Truth In the Name: BDSM

It’s nearly impossible to escape the influx of BDSM themed novels since the popularity was heavily increased by a certain trilogy that will go unnamed. I’m not here to add fuel to fires on either side of the Love/Hate line – but I have seen a lot of reviews and discussions that lead me to believe not many people actually understand what they might be getting by choosing to read a BDSM novel. You might have an inkling or preset expectation due to one of these situations:

Perhaps, you’ve read a light-hearted romance that had a little kink thrown in, a little handcuffing and mild spanking? That is not BDSM.

Maybe you read that one (or all gazillion) about the Billionaire with control issues and a loosely assembled contract he/she never actually follows and set of rules he/she fails to properly enforce, because his/her love/lust for this desired-after sub is enough to have them throwing all their previous unyielding, closed-off ways out the window to become an ordinary lover with a kinky side. This, unfortunately, is the new standard in Fictitious BDSM – it is not even remotely close to Real Life BDSM. No, seriously.

However, this is not a post designed to persuade you either way. This is simply a guideline for readers. A piece of advice, if you will, that if you’re unsure what a novel tagged as BDSM might entail, the best place to start is to take a look at the name, itself…

Bondage/DSM

Most likely a BDSM novel will have bondage scenes, whether this is with traditional equipment such as a St. Andrews Cross, Spanking Bench or the good ol’ leather shackles attached to the bedposts. Sometimes the bondage will be creative and will include items that are readily at hand, such as a woman’s stockings, a man’s tie or a pair of panties.

Bondage serves the purpose of giving a dominant control over the body, while keeping a submissive in a state of vulnerability. It is equally a fetish for both parties, as much as it can be used to build trust and break down a submissive’s self-preservation walls in order to hand more control (power) of themselves over to their dominant.

At its heart, BDSM is a Fetishist Community made up of kinksters in various levels of Power-Exchange dynamics. It is all Consensual, but still takes time to develop like any other relationship. To help expedite that, kink is used just as much for pleasure as it is for forging those bonds.

B/Discipline/SM

This is the one I see people having the most trouble with. For most readers, it’s completely okay for a submissive to get sensual spankings detailed as a kind of foreplay, but the moment their bottoms are getting whipped for stepping out of line, readers are screaming abuse.

It’s difficult to address this issue without actually diving deep into Real Life BDSM, which would bore readers to tears. Discipline is an important part of Behavior Modification and every D/s dynamic is employing some form of Behavior Modification, because it is desired by both parties. Discipline comes in as many forms as you can possibly think of from the mild end of being put in a corner, to the extreme end of being ignored by their dominant, and every spanking, humiliation or orgasm denial in between.

In novels, unfortunately, a writer is limited to what keeps the readers interested, and the story from falling flat. For BDSM novels, the ‘tension’ between lovers is often expressed when the Discipline comes into play. Spankings with hands, belts, whips, floggers and riding crops are the go-to Discipline trope in all Fictitious BDSM novels – to make it worse, when used as the source of ‘tension’ between characters, Discipline only ever seems to happen when the ‘Dominant’ is angry. Hitting anyone out of anger is absolutely abuse. Also, I’d like to note here that any Kink played while a dominant or submissive is under the influence of drugs or alcohol is also crossing into an area that can be deemed as abuse – and in my own personal opinion, that goes for straight up vanilla sex, as well. A person’s mental state should not have to be altered in order to gain consent.

Neither one of these popularly used instances in fiction would ever actually fly in Real Life BDSM. A sub would walk out and never return and possibly report the Dom/Domme to their community’s authority, if not smear their name through the Kinkster social media mud.

If you find that you can’t handle reading a BDSM novel where Discipline is used to enforce/reinforce rules, not out of anger, but possibly disappointment or simply just for discipline itself, then perhaps BDSM really isn’t a genre for you, because that is a very large part of BDSM and goes back to the whole Behavior Modification aspect.

BD/Sadism/M

Not all BDSM novels touch on the extreme end of the Sadism spectrum. For instance, Daddy/Mommy Doms/Dommes don’t tend to have many Sadistic qualities. They’re nurturers and providers, they mainly lean heavily on Behavior Modification, and their Disciplinary actions tend to favor compassionate techniques, rather than straight out lashings, though spanking does typically play a big role in these novels. This is ‘typical’ not to say that a Daddy Dom novel won’t boast an extremely sadistic Daddy, so just make sure to read a book’s blurb or use the ‘Peak Inside’ feature to make certain.

