is split up I tend to have them dive into their work, or do something else to get their mind off of their pain. Yes, they hurt, and they think about the hurt here and there, but it's not an all consuming thing.

Some people like to read angst though, I've even seen reviewers praise a book for having a ton of angst and inner pain. This isn't a right or wrong thing, it's a personal preference, I think

What do you prefer? A hero or heroine who is practically crippled by their pain, or one who finds a way to handle the pain, who goes on with their lives in spite of how badly they are hurting? Or maybe you prefer something in between?



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting from here to there

Writing transitions is pure hell. One of the signs of writer’s craft is a smooth and seamless move from one time in the novel to the next. As a reader you don’t even notice the skill with which it’s done; you’re moved along with just the right amount of information about the missing interval. Or you receive that information later in flashbacks. Or a protagonist's more mature point of view reflects on what’s gone by. Or any one of a million other creative solutions.

I’m trying to skip through about ten years in maybe half that number of pages. And I’m completely hampered by doubts, and by questions for which I have no answers. Should I be summarizing this period rather than spending time there? If so, would it be better done going forward or in retrospect? Am I going to bog the narrative down with so much “telling” rather than “showing?” Does it make sense to use the protagonist’s lovers as a kind of one-by-one ladder to mark her progress through her twenties?

How impatient are the readers going to be to get to the meat of the story (i.e. the love portion), which can’t happen until this time has gone by? My protagonist’s character and struggles have to be well established before she ever meets him. And I want to write about a grown-up this time, someone close to thirty.

The advice I got from one or two sources was to start with the relationship and do flashbacks. But the initial portion is so crucial that it needed to be told directly in real time. Now I’m faced with whether this later period is that important also. And I don’t know!

Tell me about transitions that have worked for you, and those that haven’t. Smooth or startling? Seamless or challenging? Fully explained or leaving you guessing and grappling with new information?

Remember, I have delusions of literature. The story’s not intended to tie itself up in one neat, easily digestible package. I’m hoping there’ll be something to chew on. Not that I’m planning to deliberately confuse anyone. Hell, I just don’t know where to find the balance, between easy clarity and letting readers think for themselves.

Either way, transitions are hell. I keep telling myself to just write the damned thing and see how it comes out. Once I do that I tend to get stuck on what I’ve written, though, and hate to throw it away. One of those drawbacks to writing so slowly. I could do this quick summary and then flesh it out later, I suppose…

Sigh. Transitions. Help!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sex and Swords and Sorcery

For a lot of people, their first encounter with the idea of power exchange came from a series of fantasy/science fiction novels generally referred to as the Gor series, by John Norman. While the first one was a decent adventure novel, as the series progressed the novels seemed to exist primarily to make certain arguments John Norman had to make about the nature of men and women. Broadly speaking, Mr. Norman seemed to feel that the problem with modern earth society is that men lacked opportunities to be manly and brave, and that women’s nature was such that they were happiest when at the whim of men. As a prescription for life, it was sorely lacking. As a fantasy, or for any particular couple, it’s not very far off from a lot of BDSM romances, which is why an amazing number of women found a guilty pleasure in reading these rather misogynistic books.

When I was writing The Barbarian and the Witch, my latest novella from Loose Id, I was rather intentionally venturing into John Norman’s territory. I, too, like my heroes manly and brave and strong. An alternate world lets one tap into more the more primal urges that are behind power exchange while dispensing with the modern day trappings of safe words and SSC and fetish gear. Don’t get me wrong, I like all that stuff, and if I met someone in real life who wanted to play without safe words I’d be the first one to back away. But sometimes it’s fun, in fiction, to have people play with the safeties off, just like it’s a good thing to have real gunfights in fiction rather than water pistol fights. Set in the modern world, that same behavior is inexcusable.

Gor was really more of a negative inspiration than anything else for me, but I find its continued appeal despite some really bad writing and wooden dialog, fascinating. Sharon Green mixed D&s with fantasy well in her early novels, although the probably seem dated now (and perhaps hard to find.) Jacqueline Carey has pulled it off in her ornately written books. Anyone else have any favorites? What worked about them, and what didn’t?