Kinky for You

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managecover Years ago, an author friend advised me to read erotic fiction to write better romance. I took her suggestion. What could I lose? The first book I studied was The Best American Erotica, an anthology series. I was unexpectedly moved by a short story by Anne Tourney. The story was titled Full Metal Corset. It wasn’t erotic steampunk; Full Metal Corset was BDSM erotica. Fiercely stylized and allegorical, the story still held some fundamental truths. First among these truths? The importance of consent. The heroine in Full Metal Corset doesn’t just agree to a BDSM dynamic; she is outright eager to explore her kink side. It influenced me big time.

I absolutely adore reading a story where the heroine strides out into the big, bad world, determined to get what she needs. I’d like to think Mrs. Giggles, one of my favorite online romance reviewers, would agree. The irreverent and pithy Mrs. Giggles had this to say about MaryJanice Davidson’s Under Cover, an erotic romance:

“Now this is how it should be done! … The heroines have sex because they want to, and best of all, they know they want to have sex and how to go around doing it. If you are tired of all those contrived “erotic” brainwaste books that have the heroines either stripping for martyrhood purposes or worse, MaryJanice Davidson is here to guide you back to the fold.”

According to Mrs. Giggles, such zeal is rare in erotic romance. It’s even harder to find in BDSM fiction. To create drama, BDSM heroines are often innocents who have to be lured into the BDSM “lifestyle” by an experienced Dominant. The heroine is oblivious to her true nature. But the Dominant knows. In some supernatural way, he is certain the heroine is a sub, and the sub is meant for him. He can tell just by looking at her.

I call this the “Kinky for You” plot. Sure, the heroine ultimately gets a Happily Ever After, but where’s her self-awareness? Why doesn’t she know what she wants? The Kinky for You trope can veer into distasteful territory when the Dominant uses trickery, or blackmail, or even kidnapping, to get his mate.

Portraying a BDSM romantic hero as a predator, and his partner as TSTL (no matter how happy they all end up) just doesn’t do it for me. Such BDSM tropes may be titillating, but they are also exploitative and disrespectful. Respect matters because, unlike cougar shifters or time-traveling hunks, kinky people and kinky relationships are real.

Carina Press is doing the BDSM niche proud. One Real Thing by Anah Crow and Dianne Fox, for example, subtly and sensitively explores a long-term Dom/sub relationship. And then there’s Coin Operated by Ginny Glass, a charming story of a new couple experimenting with BDSM in a fun and positive way.

So what do you think? Have you ever read a BDSM romance? A BDSM erotica? Were you squicked out or engaged? Please do tell!

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Management Skills, my latest BDSM story, is now available.

January Rowe’s Blog

13 thoughts on “Kinky for You”

  1. Lizzie says:

    I feel like my whole world has been turned upside down. Ok, an exaggeration, but I do feel super close-minded right now! I have never read a BDSM romance or erotica–passing all of them over because I assumed they would have–as you so cleverly put it–Kinky for You plots.

    Plus, TSTL characters drive me to throw books across the room, and so I figured any naive, unaware, sexified virgin/innocent would drive me to potentially harm my new Kindle, which simply wont do at all.

    So thank you for this! I will be sure to check out the Carina titles you suggested, not to mention yours!

  2. Kathy B says:

    Fabulous, fabulous post! I do read some BDSM erotica but it’s not my favorite genre. Hmm, maybe because of the kinky for you mentality? I read One Real Thing, and I did enjoy it. Thank you for such an insightful article. Now I’m off to check out your book =)

  3. January_Rowe says:

    Lizzie and Kathy B,

    Thank you both so much for your responses!

    I agree, do NOT read anything that might harm your Kindle, Lizzie!

    Kathy B, what other BDSM books have you enjoyed? (It’s okay to mention non-Carina titles!)

  4. CJ says:

    I started with Cherise Sinclair. She sometimes has heroines like you mention, but hers work for me. I don’t mind if the heroine is new to BDSM, but I prefer it when she knows she’s interested (the author establishes she’s thought about or explored it before). I’ll have to check out the books you suggest. Thanks! :) And I was so engaged by BDSM erotica that not only did I buy a bunch of e books,but also some of the secondary characters in my contemporaries popped in letting me know they are into BDSM…so maybe I will be writing erotic romance sometime. But I think it is a different challenge to write it well. All the best to you!

  5. January_Rowe says:

    CJ,

    Your secondary characters are looking to get their kink on?! Uh oh! You’re doomed!

    One of the reasons I enjoy BDSM heroines being self-aware is that a secure and happy sub who willingly gives the Dom power has great intrinsic drama.

  6. I never thought I would enjoy BDSM books until I picked up Lauren Dane’s “Second Chances”. Definitely pleasantly surprised! I’ve continued reading them ever since.

  7. alyslinn says:

    I love BDSM fiction.
    One I would recommend is the Spice Brief novella “Seven Day Loan” by Tiffany Reisz.

  8. January_Rowe says:

    Emma,

    I found Lauren Dane’s description of how “Second Chances” was ultimately published by Carina SO inspiring. (She wrote about the path to publication on the Carina Press blog back when Second Chances was released.)

  9. I enjoy BDSM fiction a great deal, both as simple erotica and in a romantic context. However one of the things I absolutely *hate* to see show up in it is a whole assortment of things it would be unsafe to imitate. After all, if the readers identify with your character, and think the sex scene was really hot, the best compliment they can pay you is to try it with a partner, isn’t it?

    So if the couple is just starting, or worse yet, just meeting, I want to see some negotiation first about what they’re going to do. I suspect the “kinky for you” plot, particularly the ones where the dom tricks the sub into playing, are written by people who have never actually tried it.

    The other thing that makes me twitch are the ones with hard core activities like suspension that don’t show any signs of thinking about safety, and which describe things that would not be safe. You can’t just leave someone hanging in a harness indefinitely. They’ll enjoy it for about 15 min, and start being at risk of serious health conditions after about 30, for example. (We know this from industrial accidents involving fall prevention harnesses.)

  10. January_Rowe says:

    Kathryn,

    I agree with you completely! Prior discussion before BDSM play is extremely important.

    And regarding suspension bondage: the Doms/Tops who do it in real life have taken classes to learn how. Or have read books. Or have had someone more experienced teach them.

    Subs are not the only ones who get training!

  11. Tony Kinzer says:

    I enjoy the erotic romance, BDSM, bondage world lifestyle! If the book is written well, the reader truly sails through the pages and when they’re finished, feels like they were a silent participant in the scenes!

    The author must make it clear that safe, sane, consensual sex is forefront to participation in any act in the book. I require there to be a bit of connection between the participants because I also want to know HOW they’re affected by what’s happening to them. Personally, I need to know the emotional thoughts of the characters in what I read. Okay, I’m on a tangent here, but loved the write up and am interested in Management Skills! *wink* Off to check it out!

  12. January_Rowe says:

    Thanks for your comments, Tony!

    Like you, I need to read about partners who have an emotional connection. Otherwise it feels like I’m reading a how-to manual.

  13. William says:

    Very cool blog!


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