Research: A history of BDSM literature

This is the first of a longish series, based on my Eroticon 2019 presentation. 

 

It is a history of BDSM literature, taking in nearly 50,000 years of human art and history. One of my key points is that BDSM didn’t come down with Sade (who I don’t rate highly), and nor did it arrive with 50 Shades of Grey.

BDSM has been a part of human culture across an enormous time span, and our traces can be found amongst other strands, in an enormous range of cultures. 

These posts are going to be coming on Fridays, so stay tuned!

Introducing my Eroticon “History of BDSM Literature” talk

Come to my “A History if BDSM Literature” talk at Eroticon 2019 and you will learn many things!

Here are three:

  •  The earliest surviving bdsm literature pre-dates the book of Genesis!
  • “Pauline Reage/Anne Desclos had no bdsm experience when she wrote “Story of O” (and it shows)
  • Ginger Spice, back when she was Geri Halliwell, was the cover girl for the bdsm novel “A Man With a Maid 2”, wearing Victorian underwear and wielding a cane
  • CS “Aslan in Bondage” Lewis was into bdsm (and it shows)
  • Some people will write “there are three” when they really mean five!

I’m afraid I’m pretty extremely exhausted right now, so that will have to be my best  advertisement.

But in reality my talk with be incredibly enlightening, interesting, funny and occasionally wise!

See you there!

 

UK law removes anti-bdsm rules, recognises “full and free consent”

There’s been a major break-through in the UK’s frankly insane and stupid censorship laws. 

Books, films and sites – such as this one – that depict bdsm in a consensual context can now freely discuss bdsm, and depict it in text or images.  

These marks were, technically, unlawful in the UK. Not inflicting or enjoying them, but showing them. Shades of “hide your shame, woman”

One of the oddities of the UK law was its bigotry. Acts like face-sitting or sexual spanking between adults are perfectly legal, but they couldn’t be depicted in erotic media. The purpose of law is supposed to be to protect people from harm. It’s not supposed to protect people who don’t like the idea of some sexual activities from thinking, “yuck”. 

For example, if Theresa May and Jacob Rees-Mog, say, were to film themselves having consensual sex and release the footage to the internet, I’d think that was yucky. I’d find it repellent if I saw it. However, I don’t need the law to fix my problem. That’s easily solved by not seeking out images that I don’t want in my brain. I’d avoid seeing the May-Rees-Mog tapes, which is easy to do. 

So, what are the changes?

Certain types of “violent” porn are now permitted so long as the sex acts are consensual (the wording is ‘full and freely exercised consent’,) do not cause serious harm to participants, are not ‘inextricably linked with other criminality’ and are not likely to be viewed by anyone under the age of 18.

Obscenity lawyer Myles Jackman, who has campaigned for these changes for a number of years, said that the change had wider implications for the law. He said: “It is a very impressive that they’ve introduced the idea of full and freely exercised consent in the law. Even for people with no interest in pornography this is very important for consent and bodily autonomy.”

Media superhero Pandora Blake, in her civvies

Activist and queer porn filmmaker Pandora Blake, who also campaigned to have the ban on the depiction of certain sex acts overturned, called the news a ‘welcome improvement’. 

“This is a happy day for queer, feminist and fetish porn.”

It means, incidentally, that one of my own books, that had been legally problematic – because I described a consensual caning that left welts that lasted a few days – can now be published in the UK. So, even though I don’t live in the UK, I am significantly better off as a result of these reforms. I’m not the only one.

Acts that were banned that can now be depicted include:

  • Spanking
  • BDSM
  • Female ejaculation
  • Urinating (also known as watersports)
  • Strangling
  • Face-sitting
  • Fisting
  • Humiliation

Thanks to…

Myles Jackman, legal superhero

Myles Jackman and Pandora Blake both worked hard, sometimes under huge stress, to get this change through. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude, and admiration beyond all measure, for sticking to this cause and ultimately winning it for all of us. 

