Sunday, November 22, 2009

Women on Top

By Lisabet Sarai

This is my week to select the topic for our discussions. I decided to talk about femdom largely because I wanted to invite my friend and colleague William Gaius to be our Saturday guest. His novel The Ancestors of Star offers an original and arousing approach to a genre that sometimes turns me off rather than on. Then I remembered that both Jude Mason and Ashley Lister write a lot of female dominant erotica, so I knew we'd have a lively week.

And what about Lisabet Sarai? I have written my share of female dominant scenes and stories. My novel Ruby's Rules features a heroine who mixes pleasure with business, using her sexuality to control the males with whom she competes. Near the start of the book, Ruby comments “I do find myself quite sensitive to my partners’ desires to yield to my power.” For most of the novel, she goes on to demonstrate this. The tale climaxes with a chapter-long dungeon session in which hero is teased and punished for his bad behavior by not one but two Dommes.

My short story “Shades of Red” reprised the character of Ruby at the tender age of eighteen, exploring dominance for the first time in a red light district of Amsterdam. Raw Silk and Incognito also include femdom scenes, and Exposure features a F/F relationship with BDSM undertones.

Nevertheless, I realized when I sat down to write this post that femdom doesn't come all that naturally to me. Almost all the examples of femdom in my own work are in some sense equivocal. Ultimately Ruby surrenders herself to the man from the dungeon. In “Domestic Goddess”, one of the stories in my BDSM collection Rough Caress, a sub turns the tables on her master, but only because he has been neglecting her discipline since he lost his job. “Bangkok Noir", in the same collection, includes the stern and implacable mistress known as the Professor, but her character is balanced by Nok, the gogo dancer who thinks that she's the one in control until she is topped by a stranger.

I can write femdom, but it's a stretch. I have to work hard to put myself in the right frame of mind.

One reason is that I find many of the conventions of the sub-genre a bit repellent. I have no objections to tanning a succulent male butt beat red or pulling out the nipple clamps to demonstrate that a guy's nipples are every bit as sensitive as a woman's. However, much of the femdom that I've read and reviewed seems to focus on serious humiliation. The tops tell their grovelling male slaves that the men are miserable worms--and they mean it. Dommes don't merely bind and beat their subs, they belittle and insult the poor sufferers. And it's not just an act. I can handle fairly extreme physical trials in a BDSM story, but I need to see that the dominant has some respect and affection for the submissive. It takes courage and self-control to submit to a mistress. The dominants that I find exciting will recognize this, even as they put their slaves through horrible trials.

The more fundamental reason that writing femdom is hard for me is that my own tendencies and experiences are mostly as a submissive. Having been topped by a man, I find it a bit difficult to imagine turning the tables. That was the deliberate intent of “Domestic Goddess”, to explore that scenario, and I found the tables didn't really stay turned.

This Thanksgiving will mark the 31st anniversary of my initiation as a submissive. Although I haven't engaged in any real BDSM activity in years, that night left indelible marks on my soul—and on my imagination. Anyone who reads my work will see that the purest emotion comes through when my character assumes the submissive voice.

A serious writer, however, has to push past his or her own kinks or squicks and explore other viewpoints. I don't want to keep writing Kate from Raw Silk over and over again. So I've tried my hand at writing pretty much every variation in the power equation: M/f, F/m, F/f and M/m.

Possibly the most successful (in the sense of genuine and arousing) femdom story I've written is “Be Careful What You Wish For”. This tale was inspired by a reader's fantasy. When I first started publishing, my website (which was and still is entitled “Lisabet Sarai's Fantasy Factory”) had a page where visitors could sketch out a fantasy which I would then expand into a full story. I'm not sure why, but I really understood what the guy who posted this request had in mind. I knew what would push his buttons. I wrote the story in a couple of hours and barely revised it at all. The individual who provided the original scenario raved about the tale and pointed all his femdom-loving friends in my direction. Probably over the years I've deeply disappointed them!

In 2005 I answered a call from Carol Queen for a collection called Whipped: Twenty Erotic Stories of Female Dominance. This project was something of an educational exercise. The book shipped with a video CD of interviews and scenes with real world dominatrices. My contribution, “Poker Night”, sums up my feelings and preferences when it comes to femdom.

The hero of the story is a regular guy, a married, church-going man who wears flannel shirts and works in a hardware store, drinks beer and plays poker with his friends. His Mistress, a professional but as down home as he, puts him through some extreme punishments including caning and infantilism. Through the entire scene, though, she's giving him what he needs and they both know it.

Finally she allows him to come.

Pleasure, untainted by pain, overwhelmed him. His whole body convulsed. Milky fluid spurted from his spasming cock, showering Helen's toes. He closed his eyes and felt all the tension, the rage, the fear, the shame, the self-disgust, flow out of him, leaving him empty and at peace.

