Staying Safe Online

November 2, 2015

Included in Chapter Seven of Connecting to Kink

Guarding Your Privacy Online

If you log onto any fetish or social media site, you are liable to see the following message (or something similar) on various profiles:

WARNING: Any institutions or individuals using this site or any of its associated sites for studies or projects, profit or nonprofit projects — You DO NOT have my permission to use any of my profile or pictures in any form or forum both current and future. You may not cut, copy, paste anything from/off my profile including photos, videos and/or writings in any way, shape or form. If you have or do, it will be considered a violation of my privacy and will be subject to legal ramifications.

Be aware this warning is meaningless. It’s not a legally binding statement. The legal document you signed, by accepting the TOS (terms of service) when setting up a profile on any site, trumps anything you post and probably says pretty much the opposite.

The most important thing to understand when creating an account on any website that is free (and even some that charge a fee) is that you’re not the consumer, you’re the product.

Now, on Facebook and other conventional social media sites, the most embarrassing thing anyone else might learn about you is somewhat limited by the restrictions the site has on what you can post.

But, sites like Fetlife and Collarspace have no such restrictions. And the product is no longer just your gossip and cute pictures of your pets. It’s your sex life.

I’ve Seen That Face Before

Unless you can afford being outed as a kinkster, don’t post naked pictures of yourself in bondage with whip marks on your ass if they also show your face, tattoos, piercings, or other identifiable body modifications recognizable to anyone else who might stumble across them … or go looking for them. Don’t use pictures that show identifiable backgrounds, or that you may have also uploaded to a conventional social media site or to a website connected with your legal name. Check the background. Can you read the certificate perhaps showing your legal name that you hang on your bedroom wall?

A website that requires you to log on offers nothing to make you or your identity safe. Don’t believe that no one can see your photographs unless they’re also logged in. And don’t believe any promises of privacy offered by a site, because they’re not accurate.

For one thing, anyone can create a free email account on any one of a dozen sites while providing no information that can be traced back to them. They can then use that email address to create an account on the site you think is protecting you from non-kinksters’ eyes.

Further, those photographs can be accessed without logging in. Fetish sites are often free or partially free. They don’t invest money in security that protects the content. And there’s no guarantee that if you post a photograph that you’ll ever be able to delete it. Even if it is removed from a site, it’s probably still in the cloud storage system used by that site and therefore recoverable by anyone who knows what they’re doing. People have had deleted, “private” photos they posted online used against them in court.

If the photo you posted was taken with your smartphone, chances are the file contains data about where and when it was taken and other information that can be used to identify you.

Combine all these security holes with facial recognition software (which can deliver matches even when years, facial hair, weight, and makeup change someone’s appearance) and you have a recipe for disaster. What would happen if your boss found the picture of you getting gang banged or the private detective hired by your ex who’s fighting you for custody of your children turned up a photograph of you hanging naked and upside down in bondage or a prospective employer discovered images of you whipping someone chained to a rack?

Online privacy is almost nonexistent. I’ve always said that you should never post anything online that you wouldn’t want your boss, your elderly grandmother, your worst enemy, and the IRS to see — or at least don’t post it if there’s any way it can be traced back to you.


#KoboFail: erotica ≠ romance and romance ≠ erotica

May 27, 2015

Recently, I stumbled across a reviewer’s comment that she had received a copy of my “science fiction BDSM romance.”

Spyder’s Trouble is in no way, shape, or form a romance. Technically, it’s not even science fiction, it’s space opera, but that’s a distinction many people don’t make.

I checked on the retail sites and sure enough, Kobo lists the book as Romance > Erotica > BDSM and Romance > Erotica > Science Fiction & Fantasy.

Once I recovered from shock, I wrote to the publisher, Circlet Press. I received the following response from Cecilia Tan:

“Unfortunately on Kobo the only erotica categories are all subcategories under Romance. There is literally no other way to choose an erotic category, and you must choose a category in order to publish. You are free to take it up with them if you wish, but they’ve been deaf to all calls to revise their categories so far.”

So, I did.

I started by tweeting:

“Hey @kobo erotica ≠ romance and ≠ porn! No romance in Spyder’s Trouble (http://transgressivewriter.com/spyder.php#trouble) but that’s only listing option!?!?!?

@mtamblyn” (@mtamblyn is the Twitter handle of Kobo President Michael Tamblyn.)

