The responsibilities of fictional characters in erotica

A lot of people have attacked the fictional character Christian Grey for being a bad dom. Of course, he’d be a terrible dom if he was real. He stalks lip-biting inner-goddess Anastasia, spanks her and takes a strap to her arse, all without her consent. 

I’m sure he behaved badly in the second two books as well, but I haven’t been able to read them. Call me a snob and call me a cab, but after skimming Volume One I was out of there. 

If Christian Grey were a real person bdsm communities would have warnings about him, for his weird, unethical and non-consensual behaviour. He’d finish up getting charged with assault and being in the centre of a massive media scandal: “Billionaire in kinky love-nest rape!” That sort of thing.

However, as a fictional character his behaviour is a lot better. He’s made a lot more women come, with Fifty Shades in one hand and their bits in the other, than any thousand real doms combined. Even if you include me. That’s a significant contribution to human happiness, and you can’t ignore it.

As a fictional character, my main criticism of Christian Grey is that he doesn’t do nearly enough spanking and commanding and binding the Anastasia of Steel. I skimmed Fifty Shades Freed looking for the bdsm scenes so I could critique them, but I never found any. I’m sure I just didn’t look hard enough.  

In the interminable schoolgirl spanking saga I’m writing, there are two headmasters, and they initiate certain of their students into various kinky sexual practises. Obviously, if they were real and lived in our world, they’d both belong in jail.

They’re not breaking age-of-consent laws, and the age gap between them and their charges isn’t all that great: about eight years.

But they’re in a position of authority and there’s no question at all that they’re misusing their authority in ways that, uh, conflict with the criminal code in any civilised society. 

On the other hand, these two imaginary men are written to give pleasure to their readers, and my impression is that my spanking headmasters, like the “naughty schoolgirl” scenario itself, appeal particularly to a female audience. I am that audience’s humble servant. 

There is, eventually, a happy ending to the Jennifer-and-Maddie saga, but at the rate at which time moves in my stories, that ending will probably arrive some time in 2021. In the meantime, my point is, I’m happy to write it and make it as sexy as possible. While being fervently against corporal punishment and sex between teachers and students in the real world. 


I’m not saying that fictional characters have no ethical requirements at all. We erotica writers who consider ourselves to be on the side of the angels (especially the sexy, spankable, fuckable angels) don’t write bestiality, or eroticise rape, or write scenarios involving people under eighteen, though the age of consent where I live is sixteen.

But still, there is a difference, a space, between fantasy and real life, and it’s a space that erotica writers spend a lot of time in. It’s fluid and it’s complex, like the best sex, and we need to defend our freedom to have erotic fantasies that are perfectly sexy without necessarily being perfectly ethical.

We know the difference between fiction and fantasy, on the one hand, and the real world, in the other.

We need to take action in the real world to challenge the beliefs and indulgences that make it far too easy for men to rape and get away with it, and to give support to organisations that support women who’ve been subjected to rape and other violence.

At the same time, we need to defend our right to have erotic fantasies, and to share them with others.

Erotica is a powerful tool for improving human happiness, and for helping people to find and explore their own erotic selves without censorship or condemnation. 

Pleasure is, at least, undervalued. It shouldn’t be shamed.

Hyenas that look like Donald Trump

This isn’t a political blog. And this isn’t an argument, just an expression of disgust. The trough-snuffling corruption, the ridiculous lying, the cruelty, the bullying, just piss me off.

I’m busy. I’ve got a book to finish, and the smell of the end in my nostrils. So I’m not going to write politics. But yeah: we have to stop voting hyenas into positions of power. It’s a really dumb thing to do. 

Psyche whipped

When a Greek myth has someone being whipped, is it sexual? 

Well, if the whipping is ordered by Aphrodite, goddess of sexual love, then it generally is. The drawing is of Psyche being whipped while her lover’s mother, Aphrodite, watches. Aphrodite is the goddess of sexual love, and her son, Eros, is the god of lust, from whom we get the word “erotic”. And Eros is living with, and in love with, a very nice human girl called Psyche. 

There’s a lot of symbolism going on in this “myth”, which like a lot of myths may have been invented relatively recently as a literary concoction. That is, it dates back to Apuleius’s novel The Golden Ass, written in the second century CE, rather than from time immemorial like, say, the myth of the great war between the Olympian gods and the Titans.  

