On the erotica writers listserv I’m on, someone was talking about the trouble they were having writing the tipping point, that moment when their two novice kinky characters fell into D/s dynamic. I wrote a bit about that, and decided to rework it into this blog post.
The Tipping Point When I Was a Novice
Here’s what the tipping point into D/s was like for me as a novice: often, it was a shift in energy, in dynamic, as if something clicked and the universe altered, without a conscious choice point I was aware of. The conscious choice point was about letting it stay that way, following along with it, or resisting it. I’d be in a regular conversation, often a flirtatious one, and something would trigger that shift. I experienced that kind of thing as a novice on both sides of the kneel.
(I think this is partly about the intense hunger novices often bring when they finally get to the point that they are trying to do what they’d always dreamed of. I brought sooooo much hunger to my early kink experiences and often let hunger decide for me. It made for some terrible choices, and some lucky ones.)
So I’d be hanging out with a group of folks I know are kinky, and someone that I knew was a dominant or a switch would catch my gaze, and hold it, or growl in a particular way, or say something that showed that they’d been attending to me with precision, or touch me in a particular way while flirting, and I’d be holding my breath, feeling myself sink into a submissive headspace. Or not feeling myself sink, just sinking, and then noticing it several minutes later.
Or, I’d be hanging out with a group of folks in a kink space, and someone that I knew was a submissive or a switch would preen in front of me, or look up at me from the floor, or blush or stammer or look nervous in a flirtatious way, or say something deferential, or offer to fetch something for me in a particular way, or look at me with big eyes, and I’d find myself honing in on them, attending to them more specifically, upping the ante on my flirtation in a more dominant way. If they responded, we might be in a D/s dance before I fully realized it, or chose it. And then it would be my job to make it an explicit conversation so I could ensure consent, if I wanted to continue it, or to extricate myself from it carefully.
Now that I have more experience, I know many ways to invoke D/s dynamic, and get there much more deliberately. But when I was a novice, it often felt like I’d fallen into it before I realized, a bit like the way many romances talk about falling in love.
What the Tipping Point Looks Like Now
These days the tipping point looks different. I often do more of a slow, watching my prey for a long time kind of thing. I keep my eye on someone for a while, before I make a deliberate move. I’m much more careful about not invoking a power dynamic accidentally, and without clear consent. If someone is flirting, or seems open, or I’m attracted, or we have a spark, I assess, choose, and communicate…and then I see what happens.
Once I have a clear go-ahead, I’m a dominant who likes to start by backing you into a wall. That’s my most favorite move. Each step is careful, and I’m watching to make sure it’s desired. It is rather like a large predatory cat slowly cornering you, with your consent. Then I see what we have, where it goes. I step deeper, watching your response, until I’ve got you in my hand. I savor that feel of you in my grip, tasting every bit of it, letting you know that I am holding the power, that I want it if you want to give it, that we can just sit in this moment and sink into it, enjoy the being in D/s dynamic part. I let you see me as a dominant, let you get a good long draw from the liquid pleasure of seeing that, and being under my boot, having all of my considerable attention focused on you.
I might get there through words, or gaze, or tone of voice, or touch, or body language, or fear, or pain, or tears. It can be talking over a meal, or on the phone. It can be moving through a museum with my hand on the back of your neck. It can be literally backing you into a wall. It can be a scene that we negotiated. SM is one of my favorite tools to invoke that D/s dynamic, and to hold it (I am a sadist, after all), but we don’t go too deep into the D/s part, not at first. A long holding taste is enough for now, enough that anyone could really consent to without knowing what the dynamic could be. (And I don’t believe it can be known without going there, and experiencing it.) After play, or this kind of flirtation, if we decide to negotiate a D/s dynamic, it’s from someplace real, where we have a sense of what we could be.
Even with no wall in sight, the tipping point generally feels like I have carefully backed you into a wall and I’m breathing you in, sinking into my boots, holding you there, making you aware that you are in my grip, letting you see me in my power. That experience is the place from which I choose again: take a step closer, or choose to take a careful step back.
The Tipping Point in Erotica
I rarely write the tipping point in my stories. Most of the stories I write that center D/s show it after the relationship has been established, after the characters have chosen and negotiated the D/s dynamic. The stories that center the beginning of a kink dynamic are often about a scene between strangers, and the hint or possibility of more after the story ends.