I dare say non-kinky civil libertarians are pleased too. Because government control of public speech always – always – begins with speech about sex. But, unless the censorious forces are stopped in their tracks, it never ends with sexual content. 

And every country affects every other country, so this has world-wide significance. I’m living in Australia, also Antarctica, and this victory in the UK means that similar, chilling, legislation is less likely here. 

So thank you, with respect and admiration, to Pandora Blake and Myles Jackman!

Sinful Sunday: The dreaming of Mrs Willy Nilly

      SECOND VOICE

Willy Nilly, postman, asleep up street, walks fourteen 
miles to deliver the post as he does every day of the 
night, and rat-a-tats hard and sharp on Mrs Willy Nilly.

        MRS WILLY NILLY

Don't spank me, please, teacher,

        SECOND VOICE

whimpers his wife at his side, but every night of her 
married life she has been late for school.

Dylan Thomas, Under Milkwood

 

 

 

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.

Introducing another novel: The Tale of the Tawse

The Tale of the Tawse is in five parts, and contains 83,706 words.

Plot

Freddie Underwood is a New York-based public relations writer and event organizer. He’s at a conference in Glasgow, after which he plans to meet his lover Sharzad Malouf in Rome. He meets Daphne Rintoull, an artist who’s been dumped by her lover, and beds him on the rebound. So he has two women in his life.

The story follows his relationship with Shar from first meeting in New York, their time together in French Guyana, to Rome. He helps her confront a teacher who put her in hospital, when she was a four-year staying in an English boarding-school because her parents had unwisely involved themselves in mid-East politics.  

With Freddie’s support, she confronts the man, and is able to see him as small and fearful; a ghost is laid. She celebrates that, and Freddie saying he loves her, by walking into Trevi’s pool. She does the Anita Ekberg walk from La Dolce Vita, until she slips and falls in. Freddie performs an unnecessary rescue and realises they are similarly foolish.

They have to part when Shar has to go back to work. They are in love, though they can’t see how they can be together, in the US or her country.

Meanwhile Daphne has told a Roman gallery she has enough work for an exhibition, which is not true. She begs Freddie’s help and support. He keeps her brave while she creates the extra work needed. He writes her an exhibition category full of the most ferocious art-wank.

At the opening, he thinks she’s seducing a critic (who she’s actually trying to escape), and drags her off to have jealous sex with her in a broom closet. They disturb a tin of paint thinner stored above them, and fall out in front of the Minister for the Arts, an actual Fascist, and the media. So Daphne’s exhibition is a tremendous success, making the news and not just the arts pages. 

They also part, but not before they have admitted that they love each other.

Freddie returns to New York. Both women, for different reasons, invite him to be with them in a couple of months, at a climate change conference in Wellington, New Zealand.

Freddie has to admit he’s out of competence. He no longer knows what to do.

 

(Is there a sequel? Of course there is.)

 

Potentially important aspects of my manuscript

1  It’s a funny book, with a hell of a lot of sex in it. Much of the sex is bdsm-flavored, though light and romantic, and neither scary nor impersonal.

2  It’s a rom/com set in the real world. For a book with bdsm elements, it’s refreshingly free of billionaires, werewolves and mysterious islands.

3  It’s told from a male point of view, but beta-testing drafts indicate that the text is woman-friendly. 

The Rise of the Cocky Billionaire

Well, I’m a billionaire in Thai baht. I’m rising because I had a bad cold and now I seem to be getting rid of it. I’m cocky because I’ve got a cock. I am be-cocked. My cock works well,  rising in the presence of submissive women who want my attention, and later it sets, like the sun.

So that’s how I got “cocky” and “billionaire” into my title. I know, though, that “billionaire” and “cocky” are two words that make me avoid a book, especially if they appear on the cover. 