"Clean me off." Helen's voice, gentle despite its message of command, broke his reverie. As though in a trance, he bent and began to lick his come off her white feet. He didn't mind the bitter taste. Long after he had consumed every drop, he continued to lap at her warm, fragrant flesh, dipping his tongue into the crevices between her toes, tracing the smooth arch of her instep.

"Enough." Helen raised him up until his face was level with hers. "Enough." She bent and kissed him with closed lips. "Get dressed. I'll wait in the living room."

Then she was gone. Jack groaned as he clambered to his feet and looked around for his clothes. The muscles in his thighs and shoulders were sore. His buttocks were on fire. He couldn't stand the tightness of his undershorts, though the rough denim created its own special agony against his punished flesh. Every step reminded him of Helen and his own degradation.

He smiled when he saw her, sitting in front of the TV watching the late news. She had put on a flowered housecoat, exactly like something Maude would wear. His heart swelled with something, something that actually felt quite a bit like love.

He fished another twenty out of his pocket and added it to the pile of cash. "Thank you, Helen. I really appreciate it."

She laughed. "Wait till tomorrow, Jack, when the pain really kicks in and you might not be so grateful!"

"No," he said softly. "I will."

That's the sort of woman that I like to see on top.


  1. Hi Lisabet!

    This is a remarkably complex post. When I read something like this, I get a sense of how much stuff there is out there in the world and in the human psyche that i know nothing about. In my case, i take it as a sign that my own anger towards God - the worst of all doms - is maybe easing up a little. I think its very interesting the distniction you make between humiliation asa path of release, as it would be for an acolyte following a guru, and humiliation as selfish exploitation. That's a delicate boundary I think only an insider would know. The allure of submission is something unique I think I may have been born with in myself. But when that innocence is betrayed you don;t get it back. When I've studied books on Tibetan buddhism by the Dalai Lama and others they get to that part about submission to a teacher and I just can;t read anymore. But when I see it in this sexual context you have here I can see how it could be a neccessary element, but a bridge I can no longer cross, I could just go on and on. This is a really interesting post, which a few years ago I would never have imagined would appeal to me. You've pushed a lot of buttons and given me some interesting things to think about here. Amazing!


  2. Hi Lisabet,

    A good post here. You mention the books you've read where the dominant humiliates or punishes the submissive in a manner that isn't for pleasure or for the submissive's enjoyment at all. Yes, I know there are those kinds of relationships. I know it may very well be exactly what the submissive wants, yet, there doesn't seem to be any communication and that's so key.

    Sigh. You and I could talk about this for hours. Two sides of a coin. The balance between them is what must be found.

    Okay, going to go check on my post and I am so looking forward to what everyone says this week.


  3. Lisabet,

    Stellar post. And a great take on a very thought-provoking subject. (And a brilliant excerpt to go with it).

    this is going to be another fun week.



  4. Hello, Garce,

    Thanks for calling my post complex. The pot calling the kettle...

    It's funny, but I didn't realize how difficult it is for me to write genuine femdom until I sat down to write this.

    My take on submission--surrender--is that in fact it is not fundamentally sexual, even in the context of a BDSM scene. I always write orgasms for my subs (or the books wouldn't sell ;^) ), but in fact, I can recall being incredibly aroused and moved by a scene and never coming, or even thinking about coming.

    Maybe the key to your salvation, so to speak, is for you to become the Dom yourself.


  5. Hello, Jude,

    I suspect that you have a natural dominant streak to match my submissive one, so I'm very eager to read your take on this topic. I recall with great pleasure your flasher in CREAM! (Maybe you can repost on the blog--it's a keeper.)


  6. Hey, Ash,

    You've written cuckolding and humiliation, but you made me believe that the woman did in some sense care what her husband felt, and even more so, that this is what the husband craved. I hope that you'll elaborate on this Thursday.


  7. Hi Lisabet, great post.

    You and I have had a few discussions on this topic in the past. Both sides of the coin are so very similar, yet miles apart. I can so easily relate to your difficulty in writing fem dom/male sub as I have the same difficulty in writing male dom/fem sub. But it's good to write to the challenge.

    And I agree with you one hundred percent about the abject humiliation and disdain so many fictional dommes seem to have for their subs. Nope, I'm not into shrews--and it seems a lot of men aren't, either.

    Cool topic. I'm looking forward to see what people have to say.

  8. Lisabet,

    I find it interesting that your dom and I share the same name. Hmmm. Have you been peeking into my brain?

    Seriously though, what struck me most about this was when you mentioned getting past personal preferences as a writer and being able to write from any point of view or any kink. I've found that I have to work to write stories about female submissives.

    (And again, I reread your excerpt and wonder if you've been peeking inside my head again.)