Accuracy vs Titillation
When I started writing Bullying Teacher 3 I came across a problem, one I’ve had in other medias but hadn’t quite identified quite so completely. Here I am, with no experience in the BDSM lifestyle, trying to write a story that is introducing someone to that lifestyle. Accuracy would seem to be the way to go, right? Wouldn’t as realistic a scenario as possible be as titillating as possible? I’m here to say no.
Not even a little.
Alright, so let’s jump out of it for a second and come at this sideways. What is a ‘scene’ in BDSM? It’s roleplay, a make believe where the players (ideally) are all informed about the rules to begin with. Let’s simplify it more. It’s Magic the Gathering, or Dungeons and Dragons, or so help me, Pokemon because that has cards too. People sit their butts down, write out a fantasy world they’re playing in, have one person be the mediator or head honcho running the show and remind them of the rules while everyone else gets to submerge into the game. But, when you look at fiction for these games, it’s not about them sitting around playing the game, establishing the rules, etc. It’s about a fantasy world with characters in it. No rules, no restrictions, no safe words or boundaries because that doesn’t exist in real life. In the real-life fantasy where it can be anything you write, safety is also an illusion.
Another more visual example. You’re drawing a dragon but the only thing you have for reference is a picture of a lizard. Yes, that lizard is as realistic, real world as possible, but it doesn’t matter how much you emulate it, it’s never going to look like a dragon without exaggeration. And yeah, it might end up looking like an amazing drawing of a lizard, but if you had pushed to make that dragon, it would have been damn kickass. But the only way to do it is to pull out of the rules of reality to exaggerate it enough to get the results you want in fantasy.
So why did this come up for this particular story? I remember hearing a lot of backlash in the BDSM community when 50 Shades of Gray came out—either movie or book (sorry, I haven’t had contact with either) saying how unsafe and dangerous the bondage had been portrayed. That stuck with me. I don’t want to write something for a specific community that will then turn around and go, hey, that’s not realistic or safe! That should be important, right?
Again, I’m now leaning towards no.
Human beings, especially the kinky ones, have this problem where if you take the risk out of an activity, it’s suddenly not appealing anymore. It’s like taking a walk on a fallen tree trunk. All boring but playful as can be when you have solid ground beneath you, but put a giant bottomless pit under you and you go from soft to hard like that. Excitement. Why the fuck do people go parachuting out of planes when they can sit their butts in a rollercoaster? It’s the thrill of possibly splatting on the ground if something goes wrong. Consequences of actions. It’s a rush.
Now look at it in an erotic fiction point of view. I love writing dubcon, the main aspect of dubious consent being that the character spends most of his time being coerced into sex despite all the many seemingly important reasons against it, including fear of the unknown. Take that fear of the unknown away and he’s sure not feeling the tension, nor is the reader. It’s just another sex scene. Taking the time to establish safety parameters in a BDSM fiction might seem just freaking normal because that’s what’s done in real life. But taking away the unknown, the excitement and fear of having a dominant force potentially cross a line that sub hasn’t spelled out can take the thrill of the unknown away.
Hell, I’m sure you can have actual BDSM scenes go boring if a sub starts getting bored and complacent with the set up—I have to say, after all my research, I feel like doms must have to be very imaginative and invest a lot of time and energy feeding a sub’s kink. Seriously, I have enough trouble planning a meal half the time, and that’s just for myself.
The whole point of this, don’t lose the fantasy when reaching for realism. Accuracy is important to help ground a story into reality to help your reader feel what the characters feel, but don’t go so far as to take the excitement away. Erotica is about exaggeration, the fantasy that will very likely never happen in real life (sometimes really shouldn’t happen) but you can indulge in reading. Part of what makes it so hot is how those taboos are touched on, some lines completely crossed. Don’t take the taboo away by making it feel too safe. You can have safety in the real world all you like, the same with your stable loving partner that doesn’t necessarily want sex as much as you do, your less than ideal body, and boring but pays the bills job. Don’t ruin the fantasy by forcing it to fit into the real world.