How much realism *should* be part of BDSM erotica?

A few years ago, I was reading my work at a BDSM themed erotica event. I chose to read a story about two FTMs because there were no other queer stories being read (in fact one of the stories that was read had some rather intense homophobia in it), and I wanted to have some queer representation, faggotry in particular. I had read this piece before—it was an excerpt from my story “Missing Daddy”, a bittersweet wistful remembrance of an important scene with a top’s first Daddy many years ago. The excerpt featured a heavy caning scene, from the bottom’s POV, and was written to illuminate (among other things) what it’s like to take a heavy beating when you are not a masochist, but are doing it as an act of submission. Most of the time, when I read this excerpt, the whole room holds it’s breath. Not this time. This time, they laughed. In fact, they laughed more than once. Because this kinky audience knew that experience, could relate to the bottom’s perspective, and could see the humor in the story, could ride along with the bottom in a deeper more self-deprecating way.

When I write, I write for kinky people. For the folks like me that look for representation of our experiences that is both hot and feels real. I particularly write for queer and trans* folks who do BDSM (or know that they deeply want to but have not gotten there yet) because we so rarely find ourselves, our bodies, our communities and especially our desires and experiences reflected in fiction. Those are the people I want to impact—I want to make them think, I want to make them feel, I want to make them laugh, I want to make them come.

I’ve been active in BDSM communities for over a dozen years, and have been doing BDSM education and programming for the last 10. I do kink education because I tried to learn about BDSM from books (both fiction and non-fiction), and was woefully unprepared for kink in real life in ways that were very harmful to me. I write knowing that there are others like me, the novice kinky queers who may move from reading to doing without accessing many other sources of information. I write for those novices, and for the folks who go to fiction looking for a mirror or a catharsis.

Because I know people read for education, I endeavor to write fiction that is aligned with my kink ethics and knowledge. For example, I try to illuminate and illustrate consent. I think it is vital to make sure that the reader sees models for negotiation and consent; this is a core part of my kink ethics, central in my kink education, and something I believe is deeply important. I wrote about that here.

I use my work to offer critiques of realities in kink life that I find problematic (like disrespect of bottoms, for example). I don’t want to present an imaginary vision of a perfect kinky world. I want to show how you can find intense and gorgeous sexual experiences amidst a world that includes disrespect, violence, and bad sex. I want something that feels real, with all the difficulties and flaws of that.

I want the BDSM to seem possible. And if it’s not speculative fiction (and some of my erotic work is), I need it to seem possible in this world, with these physical constraints. (If for no other reason than I get turned off when reading non-speculative fiction by things that I know are impossible. I get all distracted by how your arm just can’t do that or she is going to get a spine injury from that, and lose my hard on completely.) That means that I don’t write about bondage because I don’t do it and don’t know enough to be certain that someone who does isn’t going to drop out of my story because I had someone doing something that is ridiculous or that they would not survive. I’ve had a lot of kink education—I sought it out and spent a lot of my energy and money on getting that education, after my early bad experiences. I’ve also had a lot of experience doing kink. I don’t want to make it up—there is enough material in what I know to give me fodder for erotica for a long time to come.

I write to illuminate things about kink experiences and relationships that are often under-represented in mainstream BDSM community. I write trans* people and our kink and sex lives and our bodies into the picture over and over again, because I know how much I needed to find them. I write from queer kinky perspectives, for queer kink audiences, in queer kink contexts. I set my stories in times and places I know well (which is why they are mostly set in NYC or SF queer and kink community spaces, including public sex spaces), partly because I want to document queer erotic territories in my work (something I got so much out of when Patrick Califia has done it). I write the edgeplay that is marginalized in kink community, and I write it as ethically as I know how to…with a deep interest in illuminating the intensity and pleasure of riding the sharp edge of desire.

I write to create an erotic catharsis for the reader. One that illuminates something new. One that offers transformation. I do that with the same intent and many of the same tools I use to create an erotic catharsis as a top—I top the reader. I seek to do that with stories that draw deeply from reality. I know it’s possible to do that in other genres and other ways, and sometimes I do that too.

How much realism *should* we go for when writing BDSM erotica? I can’t answer that for anyone else. I know that for my own work, I want realism, most of the time. I want you to sink into the characters and their internal conflicts and ride along in their struggles and desire, and feel like it could happen to you.

28 thoughts on “How much realism *should* be part of BDSM erotica?

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