Tamblyn responded: “I don’t think we necessarily have a problem with any of those three options. Not sure what your question is…” Of course, when I explained the “question” by tweeting “@mtamblyn The problem is that a BDSM space opera with NO romance can’t be listed under Erotica BDSM or Erotica SFF UNLESS it’s under romance” he didn’t respond.

This did not surprise me. I had the same experience last September when I tweeted: “Hey, @mtamblyn it would be nice if your employees actually read emails before they cut and
pasted canned irrelevant responses. #KoboFail” Then he responded with his email address and a request to contact him. He completely ignored my email, despite two subsequent posts on Twitter bringing it to his attention.

This time, I refused to let him get away with pretending to care in public while ignoring all complaints in private. A couple of days later, I asked: “Ain’t it amazing how @mtamblyn always responds to @Kobo tweets, tells you to email him, then ignores emails & tweets questioning #KoboFail”

That’s when he started the whine (later picked up by another Kobo executive) that he couldn’t “have a conversation about metadata in 140 char.” (My interpretation: he didn’t want to have a conversation in the public eye.)

When I reminded him that “Last time I emailed you, you never responded. Since this subject is fairly simple, I thought to keep the conversation public,” he out and out lied.

“Last time I brought in our Director of Self-Pub @MarkLeslie & his staff to help you out. Hope we can help again.” I responded to this blatant fabrication with “Last time NO one responded to
my email, @mtamblyn. Not you nor any member of your staff. My concerns were ignored. You only pretend to care.”

No response.

Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Director of Self Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo, aka @MarkLeslie tried again (repeatedly) to steer the conversation offline (and out of sight) by following me and urging me to DM (direct or private message) him so “we can have a proper conversation regarding category code options.”

Then, he also resorted to lies stating “when a problem is identified it’s definitely addressed.” A good portion of my original email to Tabmlyn was specifically related to the fact that Kobo does not address problems created by its staff. This especially includes issues resulting from Kobo staff training to respond to emails by cutting and pasting FAQ responses rather than actually reading the emails sent them.

I reiterated that I didn’t believe any “dialogue” was necessary, either Kobo intended to correct the classification problem or it needed to admit it had no intention of doing so. Lefebvre again tried to take the conversation off Twitter: “Still waiting for your email so a proper dialogue can occur.” I asked “Why should I waste words on an email you will ignore?”

A day later when he hadn’t responded, I taunted him with “Apparently, @MarkLeslie goes to @mtamblyn school of #KoboFail customer ‘service.’ Pretend to care until hyperbole proved wrong, then ignore.” Lefebvre then took it upon himself to find my email address on my Kobo publisher account and contact me.

He started out with a proven lie: “We take every single email we receive from authors seriously and we track issues reported.” (To which I responded with the list of five emails — including the one to Tamblyn — that never received answers from Kobo.)

He then went on to complain that issues weren’t black and white and required more than 140 characters to discuss after which he wasted almost 600 words trying to justify, with some pretty lame examples, why erotica needed to be listed under romance. He actually claimed that: “Our customers are able to find what they are looking for within the existing hierarchy so what you might see as an issue isn’t an issue from the point of view of the people who are currently purchasing titles in those categories.”

I pointed out that by forcing erotica books to be categorized as romance, “whether or not they are found is not the issue. When they are found by someone thinking they will include romance they are tossed aside in disgust because they contain no romance.

“Meanwhile, people who are interested in Erotica > Sci-Fi or Erotica > BDSM but do not care to read romance (men) will not find my books because they wouldn’t think of looking under romance.”

He insisted that “customers make purchasing decisions from a cover that is designed to appeal to the target audience as well as a synopsis that ensures they are properly informed about what they are going to read should they purchase that book.” He completely ignored the fact that the first step in that purchasing decision is finding a book (to see the cover and descriptive blurb) and no one will be able to do so if the books “are on the wrong shelf in the library or categorized incorrectly by the retailer.”

His response completely ignored the “dialogue” he claimed on Twitter he wished to have. He just defended his boss ignoring my emails, and instead focused on the other four emails that never received answers under the mistaken belief that they could have gone missing. (They all were responses in ongoing conversations that were cut off by Kobo staff who just stopped answering my emails rather than discuss my concerns.)

