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So let’s talk about BDSM in erotic romances…

I read a lot; that is an understatement. I read everything about menages from menage à trois with almost (*)  straight guys to bisexual guys with one girl, from two guys to multiple men… and of course BDSM menages.

(*) almost straight because I do not believe a guy can remain totally straight when he finds his pleasure by touching thru a very thin wall another guy’s part… not gay, not bi, but definitely not straight in my book.

I said it before and I will say it again: I am not an expert. I believe I have made this crystal clear already but I want to repeat myself just in case.

That said, I have some knowledge, personal and also from the books I’ve read. Does that makes me an expert? No, definitely not. I will never say what is right or wrong. I will only say what works for me. As a reader and somebody who met Dom(me)s and subs in real life in my community and online, I definitely recognize what is romanticized and what represents the reality of the lifestyle. And let me tell you something to ponder here: reality has nothing to do with what you read in general. (Please note the “in general” because I do not want to put every book and author in the same basket; far from it.)

I can tell your right now, right here that I read tons of romances labelled BDSM that had nothing to do with the lifestyle. So my question is this: does every story has to be real up to the infinite detail? No! Of course not. Many reasons for that.

First, many readers do not care about BDSM, plain and simple. They care to read a romance with some kinky sex scenes and some fantasies they probably have but never experienced. Nothing wrong with that. I have fantasies that I am pretty sure I will keep in my head or share with my partner(s), but to make them reality, probably not. Give them some naughty spankings that leaves no marks, dominant heroes that know what to do in the bedroom and in charge, a sweet petite naive woman, still virgin at 25 if possible and those readers will be in happy FantasyDomLand… does that means this romance is a BDSM? I will tell you in two words: No Way!

Sadly, I read so many of them that I lost count. I am not into FantasyDomLand romances. I wish I was, trust me, because it would remove so much frustration.

Then I wonder why so many authors are convinced they write BDSM when they do not? Where does it come from? And my main question is this: in order to write BDSM, is it mandatory that the authors must be either a Dom(me) or a sub(missive) or just close to the lifestyle in real life?

No! But is it a difficult response eh? My response is this: it helps… tremendously! Why? Because, there are some details that only people who are living it will know. The je-ne-sais-quoi that makes a story so much more credible, so much more lovable. Although, this is not an absolute proof if the author lives (or claim to anyway) the lifestyle, that she will deliver a credible story. I have a couple of titles and authors names in my head I could list you but this blog is not about pointing direct fingers and more about sensitize people in general, so I will bite my tongue for now. Let’s just say that I know immediately who is a professional and who took time to learn and/or deliver what is the lifestyle and who took the easy way out.

Then, I wonder, since I can tell you that I read at least 2/3 of “false BDSM romances” I buy regularly, and some authors look like very popular and well established, where are the other readers, like me, that wish to read adult D/s romances written for adult people that want consistencies and credibility on top of a romantic relationship. Are those not compatible?

Is it too much to ask the authors to do their homework and make sure they understand that their public is middle-aged women, not teenagers. How romantic and sweet can a deflowered sex scene be, really? I mean the list will go on and on and on with example of “me, caveman wannabe Dom; you, my brainless sex toy slave”.

I am not a 15 years virgin old girl. I am a few decades older and I know by now that Knights in White Armor do not exist. Perfect Dom(me)s do not exist. To be treated like a piece of trash is not acceptable. To be forced to have sex is called R.A.P.E. in my book no matter if the book is tagged “forced seduction”!

Everyone, living or just interested in the lifestyle, should keep in fluo letters: Safe, Sane and Consensual. ALWAYS! Those are no vain words. But I read so many romances labelled BDSM with no respect with the “consensual”, that is very sad that authors do not understand, and me thinking do not even want to understand which is worse, how important it is to respect the fundamental roots of the lifestyle.

So why the label BDSM when it is not? Because it sells. Because each time a reader sees a BDSM label, this reader associate it with hot kinky sex, and it sells.

And people like me who know it is not right will hardly raise their hand to protest because they may feel they are not the experts to say anything and here we go with the vicious circle with unsatisfied silent readers and authors that will continue to believe they are the best BDSM author of the decade because they are selling their stories.

Truth is, the lifestyle community do not care much. They know better. Can we say the same thing with all the readers? Can we assume that some naive readers will truthfully believe that because an author published and labelled the story BDSM, this published author has the knowledge just like a doctor with a diploma and what she read is what she should expect in real life: disrespect, bullying… worse, be forced to have sex, all because reading it over and over in so many different stories, it has to be true and, after all, if the man is gorgeous, it is sexy and all BS we can think of. Of course, no author should be responsible of how their readers will use their story in real life but considering the level of risks (rapes, beating, bullying), some authors should stop being so careless and think that the message they carry is not right, not right at all. BDSM is not a Disney story. Villain can be very real and dangerous… Sadly, heroes will be disguised in villains and readers will have no clue because the lifestyle will be completely distorted from reality.

I should know better but I will still shake my head and add author’s name on my black list and write poor reviews and be frustrated that I spent my money and time.

