Thank you so much to Spanking Romance Reviews for hosting this wonderful discussion!
When Corinne Alexander posted the upcoming Spanking Romance Review round table topics and I read this one, I just knew I had to take part. "Fantasy versus reality" hosted by Anastasia Vitsky? She and I have probably touched on pieces of this topic hundreds of time in conversation so I was grateful to Ana for hosting this. Even before "Fifty Shades," I knew I wanted BDSM erotica that was more realistic. I loved the fantasy erotica I'd read- like Anne Rice's "Sleeping Beauty" books- but I wanted a book that was sexy that I could also see myself in. As a queer woman looking for a 24/7 BDSM relationship, I doubted Harlequin and similar publishers were going to give me that. As I worked my way through the spanking/DD fiction I started finding fall of 2012, I was joyful to find "real." At least it felt real enough to me. Wandering from Sue Lyndon, I found others like Renee Rose and Anastasia Vitsky. While each woman brought her unique voice to her books, I kept finding "real." And I loved it!
But what is real? When I sat down to write this, I came up with 4 points that I decided I wanted to cover. LOL, I asked my BR's opinion on the order they should be in and she suggested nearly the opposite of how they came to me. But as I joked with her- nothing says I'll actually follow any rational order :D .
Of course "real" is such a relative term. BDSM as I know it, living in Michigan, having always been on the look out for an individual who wanted to engage in BDSM within a relationship. When Alta Hensley asked me to read her book "Ruby Rose," I was wondering what it was about me that lead her to think that I'd get what she wanted to do in the book, that I'd enjoy it. In her character Maxine, I knew it. Maxine is so not what I ever was, ever wanted as a submissive. I didn't want to play at BDSM, dressing up in all the leather and latex and bratting myself into a spanking in some club. So yes, my "real" in BDSM isn’t what Laura Antoniou wrote in her Marketplace series; I've seen her have reviews that attacked her books based on what she wrote not being what the reviewer saw as "real" BDSM. Ugh! Crazy though it is, Alta's book reminded me of one simple thing that got me writing a multi-post series... yeah, I say BDSM, but DD often enough looks real to me, looks like what I have, just with different words. Which leads me to thinking of Cherise Sinclair "Club Shadowlands." She starts this book off talking about the reality of BDSM, mentioning "safe, sane, and consensual," and talks about how real doms can't read minds like her hero :D.
As a person who engages in BDSM in real life- even on Facebook, my cover picture says "I write BDSM, I live BDSM," when books like FSoG make a splash in the mainstream, I can't help but shudder. I pray that no person who reads such books think that that's "good BDSM," that it's safe. I'm guessing DD people have the same experience with different books that talk about spanking too. I know what looks like "love" to me sometimes looks like abuse to someone who doesn't understand BDSM/DD. But I hope if real representations of BDSM get out there that some people will understand, some people who had the shimmering feelings that BDSM or DD might be what they want will find it.
Oh and sex lol. There are so many things about romance, especially the more mainstream romance, that seem so fake to me. Yes, I always have little word choice things like make me shudder, even some of the more common phrases from spanking romance get to me. But with the lack of comprehensive, inclusive sex education in most of the US, there are different things about the way sex is sometimes shown that upset me. Like the man and the woman always coming together- the hetero-normative (and often mono-normative) focus on male/female couplings irritates me. To me, this smacks of the assumption that men and women need the same things to find pleasure in intercourse. So whether I'm writing BDSM and trying my hand at DD (yes, I will somehow finish the poly spanking story that I started last year), I prefer to write sex scenes that are closer to what really happens. So sometimes a pet will interrupt during sex- how many cat parents have found their back as a springboard for a kitty running around, even during intercourse? And sometimes sex and BDSM/kink activity will end before one, both, or more involved reach their satisfaction. Another pet peeve of mine? A focus on the size of a woman's breasts and a man's penis. If I mention either of these in my writing, it's for a very specific purpose- like to talk about the differences in body type between two women in a polyamorous relationship. But the way I think about it, my Master may not have a porn-sized cock, but He does very well giving us both pleasure with it, so I don't care to read about "large throbbing members" all that much.
However when it comes to "fantasy versus reality" in fiction, especially erotic fiction, it's so much about social justice for me. I was reminded of that when I read Anastasia's recent post about "representations of disability." And of course, it's under social justice that many of Anastasia's and my conversations have been. In our writing, we both approach many things "outside of the mainstream." IMHO there is simply not enough of any sort of fiction that doesn't showcase white, middle class, heterosexual, monogamous people. As far as I can, I try to write other than that, but I can only do so much. After all, the first two descriptors I used are part of me. I'm a white woman who came from a middle class background. I've had a variety of experiences as an adult and friends not fitting those descriptors, but I'm limited. My bigger worry when it comes to representation is that I eroticize something that shouldn't be; this has been a big thing for me with one character of mine who has the back story of escaping from South African apartheid. I didn't want to eroticize her blackness. Not as a white woman writing about a black woman, but I didn't want to avoid her race either. Yes, sensitivity can be such a difficult thing. And further on in my story serial, I introduce a transgender woman character. Oh I was so insanely nervous about her. I wrote to the transwoman activist/journalist Gwen Smith and begged her to read excerpts and give her opinion if I dealt sensitively and correctly with the character, especially because I had the transwoman in several sexual interactions. Gwen teased me, "you've done a horrible job," but no, she did say I did a pretty good job and it was good to see an author who was concerned to include a transgender character in erotica and to do it "right," not making the transgenderism a joke or a titillation.
A final thought I have on fantasy versus reality is setting. I've seen this especially in BDSM erotica, less so in spanking/DD fiction, it seems to me- the resort, the club as a setting. Now this is one of those places that I'm just as likely to have something totally fantasy. I think of my serial- set in a huge mansion owned by a billionaire. Yup, very little reality there. At least for most people I know :D.
And with that, I'll invite readers to comment and then move on to the other participants. After awhile of stressing about it, I had to tell myself (on this post) that I'm not trying to write an epic, just to put my thoughts forward and have some more conversation on this. There’re just too many available, important things to talk about- and I only have 2000 words max :D.