When I admonished him for not addressing “a single point I made about the classification system,” his response was a politely worded “go away.” He said: “As I stated in a previous email, classification systems are arbitrary. Ours is no exception. I explained how our classification system is set up and acknowledged that you do not agree with it. (Which he actually had not done. His only reference at all to the “dialogue” he claimed to want was the statement: “Your concerns and points have been dually noted.”) It has been noted and if it is felt that making any change to the existing classification system better serves our customers and our business, the appropriate changes will be made.”

Kobo has been, as my publisher stated, “deaf to all calls to revise their categories” for one reason: Kobo wants to marginalize erotica. As I explained in my Banned Books Week post back in September, retailers’ puritanical attitude that readers must be protected from evil authors who produce books those readers might want to purchase and consume will continue unless readers take their dollars elsewhere.

You will notice that I have shared no links to Kobo on this post. I would ask that those of you who are interested in reading Erotic BDSM Space Opera without romance instead purchase Spyder’s
Trouble
from the publisher, Circlet Press. There you also will find many other books that offer both speculative fiction and erotica, some of which contain romance and some of which do not. But, at least you’ll be able to determine whether or not romance is included before you purchase any books.


Banned Books Week: Why Readers Need to Care About Ebook Sellers’ Arbitrary and Capricious Content Guidelines

September 23, 2014

On Dec. 5, 2012 I published “Aunt” Grace.”

On May 11, 2013 I learned that “Aunt” Grace won second place in the National Leather Association: International John Preston Short Story Award for excellence in literary works in SM/leather/fetish writing published in 2012.

On Sept. 3, 2014 my publisher account with All Romance was terminated because of “Aunt” Grace.

A little background: Previously, I had only published my novels and short story collections (including the two that contained “Aunt” Grace) on All Romance. With the loss of Kobo retail outlets in U.K., the death of Sony and Diesel, and Amazon doing everything possible to bury my books, I saw potential for replacing some of these lost sales if I increased what was available at All Romance. I decided to invest more in that market and spent several weeks reformatting all my short stories and resizing all the covers to meet the site’s requirements.

I worked with the publisher relations supervisor to manage some technical difficulties I had in taking advantage of the interface that allowed books published on All Romance to be sold in the iBookstore. Then I received a notice from the Chief Operating Officer, accusing me of violating the site’s content guidelines, specifically regarding “Works which contain incest or pseudo-incest themes for the purpose of titillation” and “Works that are written for or being marketed to the barely legal market.”

The latter accusation was aimed at Jail Bait and Teacher’s Pet. While I admit the blurbs (designed to sell books) toy with the “barely legal” angle, that’s not what the stories are about. They both tell a story of an 18 year old discovering her sexuality, constrained by society’s one-sided, misogynist standards regarding women’s pleasure. (Two Brothers, about two young male virgins, one of the other stories that appears in Young & Eager, never gets banned for violating “barely legal” guidelines, even though the younger brother is only 18. Of course, that one gets criticized because the two brothers are in bed with the same woman and OMG, they might touch each other, even though they don’t.)

Both Jail Bait and Teacher’s Pet and the collection they appear in together are now published on Apple and Kobo, two of the most restrictive markets in terms of prurient content, via Smashwords. From the beginning, the first story was always available for sale on both markets in another collection, further proof that all these “content guidelines” are arbitrary and capricious.

Most of the All Romance COO’s ire appeared to be directed at “Aunt” Grace.” She erroneously claimed it “contains a pseudo-incestuous relationship between Grace and your protagonist, who she refers to and has thought of as a niece.” She terminated my account without warning, removing 60 plus works from two markets because she had a problem with three, forcing me to scramble to reformat everything yet again.

First, pseudo incest is an oxymoron. Incest is sexual intercourse between closely related persons. If people aren’t closely related, there’s no possibility of incest. Pseudo is defined as pretended; false or spurious; sham.

“Aunt” Grace contains no incest, pseudo or otherwise. The characters are two women who became acquainted as young girls because of other people’s marriage and who rediscover their attraction to each other as young adults.

It involves two women who are not legally related. Grace’s mother married the father of the boy who grew up to become Jen’s father long after both Grace and Jen’s father were born. Jen’s father never appears in the book. Jen grew up calling Grace “aunt” because that was required then, even though they weren’t related in any way and weren’t that far apart in age.

