Thoughts on Love, Sex, Kink, and Gay Romance Novels

Archive for the ‘Kinky’ Category

Kinks Part 3: Role-Playing

I would love to see more romance/erotica include role-playing between the characters. And while I generally think of it in terms of kinky or bdsm play, it doesn’t have to be. Billionaire seduced by the pool boy could present a hot scenario for a couple working class men to play with, for example.

Top 5 reasons I love role-playing in erotica or romance:

  1. Adds variety and spice to the sex scenes
  2. Provides an interesting window into the characters. What do they fantasize about? If given the chance to be someone else for a while, who do they choose?
  3. Lets the characters out to play. There’s generally a bit of  silliness in creating a scenario and a complete suspension of disbelief and seeing how someone plays and lets go or doesn’t can show you a lot about who someone is and how they see themselves.
  4. Opportunity to play with sexy tropes without having to acknowledge and handle the realities of the actual situation which may be far darker or problematic. (e.g. Being kidnapped and turned into a sex slave for an ancient warlord can certainly work as a premise for a dark erotic novel. But with role-playing, you can play with the concept without dealing with the unpleasant realities if you want.)
  5. Just plain fun to write. No one expects their sex games to be historically accurate or contain completely reasonable actions, so you can let go and write what’s sexy without it having to be completely sensible. (e.g. A real doctor who gets over-interested in thoroughly examining a patient’s genitals is disturbing, but you’re playing at it…)

Obviously, this only works if the characters themselves would enjoy it, but I think it’s an underused tool that I’d love to see more of.

Any recommendations for books that do this well? Opinions on whether you like reading about people role-playing during sex?

Kinks Part 2: Intro to Humiliation Play

Part 1 of this series is Kinks, Fetishes and Roller Coasters. In this discussion, I’m going to use all male pronouns because I’m thinking of it in terms of m/m romances, but really the pronouns are irrelevant and interchangeable.

I don’t have to search very hard to find a book with a sexy dom restraining and spanking, flogging, caning and generally causing delicious pain to a delighted sub. And I am very happy to find these books (as long as they’re well done) and I enjoy them immensely, but there are other ways to play and it surprises me how seldom some of these other areas seem to find their way into the m/m romance/erotica, at least outside of the porn without plot realm.

Humiliation play tops the list of kinks I expect to see in fiction a lot more than I do. In fact, Jeff Erno’s Puppy Love books are the only ones I can remember reading that had this type of play in any sustained way. These books impressed me by really pushing that edge. Usually, if I see it mentioned at all it takes the form of, “I’m not in interested in humiliation play,” or “I’ll do anything but humiliation play.” I wonder if a basic misunderstanding of the nature of this play accounts for the general lack of inclusion. And so, to hopefully rectify this knowledge gap, I will attempt to explain.

For ease of discussion, I’m dividing humiliation play into two types. As with many things, these types really exist as ends of the spectrum with a continuum between them, but that doesn’t really change the explanations. One end I’ll call “humiliation/praise” and the other “humiliation/insult.”

“Humiliation/insult” to me means that the dom insults the sub, sometimes having the sub perform actions around issues the sub has strong conflicted feelings about. The sub sexualizes these strong feelings and ideally comes to some kind of acceptance or peace about them. I believe that the sub has some sense of atonement for these perceived ‘flaws’ which allows an ability to move past them. It can also help build defenses for dealing with people in the outside world. These ‘flaws’ can be specifically sexual or not. I have never actually played this way on either side of the coin. I’m basing these suppositions on watching this kind of scene and talking to people who have played this way. I must say that these scenes can be the most difficult to watch, since they seem very harsh and unkind to an outside observer, as well as very difficult to understand. I also suspect that most people think of this kind of scene when they think of humiliation play and so tend to react to it negatively. For some reason, most people can more easily imagine letting someone strike them with flogger than letting someone, much less wanting them, to poke at their most vulnerable psychological buttons.

The other end, in my own personal dichotomy, is “humiliation/praise.” This involves taking traits and actions, usually at least somewhat sexual, generally portrayed in a negative way by society and turning them into positive, praise-worthy things. For example, “I love how eager you are to be fucked – such a sexy slut,” said in a tone of obvious approval, may be part of mild humiliation play, but it is meant to encourage behavior society generally finds shame-worthy. I said “may be” in the last sentence because humiliation play is first and foremost about an emotional and mental state and connection. Any activity that some people engage in for this type of play, other people engage in for complete different reasons. The emotional state, not the type of activity, determine whether people are engaged in humiliation play.

To get a better sense of this distinction, think about the following list of types of scenes that can involve humiliation, but may also just involve the fetishes for that kind of play.

  • Human ponies
  • Human puppies
  • Boot-licking or other types of body worship
  • Watersports
  • Cross-dressing
  • Infantilization
  • Nudity/Display/Exhibitionism
  • Voyeurism
  • Crawling
  • A wide range of verbal play that can reinforce embarrassment or just represent someone enjoying “dirty talk”

Though very different, a general sense of societal disapproval binds these activities. That disapproval makes them ripe ground for using them to play with feelings of intense embarrassment. However, people may also just sexualize and enjoy these activities for their own sakes without necessarily caring much about any embarrassment aspect. And of course, as with almost everything with humans, you also have every point in between.

That still doesn’t answer the question of why people enjoy embarrassment. This goes back to my theory in part 1 of this series. If you take an intense emotion and put it in a safe setting and make it feel positive, the feeling can be incredible. And embarrassment is an intense emotion. The phrase “I thought I’d die of embarrassment,” exists for a reason. Embarrassment is also fascinating because it is an entirely social construct, which adds to its fluidity. Different cultures, different groups, different people all have unique norms and expectations as to what is acceptable behavior. Realizing this and playing with this can feel very freeing, as can embracing feelings that you may believe you shouldn’t have.

