BDSM is hot – and I don’t just mean that it turns me on (though it certainly does!) Erotic fiction featuring elements of dominance and submission has always been popular with a certain readership (myself included). Lately, though, it seems everyone wants to read about kink. Of course, the “Fifty Shades of Gray Phenomenon” will no doubt further increase the market for BDSM books.
So, if you’re an author, you may be tempted to jump on the bandwagon and share some of the financial benefits. “How difficult can it be to write a kinky story?” you may think. “I’m already penning some steamy sex scenes. I’ll just toss in a few blindfolds, handcuffs, and whips and who knows – maybe I’ll be the next E.L. James.”
Beware. Myriad pitfalls await you if you approach the process from that perspective. Dominance and submission is not, fundamentally, a function of the erotic implements employed. D/s has much more to do with the psychological interaction between the participants than the physical settings and activities. It’s easier to focus on the latter than the former – but you do so at your peril.
I’ve been publishing BDSM for sixteen years, and writing BDSM fantasies for much longer. I’m not “living the lifestyle” now, but I do have personal experience in a D/s relationship. The emotional impact of that experience fuels much of my erotic writing – and, I think, helps keep it genuine.
If you want to write BDSM, the first question I’d ask is whether you personally find dominance and submission arousing. I won’t say that it’s impossible to produce D/s fiction if you’re pure vanilla, but it’s a lot more difficult. If you’re not turned on by kink, you really need to talk and listen to people who are.
It’s much easier now to study the psychology as well as the techniques of BDSM than it was when I began writing. You’ll find many blogs penned by both dominants and submissives, describing their experiences and emotions. Some of them make fascinating reading. (Watch out! You may never get around to writing your own book!) You can also look up pretty much any kinky implement or activity, to find pictures, how-to instructions, and first hand accounts of how it feels.
Too much research, though, and you may smother the spark of inspiration. Remember that like any fiction, BDSM erotica should be driven by your characters. So even if you’re not aroused by spanking, bondage, or sensory deprivation, you need to create characters who are. Read for a while… but then free your imagination.
There are some specific traps BDSM authors tend to fall into. I’ve listed what I see as the top five below.
Beware of character clichés.
Not every dominant is tall and muscular with chiseled features and steely blue eyes. (My beloved master was a shy, brilliant, overweight nerd.) Not every submissive is petite, soft, and yielding, eager to abase herself for her master’s pleasure.
Remember too that your characters do not have to be “pure” tops or bottoms. A sassy, rebellious sub or a top longing for relief from the responsibility of being a master may be more interesting than more standard, one-sided characters.
Beware of stock scenarios
Some BDSM settings and premises have been done to death. The remote mansion populated by masters and slaves, á la The Story of O, for instance, has been used so many times that you’re likely to evoke a bored sigh from your readers. The stern schoolmaster or schoolmistress punishing the wayward pupil is another chestnut. Then there’s the pirate/bandit/terrorist/sheik who kidnaps the heroine and holds her prisoner until she (unwillingly at first, but soon with eager abandon) submits to his brutal advances. Lately I’ve seen a million stories set in fetish clubs, where an innocent would-be-sub arrives to watch and discovers her “true” nature.
Using this kind of stereotyped setting or plot can be a shortcut to your reader’s arousal. They’re popular at least partially because they’re hot. If you don’t make the scenario your own, though, by adding some clever twist, your book may get read but it won’t be remembered.
Beware of unsafe behavior
Some BDSM activities can be pretty scary – knife play, fire play, needle play, breath play, etc. Furthermore, for some readers, the more extreme a scene, the hotter they find it. You can write extreme activities, if you feel comfortable doing so (though it’s also possible to write amazingly intense BDSM with relatively mild physical acts), but be sure to consider safety. Research can help you discover the limits of what is considered “safe” by the kink community. If you write a scene with unsafe elements, that will definitely raise red flags for anyone with some knowledge of BDSM.
The possibility of real physical harm will drag me right out of a fictional D/s scene. Looping a rope around the sub’s neck; caning the lower back (which can cause kidney damage); cutting or needle insertion without using antiseptic; upside-down suspension for long periods; anal sex immediately followed by vaginal sex, without any clean up or change of condom; any of these incidents can be enough to break the sexual mood for me, at least – and will make me wonder how the author could be so clueless.
Beware of abuse
Despite what the uninitiated might think, BDSM as practiced by consenting adults is not about abuse. The dominant has responsibility for the physical and psychological well-being of the submissive. The submissive must trust the dominant to exercise this responsibility. Sometimes the role-playing aspects of BDSM may lead the dominant to insult or humiliate the submissive, but normally this is understood not to be a serious reflection of the dominant’s feelings.
Watch out for masters who hate women (or mistresses who hate men) and who use their position of power to express those feelings. Don’t use habitual anger as an excuse for punishment.
In fact I believe some readers do seek out fiction that includes true abuse, but the majority BDSM readership will be completely turned off by dominants who are real bastards.
Beware of factual mistakes
Do you know what a cat looks like and how it’s used? A tawse? A St. Andrew’s cross? What’s the true meaning of a slave’s collar? Will candle wax dripping onto a sub’s breasts burn or leave marks? Do most BDSM clubs allow alcohol on their premises?
If you’re not sure, find out. Don’t wing it. As in historical fiction, laziness in writing BDSM fiction can cause you to lose readers who are have more personal experience than you do.