The two women always had the hots for each other. Their attraction was constrained more by their families disapproval of their orientation than their “relationship.” In the book, although Jen calls Grace “aunt” out of habit at first, the word “niece” is used only once, and that’s facetiously,
when Grace introduces Jen to her slave.

“Jen, this is my slave, Emma. Gurl, this is my,” Grace cleared her throat, “niece, Jen.”

It’s worded to make it obvious to most readers that Grace does not think of Jen as her niece.

The story is also about Jen fighting against misogyny in her chosen career and prejudice against her sexual orientation. She finds refuge, and a chance to explore BDSM, in Grace’s leather family.

I ran into the same specious objections to “Aunt” Grace at
Kobo and Apple. In both cases, in order to sell this award-winning story, I had to make arbitrary and capricious language changes, changes that eliminated the women’s backstory and reduced the characters’ depth. I also switched the cover to say “Sir Grace” instead of aunt.

This was not the first time my work was banned by All Romance. In 2012, Broken and Shattered were kicked off the site.

I write books as Korin I. Dushayl about the dark side of BDSM, including questionable consent and abuse of power. I’ve redefined them as transgressive because the sex scenes in them often aren’t supposed to be erotic (which doesn’t mean that some people won’t find them arousing). But, if any character exploits another in a story I write, it’s obvious to readers (if not the character themselves) that the relationship is inappropriate at best, criminally damaging at worst. I don’t portray abusive stalkers as romantic heroes.

I’m all for labeling books based on what’s in them so adult readers can choose what they purchase based on their own personal preferences, triggers, and boundaries. One person’s hottest sex scene ever will make another person want to hurl.

However, it is inappropriate and inexcusable for any individual or corporation to make arbitrary and capricious decisions about what other adults get to read.

Further proof that all this hoop jumping is for absolutely no legitimate reason and that so-called “content guidelines” are arbitrary and capricious:

  1. both Apple and Kobo sell the original “Aunt” Grace as part of another collection and no retailer has voiced any objections to that other collection;
  2. as of this writing, Apple still has not accepted Two Brothers for sale from Smashwords even though it was one of four books All Romance neglected to pull and the exact same story is still for sale on Apple via All Romance;
  3. I had to change the title and cover of Young & Eager to get it sold on Kobo even though all four stories within the collection were already for sale individually.
  4. On Amazon, Apple, and Kobo I must call my Family Dynamics collection, Leather Family Dynamics (although at least on Amazon, unlike the other two, I didn’t have to change “Aunt” Grace).
  5. Apple published and then pulled Sir Grace in the space of a few days. I was told I needed to change the category listed from “Romance > Erotica” to “Erotica > Romance” and I’m still waiting for it to be available for sale again. Meanwhile, that version of the story is available for sale on Apple in Leather Family Dynamics.

Arbitrary and capricious? Can anyone deny that?


Even Smashwords admits, in much kinder words, to the arbitrary and capricious application of “guidelines” by Apple. In explaining the reasons why books accepted by Smashwords don’t get distributed to Apple, the site states the process “is performed by humans, and is therefore subject to some inconsistency from time to time. You may also find that things that were okay a year ago are no longer acceptable to them going forward.”

In the midst of all this, Amazon had the unmitigated gall to encourage people to read really old books that had once been banned such as Madame Bovary and The Prince while arbitrarily and capriciously banning current work by numerous erotica authors.

All Romance, Apple, Kobo, and Amazon will continue preventing you from reading books the way they were written — how the author believed was the best way to tell the story, the way you may find entertaining and/or arousing — unless readers protest. The retailers have made it quite obvious they don’t give a rat’s ass about their authors. We’re just content providers and if any single person — on the retailers’ team or a random visitor to their websites — finds our content objectionable, it’s gone.

The only way to change this puritanical attitude that readers have to be protected from evil authors who produce books those readers might want to purchase and consume, is to yell loudly and repeatedly at any retailer that bans books for arbitrary and capricious reasons. Better still, purchase your books from other retailers, or whenever possible from authors and publishers directly, and let the retailers know why.


Just because you read it in a book…

March 5, 2014

No one asks a mystery writer how many people she’s murdered. But, readers too often assume a writer of erotica has personally performed every sex act she writes about. Worse, as today’s guest blogger Beth Wylde discusses, they sometimes try to emulate what they read.