The reason I think the whipping is sexual, in its place in the book, is that Apuleius is very aware of different strands of sexuality, including “sadism”.

By making Aphrodite the spectator of Psyche’s whipping, Auileius is allowed to present it for the reader’s enjoyment and entertainment. As for the artist, he is definitely portraying the event as erotic.

 I guess the central thread of the symbolism is that we all hope that Psyche, or “mind”, has some effect on our lusts and loves. 

At other times, some of us want to be whipped and hurt and to sacrifice ourselves and suffer physically for our love. Which Psyche manages to do. And survive and find happiness.  

The artist, François Boucher, was rumoured to be an admirer of whipped female skin, and his wife to be a participant in his pleasures. There are questions we ask about relationships and consent these days that simply weren’t asked in the eighteenth century, so we don’t know if Mme Boucher enjoyed those sessions. We can only hope she did. 


Bdsm graphic art: Guido Crepax and Milo Manara

I’ve been looking at the work of the two leading male bdsm graphic artists: Guido Crepax and Milo Manara. The other artist I’d say is really important and really good is Paula Meadows, whose work looks a little more amateurish and folksy, but it’s done with real conviction. But I’ll write about Paula Meadows (whose work comes out under a variety of names) in a post all to herself.  

Here’s a Guido Crepax page. It’s a whipping scene from his comic book adaptation of Sade’s Justine. Note the really interesting frame layout, and the telling use of erotic details: the eyes and mouths of Justine’s tormentors, the little dance with her feet when the whip lands, the instant on the whip’s landing across her bottom, and the energy of the whip and the man wielding it. 

This is one of his heroine’s, I think Valentina. There’s something about her look that reminds me of French films from the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard, say. 

So we get the Louise Brooks pageboy hairdo, the sullen mouth, small breasts, very skinny arms. Also, the Valentina books resemble 60s French art films  because there’s a lot of casual dipping in and out of surrealism, and the plots never make a lot of sense. 

Though I’d rather read Crepax than watch a Jean-Luc Godard movie any day. The cinema of “the novelty of boredom” outstayed its welcome after about five minutes.

Took a woman to a Godard retrospective at the local Film Society few years back. Worst date evah. Not her fault. Not really mine. Godard’s. What a wanker. But I digress.

His work is very stylish, and his lines are very elegant. On the other hand, the women he draws tend to be like Vogue models, being extremely slender, sometimes bordering on emaciated. His women look beautiful, but you know that if you took one out for dinner she’d spend ages chewing one lettuce leaf and toying with the same glass of mineral water all night. So, enjoyably perverse though his female characters may be, they probably wouldn’t be a fun date. 

That’s a pretty shallow response to art, of course, but it is meant to be sexy. So, his work is very elegant, but a little bit cold. 

Milo Manara, on the other hand, draws women who look like sensual women who like food and fucking, and are also enjoyably perverse. If it were me, I’d prefer to go out with a Milo Manara woman. Here’s a Manara post-whipping scene. 

You don’t get the interesting lay-out that Guido Crepax gives us. But the woman, freshly whipped and posing for her portrait with welts, has a fleshly quality, a kind of exuberant sexiness. She’s slender, but not starved. Her left breast is just visible, and it seems to be in a world where the body has real three-dimensional properties like weight. 

The set-up, “You must be whipped so I can paint you”, is nicely perverse.

Here’s a slightly silly, cartoonish, girl on girl spanking. With an audience. It’s clear, which is never quite clear in a Crepax frame, that the two women are enjoying themselves, both spanker and spankee.

The woman on top, facing us while she spanks her not-very-helpless victim/lover, has breasts that would never appear in a 1960s French art film or a Guido Crepax drawing. The hair in Manara art is more Gina Lollobrigida or Sophia Loren than French chic.

It gets mussed up, and sweaty. 

Look, I think Crepax is a better artist, objectively. But here’s a last Manara panel, demonstrating why I prefer his work. You get curves with your collar. And freckles!

Into the wild! (That’s you, readers…)

My post on pornography and erotica got so many replies that it set me thinking about what happens when we put things out on the internet. 

This got discussed a bit in the comments, and because people often don’t read comments, I’m going to re-shape what I said, and put it up here. 