There are a couple of exceptions that come to mind. “A Wolf’s Yearning” is about a tipping point, the moment when a genderqueer werewolf sadist named Rocky is choosing whether to pursue D/s with a boy ze has been dating. (The entire story is available for free at the link above, so I won’t include an excerpt.) “My Will” (printed in SexTime) is about a series of moments where a man who had given up submission years ago reconnects with himself as a submissive. It has a few tipping points. Here is one of those moments. As a heads up, it includes descriptions of boot play, including boot licking.
When I knelt to do his boots, it was like coming home. I savored every second of it, taking my time brushing on the saddle soap, carefully cleaning every inch of them. I had not even done my own boots in many years, much less anyone else’s. It was too dangerous, I had found: I got too trancy and submissive. I could let that happen, in this space and time, I could let myself go there with this man I trusted immensely.
Flaming the polish was a delight. Bootblacking is such a sensual experience, and I wanted to take my time with it, relish every aspect. The scent of the polish, the dancing flames, the warmth of it on my fingers. The ritual was sacred, I knew that, each step vital to the whole. I applied two full coats of polish to the boot, shining it vigorously with the brush, pulling off my A-line shirt and ripping it in front of him, and using a piece of it to buff his boot. I lifted my gaze to meet his, and asked permission. He stroked my cheek gently as he answered, and I closed my eyes so I might feel every millimeter of his hand on my skin.
I lick boots the old fashioned way, belly on the floor, as low as I can be. As I placed myself on the floor at his feet, I shivered. It felt so good to be here, to be worshipping the boots of this man I deeply respected. I was in his care, and he would be careful with me; I knew that. Tears filled my eyes, and when I touched my lips reverently to his boot, I felt so full I could burst. This was exactly where I wanted to be. Tears fell onto the leather, and his boots soaked in their due. I could taste salt with the polish as I licked, pressing hard with my tongue, wanting him to feel it.
I had made myself forget what this tasted like, felt like. I concentrated hard on all of it, imprinting the memory of this lest it be the only time I would do it. His other boot came to rest on the back of my neck and he used it to press my mouth down hard, groaning. He held me there for a good long time, his hand reaching down to stroke my hair, his bootheel digging into my shoulder. I didn’t want it to end.
In a novel, there’s more room to explore the tipping point. I am working on a D/s erotic romance novel, my first long form, called Shocking Violet. I’m enjoying the slow smolder that comes with establishing D/s between two folks that were strangers at the beginning of the story. I posted an excerpt that shows the first tipping point (at the end of the excerpt). What that excerpt doesn’t show is how the submissive character then freaks out, because she gave up D/s years ago. Both characters do a lot of tipping, then reining themselves in, trying not to get too deep too fast. Here is another later excerpt when the submissive character tips into D/s again.
I love the tipping point, the place where we let go and sink into dynamic, or where we realize we are already there. It is glorious and intimate, and so damn heady I often can’t breathe right. It’s about holding possibility, about being ourselves, about deepening our trust, and it is beautiful, even when it freaks us out and we run from it. I often remember those moments in D/s erotica so clearly; they are what make me root for the folks involved as a unit, not just as separate characters.
With that in mind, I have a few reading suggestions if you are looking for erotic fiction that gives good tipping point. Interestingly, they are all D/s erotic romance novels. That is the genre where I remember the tipping point, often because the writer takes their time with it. I see it less in short erotic fiction.
- I find Joey W. Hill’s books do really well about D/s in a lot of ways, but generally skip the D/s tipping point, or do it in sort of a magical way that doesn’t work for me. There is one exception that I loved, and that felt really real. Her novel Unrestrained shows the kind of moment I was describing that happened to me as a novice, where a woman who has been a dominant finds herself tipping into a D/s dynamic as a submissive before she really decides to. I thought Hill did those moments really well.
- I think that Cecilia Tan does a lovely job with the tipping point moment in her book, Slow Surrender, from the POV of the novice in that relationship. It’s so clearly a game, and then it becomes a serious game. It charms me, and feels real, and is one of the things that has drawn me to reread this story.
- I found Del Dryden‘s The Theory of Attraction to have a kind of sweet tipping point, where the dominant is trying so hard to hold back, and the submissive novice has no idea what she keeps saying she’s signing up for, so he has to be so damn blunt.
- I enjoyed the slow burn in Solace Ames‘ The Companion Contract. They tip deliciously slowly into D/s. I loved watching that achingly slow build, and when it tipped, I felt so damn exultant.
What is it like for you? What do your tipping points look like? What kind of tipping points do you like to write, or read?