Just because you read it in a book…
by Beth Wylde, author of Broadly Bound: Broad Horizons

Fiction is fabulous. I was a reader long before I became a published author or an editor and I still have a voracious book appetite. The bill for my monthly book habit rivals that of a long-term addict. Words are my drug of choice.

My taste in fiction is also quite broad. As long as it is well written I will probably read it, no matter the genre or pairing. But, one of my criteria for a fictional story (even though fiction means the story is not true) is that it contain a bit of realism. Just a bit, otherwise I’d be shopping in the non-fiction section.

I know what you’re thinking: fiction is fake. Why should it be realistic? How can it be?

While it’s true that there are no such things as werewolves, vampires, or sex-enslaving aliens (or at least I haven’t met any), with a little research, an author can present the subjects in way in which the characters will be believable in a story.

I read for enjoyment, as an inexpensive way to relax. I want to be entertained. Nothing infuriates me more than weak characters, half-assed storylines, or an attempt to disguise abuse as BDSM. I want kick ass heroines and men who don’t feel the need to hide in the closet. I want action and drama and my HEA, no matter what. Sometimes the truth has to be stretched a bit to achieve that.

This is where our job as readers comes in.

Authors are first and foremost entertainers. We write stories for our readers to enjoy. Sometimes our characters do things that real people should not attempt. Some of you may be laughing right now, but I worked in a hospital for 13 years, three of those in ER Radiology on third shift. People chasing the orgasm do some stupid things in bed, on the roof, in the backseat of their car, on the kitchen stove, etc… (you get my point).

Hell, there is now an entire show dedicated to sexual escapades gone wrong and the subjects don’t always walk away laughing. Sometimes they don’t walk away at all.

Just because you read something in a book, especially BDSM fiction, does not mean you should run out and try it.

Your girlfriend may suck like a Hoover but when she is gone don’t try to use the vacuum as a stand in for her. She’ll come home to find you missing some valuable parts.

It’s never a good idea to put an animal up your ass, no matter how small it is or how amazing someone tells you it’ll feel once you get it in there.

There are certain household and easily found chemicals that should never be used as lube or arousal cream, and I mean never!!!

For those times you want penetration, and there are no toys handy to help you out, be very careful what you decide to use as a substitute. Bottles of any type are never a good choice, especially if they are glass or are open at the top. The vacuum effect can happen here too and it won’t be an enjoyable experience unless your desire is for major, internal surgery.

Don’t take someone else’s sex meds if your dick works. A loving partner will understand that you need recovery time and a ten-hour erection is not a fun thing, or so I’ve been told.

There are other incidents I could mention but those remain at the front of my mind. Overall it is the reader’s job to use caution.

I always add in personal touches to my stories, especially my BDSM ones. I write about things that fascinate me and turn me on. I do my research if it is a kink I have not personally experienced or had the nerve to try yet, but sometimes my characters still push the envelope of what is safe and sane. If you read about something kinky that interests you, even if you know the author does her research, you have to do the same.

Ask someone you trust, who has experience in the lifestyle, to guide you. Go to a munch, watch a demo, take some time to visit a local club and just observe for the evening. I’ve found people in the lifestyle to be unusually welcoming. I think part of that is because they have been the subjects of prejudice for so long they welcome those who are truly interested and want to learn.

But, don’t pick up an absolute stranger, go back to their house, and let them tie you up and beat you. (Don’t laugh. I’m not making these examples up.)

You won’t find ‘do not attempt this’ warning stickers on most fictional books, if any. The fiction category label is all the warning a reader should need. So go out and enjoy a good book, just remember in the end that it’s entertainment, not a how-to manual. If you enjoy reading BDSM stories, please pick some by authors who actually know how to research in that genre. If you need some good recommendations just email me. I promise you won’t find any poorly written, abusive-boyfriend-disguised-as-a-Dom, fanfic on my list.

About Beth Wylde:
Erotica author/editor Beth Wylde writes what she likes to read, which includes a little bit of everything under the rainbow. Her muse is a flighty smut bunny that believes everyone, no matter their kink, color, gender, or orientation is entitled to love, acceptance and scalding HOT sex! You can contact her directly at b.wylde@yahoo.com, visit her website or join her yahoo group.

Beth’s books range in genre from paranormal to contemporary and in pairings from lesbian, bi, het and beyond.

