Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Chains Required...Rants Optional

DISCLAIMER: This blog entry discusses the relationship dynamics of the BDSM lifestyle. Not specifics of bedroom/dungeon activities, which is why I haven't turned my blog to "adult content", but if you find this topic objectionable, click away now.

Okay, I'm over it. I'm seriously. Fucking. Over it.

Given the nature of one of the books I'm currently working on, I've been reading quite a few novels involving BDSM. Yes, it's research. Laugh all you want, it is what it is.

Anyway, I've noticed a trend, and that trend has sparked this rant. Specifically, a serious misunderstanding - or abuse - of the dynamic between a Master and slave or a Dom and sub. BDSM is about power exchanges. Consensual power exchanges.

(Note that for the sake of brevity, I am mostly going to refer to Dom/sub rather than Dom/sub and Master/slave. The two aren't necessarily interchangeable, but for the purpose of this blog, they are.)

Now, let me explain a couple of things.

Safe Words. For those not familiar with the lifestyle, the safe word is a word designated by a Dom/sub. If that word is spoken, all activities cease. Basically, this is to protect the sub from being pushed too far. Ignoring a safe word is probably one of the biggest cardinal sins of BDSM.

Power Exchanges. A sub or a slave agrees to submit to a Dom or Master. This can be for the duration of a "scene", or a 24/7 indefinite agreement, or anything in between. The key is, they are consensual. The amount of power that's exchanged, the boundaries, the duration, etc., are agreed upon in advance. By both parties.

To use one of Scarlett's choice phrases, I am sick to the back teeth of seeing these two concepts completely fuckered all to hell in fiction. With that in mind, I hereby propose the following commandments for BDSM fiction. (Note I'm referring to the hypothetical Dom as male and the sub as female. This is just to keep the pronouns straight. Obviously there are female Dommes and male subs.)
  1. If your Dom ignores a safe word, your sub must make him move heaven and Earth to earn her forgiveness before letting him lay a hand on her again.
  2. If your sub allows your Dom to bind, beat, or otherwise dominate her after he has committed #1 and not moved said heaven and Earth, then she is too stupid to live.
  3. If your sub does not consent to the Dom/sub arrangement prior to the beginning of Dom/sub activities, the activities that occur prior to that consent being given are non-consensual. If those activities include sex, there is another word for it, and it begins with "R".
  4. I don't care if a Master can tell that someone is a potential slave. I don't care if he knows from the get-go that she is aching to be a slave. Making her into his slave because "I know you want this" before she's actually said "I want this" is the same as a rapist saying "I knew she wanted me."
  5. Being a sub =/= submitting to any and every Dom
  6. Being a Dom =/= having the right to expect submission from any and every sub.
  7. BDSM is about trust. If your Dom deceives his sub, he is violating that trust. Refer to #1 for consequences of the same.
  8. If your Dom is in violation of #3 and/or #4, and your sub falls for said Dom, that is not love. That is Stockholm Syndrome.
  9. When your Dom/sub are engaging in S&M type activities, it's okay for it to make me cringe and think "damn, that's gotta hurt." It's not okay for it to make me think "holy shit, that's going to do some serious damage..."
  10. Trust must be earned. Respect must be earned. A Dom who has neither has no right to expect submission from a sub.
  11. Submissive =/= Spineless wimp
  12. Dom/Domme =/= Overbearing, power-hungry, demanding bastard
Now, breaking the above commandments can certainly make for some conflict. And conflict is good, right? I'm cool with that. What pisses me off is seeing these things happen with miniscule consequences or no consequencs at all.

Obviously there is no one right way for a D/s relationship to operate. However, I have yet to see the above commandments violated in such a way that a) made me sympathize with the characters, b) convinced me the interactions between the characters was anything remotely safe, sane, or consensual, or c) allowed me to suspend belief and accept that the characters would behave that way.

That is all.


  1. I agree with all of this - as you knew I would, given the conversations we've had recently.

    #4 especially. It's just. Fucking. Creepy. Not erotic at all.

    And the amount of publishers who specify NO RAPE. You wonder what the hell they're thinking publishing this shite. It's not dubious consent. It's not coercion. It's RAPE.

    Call a fucking spade a spade, here.

    The world needs LS. You have to show these rape-fantasists-masquerading-as-doms how it's REALLY done.

    Creative licence? Sure. Suspension of disbelief? I'm cool with that. Each character acts as THEY would act, not as every single dom or sub would act. I get it. I do.

    Just don't expect me to read anything else by an author who churns out rape-in-chains and expects people to believe it's SSC.

    Fuck. That. Shit.

  2. For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know, SSC = safe, sane, consensual.

  3. Ah. Yes. I have not read any BDSM fiction, but I did have a friend who was deeply into the scene and explained this all to me years and years ago.