I wished publishers and authors would respect their readers a bit and make a clear distinction between D/s, BDSM elements, Bondage (Shibari)… and avoid to call their story a BDSM story and call their heroes Dom(me)s. I wished they had integrity towards their customers and not fool them all with false labels.

This said, I will add a grain of salt because I know that certain publishers give no choice in the labels. Few authors from different publishers told me that their stories are indeed D/s and not BDSM but their publishers decide the way to promote. Not fair to ignore their voices, but a reality.

Can I also add something, since I am on my face-palm mood? Could people who do not live the lifestyle, know nothing about it, shut the F* up instead of leaving stupid comments they may call reviews? I read so many of them that it is not even funny anymore. If you do not like a BDSM romance, do not read it, dammit! If a Dom(me) is not the way you think a Dom should be, can you just be a smart cookie and think that a Dom(me) is not a copycat of another Dom(me), the same way each and every relationship is different?

Sorry… I don’t do stupid.

Mary-2

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17 responses

  1. Once again, Mary hits the nail on the head in this post. It is frustrating for authors as well as readers, since all books with BDSM elements get labelled the same way. I wish there were more sub-genre designations for books about the LS. But then, publishers fear that readers won’t understand the difference and therefore won’t read a book because it doesn’t fall under the “standard” definition. Maybe someday we’ll get designations that are closer to the real definitions. We’ll see.

    I also wish there was more acceptance for the fact that not all Dom/mes are alike, just as not all people are alike. Being a Dominant does not make a person into a cookie-cutter individual. Dom/mes have personality quirks, too. We make mistakes. We learn from them, just like everyone else. Confidence and arrogance aren’t the same thing, either. If there were more stories about real Dom/mes, more readers would realize that truth.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Rhiannon.
      I know not every BDSM (or D/s) romances are the same and I read truly a couple of incredible D/s menage romances and yes it happens that you are one of the author that I have great respect and admiration.
      Maybe one day, we will have our sub-genre the same way we have now sub-genres for menages (MMF, MFM, FFM etc)

      I am okay with difference. But I am not okay to mislead readers and make them buy a BDSM romances when in reality it is far from it.

      THAT is for me a no-no.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reece Butler says:

    Thank you Mary, Rhiannon: I am a strong believer in doing your research, no matter your genre. You don’t have to enjoy the Lifestyle to write good BDSM, but you must invest time and effort in learning the whys and hows (and wherefores). It is the details that can make such a difference, be it how the Dom/Domme conducts themselves, or the careful way they ensure the lines of rope lie beside each other and do not cross (unless that is the intent). And the way it feels when the flogger… (ahem, I digress 3:)

    I write B&D, and D&s but not S&M, so therefore not BDSM in its strict sense. Yet there is no label which will be understood by many readers. Perhaps authors can ask their publishers to add these separately to the ‘warning: contains explicit sex including…’ list to help those in the know, and help those learning.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Thank you Dr Charley for taking the time to leave a comment and for contributing so much with your knowledge.
    Best!
    Mary … and typo fixed! 🙂

    Like

  4. Daryl Devore says:

    My publisher put the label on my book to entice readers. I didn’t write a BDSM book and I don’t like the label there – but the publisher won’t remove it. So there is a possibility that other authors are in the same boat.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comment Daryl.
      I am sure of it.
      It is difficult to make understand publishers (and some authors) that they do not write BDSM whatsoever. A spanking and an authority male attitude is not an automatic association with being a Dom. THAT is the main problem. The complete misunderstanding. I include publishers and authors…. BUT I know that some authors do not have a choice… and this is frustrating I am sure for them and readers like me.
      I read a couple of BDSM labelled romances and no mention of “Dom” inside the story (it was cleverly suggested but never said), but the publisher decided otherwise. I’ve seen it a couple of times and for those authors that understand the difference and avoid the association because they know there is none, I would like to thank you. It DID notice it and I KNOW you know. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Jessie Verona says:

    I hear you on the vast number of FauxBDSM books out there. I read a great series that seems to me to be much more serious about the subject, because the author shows both the good and the bad of the lifestyle. Also, some of the scenes are more harsh than you usually find out there.

    Because the beginning of the series is all about how dangerous BDSM can be if you don’t hook up with an honorable Dom(me) the reviews on the first book often miss the boat and take the author to task for not championing SSC when that’s really the whole point of the series and the reader would have known that if they’d just kept reading.

    Not much one can do about that, I suppose.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for your comment Jessie.

      And this is where the talent is key.

      A romance is first of all a love story with a happy ending. if an author decide to choose the lifestyle as a main element of her story, the relationship has to feel right, the level of trust has to be justified, the discipline (verbal or physical) has to be justified and not given because the male feels like it. A D/s or B/D do not have to be a bio or a reportage of some kind.

      So many times, I read a “BDSM” labelled romance and I felt like reading a novel written for a teenager or a woman who was brainwashed to believe that it is okay to not be respected, and with only one purpose in life: to open her legs. THAT is how I feel when I read some of the so called BDSM romances.

      The only thing, personally, I wish, is just credibility and authenticity so I can totally relate with the characters and follow them on their journey.