About Broadly Bound: Broad Horizons:
Welcome to Broad Horizons, the world’s first and only strictly GLBTQ BDSM entertainment facility. It’s opening night and the owners, Dani and Maryanne, want to invite you inside for a first hand look at what they’ve created. With ten themed bondage rooms, a main stage with several smaller performance areas, a second level observatory, two bars and a dance floor, plus a few extra surprises, your pleasures are only as limited as your desires. Tonight’s event is by invitation only, so bring your RSVP, your proof that you’re over twenty-one and your imagination because this evening almost anything goes.

Buy it at Excessica.


Why Writing About Female Submission is a Feminist Act

February 3, 2014

I reserve this blog as a soapbox. Starting today, I have decided to occasionally step aside and let others use this platform to share their thoughts. As my first guest blogger, I am excited to welcome Cecilia Tan who is an amazing writer, a ground-breaking publisher, and a great friend.

Why Writing About Female Submission is a Feminist Act
by Cecilia Tan, author of Slow Seduction

I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction about BDSM for over 20 years and I often write about women on the bottom: subs, masochists, “slaves.” I write from the following basis:

  1. Sexuality is a normal part of being human and being a healthy female.
  2. Sexual and erotic fantasies are a normal part of being human and being a healthy female.
  3. Oppression of women’s sexual fantasies is oppression of women.
  4. Anything which oppresses women’s sexual fantasies cannot be feminism.
  5. Feminism’s goal is to overcome power structures that empower men at the expense of women.

By writing and sharing my sexual fantasies, some of which are about submission, I commit a feminist act.

Where people get tangled up when discussing BDSM is when #4 and #5 seem to be at odds, because in their view BDSM is a power structure that empowers men in favor of women. Put simply, that is a shallow, misinformed view of BDSM. BDSM is practiced by women, men, and people self-defining all along the gender spectrum, with no inherent role ascribed on the basis of gender. But the common idea that a man “should be” the dom and the woman “should be” submissive persists in the mainstream. That’s the setup in the wildly popular book 50 Shades of Grey, a book that has opened a huge conversation about BDSM but which doesn’t push that conversation beyond what the mainstream already gets wrong.

Setting aside the fact that in BDSM women are often dominant and men are often submissive, let’s talk specifically about women on the “bottom”–women like me and the women I write about. If we believe that women’s sexual pleasure is central to their freedom and to their health, we should be celebrating the diversity of things that turn women on. On one level, BDSM is a sensual and sensory experience.

There is a panoply of sensations, cravings, and tastes to be indulged when one is a masochist or a sub. This is the sensual world that Karina, the heroine of my Struck by Lightning book series, is introduced to by James, the mysterious dom she meets at the beginning of Slow Surrender. Karina quickly comes to realize that what makes BDSM so vastly different from the unsatisfying vanilla sex she’s previously had is that as the submissive, her pleasure and sensations are the absolute central component to her interactions with James. She’s confused when James doesn’t want his dick sucked at the end of their first encounter. It really is all about her. What gratifies James, as a dom, most is not his own orgasm but his ability to play Karina like a fine violin.

The psychological aspect of D/s comes quickly into play in Slow Surrender, too. Karina comes to realize how silenced she has been in her vanilla relationships, which have been built on (patriarchal) assumptions about what a “good girlfriend” is supposed to be like. Based on some unspoken standard, a good girlfriend is supposed to make herself attractive to her mate, be sexually available when he needs, but never too pushy with her own needs (because that would make her a slut). In her BDSM relationship with James, she finds he fully expects her to be open and honest about her needs. Consent and negotiation, the basis of BDSM relationships, can’t exist or take place without that honesty and disclosure. James also takes the guesswork out of it by being equally honest with her about what he wants and needs. Karina finds it refreshing that he will tell her what to wear, or that he’ll set options before her in which there is no “wrong” selection: Each choice she makes informs him about her preferences.

As Karina learns, dominance and submission doesn’t mean James dictates her every move. It means they have a framework within which each partner has agency. Unlike “traditional” relationship structures, which hand the majority of the power and privilege to the male partner, in a BDSM relationship the power is split in a systematic way. At first, Karina doesn’t even realize how much power she has in the relationship because she’s having too much fun to have thought deeply about it. When she realizes what immense power BDSM–and love–give her over her partner, it’s a lesson she’ll never forget, and I hope it’s a lesson the reader will remember, too. Not every reader is going to go out searching for a BDSM relationship, but my hope is that by seeing how an alternate power structure creates a functional relationship, some readers will be able to effectively seek out honesty, agency, and erotic satisfaction in their own lives.