With “billionaire” it’s partly because it suggests the book is going to be derivative of the “Fifty Shades” books, and god knows that’s a terrible model. There’s also the way sex gets mingled with a kind of right-wing economics. No questions are asked about how the billionaire got his money, and that’s the most real human-interest part of “billionaire” to me. As well as, are they paying their share of taxes?

Instead there’s a sort of Ayn Rand approach, that the very rich have no obligations to the society they live in. They’re just desirable because they can take a girl around in their private jet or yacht, and they can take her shopping. 

There’s something faintly insulting to both men and women is this sexual idolisation of the billionaire. It suggests that a man isn’t a dom because of his personal qualities, but because of his wallet. He dominates the heroine because he’s rich. Similarly, it suggests that women aren’t attracted by personality, humour, eyes, and so on, but by wallets. That’s a shallow and cynical take on human nature, and also, thank fuck, a false view. it doesn’t remotely resemble the world I live in or the dominant and submissive couples I know.

Then there’s the “cocky” thing. The attributes of the “cocky” man seem to be that he’s good-looking and really, deeply knows it. So when he does something obnoxious to the heroine at their first meeting, and she responds angrily, he knows she’s aroused by him to the point of soaking through her jeans. 

So he says, “I know you want me,” to this woman he’s just met, and then, “but you’ll be begging me for it later.” And he saunters off. 

A “cocky” man, encountered in real life, would be what is usually called “an asshole”.

I don’t think it’s any surprise that “Faleena Hopkins”, the woman who took out a copyright on the word “cocky”, (which she did not coin, and she was not the first to use it in an erotic romance title) and started threatening to sue other writers who use the word, reviewed Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugs” on Amazon and said it was her favourite book. 

Most doms I know are trying to be decent human beings, and most submissives react to the person and not their wallet. And they struggle to work out how to be dominant and submissive together. That’s the most realistic bdsm story. It’s also, I think, the sexiest.

Wicked Wednesday: Maddie and her girl

Note: 

The previous episode is here. Maddie and her new friend Lucy have been making out in the little room beyond the school library. And Lucy, post-orgamically, has agreed that she’ll do whatever Maddie tells her. And that Maddie should spank her if she doesn’t. So those have become the terms of their relationship. 

Also, this is the 300th Wicked Wednesday prompt. And time to thank and congratulate Marie Rebelle for her running this meme! She gives a lot to the community!

Thank you, Marie!

Maddie and her girl

So I hugged my girl. Lucy: my property. It felt so beautiful: there was magic between us, and around us. She was more hesitant than me but after a pause she put her arms around me too. I realised that I had to do what Sir would do, and think about what she was feeling, and try to look after her. 

I said, “Sir’s going to cane us both, after school. In three hours. Are you scared?” 

Lucy nodded, looking at the floor. I said, “I’ll look after you. And he’s… Not as strict as he pretends. Oh, the cane will hurt, both of us. But he doesn’t want you to be too scared. Or for it to hurt more than you can take. If you pay attention, you’ll notice he’ll be looking after you too. He’ll make sure that you leave with a nice stripey bottom, but you’ll have reasons to smile, too.” 

“I… guess. The spanking…” She stopped. She was embarrassed by what she had to say.

Then she said it. “Over his knee. When his hand was on my bare bottom, it did feel good. It was so hot. I knew I was turning him on. And he knew I was gushing. But the cane, that’s a whole different thing, isn’t it?”

“It’s more dramatic. But it can be sexy too. Once you’re rreally turned on it doesn’t feel like pain at all. Or it does, but it’s good. It feels… right.”

“Is that how it is for you? When he canes you?”

I kissed her again. I couldn’t not kiss her: she was so pretty when she blushed. And she knew it. “Yes, little lovely.” To shock her, I said, And… he’s not the only one who’s going to cane you. I’ll be caning you too.”

Lucy looked at me, horrified. “What? This afternoon?”

Her eyes were so wide, her mouth open. I smiled and held her tighter. I kissed her again. She sighed and leaned against me. 