      I am okay to be bare foot in front of my hoover… but the choice has to be mine. If I have an argument because I disagree, I want an explanation and a mutual understanding BEFORE sex. If my Dom wish me to do something I do not understand, I want him to explain it to me clearly so I do understand the importance of following His rules. It is NEVER a one way street in a D/s relationship. and sadly the false BDSM feel like it always is.

      A D/s relationship can be incredible and the most powerful love someone can experience to the other, and I am not talking a sub toward his/her master, the other way around is totally true also. A Dom(me) is far from perfect and there is nothing wrong to say: I was wrong. I am sick of perfect assholes characters, some authors name Doms. The same way I can hardly read earls or pirates love story anymore because I had an overdose when I was a teenager.

      oh well. This was my ranting day, I guess. Felt good to share it. Lets try to find THE next 5 stars outstanding D/s menage now. 😛

      Liked by 2 people

      • Pansy Petal says:

        Thank you again! You say it so well. The trust and communication in a D/s relationship is what drew me to the genre in the first place. As for your rant – you may have read the same book I did to set it of, since I am in the same place. 😉 Although, the one I read was not a menage. The most recent menage I read was actually quite sweet and although there was a mention of one of them being more alpha, there was no further mention of any other BDSM elements. Just a sweet romance.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Jessie Verona says:

        That really hits home! Especially the part about good Doms explaining what they require and making sure everything is cool before a scene starts. In that series I was thinking of, the first Dom she’s with as she starts exploring BDSM does pretty much every single thing wrong. Basically, he’s a selfish prick who just uses women. So what’s funny is that readers make it through that second book of the series and quit in disgust without ever knowing that he was used as an example of everything a woman needs to guard against. In a later book of the series, the hero actually explains to her all the very many ways that the first Dom was wrong. It was interesting to see it presented that way.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Pansy Petal says:

    Thank you for a most insightful essay. I so agree. Sometimes when I am reading I just get so angry or frustrated because I wonder just what the author is thinking about. How can they continue to malign something they obviously know nothing about. I am a little hot under the collar about the subject right now because I just finished such a book. Everything you mentioned above. I do not live the lifestyle but I have read enough that I, like you, believe I have some understanding. I am sorry – abuse is abuse. Please do not insult my intelligence by glamorizing with the BDSM label. Yes, it is often the publishers doing it. I have noticed the more responsible self publishing authors fuss up and call it what it is and give warnings and such. There is another label out there that I have found that, unless I have read the author and KNOW what to expect, I avoid reading the story entirely. I have discovered it is publishers trying to cash in on another’s financial success and the story will probably irritate me due to lack of knowledge and research.

    Didn’t mean to carry one quite so much. You hit a button. Thank you for the introduction to Dr Ferrer. She sounds like a neat lady.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Mary,
    Those of us in the lifestyle DO care that it is being falsely presented in novels, TV shows, and films. Most of it is so far off base as to be slanderous. I was a presenter and featured author at Dr. Charley’s BDSM Writers’ Con this year, and I do hope that more authors would take the initiative to learn about the lifestyle before writing about it if they don’t live it. Truly, I do not even like the term “lifestyle” because being a sub is just who I am. Whether I have a Master or not doesn’t change that.

    The problem, as you suggest and has been suggested in other comments, is that there is no category for novels that include bondage, spankings, Dominance and submission but without the Sado-masochism. That’s what I write because that’s what I know (I was no virgin, and His spankings definitely leave a mark!), and I enjoy exposing people to what a typical D/s relationship is like. Then I struggle: Do I classify it as BDSM or not?

    I guess I go ahead and do because I don’t want someone to be offended by my novels if they are not expecting the heroine to be bound and blindfolded, but then I add a disclaimer of the sexual content included so someone seeking hardcore BDSM won’t be disappointed.

    Thanks for the post!
    xxo
    Scarlet

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Scarlet.

      Indeed authors and publishers go with the flow and that is not right. So how to rectify something that is already spread all over?

      I am not sure but maybe (maybe!) an explanation at the beginning (before or after the dedication) explaining what the reader will find in the story? either bondage (shibari) or submission (D/s relationship) or top & bottom or light discipline or whatever

      My main issue is that nobody seems to care or if they care, they care in silence and therefore the big majority is using wrongly BDSM term.

      BDSM is for me a minor detail. I could live with it. But what irritates me is mostly stories that have nothing to do with the lifestyle and because the authors add 2 or 3 slaps on the ass during the sex, it is automatically associated with “BDSM discipline”. among tons of other example like that such a dominant guy because he likes to take the lead in the bedroom is automatically a Dom.

      THAT is plain ridiculous.

      oh well.. hopefully my blog and all the comments reached a couple of people and they will think about it 🙂

      Like

  8. I’ve rarely read a post that so clearly and concisely says what I TRY to say when I’m frothing at the mouth over some of the dross I read.
    Thank you Mary and thank you Dr Ferrer.
    I WISH I could get to New York for that event, alas, I find it hard enough getting to see my folks and they only live 100 miles away. New York… there’s water and everything!

    Ho hum.
    x

    Liked by 2 people