Released into the wild

The words and images we make have one set of meanings to ourselves, as their makers, but once we release them into the wild they become anybody’s, to interpret as they want. 

Reader: you know who you are

Readers: you know who you are

I suppose people could read something like the Raylene saga and conclude that I’m too cruel and vicious by half, as doms go, or they could decide that I spend far too much time fretting about what’s ok to do, and so I’m too soft and conciliatory as doms go. Or both. 

I think I’m telling the story of a dom who tries to do the right thing, and who tries to tell the truth about what that’s like and what it involves. There’s stuff about the pleasures of being a bit cruel, in the Raylene saga, but there’s also stuff about love, self-doubt, and, as far I can know them as a dom, the pleasures of surrender. But it would be easy to quote this blog accurately though selectively, and make me sound, well, anything, good or bad, as desired.

And that’s only the people who don’t disapprove of male doms as such. Most people wouldn’t get far past a sentence like, “I brought the cane down across her ass,” before deciding this Jaime fellow is a blot on the landscape’s fine silk tie. 

But that’s talking mostly about deliberate or ideological misreadings. There’s also chance. I think that the word I’m most likely accidently to leave out of a sentence is the word “not”. So that I might be stuck with having posted some abomination like, “No matter how horny they might be feeling, men should try to talk to women wearing headphones.” At least until I re-read the post and go into an editing frenzy, three letters long. 

Or, more importantly, someone can read something I wrote and see the unconscious and unexamined bias or prejudice I left in it, and read it against the grain of what I thought I was saying. That is, readers can get things right, about my own writing, that I missed.

The eyes of the beholders (image by Rene Magritte)

The eyes of the beholders (image by Rene Magritte)

Certainly, if I were running for office (“Vote Jerusalem Mortimer, or I’ll have you in irons! Or, at least, nipple clamps!”) and someone found my blog, that’d be the death of my campaign right there. My words would be hostages.

But I’m not really whinging about how words and images slip further out of our grasp than we expect when we release them. So they should. Live, little pixels! Be free!

Words and images finish up in the eye of the beholder, and we who make them just have to accept it.

The Baltic Beat!

I’m in Tallin. Drinking beer, in the square. 

The beer’s compulsory because buying one is the only way to sit and get wi-fi. But I’m not actually complaining.

I’ll add some pics to this post tomorrow, when I’ve got properly working wifi. For now, text is the best I can do. I’m in a sailing ship going down the Baltic. They’re not big on wifi or democracy, really, round these parts. 

Anyway, here’s a “Viking Slave” from Stockholm. He doesn’t seem too unhappy about his predicament.

vulcan love slave

“Pick me! Pick me!”

Above the Arctic circle!

venus anasyrma

“No, Master, the marks are still showing. Honest!”

I’m in the land of the midnight sun. It never stops being day, or starts being night. 

But if you pull the curtains they have up here, it’s night, eternal night, until you want it not to be.

Today I’m wandering about Sweden’s highest mountains, and eating reindeer burger beside some lake.

I’ve got nothing bdsm to write about today. Here’s another marble girl, whose pants would be on fire if she were wearing any. She’s from the Konstvarmuseet, back in Stockholm. 

Happily whipping Jesus 3: Magdalene flogs herself, again

This is another in the series Happily Whipping Jesus, which is about bdsm in religious art. Mostly Christian art, but I’ll bring in examples from the art of other religions as I find them. The earlier posts can be found here and here.

Anyway, here are some more images of the Penitent Magdalena, who Medieval Christians decided was a sex worker, which for various reasons is highly improbable, even if you accept the Bible as a reliable source for … well, anything, really. She is supposed to have spent the years after Jesus’ death living in a cave and whipping herself, when the desire took her. Er, the desire to purify herself. But see the fourth of today’s images. 

after_giovanni_francesco_barbieri_il_guercino_the_penitent_magdalene_d5868192h1  Here’s Mary Magdalena with a whip of thorns. (It’s a coiled whip, not Jesus’ crown of thorns. If the crown of thorns had been that big it would have slipped down past his ears and hung round his neck, causing embarrassment all round.) She contemplates it with a certain solemn anticipation.