I’ve written far more than I intended on this topic. Can you tell that I care? I love reading (as well as writing) good BDSM, but it’s not all that easy to find D/s fiction that I really enjoy – fiction that avoids the perils listed above.
If you want to write BDSM – you have my blessing! I look forward to reading your book. But don’t be fooled into thinking it’s easy.
If you like to read, BDSM, though, I recommend you check out my new novel, The Gazillionaire and the Virgin. I’ve tried to avoid all the pitfalls above!
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This post is part of my Gazillionaire and Virgin blog tour, running from February 1st to 15th. Leave me a comment on this post, including your email address, and I’ll enter you to win a $50 bookstore gift certificate (first prize) or a print copy of the new book (second prize). Visit all the stops for more chances to win. You’ll find the full list here:
When Silicon Valley entrepreneur Rachel Zelinsky meets reclusive genius Theo Moore, she finds him strangely compelling. Theo is both arrogant and socially awkward, but he has an aura of power that speaks to Rachel’s carefully-hidden submissive side. Disturbed and aroused, she tries to focus on her original objective—a deal to incorporate his Artificial Intelligence software into her company’s popular virtual world. Rachel’s not a woman who lets pleasure interfere with business, but for some reason, she can’t resist Theo’s geeky appeal.
Theo Moore can’t be bought. His past battles with poverty make him deeply suspicious of the billionaire CEO. Still, with her voluptuous curves and brilliant mind, Rachel embodies his ultimate sexual fantasy. Too bad his knowledge about sex derives from extensive research and a stash of kinky porn rather than real-world experience.
That doesn’t bother Rachel, however. In his bed—in his arms—in his bonds—she discovers the bliss of total surrender. Rachel may be Theo’s first lover, but Theo is Rachel’s first true Master—and the first man to truly touch her heart. It seems that love may harmonize their differing goals and values, until Rachel’s unwitting violation of Theo’s trust threatens to tear them apart forever.
X Rated Excerpt 1 (Theo)
I nearly step on her.
“Rachel! What the—”
She sits cross-legged on the carpet, half-inside my clothes closet, wearing one of my dress shirts, unbuttoned, over her nakedness. Glossy magazines are scattered around her, their covers awash with female flesh—stripped, blindfolded, gagged, clamped, twisted into impossible positions, limbs wrapped in rope or leather, scarlet nipples bulging and sore, eyes full of terror and devotion. One of the publications lies in her lap, open to the Technicolor image of a woman strapped to a padded horse, with some anonymous hand buried to the wrist in her stretched asshole.
Oh God, no! I want to sink through the floor with shame. At the same time, my cock is like stone. “Rachel—um—it’s not what you think…”
She gazes up at me with a half-smile. “Oh? Really?” Her voice is mild. She sounds amused rather than shocked as she gestures at the masses of porn surrounding her. “Are you trying to tell me these aren’t yours?”
“Quite a collection.” As she rolls onto her hip then rises to a kneel, she gives me an appraising look. “I’m impressed.”
“You’re not—not—disgusted?” I’m frozen in place, transfixed by embarrassment and lust. Her lush breasts jiggle as she approaches, still on her knees. I’m so hard it hurts.
“Not at all. This explains quite a lot.” She’s at my feet now, her chin tilted up so she can meet my eyes. Her tawny nipples peek out from the gap in my shirt. Coppery curls frame her angel’s face. “I finally understand, Theo.”
She purses her lips to blow a stream of hot air over my aching erection. My dick jerks. I almost come.
“Mmm…” she hums around my cock, taking the length down her throat, just like the girls in my videos. I forget to be embarrassed. I forget I need a shower. Everything slips away except the juicy warmth of her mouth, the dance of her tongue, the unrelenting suction she applies as she bobs up and down on my shaft.
Oh my God! It’s almost too intense. I close my eyes at first, focusing on the unbelievable sensations. Soon, though, I have to look—it’s just so perfect. Rachel Zelinksy is on her knees! Sucking me like some eager Internet slut. She’s even got her hands clasped behind her back as she leans in to swallow me, as if I’d cuffed her.
Does she know what she’s doing to me? Is this part of her plan? I don’t care. I weave my fingers into her unruly hair and take over, using her mouth to get myself off. Almost immediately, she surrenders. Her lips go slack, stretching to accommodate me, and her jaw relaxes to accept my thrusts. She gags when I push deeper, but when I back off, she follows, burying her nose in my crotch. She wants this. She wants me to fuck her face as if I own her. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life.
That knowledge is the detonator. I shudder and explode, flooding her mouth with cum. Her muscles work around my cock as she swallows, triggering another burst. Poor Rachel tries hard, but she can’t keep up with me. As I pull out, semen spills out between her swollen lips to dribble down her chin. Porn-inspired, I aim my still-spurting dick at her glorious tits, painting them with streaks of white.
When I’m finally finished, I collapse to my knees and take her in my arms, smearing my own chest with cum. “Oh, Rachel…” I don’t know what to say. Thank you? I’m sorry? I just kiss her, deep and hard, hoping she’ll understand.
LISABET SARAI occasionally tackles other genres, but BDSM will always be her first love. Every one of her nine novels includes some element of power exchange, while her D/s short stories range from mildly kinky to intensely perverse.
You’ll find information and excerpts from all Lisabet’s books on her website (http://www.lisabetsarai.com/books.html), along with more than fifty free stories and lots more. At her blog Beyond Romance (http://lisabetsarai.blogspot.com), she shares her philosophy and her news and hosts lots of other great authors. She’s also on Goodreads and finally, on Twitter.