If that’s not a feminist act, I don’t know what is.

About Cecilia Tan:
Cecilia Tan is “simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature,” according to Susie Bright. Tan is the author of many books, including the ground-breaking erotic short story collections Black Feathers (HarperCollins), White Flames (Running Press), and Edge Plays (Circlet Press), and the erotic romances Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever), Mind Games (Ravenous Romance), and The Prince’s Boy (Circlet Press). She was inducted into the Saints & Sinners Hall of Fame for GLBT writers in 2010, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Leather Association in 2001, and is a current nominee for the Lifetime Achievement Award in Erotica from RT Magazine. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats.
Twitter
Website

About Slow Seduction:
Slow Seduction is Cecilia Tan’s latest BDSM erotic romance novel, the second book in the Struck by Lightning Series. Karina finds herself in England, working at a major museum. There she meets the enigmatic Damon George, a dominant man with clues to James’s past… and to James’s desires. Damon is rich, gorgeous, and a member of a secret society that caters to the sensual thrills of the wealthy and powerful. And he’ll help Karina lure James in, while teaching her how to please a dominant man. By the time she finds James, Karina has been “trained” to please another. Will James reject her, or find her more irresistible than ever? Karina is determined to confront him and she will not be denied.
Read a chapter
Buy from a local bookseller
Buy from Powell’s


“Feminist” Backlash Against BDSM: A FemDom defends the eroticization of male domination

October 22, 2013

National Leather Association–International
Cynthia Slater Non-fiction Article Award Finalist
This post originally appeared October 15, 2013 on Female First.

While I do not believe 50 Shades of Grey has any redeeming qualities, I frequently find myself defending some of its concepts against the so-called “feminist” backlash.

Self-identified “feminists” (SIFs) object to statements such as “freedom is slavery,” “submissiveness is empowering,” and “BDSM erotica is feminist,” claiming they are “lies that patriarchal culture has served up for women.”

Since they shut down any comments defending those statements — but continue to promote them — I find it necessary to take the conversation to a forum that is more open to both sides of the discussion.

The first flaw in the SIFs argument is that BDSM is only about male domination and female submission. I am a FemDom (female dominant). I own a male submissive and have owned a male slave. I have never submitted (and never will) to any male.

I’m not unique. BDSM offers alternatives to women who refuse to accept patriarchal hierarchy in their lives or their relationships. In reality, BDSM relationships span the gender combinations, including (but hardly limited to) Male/male; Male/female; Female/male; and Female/female.

For some, slavery is freedom. It’s freedom from decision making, freedom from responsibility. Submissiveness can be empowering for those who choose to submit and who submit to a dominant who respects and honours their submission.

BDSM and BDSM erotica absolutely are feminist. Feminism is the fight for equality — to not allow gender to limit one’s opportunities. BDSM (and the erotica written by those who actually understand it) is about choice — about selecting your role based on your desire not your genitals.

Some women prefer to submit only in the bedroom. Some choose to submit for all aspects of their relationships. Some women submit to other women. And some women accept the submission of men (or women) and assume the dominant role in their relationships.

Feminism means not being forced to accept a role because of your gender. BDSM is about not being forced to accept a role (or even a gender) based on what’s between your legs.

50 Shades of Grey is not about BDSM. Christian Grey is not a dominant. He is, like Twilight’s Edward on whom he’s modelled, an abusive stalker. According to the Chicago Tribune, “psychologists at Michigan State University and Ohio State University concluded that its characters’ behaviours are consistent with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s official definition of intimate partner violence — and that the book perpetuates dangerous abuse patterns.”

In the series, BDSM is portrayed as what’s wrong with Grey. It’s written by someone who has never participated in BDSM, never done any research, has absolutely no knowledge of BDSM beyond her own personal fantasies.

There are myriad books — fiction and non — that get BDSM right, some written by practitioners, some by those who take the time to do thorough research. But, the media — and the SIFs — focus on the material that feeds their prejudices and stereotypes.

