It probably is.
I enjoy reading stories where I feel engaged by the characters, that I'm seeing them interact and develop in a wider setting than simply their sex lives. And I try to write stories myself in which sex is part of the story, rather than the point of it. My interest in writing erotica developed from enjoying lightweight romantic fiction and wishing they weren't quite as prissy about the characters becoming lovers and how they enjoyed that side of their relationship.
Well, when I come across an erotic story based around BDSM, it's typically one where:
(a) the couple meet at a club or a party,
(b) he's the dom and she's the sub, and
(c) he instinctively knows what to do, and
(d) she has the time of her life and decides to devote herself to him.
I'll be honest here and say that I don't understand the reality of this sort of sexual relationship. I've never been in one. I can see the fun in playing at it from time to time, maybe even swapping roles, but you need the right sort of relationship for that.
But in real life, are doms (or dommes) psychic or something?
Yes, of course I can appreciate that an experienced lover may well have the confidence and a selection of techniques to help a partner go "oooh" and smile a lot, but they can't genuinely understand what that other person wants, needs or responds to without spending time getting to know them. Different people enjoy different things, after all. What makes one person go into a happy delerium might bore or even annoy another.
Take the famous (or infamous) Fifty Shades of Grey for example. I read the first book and then lost the will to live when I realised the other two were just as long... Even for a story, it just seemed unrealistic that a completely inexperienced girl would be willing to let this implausibly young billionaire draw her into a relationship like that. But all's well that ends well, I guess. The bad boy was cured by the love of a good woman...
In terms of a short erotic story, this sort of meeting lets the author cut to the chase and have fun writing the naughty stuff. And many people undoubtedly have fantasies about letting their hair down and completely letting go of their inhibitions.
But is this style of story completely honest? I can't help but wonder if it gives the wrong impression about BDSM relationships.
Personally, I'd have to really trust someone before I'd let them tie me up, even with the promise that they'd do nicely naughty things to me. Call me boring, but it's certainly not something I'd feel happy about on a first date. Yes, a guy wrote that. One who might admit to having had the occasional memorable first date.
I've read and enjoyed novels where the main characters developed sub-dom relationships. Yes, relationships. I could almost imagine them arguing about whose turn it was to do the shopping! Being the sub and the dom were roles the characters played in their lovemaking. And they agreed to play them, understanding that these were roles. In one, the dom makes a misjudgement which threatens the relationship and he has to re-establish the woman's trust in him. And in the real world, I guess trust is as important as attraction in this sort of relationship.
These novels left me thinking that they probably reflected a bit more of the reality of a BDSM relationship.
As Rachel Kramer Bussel wrote in one of her essays in Sex and Cupcakes, the dynamics of a given relationship may dictate the actual role someone might feel comfortable playing, sub in some cases, dom in others.
So, what were these novels?
Two were written by Amy Valenti, Not Your Damn Submissive and Not Your Damn Dom. The titles kind of give away the thrust of the storyline in each case. Undone, by Kristina Lloyd, was a bit different, the relationship developing around a sort of mystery/thriller.
And I enjoyed all three because they were erotic stories about developing relationships, rather than for the distinctly titillating sex scenes. Okay, maybe for both reasons.
And I'm happy to recommend all three to anyone who enjoys a good story. Well, a good story which involves fairly explicit sex from time to time.
These are my reviews as posted on Amazon (where they're all available for purchase)...
Not Your Damn Submissive
This made a smashing change from the usual dom-sub stories, so many of which trigger a sense of "here we go again" in my mind. The developing relationship between the two characters drives the story, with misunderstandings, mistakes and anxiety on both sides. At the end, I found it refreshingly honest about what it might be like for a dom, that you don't really know what you're doing, but hope for the best and stay projecting confidence and assurance. The only thing which made me doubt the storyline was their first encounter. Would he really push so hard without actually establishing her willingness to play? It bordered on non-consensual to me and I almost stopped reading at that point.
Not Your Damn Dom
Another excellent book from Ms Valenti, painting the opposite side of the sort of relationship in "Not Your Damn Sub". I enjoyed it, my sort of erotica. By which I mean a story which could still work without the explicit bits, and those were rather nicely done. In terms of a romance story, it's an entertaining variation on the "misunderstanding and poor communication" theme.
What I particularly like about both this book and the first in the series is that it paints a very plausible view of the development of a sub/dom relationship, one far removed from those fantasies in which the "dom" is almost psychic and does everything right all the time, without the couple actually appearing to develop a wider relationship. These stories are very much about developing a relationship which includes BDSM in their lovemaking.
I really enjoyed Undone. It’s an erotic thriller which kept me turning the pages to see what happened next. I read it over two evenings, and wished I'd started it earlier on the first day so I could have devoured it in a single sitting. The thriller side of the story isn't the main driver, but it provides a few key stressful points around which the story is told and their relationship evolves.
It's a first-person account as if written in a diary, which allows Kristina to mix conventional story-telling with a little more introspection and inner dialogue, which I found rather intriguing.
I was impressed by her character Lana's account of a newly-developing sub-dom relationship. Not just by her intense and exciting sexual experiences but also the emotional side of it, learning to trust and coping with her all-too-plausible anxieties and insecurities. This is something which is beyond my personal experience, but Lana's account left me feeling I understood some aspects of it a little better.
I was pleased to see her dom, Sol, make a momentary misjudgement and have to regain her confidence in him. Far too many dom characters seem to be just a little bit too perfect, so this made him seem true-to-life for me.
This was the first Black Lace book I've read. If this is typical of the standard of the work they publish, I might suggest they start a loyalty card scheme...