Any thoughts or questions? Any recommendations of good m/m fiction that deals with humiliation play?

Kinks, Fetishes and Roller Coasters

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with people both in and out of the overall kinky leather crowd about why we do what we do. Through these conversations and probably way too much time spent thinking about it, I’ve developed my Unifying Theory of Kinks and Fetishes. Your mileage may vary, but it works for me and helps me to explain things to those with a less thorough education on the breadth of sexual kinks.

Every single time I get on a roller coaster, as soon as it’s too late to change my mind, I start thinking “What the hell am I doing and why am I doing it?” All the way up the first hill (if it has one), I keep thinking that. Then the speed kicks in and I scream and yell and laugh and am terrified and exhilarated all at once. And at the end I’m left with a heady sense of power and survival and a sense of having conquered. What I conquered wasn’t so much the roller coaster as the fear.

Roller coasters provide an illusion of danger while still providing safety. Your logical thought processes tell you you’re safe, but millions of years of evolution aren’t quite so convinced, so you still get the rush and adrenaline and the feeling of accomplishment at having survived a fearful situation intact. I think of this as taking the intensity of fear and flipping it from a negative emotion to a positive one by putting it in a safe context and allowing you to prevail over it.

The other part of the puzzle is humanity’s ability to sexualize pretty much anything. If you take a strong emotion or association and sexualize it, you turn it pretty easily into a fetish. And if we’ve learned nothing else from the internet, we should now know that this has happened to pretty much everything in the universe and there’s a web page to prove it.  I think this is the brain’s version of a peanut butter cup. “Hey,” says your brain, “I like sex and I like shoes, so shoes and sex together must be awesome.” And a shoe fetish is born.

Now, what if we combine these two ideas? Flip a negative feeling to a positive one by putting it into a safe context and then sexualize it. Out spring a whole host of interesting kinks: pain, bondage, submission, humiliation, edge play, piercings, orgasm control, etc.

Now I’d actually started out to write a post on humiliation play, but then realized I needed to explain my theory first. So, next up humiliation play… (which makes me feel like a conductor on a very kinky train)

8 Pet Peeves about Fictional Kink

Nothing breaks my rapport with a book faster than taking a subject I love and making it into essentially a caricature of itself.  Though I read many types of m/m romances, the kinky ones will always catch my eye, and I’m likely to go get them unless something in the description turns me off. And here we come to the problem- I’m a big proponent of safe, sane and consensual, and if the characters break this without  a compelling reason, I have trouble continuing to identify with the characters and situation.

I want to make clear that I’m talking about contemporary characters who identify themselves as dominant/submissive and seem to have knowledge and interest in the lifestyle that should lead to them knowing better. I view stories billed as dubious consent or historical or fantasy master/slave relationships as completely different entities. If the author presents the sex games as being for mutual benefit and enjoyment though, certain guidelines apply to real life and would be much appreciated in fiction:

  1. Safety: I don’t care how comfortable or well-provisioned the house/room/cage is, you can not leave your sub unattended without a way of freeing himself. He must have a means of escape in an emergency. This one always makes me start yelling at the book, and makes it very hard to forgive the main character.
  2. Consent: Just because you are absolutely certain that he’d be the perfect submissive, does not mean that you get to start ordering him around before he’s actually agreed to your brilliant plan. So many characters seem to manhandle someone into place, somehow proving in the process that the object of his desires really wanted that all along. In real life, that’s assault and not a real good way to start a relationship.
  3. No discussion: I’ve read several books in which as soon as the supposed submissive agreed to a potential romantic relationship, the so-called dom started laying down rules and handing out orders. No discussion of whether the other man wanted this power exchange, and the dom brushed all objections aside. A hard-on does not grant automatic permission.
  4. Healing abuse victims: This one is tough. Yes, people sometimes do therapeutic bdsm play to work through trauma, but it is a delicate situation and those involved need to take it seriously. I’ve seen this done very well, but not often. If someone just decides that the best way for this sub to get over his experience with a bad dom is to find a good dom, that will strain my credulity from the outset.
  5. Deep end: Do not throw the brand new submissive into the deep end of the kink pool. Cock & ball torture- really not on the syllabus for the first day of class. (As a side note, that’s what prodded me to write this post now. I was reading a review of Take Me, Break Me at Joyfully Jay, which I’d recently read. I started to reply over there, but it was getting too long, so I decided to make it a full post here.)
  6. Physical Realities: I love when an author acknowledges little things like ‘your knees are going to hurt if you spend an hour kneeling on tile flooring.’ And when authors completely ignore the physical situation it makes it harder to empathize with the character. I don’t need to know every likely twinge and ache, but enough to know it’s real.
  7. The Helpless Sub: Especially when paired with the predatory club doms. If someone warns a sub that it’s not safe to wander around a club unattached or uncollared, I’m rolling my eyes unless the author set the scene really well. Any reputable bdsm club will quickly ban anyone behaving the way the “villains” in many of these stories behave. They certainly won’t just look the other way while warning the subs to stay close to a dom. Most of these clubs have people wandering around ensuring that members follow the rules and play safe.
  8. Variety: I admit this isn’t a peeve, so much as a request. I love the spanking and flogging and bondage scenes, but can we have other fun too. I’m always pleased when an author shows they know what they’re talking about by veering off the beaten path (or beaten sub, as the case may be). And please feel free to throw suggestions into the comments for books that do this.

Despite my complaints, if pressed, I could probably come up with a counter-example for all of these that worked extremely well. Just not most of the time.