BDSM for Beginners

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by Tara Stevens, Carina Press acquisitions team

Contrary to popular belief, BDSM does not stand for Big Dumb Stupid Men. :) Up until recently, I was pretty much a BDSM virgin. I mean, I knew what it stood for (unlike some of my more innocent colleagues here at Sexy Central), but I’d never actually sat down and read a full-blown BDSM book in all its blindfolded, leather-bound glory.

It all started with a Carina Press submission I was assigned to read and a Spice Brief ebook that needed retitling. All in a day’s work, eh? Suddenly BDSM went from being some vague erotic niche I idly wondered about to something I had to get up to speed with – fast.

Although it sounds a bit dangerous and intimidating to sheltered vanilla types, I’ve discovered that BDSM books can actually be both fun and emotionally substantial, as well as super-sexy. It’s not all just whips and chains and paddles (although they can certainly play a prominent part in a character’s sexual expression).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would feel immersing myself in a world filled with bondage, domination and submission, but I happily discovered that similar to male/male books, I could understand the appeal and popularity of the niche once I gave it a try. The Carina submission was certainly an eye-opening introduction to BDSM erotic romance, but at the end of the day, it was just one element in a story that engaged me on several different levels.

I think the fantasy role-play and power exchange elements found in BDSM books may be key to their success, since they allow readers to live out their secret desires in a safe space without getting judged as “weird” or into so-called “deviant” things. For me, it also helped knowing I was reading a story about a couple who only performed sexual acts that were completely consensual and that they had a “safe word” they could say if they felt things were getting too out of control. I also enjoyed the twist that it was the heroine who was mostly the “dom” or “top” in the relationship instead of the hero, although they did enjoy taking turns and being “switches” as the book progressed.

Of course, there are different degrees when it comes to BDSM books, and some are definitely darker and more hardcore than others. I think in those cases, it’s really important to let readers know exactly what they’re getting by giving them niche-appropriate titles and covers. Setting the right tone in the cover copy is also essential, and this is no time to be subtle or shy. Including key words like claim, surrender, obey, possess, dominate, control and command will give readers a strong idea of what the book is going to be about.

Now that I’ve experienced my first BDSM book, I’m curious to read more. I’ve already pegged some of our Carina titles like Consent to the Cowboy and Intimate Exposure, but I’m interested in any other recommendations you may have for someone still relatively new to the niche. What are your favourite BDSM books? What do you like about them?

Curious? Explore Harlequin’s  “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”

Comments

  1. The book that really hooked me into the BDSM genre was Joey W. Hill’s NATURAL LAW. I’ve read it a number of times; I think it’s that good. Series wise, you can’t beat Club Shadowlands by Cherise Sinclair. Everyone of those books is good. What do I like most about the genre? The give and take between the Dom and submissive. A good BDSM story highlights the emotional interplay between the characters as much or more than the physical nature of the relationship. It can’t be just about sex, because without emotion it’s just gymnastics.

  2. Tara, you’re quickly becoming the go-to kink girl on the digital team, aren’t you? ;) There are worse niches to fit, for sure.

    The first exposure I had to BDSM erotica was Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy. To this day it’s still my favourite by far (although I can honestly say I haven’t read that much since.)

    I love Tiffany Reisz’s erotica too. She skews more on the BDSM side, especially in her first Spice Brief, Seven Day Loan.

  3. Vanessa, I couldn’t agree with you more – thanks for putting it so succinctly. I love the gymnastics bit! ;)

    Thank you for your book suggestions – I think the first one sounds familiar. Will be sure to check them out!

  4. Olga – ha! I think you may be right. What can I say? Must be my Scorpio nature. :)

    Thanks for the recco’s – I’ve heard a lot about Seven Day Loan. Sounds like it’s time to discover it for myself. :)

  5. I think Tara has a ways to go before she catches up to me, Olga :P

    Vanessa, you’ll be happy to know that I earlier this week just recommended someone on the team read Natural Law because it’s a good example of male sub, female domme.

