My name is Feminist Sub, and I read romance novels. Kinky romance novels, where the sub shows her love by taking a good caning. But still, romance novels.
It kinda snuck up on me. I’ve never been much of a romance novel reader – well, not since my preteen days of Judy Blume and Norma Klein. I’ll admit, I always turned my nose up a bit at the standard bodice-rippers, but I’m actually a huge sucker for romantic comedies (or, I used to be – and will be when they start making good ones again). And I always thought it would be great to read novels about interesting, complex characters in relationships.
But then I got a kindle, and I realized – “hey, I can read smut on this! Without anyone knowing!” I started off looking for erotica, and that kind of led me to the genre of “erotic romance,” and the subgenre of “BDSM erotic romance.” Which is actually a thing! Who knew?
And I found myself loving a lot of these books. Some of them are total crap, of course, but there are some amazing authors out there writing passionately and intelligently about BDSM in the context of relationships. This is something that really couldn’t have existed even 5 years ago, before the advent of e-readers.
I had been a long-time skulker of literotica, but I was tired of the grammatical errors and surprise turn-offs (please, for the love of god, if there is incest or poop in your story, say so ahead of time. So many sad endings). I used to like quick and dirty written porn, where the people didn’t know or like each other. But once I got more comfortable with my sexuality, I started wanting my sex scenes to be in the context of a relationship. It’s so much hotter when a sadist hurts someone he or she really cares about, no? But the online free story sites are not the best places to go looking for that.
So it’s really, really affirming to see BDSM in the context of love. Sure, these stories aren’t “real.” They’re romance novels (some more so than others) and so they have many of the crutches of the genre – the moody hero, the miscommunications, the last-minute reconciliations. But still – it’s nice to see BDSM portrayed within the context of loving relationships. Clarisse Thorn has written about the common belief that BDSM sex is different from “love sex,” which I believe is one of the thing that keeps many people from trying to get these needs met. So it’s great that there’s a whole genre out there dedicated to showing loving BDSM.
It occurred to me that some of my readers might be interested in this stuff as well, so I decided to highlight some of my favorite authors. Please note – these authors write mostly, if not all, hetero couples where the male is the top/dom, because, frankly, that’s what gets me off.
Rachel Kramer Bussell edits anthologies of well-written sex stories. The two I’ve read are Please, Sir and Yes, Sir and both are super-hot. She’s also got anthologies of F/m stories, gay and lesbian stories, spanking stories, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Annabel Joseph has to be my favorite in the “BDSM romance” category. She writes believable characters, real relationships and super, super hot sex scenes. Crazy hot. Well, to me, at least. She tends to have dom characters that are a bit sadistic, and I know that squicks a lot of people out, so caveat emptor (Me, I’ve been surprised to learn just how hot I find sadists. Interesting.). I’d start with Deep in the Woods (ignore the cover) and its sorta-sequel, Fortune. Comfort Object is actually my favorite of her books, but it involves a set-up that toes the consent line, and a dom character that is a total ass (a really, really hot ass, but an ass nonetheless) so if that’s a problem, it’s probably not the book for you.
Kitty Thomas writes stories about noncosensual (some would call some of her stories “dubious consent,” but I disagree) Master/slave relationships. These books are dark, psychological and extremely powerful. They’re nothing you’d ever want to model a real relationship on, but she uses the context of these set-ups to explore the psychological motivations and impacts of power exchange. And unlike a lot of BDSM erotica classics, she doesn’t gloss over the consent issues. Did I also mention that her books are really, really hot? Most of them actually have very little sex, but they’re very erotic nonetheless. My favorite of her novels is Tender Mercies, which had an enormous impact on me. Guilty Pleasures is her “sexiest” book and has some very hot scenes.
I’ve read one book by Candace Blevins called Safeword Rainbow and oh my, that was a hot book. Again, the levels of sadism are pretty high – there’s a scene near the end that has been very controversial in online discussions, but it hit the spot for me. This novel involves two characters with amazing chemistry who want very different things – he’s into a 24/7 master/slave dynamic, whereas she wants an equal partnership with clearly defined and negotiated scenes. So they have to work out a compromise, and they do so in a way that feels very realistic. I really liked that the characters both realized that the people in the relationship are more important than their roles or dynamic – something a lot of people seem to forget.
And right now I’m reading As She’s Told by Anneke Jacob. I don’t even know what to say about this book quite yet, so I may have to write a separate entry. It’s very, very well-written and very, very scary in the way it depicts a (consensual) relationship where the power exchange is total and absolute.
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been reading this spring and summer! I’ve actually read a bunch more (I’m a fast reader, and a confirmed pervert) but most have been mediocre, or a bit “BDSM lite” for me (not trying to be a snob, I just need a bit more “edge” to my smut).
If you’re interested in this genre, I’d recommend checking out the blog Kinky Ever After, which is written by a number of BDSM romance novelists (including several that I mentioned here) and the BDSM group on Goodreads. And in my blogroll, I have a link to BDSM Book Reviews, a blog that reviews these very types of books.
I’m thinking about having a regular feature where I review BDSM erotica I’ve read. Would you be interested in reading that? What BDSM erotica have you enjoyed?