So, um, I’ve still got a kinky book coming out on the 1st of June.
You’ll notice there’s a kind of a theme to my Wonko posts lately but this stuff is kind of on my mind at the moment.
Something I’ve noticed when reading people’s responses to BDSM-themed romances and erotica is that a lot of readers get very put off a text if they feel that the dominant character is insufficiently dommy. “[X] doesn’t work for me a dom(me)” is a phrase I’ve seen a lot. And, obviously, it’s fine for people to like what they like and if something doesn’t work for you, then it doesn’t work for you. Nevertheless I am, and I know I say this a lot, troubled by the implication that a dom(me) has to be a particular sort of person or behave in a particular sort of way.
At the risk of over-generalising, there’s a strong tendency for romdoms to replicate their sexual proclivities in all areas of their life. Even the ones who aren’t billionaires are usually highly conventionally successful: if they’re not running their own company, they’re pursuing some other archetypically forceful and masculine career, usually in some branch of law enforcement or the military. They’re reserved, yet dynamic, and in control of everything, from the boardroom to the bedroom.
And while this perfectly understandable as a fantasy, it’s fantasy that only works if you take as read that you’re not expected to identify with this character in any way, shape or form. That they only exist as a catalyst for the desires of the viewpoint character—who, by contrast, tends to be aggressively normal. It presents dominance as the natural mode of a certain, very special type of person and submission as the natural mode of reaction to that person. In so doing, it tacitly denies that dominance and submission can exist within a dynamic between two perfectly ordinary people, simply because that’s what they’re into.
A big part of what I’ve tried to do with my forthcoming kinky book (FOR REAL, by the way, I should really get used to calling it by its name) is to … and I acknowledge this isn’t a word, nor should it be because it sounds awful … de-exclusive-ify the role of the dominant. A quick recap for those who aren’t as familiar with my work as, well, me: FOR REAL is a story about Laurie, a jaded 37-year-old sub and Toby, an inexperienced 19-year-old dom. It was really important to me to show that doms, like subs, like everybody else, can basically be anyone. That sexual dominance isn’t something you can only be into if you’re 39 and rich. And that submission is a choice based on who you want to submit to, not a validation of another person’s superiority.
Toby spends a large part of the book internally wrangling his own uncertainties and he never shows the absolute poise and control that romdoms are supposed to have. He’s excitable and passionate and occasionally quite overwhelmed by the things Laurie allows him to do. But—to my mind and, perhaps most importantly, to Laurie’s—none of that makes him less of a dom. I’d even go so far as to say that, to me at least, there’s something pretty fragile about the notion that dominance can admit no uncertainty, humanity or passion.
But, don’t get me wrong, there will always be room for tenaciously self-controlled billionaires with bespoke sex dungeons. I just like to think there’s room for the rest of us as well.