She’s bared her breasts (1) so she can more effectively lash her own back and (2) the artist can paint some very pleasant tits.

The artist is Giovanni Francesco.

Or at least the original was. This is a copy made by another, unknown artist, for display in some Italian piazza. I think the image is a little too … distracting to have been used in a church.

guido-reni-the-penitent-magdalene2 Here’s one by Guido Reni, who may be my favourite Italian Renaissance painter. This is an image in which Magdalena’s hand is holding a swatch of her own hair, which looks like a whip, though when you look closer you see there isn’t a whip there. (Other Italian painters did the same thing, with Magdalena.)

But the bared breasts and the sensuous expression echo the pose and the emotional and sexual feeling of the more explicit paintings where Magdalena’s whip is shown. 

well whipped magdalene Geurcino ca 15513. In this image she’s in mid-whipping, stripped to the waist. Note the eyes focussed on the image of her Master, the little Jesus on a crucifix.

In this image she’s stripped to the waist, though the artist didn’t have the nerve to paint her saintly breasts. Instead we get her arm wielding the little scourge.  

The artist is Giovanni Barbieri, known as “Guercino”, I’m afraid that in my humble opinion he isn’t really very good.

Unknown-54  This one exemplified the way that artists liked to use Maria Magdalena. She’s a religious figure and also a sexual one. 

In a way the penitent Magdalene hearkens back to the ancient Greek and Roman flagellation cults, with that mixture of “spiritual” setting, extreme emotional arousal, and sexual arousal, which is found in a number of Christian saints. Here she is in a state of ecstasy, which you could call religious or you could call mid-orgasmic.

It looks like an orgasm, a good one, to me.

Or, if you think (as I do) that older kinds of religion are being mixed here with the more dour and anti-sex Christian tradition, you could say it’s both.

By the way, the skull she’s pressing against her lower belly is, tradition says, the skull of the late Jesus of Nazareth.

Is that healthy? Not really, but it is psychologically interesting.

The artist is (tip of the hat and thanks to Gretel, in the comments) Guido Cagnacci,  1663.

Crying at the death of a stranger: David Bowie

bowie 2When I was a boy I was ridiculously serious. I only listened to classical music. I couldn’t dance, even badly, and I wasn’t big on small talk.

But one day I was at a party with two girls who knew me slightly from school. We hadn’t paid much attention to each other before, but because they thought I needed to learn some social skills they took over the stereo and played the Black Tie White Noise album, and showed me how to dance to it. Then they went on to Let’s Dance, and then mainlined with Hunky Dory. Swimming backwards, like the dolphins do, in time.  

I couldn’t believe that it was all one guy. And I found it hard to believe that music that often seemed so sparse and simple could be so complex and interesting. I connected my arse to the bass lines, and learned to dance. And to be more playful. 

bowie 3I tried to score with the two girls, but perhaps because this version of me was at least partly their creation, it didn’t have any power on them. They turned me down.

Flat. Like a bedspread.

But afterwards and for the rest of my life I had more fun than I would have without Mr Bowie. 

He changed so many lives in so many ways.

That influence he had on me was relatively minor, compared to the encouragement he gave to young men and women struggling with their sexual orientation. Bowie helped a good number of people to get past their culture’s shaming, express themselves, find reasons for optimism and avoid suicide. My sexual issue was more, “how do I manage being a dom and still retain any self-respect as a broadly pro-feminist man”, and that wasn’t a question Bowie addressed much. Except indirectly, with the implicit encouragement to celebrate being whatever the hell you are.  

But making freaks and geeks, including me, feel happier about themselves is a huge legacy, and yet his music is a bigger one. My interest in Bowie’s music, from that time onwards, was major and passionate. I even like his Tin Machine period, though the later 1980s albums are too much, by which I mean too little, even for me.  

Like a lot of great artists, he seems like he wouldn’t have been much fun to know personally, at least at his creative peak, though he seems to have mellowed a bit in his last years. That’s part of all human lives.

bowie 1But I’m grateful he was here. And when I heard he’d died, about twenty minutes ago, I cried.

He had the knack, through his music, of making you feel that you knew him. It’s an odd kind of intimacy.

It’s an enormous loss, to so many of us. But his music and his fearless use of sexually ambiguous images were also an amazing gift to all of us. We were lucky to have him.