  6. I’m a bit tired of it, to be honest. I think so many people are jumping on the bandwagon – that’s been rolling a long long time – that the BDSM scenes often come completely out of nowhere. I’ve read two or three books this last few months which had no hint of it, and as soon as they got into bed they start domming and subbing. I’ve experienced a bit of the scene first hand and – although I know that fiction is fiction – much of it is written by people who know very little about the workings of the kink, and think that it is, literally just paddles, tying up with the ubiquitous cravats, and whipping.

    There are a few authors who know what they are talking about – and for me, Ava March does it very well. She understands about the power dynamic, which many authors don/t. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but I don’t like to see authors writing something “just because it’s popular” without getting it right!

  7. Erastes, I hear what you’re saying. There’s nothing worse than just throwing in bits here and there to try to make your book “fit” some new popular niche or genre. I think we see that a lot with steampunk in particular.

    For someone who’s new to BDSM, though – it is an exciting niche to discover. My feelings toward it are similar to ones I had when trying out M/M (and Muffled Drum :) – I didn’t want to be reading a book just for the man-on-man novelty factor – I wanted there to be a real story happening, with well-drawn characters who would make me care about them.

    I think what struck me about this Carina Press submission so much was that it went beyond the toys and scenes and really got into the psychology of why each character gravitated towards a certain sexual psychology/role. It wasn’t just titillating sex for titillating sex’s sake.

    I’ll have to check out some of our upcoming Ava March titles – thanks for reminding me. :)

  8. I’ve enjoyed the Sasha White series. Can’t recall the titles off the top of my head. FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY is on my list but I’ve heard you love it or hate it. Also read a post recently that said it was a huge disservice to BDSM. Didn’t like the Sleeping Beauty trilogy. For me, it was boring & repetitive but still have it. Keep telling myself I’ll give it another go but haven’t gotten one of those “round to its” yet.

  9. Any of the Shadowlands books by Cherise Sinclair. She writes scenes that sometimes make me a bit uncomfortable, yet the emotion and tenderness she adds keeps me turning the pages. She’s very talented.

    Anne Calhoun also writes beautiful erotic romance with a BDSM flavor. One of my favorite authors, and I think Liberating Lacey is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

    Shaken by Dee Torieno is also fabulous and emotional.

  10. Lorelei James if you like cowboys.

    Also, our very own Mari Carr! I just finished Southern Comfort. It was hot!

    I’ll ditto Cherise Sinclair. She’s awesome at getting to the emotional need of bdsm.

  11. Thanks for the sweet comment, Olga! Seven Day Loan goes into some darker areas than the usual BDSM stuff since it deals with the concept of sexual ownership. Also, since it’s a little prequel to THE SIREN (Mira Books – July 2012), it raises more questions than it answers, which was part of the plan.

    I started playing in the BDSM world years ago. It’s full of fun, playful, interesting, kind people who have a great deal of respect for their partners. It’s not abusive or violent. It’s just a different way of showing that you love someone and trust them enough to let them hurt you or bind you, etc. I write it because I know it and love it. But when I read a BDSM scene by an author who doesn’t get the dynamic right, I immediately assume they’ve never done it and I put the book down. The best part about writing erotica IS the research (just ask my boyfriend). Why would you skimp on that?

    Thanks again!
    Tiffany Reisz!

  12. Funny you should bring up Fifty Shades of Grey, Ivy – I’m going to be reading that month. Will be interesting to see if it’s worth all the fuss and how BDSM plays into it…

  13. Great topic, Tara!

    It doesn’t bug me too much when a BDSM story fails to describe a technique correctly. But it drives me nuts when the emotional aspects of fictional kink interactions are superficial and downright wrong.

    Many writers of BDSM fiction suffer from a type of “sub frenzy”. The fun of writing a fetish fantasy overpowers common sense.

    At the end of the day, even in extreme BDSM, there are people involved. BDSM is not a bunch of esoteric rituals and words. Fictional kinky folk should have real fears–maybe even feelings of jealousy or anger–along with sexual heat.

  14. Also check out “The Reluctant Dom” by Tymber Dalton…compelling story, elements of BDSM, and a whole lot of heart

  15. 10 nights by Michelle Hughes and Karl Jones makes fifty shades of gray seem vanilla.A great read…leaving you wanting for more.You can find it on amazon.com

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