“No, silly girl. Not tonight. Unless Sir tells me to. I belong to him, remember, so what I do or don’t do isn’t entirely up to me. But I won’t ask for permission to cane you this afternoon. Or tonight. I meant, when we’re together, and you don’t please me. I suppose I’d have to ask his permission, once you become his too. I guess we’d use his office, when I need to cane you, pretty Lucy.” 

“He’d watch, wouldn’t he?” The idea didn’t seem to displease her. 

“I suppose he would. You have a lovely body, my pretty girl. I don’t think he’d want to miss it.”

Lucy smiled her little secretive smile again. “This afternoon I’m going to see you naked again. You’ll be seeing all of me, for the first time.” 

“I already know your body is beautiful, little Lucy.” I put my hand on her pussy, and squeezed her lips lightly, then harder. The way I’d like it. 

The bell rang. I smacked her pussy. “We’ve got five minutes to get to class. He’ll hear about it, if we’re late. And…” 

Lucy opened her legs, hoping I’d finger her some more. But she was being naughty and she knew it.

I raised her skirt at the back again, and for a moment admired her pinkness, from that morning’s spanking. Then I smacked her, once, hard, so she hissed her breath in. I hoped there was no one in the library yet, to hear us. I’d have to leave it at one smack. 

“I can’t punish you properly for that now. But I’ll spank you properly, tonight. When we’re at his place. For that.” 

Lucy squirmed against me. I so wanted her. I wanted her breasts, bare, pressed to mine. I squeezed her bottom where I’d smacked her. Then I broke the hug. 

“That’s it for now, Lucy. Straight to class for you. Now!” 

“Yes, Maddie.” And she tugged her skirt into place, and opened the door. She looked back at me. And smiled, a little dazed. I was dazed too. But I made myself look stern. She was due at Math. I was due at French. I left her time to clear the library and maybe twenty yards of corridor. Then I followed her. 

 

The next episode is here.

Cunt as “a nasty word for a nasty thing”: a thought

The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, by Captain Francis Grose.

In 1785 Captain Francis Grose published the first edition of his “Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue”. The book’s a useful collection of old, outdated slang. Gross claims he got most of the words by hanging out with soldiers.

The Dictionary is best remembered these days for Grose’s listing of “Cunt” and his definition: “a nasty word for a nasty thing”. 

That looks horrifically misogynist, and it’s always quoted as an example of Grose’s, or more generally of male, misogyny.

 

I’ve started to wonder, though. The first issue, for me, is that the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue doesn’t really have anything else that comes close to the level of fear and hate of women, or at least their genitals, that definition seems to demonstrate. And it gives more space to thieves’ cant (language used by criminals) than to sexual words, So could Grose have been saying something else?

Nasty as she wants it to be.
(Drawing: Betty Dodson)

We know the word “nasty” has a strand of sexual meanings. It’s everywhere in rap. “Do the nasty”, meaning, “have sexual intercourse”, anyone? But “nasty” has sexual meanings in blues, too. Which takes it back to the 20th century, and maybe the 19th, in US black culture.

But it’s older than that. The sexual use of “nasty” may have re-entered non-black English from its preservation among black culture. It’s not uncommon for words to survive in one cultural group while they disappear elsewhere.

So we go back in time looking for early uses, and we don’t find much, because sexual words seldom made it into print, before the 19th century.

But it turns out that “nasty” meant “lewd” from the 17th century.

Francis Grose: Geddit? Just kidding, folks!

“Lewd” means something like “overtly sexy”, with a connotation of “slightly more overtly sexual than the speaker is comfortable with.” But the sexual meaning is clear. “Lewd” is always a compliment, in my book. 

So, remembering that this meaning of “nasty” was in use from the 1600’s, and that Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue was published in 1785, it’s possible to see his definition in another way. 

Was Grose making a sort of joke? “Cunt:  a sexy name for a sexy thing”?

If so, he was Winding Up The Straights. And We Fell For It.