As with all things, Sadism is individual and can range from mild to extreme, and it is not always a physical need to inflict pain. Sadists get their pleasures in many forms, including Denial, Degradation and Humiliation- or any combination thereof. Inflicting extreme pain is, of course, a typical Sadist’s desire in BDSM novels, so again, just make sure you read any Trigger warnings the author has taken the time to put in place (hopefully).

BDS/Masochism

Masochism plays a really small part in most Fictitious BDSM novels, I’ve noticed. It seems to be more popular for the ‘sub’ to not be a masochist at all, but still ends up craving the sexual pleasures derived from being dominated or even (mildly) disciplined. This stems from our societies belief that Masochism is a ‘Weakness,’ when all it really is, is basic biology just like any another personality trait.

Like Sadism, Masochism levels can vary and does not always have to do with craving pain. Some masochists thoroughly enjoy being degraded, abandoned, denied and humiliated, just to name a few. In the seldom BDSM novels I’ve read where Masochism actually does come into play, though, it’s typically of the pain-craving variety.

BDSMSymbol

While the truth behind the genre can be found in the name, BDSM can also depend on the rest of the genre. Supernatural/Paranormal creatures, for example, are probably going to explore the extreme ends of all BDSM, because they’re stronger, more resilient and this gives the writer more leeway to explore areas they can’t necessarily delve into with ordinary human characters – without someone ending up in the hospital or dead.

Realistically, whether an author does their research or has actual BDSM experience, it all boils down to Word Count limits and keeping the story flowing, with plenty of tension between characters – Therefore, the more a writer tries to implement Real Life BDSM scenes, the more readers lose interest. That’s the unfortunate truth, because Real Life BDSM is time consuming and everything is discussed and agreed upon BEFORE any kinky stuff even begins to happen. Before any clothing is shed – if it’s shed during a D/s couples first scene together at all, which is unlikely. Sexual intercourse is also a rare reality in an actual BDSM scene.

Just remember to shop smart, watch out for genre tags: Any time a book is tagged “Dark” or “Taboo” that means it is going to cover areas not very many people are comfortable with or can handle. Also, watch for Trigger/Content warnings and take advantage of the “Peak Inside” feature. This might not only give you a better idea of what kind of BDSM novel it is, but also an example of the writer’s style. I love that feature, really and rely on it far more than reviews or blurbs.

Hope everyone had a great Cinco De Mayo weekend and are fully recovered from the excessive Tequila consumption! LOL 😉

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7 thoughts on “Truth In the Name: BDSM

  1. Great post regardless of BDSM knowledge level.

    I’ve prefaced many reviews for BDSM-novels with, “I know very little on the subject” – but by the same token, I know enough to know what it isn’t.

    I was gob-smacked in a reading group when a reader said she wanted to try BDSM because of a scene in a book we’d read. Problem was the scene contained most of the red flags mentioned in your post – discipline with anger, alcohol, dubious consent, and all of this during the first intimate scene with the couple…which included intercourse.

    Readers need to remember that we are “suspending belief” when reading, which works for me because some things I just don’t want to remember! LOL! 😉

    Kudos!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post! Interesting and informative. I know very little about BDSM, and I can’t tell how many BDSM-themed books actually portray the lifestyle accurately. Some things are common sense of course…I never confused dubious consent, alcohol abuse or anger issues for real BDSM. These “red flag” scenarios occur in the books I read (and I write some red flags myself), but like Felicia said, suspending belief is part of reading. Fictional stories are not intended as guidebooks. It’s unfortunate that readers don’t always get that, and of course it’s even more unfortunate that authors don’t always do their research.

    Speaking of research, can you recommend me a good non-fiction book about (real) BDSM? 🙂 I’m interested in reading more about the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Anna! That’s perfect! “Fiction stories are not intended as guidebooks!” That should be the new warning label slapped on the cover of every fictional book, not just, but probably especially BDSM. 😀

      I also write ‘red flag’ scenes, that’s why I wanted to clarify it wasn’t a good thing in real life. I was really trying to keep this as a helpful article about BDSM novels more than a comparison to real life, but some points I think should be clarified. Works of fiction – again I won’t name names – no matter how popular, should never be used as the model we measure real life to, or even other works of fiction for that matter!

      I can’t recommend any non-fiction books, because I don’t read them. I’m horrible about that LOL – however, I would recommend a few websites. I’ll email them to you. 🙂

      Like

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