This post originally appeared March 8 on Eden Connor’s “Dirty Mind vs. Debit Card:” series.
Many years ago I corresponded at length with a young man who was seeking an owner. Although we decided we weren’t suitable for each other, we grew quite close during the exchange of numerous e-mails and telephone calls.
The young man, who had multiple mental diagnoses, had been introduced to BDSM several years earlier by his therapist. She enslaved him and kept him in what’s known as a 24/7 TPE (Total Power Exchange) relationship. She whipped him, used him sexually, and kept him a prisoner in her house. Although he believes he consented to this relationship, under such circumstances he would have been unable to give informed, legitimate consent.
To compound the woman’s abhorrent, unethical relationship with this boy, she abandoned him after two years, releasing him to flounder on his own in the vanilla world.
I have kept a slave in a consensual Total Power Exchange relationship in the past. Someone in this type of relationship can’t make the leap to individual independence without some transitional time and assistance. The young man was given neither. And, this is a young man who already had difficulty functioning in the world at large because of the severe problems that had sent him to seek therapy in the first place.
I was horrified. But, as much as I tried, I couldn’t convince the young man that this woman had abused him.
My anger inspired me to write a novel. Unlike real life, readers require that fiction make sense. I tried to imagine how anyone could perpetuate such horrific torture on another human being. In a desperate attempt not to write a one-dimensional villain, I ended up with an additional novel.
Although I originally tried to market them as one book, in reality they needed to be two. At the suggestion of the books’ original publisher, I split them. Originally, the combined book was called Broken. Searching for a title for the second book, my TPE slave, who was in service to me at the time, suggested Shattered.
And, so the protagonist in Broken is the antagonist in Shattered. Both books are works of fiction. However, I know first hand that what Zachary suffers in Shattered is all too close to the truth. My beta reader was a friend who had studied for his doctorate in psychology. He had first hand experience of the environment I had chosen to explain how Jessica could abuse Zachary to the extent that she did. I found it disconcerting that he thought Broken very believable, given his own experience.
These novels are not romances. They’re cautionary tales about abuse and the meaning of consent. (In Broken Jessica consents to enslavement by her professor when he threatens to expel her from the university and blacklist her.) I know some readers find them arousing. Others have found them revolting. But, my intention was that readers find them thought provoking and that has indeed been the case.
One reader of both books wrote: “The longer the books gestate in my mind, they give me some things to think about in my own life, as well as stirring me physically.
“I.G. touches upon darkness that many of us hold within ourselves and the inner core that can be broken and rebuilt. She brought out the things that we will do and go through in order to achieve our life goals.”
One reviewer, Brenda Thatcher, Co-Owner of Mystique Books, wrote of Shattered: “If art is meant to disturb, to reach out and touch an individual on a visceral level, then I.G. Frederick did so for this reader. Not an easy accomplishment, for I have layers of scars over those wounds. Read SHATTERED if you’ve a lion’s heart. Live it if you dare.”
I found it amusing that another reviewer wrote: “This book only generated negative emotions for me – fury, disgust, loathing and sorrow,” without ever understanding that those were the emotions I wanted my readers to experience.
Broken and Shattered are in my opinion and that of others, important books. They show how BDSM can be used to justify abuse (something that happens too often in the real world). The revolted reviewer wrote: “Jessica’s understanding of BDSM is so perverted and twisted, it pisses me off.” That was precisely my point.
I have read too many blog posts from women who have been raped by a play partner who ignored their limits (one is too many, but I’ve read far more than that). The slave who titled Shattered had been the victim of not one, but two abusers who masqueraded as dominants and pretended to offer him the Master/slave relationship he craved.
A Master/slave relationship can be a beautiful symbiosis that exceeds vanilla couplings in intimacy and intensity. But, four times I have sheltered, literally or figuratively, someone escaping an abusive and parasitic relationship that was supposed to be symbiotic.
You ask about sales. These books haven’t sold a huge number of copies. One of the reasons is that they are not written to be erotic as in “sexually arousing.” They are more mainstream literary works with graphic sex and S&M than what people think of as erotica. But, I don’t want someone to pick up one of my books to read without knowing what they’re getting into.
One of the great things Nyla Alisia of Pussy Cat Press did as part of creating fabulous new covers for the books was label them: “A Disturbing Erotic Novel” and “A Deeply Disturbing Erotic Novel.” No one should pick one up expecting a romance.
Last week, I was required to make Broken and Shattered, “inactive” on All Romance ebooks. I intend to fight that decision because although the consent in both is “questionable,” they do not contain non-consensual sex or non-consensual S&M. (Note, both books were reinstated, but they’re now hidden unless you’re logged in as are most of my short story collections on that site.)
It shouldn’t matter.
I’m also concerned that I’ll be required to remove Dommemoir. It’s a romance, but it does include watersports and I’ve seen reports that that is making the censorship lists of some publishers/retailers. My cover designer, Nyla Alisia, has said that reading Dommemoir “changed my life forever” and came up with the tagline: “WARNING: This book will change women’s perspective on relationship dynamics forever.”