    People who write against these very sensible guidelines are showing themselves up for amateurs. It reveals far more about them then it does the fake characters they manipulate like Dom/sub Ken and Barbie.

  4. Lol! It's a funny thing. In my mind, it's somehow correlative to how ticked off I get when I see CPR being done wrong in a film. (I know. I'm hopeless.) It's just so easy to get it right. Just ask! And for better or worse, people do synthesize fiction (written or filmed) into their worldviews. Not that writers or filmmakers bear responsibility for what their audiences do, but in the framework of a plot or a scene, at least get the structure right. Let the art come out in interpretation and nuance, because I certainly don't want to require resuscitation from someone working off a vision of chest compressions recalled from an action film that couldn't be bothered to depict it properly.

    Now you could write a character who ignored the protocols you've so aptly diagrammed up top, but that character cannot be your protagonist. He'll either be a predator, at worst, or at least an asshole.

  5. ""Now you could write a character who ignored the protocols you've so aptly diagrammed up top, but that character cannot be your protagonist. He'll either be a predator, at worst, or at least an asshole.""

    That's just'd be AMAZED at how many of them are protagonists. HEROES even.

    These guys are ideal doms the way Edward Cullen is the ideal boyfriend.

  6. That whole aspect of 'Twilight' is the main ingredient in my peer-unpopular decision not to let my then-10, now-11 year old read the books.

    I've explained to her that this is the reason and she got over it way faster than my friends who said I was being a prude.

    It's a twisted scenario and I want her to at least process her first natural crushes on her own without Edward's and Bella's psychosis as some sort of pervy, hyper-dramatic benchmark. Honestly, Bella heaves herself off a cliff to psychically call to Edward, because somehow he can always sense when she's in danger. Do I really want my little girl absorbing this as her fist impression of what romantic feelings are all about? No, I do not, thank you very much.

    It's annoying to think that vanilla people (like myself) sit in titillated and tantalized judgment of those more sexually adventurous because their only exposure to that lifestyle is a book that represents it as a dark and dangerous hobby like mainlining heroin and playing chicken with freight trains.

  7. I love you for #11 in particular.

  8. I think you made a typo in #1 ;-)

    By the way, what's wrong with making a predator asshole a protagonist? The hard part is making him a sympathetic one.

  9. Well, yeah. It does work occasionally, but I think you see my point.

  10. Kuwi, my point is that people portray Doms as predator assholes, but try to pass them off as something OTHER THAN predator assholes. If you're trying to show me a Humbert Humbert character, fine. But don't dress him up as Mr Nice Guy and expect me to buy it.

  11. It's one thing if non-con or rape as a scene. But the safe word is sacrosanct and if it's ignored in the story, you can't call it BDSM. It's just plain abuse after that.

  12. Yeah, if it's meant as a rape fantasy scene or something to that effect, fine. But when the sub is really truly using the safe word or hasn't given consent for a scene, that's a whole 'nother story. And I'm seeing it happen way, way too much.

  13. I don't read BDSM (usually) so I have no comment on the prevalency of this, I'll just take your word for it, Lori. But I've been doing a lot of reading recently (a total tangent, no particular reason) on something called "rape culture." If you haven't heard the term before, it basically means that the idea that a woman's body is any man's property to do with as he will is built into society, and beyond stopping individual rapes we also have to change that societal idea. It's kind of a scary idea, but so far all I've read has made me believe it is something that really exists.

    The point of this comment is, I wonder how much if any of this trend in BDSM might grow out of a greater "rape culture." Particularly when you take into consideration the typical college date-rape problems, where it was "clearly the woman's fault, she wanted it the whole time. I could just tell" (And I'm thinking of your #4 specifically here, but others may apply).

    Anyway, that's my thought for the day.

  14. Sarah,

    Glad you liked it! :) I've ranted on this topic a few's a serious pet peeve of mine.


  15. Ooh I like this topic. I also think it's a fine line between #3 and #4, and all the paranormal books out there where the M (usually) is the one telling the F (usually) she is HIS MATE. How is that consensual? To me, if you have to convince them, it's really not meeting 50/50.

  16. God yes, the destined mate stuff drives me nuts. In fact, I just recently sold a book where the whole destined mate thing is a total disaster that blows up in their faces. The trope bugs me just a wee bit.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  17. This! Thank you. I had burned myself out on the genre for these reasons. The sad part is, the older generation of bdsm erotica (i'm going all the way back to the blue something label from 15 years ago) had it down. I've read very few current bdsm novels where they get it. Please pass this around the internet.

  18. Do you have any recommendations for titles from the older generation? I'd love to read some of them and recommend them on my blog.

    Thanks for visiting!