For many, male domination can be extremely erotic, even if they only choose to explore that eroticism between the pages of a book. However, many prefer female domination. I write about both, but, my stories — and those of other responsible authors — always make it clear that consent is required; that abuse is not BDSM.

In fact, BDSM practices do not, as SIFs would have you believe, “actively oppress women.” Mainstream media’s reporting of BDSM actively oppresses women. Ninety-nine percent of the time an article about BDSM is illustrated by a photograph of a scantily clad woman in bondage. But probably as many men enjoy bondage as women. And, many men prefer to submit in the bedroom and in their relationships.

More than anything else, BDSM is about consent, a term missing from patriarchy. Those who submit, consent to their submission at whatever level they choose to submit and can walk away anytime the relationship is not meeting their needs. Anything else is abuse (including, and especially, the relationship in the 50 Shades series).

As the Tribune article states: “In consensual BDSM relationships, partners take negotiations seriously and respect each others’ boundaries.”

Every description of BDSM relationships that delineates the options we have includes the word consensual. (SSC: Safe, Sane Consensual; RACK: Risk Aware Consensual Kink; or even PRICK: Personal Responsibility, Informed Consensual Kink.) However you define us, you cannot deny that we take responsibility for obtaining consent.

BDSM provides more relationship dynamic options than anything you’ll find in the “vanilla world.” And, because BDSM requires much more communication about sex, sexuality, consent, etc., BDSM relationships are more intimate, more intense, and more openly honest than any other form of relationship.

Are there abusers who use BDSM to mask their abuse (àla Christian Grey)? Yes. But they are abusers. They need to be prosecuted for their abuse. For those of us who practice responsible, consensual BDSM, abuse is not part of the picture.

Exploring rather than repressing sexuality, allowing people to have choices that are not dependent on their genitals, giving people the freedom to make their own decisions about how their relationships are structured rather than dictating — whether from a feminist or patriarchal perspective — what their relationship dynamics look like, is transgressive. And it is feminist.


What Some Women Tops and Bottoms Have in Common

October 14, 2013

National Leather Association–International
Cynthia Slater Non-fiction Article Award

This post originally appeared October 12, 2013 on BDSM Book Reviews.

Included in Chapter Four of Connecting to Kink

Power dynamics have interesting implications. What some Doms do to control; others require their submissive to perform as a service.

When I had a convertible, I always drove my own car. I enjoyed the turbo charged engine and its ability to take curves at high speeds. I never let anyone else behind the wheel of that car, and my submissive rode with me as a passenger. But, when I traded my sports car in on a sedate sedan, the dynamic changed. Driving became boring, so now my submissive chauffeurs me. It’s another way he serves me.

This implication can often be seen in D/s sexual interactions. When it comes to sex, women tops and bottoms often have something in common, besides the obvious. Although the context differs depending on their position in the D/s dynamic, many women abdicate the responsibility for their pleasure to their partners.

In some M/f relationships I’ve observed, the male puts a fair amount of effort into his submissive’s orgasms, whether it’s devising diabolical rape scenes or training her to come on voice command.

At the other end of the dynamic, some FemDoms expect their submissives to serve them by providing them with sexual pleasure — whether it’s fetish-related such as foot worship or actual intercourse, often of the oral variety.

In either dynamic, the genitalia of the submissive may be considered owned by the Dominant. But, attitudes toward their possessions differ greatly.

In both cases, Dominants might enjoy tormenting their toys’ sexual equipment. But, the male Dom may take pleasure in forcing his girl to come over and over again until she can’t breathe while the FemDom asserts control by prohibiting her boy from having an orgasm.

This dichotomy is especially observable in chastity devices. The male apparatus prevents him from having an erection and therefore, in most cases, an orgasm. The female restraint only obstructs penetration.

Now both top and bottom females may be very explicit about what they want, what arouses them, and what they find distasteful. And, of course the turn ons and offs are likely to be diametric opposites. But, even if they’re very explicit about their likes and dislikes, many women prefer giving their partner control over whether or not, and how often, they come.

Personally, I can’t comprehend why any woman would surrender her sexual pleasure to another, even if it’s someone who works hard to satisfy her. I wonder if women do so because society considers female sexuality subservient to male’s. Or are women hesitant to take control of their sexual pleasure because society dictates negative connotations for women who enjoy sex?

Who takes responsibility for female orgasms in your relationship and how does that impact your D/s dynamic?