Ashley Lister wrote in a review on Erotica Readers & Writers Association that “Dommemoir is a well-written story of sexual expression triumphing over sexual repression and a brand of true love that could only ever be experienced within the restrictions of a BDSM relationship. For those who are already familiar with this lifestyle, Dommemoir should prove a telling tale where readers can recognise their own experiences and preconceptions as they are met and managed. For those who don’t know the lifestyle but are curious to learn more, Dommemoir will give a fascinating insight to unimagined possibilities.”
I also expect to have trouble with my next book, Playing With Dolls, which I intend to release later this month, because it also contains questionable consent.
I spent too much time last week (time I could have spent writing or prepping for a class I’m teaching) changing many of the keyword tags on Smashwords. Those would be the ones that make it possible for people who like what I write to find my stories.
I will have to re-title and possibly rewrite “Jail Bait” (a story I had planned to publish this week) not because it includes “underage” sex, but because the male waits until midnight on the female’s 18th birthday to initiate sex. Is that long enough under the circumstances? Is the fact that she wants sex with him before that arbitrary date/time, but he insists on waiting make my story “obscene”?
I object to having my work censored, pre- or post-publication. I admit that many of my short stories, often originally written for men’s magazines, are pure wank-off material, but I see nothing wrong with that.
However, some of my short stories and all of my novels are written to make readers think. They’re inspired by ugly things I see in this world. Playing with Dolls, for example, was motivated by a letter to an advice columnist in which the writer complained that her friend was going to marry an “obviously” gay man — obvious, according to her, because he was effeminate. My letter to that columnist which refuted the friend’s concerns based on the possibility that the couple she was concerned about might be in a FemDom/sissy boy relationship was ignored.
I know lots of effeminate males. Ninety percent are straight and most of the other 10 percent are bisexual. I also know many gay males. Most of them are about as macho as a guy can be. You’re not likely to find a more butch male than a gay leatherman. Unlike macho straight guys, a gay leatherman has absolutely no exposure to anything female in his personal life. But our society insists on equating “feminine male” with “gay.”
I got nailed by one of my beta readers because the m/m sex scenes weren’t erotic. Given that they’re written from the point of view of someone who doesn’t like gay sex, well, duh. I won’t look for a publisher for Playing With Dolls because it’s such an unusual book. It’s a coming of age story about someone who’s been kicked so hard by societal misconceptions (including his own parents) that he ends up in abusive BDSM relationships. Transgressive, yes. Best seller, not likely. Censor target, I’m sure it will be.
There’s something wrong with a country in which children are routinely abused by their parents and their priests and no one does anything about it, while our educational system produces people who only know how to take tests and are unable to think critically, and our infrastructure is crumbling around us. But we waste resources censoring books that might make a reader uncomfortable.
I should have the right to write and sell anything that anyone else will buy.
I also strongly respect the right of any reader to draw a line that they don’t wish to cross in their reading experience. But, I will fight any person who tries to move that line for anyone else. No one should be permitted to force someone to read what they finds offensive, but that reader shouldn’t be able to prevent anyone else from reading that same material just because they don’t like it.
Any author who believes this censorship doesn’t apply to them because they don’t write erotica or anything “squicky,” needs to look up the poem attributed to Pastor Martin Niemöller about the Holocaust and those who didn’t speak up until it was too late. I also urge them to remember that almost half the top 100 novels of the 20th century have been targeted by book banners including: The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Color Purple, James Joyce’s Ulysses, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Lord of the Flies, Orwell’s 1984, and, of course, Nabokov’s Lolita.
The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents government from “abridging the freedom of speech.” But, corporations (who currently own the government) can arbitrarily decide what can and can’t be sold on their sites or what work we can pay for or receive payment from through their systems. Today PayPal won’t allow pseudo-bestiality or pseudo-incest. Tomorrow they can ban any works they choose. I’m guessing LGBT relationships will be the next target.
Don’t think that will happen? Were you paying attention three years ago when Amazon removed all LGBT books and authors from its search engine? Some of those books STILL have not had their visibility restored.
When you search for “homosexuality in books” on Amazon you STILL get: A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality, and Coming Out of Homosexuality: New Freedom for Men and Women in the top ten — all books based on the fabricated theory that the bible says homosexuality is an “abomination.” If you change the list to “most popular” you won’t find any of those books. People are NOT buying the books Amazon claims are most relevant, but those are the books Amazon delivers to your screen when you search for that word.
If you care about the fact that corporations are deciding what you can and can’t read, there are things you can do:
- close your PayPal and eBay accounts and tell them why you’re doing so (money talks)
- tell retailers who only accept payment via PayPal why you won’t buy from them
- don’t buy books from Amazon unless you can’t find them anywhere else.
- tell all your friends/fans to do the same.