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WARNING

This blog will contain...
...profanity, sexually explicit dialog andadult imagery.
If you are under 18 and/or offended by this...
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Friday, January 17, 2014

#SSR "Fantasy versus Reality"- What is my responsibility as an erotic romance writer?


http://spankingromance.com/spanking-round-table-discussions/
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.

20 comments:

  1. It's a complex issue, and that's why I left the prompt completely open. Fantasy vs. reality can mean a great number of things, as you've pointed out. All we can do is start with out thoughts and go from there.

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    1. at first, I wasn't glad how wide you left it 'cause I couldn't get my thoughts marshaled :D, but in the end I was glad. But yes, start from the start and work on what you can. thanks again for hosting

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  2. Thanks for posting, Joelle! I am laughing at your comment about when the characters in books have sex. I personally HATE when there is a sex scene and the guy's penis gets described as huge. First of all, penises are gross, let's not describe- there is no need. Secondly, too big is scary, LOL.

    You had a really thoughtful post, I am sorry that's what I focused on, but really, it made me giggle.

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    1. lmao it's totally okay, Casey, your amusement at my penis comment. After my editor focused on the fact that I hadn't talked about penis or breast size in my last book she read, I wrote a poem "my Master's cock"- as a BDSM submissive who only commits to one dominant at a time, the notion of talking about penis size is just one more thing I can't focus on. because as I said as the thought came to me- His penis is His penis and its size in comparison to any other penis doesn't matter

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  3. First--Casey, dang! LOL!

    Second, Joelle, Complex is right! You have hit so many little truths in this one post.As authors we are confined by fantasy. Readers want the escape of a good, so we follow formulas and rules and we craft something that we hope can at least mirror the truth--that people are flawed and that flaws can be sexy, fun, natural, and okay--and all the while we strive to insert as much reality into the fantasy that we can. I've read authors who never bother to lift the veil of fantasy even for just a sentence or two in their stories. Personally, I think the goods ones, the ones worth reading, can't help themselves. As this post today shows, you're one of the good ones.

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    1. ah thanks, Casey :) there certainly is a place for fantasy, but yeah, those truths need to be there somehow. Like I think of "Lord of the Rings." Tolkien wove so many human truths into his fantastical characters and settings.

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  4. Thought provoking post. I agree with you about the size of a woman's breast and a man's penis. WTH difference does it make to a story except to add words.

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    1. yup, just to add words- except in the case where it's used "correctly." Like I think of one scene where I have actually talked breast size- and the point was to show how the polyamorous dominant enjoyed more than one body type- one woman with large breasts and another who barely had a B cup

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  5. Lovely post, Joelle. Like you, I sincerely hope BDSM curious people are not reading things like 50 Shades and thinking that is the reality of the BDSM world. I do feel some sense of responsibility to write characters and situations that have some basis in reality while still providing the escapism of fantasy.

    :) And I try not to mention penis size at all, either. Throbbing member, shaft of love, amorous rod of enormity…I mean really.

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    1. thanks, Johnna. ack... shaft of love... I didn't even think of it. Now I admit, I do like some erotic fantasy- like Ciaran Dwynvil, but when I'm reading his work- fantasy set in a middle ages type environment, I expect word choice like that. But in contemporary, I just don't like it.

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  6. Sorry, but I disagree entirely about 50 Shades, because without it, my fantasies would never have seen daylight. LOL!

    Perhaps our reality is so imperfect, that we like to fantasise about what we judge to be perfection. Although, I completely agree with you re the description of body parts - most are totally unrealistic unless you want to look like Barbie or a pumped up body-builder on anabolic steroids.

    Perhaps the problem is that we all have such "different" fantasies and therefore find it difficult to relate to each other. One of the first ever spanky/bdsm type books I read was short stories, and all the characters were black. It never even occurred to me that this was unusual. Your post has been quite thought provoking and I really enjoyed reading it.

    Hugs
    Ami

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    1. thanks, Ami. true, our desires are very individual. Even on body type, that's a thing. I had a breast reduction about 5 years ago now, and most mentions of big breasts still push me right out of enjoying most stories.

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  7. Sometimes I think the point of writing is because no one else can write YOUR fantasy. You bring to the table a different fantasy perspective, but I guarantee, if you find it hot, others will, too, so put it out just the way you fantasize about it...

    Thanks for joining today's discussion!

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    1. true, Renee... we start with our own perspective. and thanks for commenting

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  8. As an author of BDSM-M/F Erotic Romance (writing under the pen name Skye Michaels) , I have been criticized that my BDSM was too "light" by a few readers. Sorry to say that if I was going to try BDSM, I'd want it to be light. LOL. Most of my heroines are new to the scene, so they wouldn't jump in on something that was too heavy. I try to first have a good story with lots of fun sex, kinky and vanilla, with a variety of types of sex. As to descriptors for cocks and pussies - that is hard. How many way are there to describe the same thing? My editors have criticized one particular book and made me add more descriptors and more sex when I thought there was enough. I know you can't please everyone all the time, but I like to have a little bit of something for everyone. Since I am not gay, I usually don't write about that because I don't think I know enough about the relationship dynamics, although I have had gay couples as secondary characters and have enjoyed what they brought to the story. The setting for my latest series, The Golden Dolphin Series, is a luxury yacht. I chose this setting because it allows me to have interesting continuing characters in the crew (handsome captain Constantine Cortelis and first mate Alex Dragados) and then I introduce a new set of main characters each time, and I can bring back favorite characters from my previous series (The Le Club Series) for visits so we can see how they are doing. Also I am no longer limited in location. We can and have taken the ship from the Amazon to Alaska. While my heroes are good looking and successful (I know I personally don't want to ready about everyday people in my fantasies) they all have things to overcome. Every heroine is not a Victoria's Secret model, and some have issues like scars or other things to overcome as well. Most of all I love what I am doing and hope my readers enjoy it too. - Skye Michaels

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    1. thanks for the comment. well truthfully, I do think there needs to be more space (in publishing) for gradations of activity. Like I've loved Paloma Beck's "Heart and Souls" series because of how she focuses on the relationship between the dom and sub (who's a newbie).

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  9. Great thought provoking post Joelle, I enjoyed reading your perspective on this topic.

    Hugs,
    Roz

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  10. I knew you'd write something brilliant for this topic, Joelle! So much depth and insight.

    And I couldn't agree more with the thought that "'real' is such a relative term" - the world would be a much better place if more people understood that.

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    1. thanks for the comment, Penelope :) Well I have thought on the topic so much, even before I sat to write :D. But yes, the improvements that could come if people would understand the relativity of "real." I was thinking about that as I was discussing a possible WIP with my BR- a 100% LDR. And how "real" that could be

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