Thursday, December 27, 2012

Guest Author Post: Verity Blackthorn and Coupling BDSM with the Holidays

It's the end of the year, and we all know what that means – there are more things to finish than minutes in a day, they're all important, and people are probably telling you to relax and enjoy a seasonal beverage with people you're not overly keen on while listening to holiday-specific music that got old a month ago. Chances are, you need to relax, and what would be better to take you away from the pressure of the holidays than a little private indulgence in something kinky?

"Pushing the Line," my contribution to the Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs anthology from Storm Moon Press, is about just that. In the story, a submissive control freak named Ebet brings her long-term girlfriend Meg home to meet her traditional family for the first time on New Year's Eve.

Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs got me excited from the submission call. In my experience, few publishers of collections are interested in pieces between the five thousand word and fifty thousand word mark; they either want a short or a novel. If what you really want is a sexy little fling, a novel is just too hefty, but five thousand words isn't quite long enough for something to both be satisfying erotica and satisfying fiction. A story needs a plot and character development, something meaty to make it fun and interesting, but erotica needs sex, or sex-esque happenings, to turn up at some point to keep everyone involved from feeling cheated. Having ten thousand words to play around with gave me the room for two straight-up sex scenes while still letting me explore how both the sex and the power dynamic inside and outside of the figurative bedroom related to Meg and Ebet's relationship.

It was also fun to focus on BDSM, which I love from both the theoretical and applied angles, and the holidays, which I love to hate. Some people dislike being restricted, and kinky sex can be very difficult to write, but it's nice to have a more specific theme unifying the anthology. When people superficially discuss BDSM they tend to fixate more on the physical side, the part that's easy to see and imagine because there is a lot of cultural shorthand for it along the lines of whips and chains and Victorian engravings. But what's easier to gloss over, because it's more difficult to understand, is the psychological and emotional aspect of the relationship, and how it can create a safe context for working out personal issues and feelings. And the holidays can be loaded with issues and feelings. BDSM has so many different facets that could be written about, but I felt like power dynamics fit with the theme; few people are the same when alone with their partner as when in the company of their family, and the more people you add to the mix, the messier it gets.

BDSM as a physical practice can be really hard to write about because of how visual it is; what would make for stunning cinematography often makes for quite clumsy writing. That can be dealt with by taking a very artistic approach to description, conveying the feel and the essence of what's happening, rather than succumbing to the urge to write something like "and then he tied her arms in a dragonfly and her legs in a reverse frog banded cinch, found her center of gravity and suspended her inverted from the ceiling using a boola-boola," which is accurate (trust me) but not very sexy. Though even beautiful description can be problematic, as you're still trying to turn people on, and while one can write a very beautiful scene about sensual deprivation and rhythmic flogging, it won't necessarily be arousing, and can quite easily become 'literature about sex' as opposed to 'erotica'. So, you run into the problem of how to write about this experience accurately and specifically while still eliciting the intended response. And then there's the onus of responsibility that I'm going to guess is shared by everyone that both writes BDSM erotica and engages in some aspect of it for their own enjoyment, and that's portraying safe play; the need to 'get it right' is probably stronger in this context than for writers of non-BDSM erotica to portray safe sex, because BDSM done wrong can result in injury or death, depending on what's being attempted. In the end, all you can really do is have fun with it.

A lot of the kinky writing I've read seems to be very baroque, possibly because it draws on traditional writing such as that of the Marquis de Sade. As much as I love de Sade, I try to remember that I don't have to be restricted to intricate torture scenes with elaborate excuses for their existence, a la Philosophy in the Bedroom. Sometimes I want to write about a young lady of good family being formally discipled in the ways of kinky sex, but I don't want that to be the only option. It's fun to have damask couches and satin curtain ties for your Dom to bind her sub, but I want the option of having two young women, for instance, alone in a family cabin on the top of a mountain making do with the sometime ridiculous things they find there, and have that be okay, too. 

Verity Blackthorn writes erotica as a reward for plowing through more research-heavy work. She divides her time between the UK and Virginia. Her new short story, "Pushing the Line", can be found in Storm Moon Press' Milk & Cookies & Handcuffs anthology, now available through the Storm Moon Press website as well as your favorite online e-book stores.