Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Novel I Don't Dare Write

By Lisabet Sarai

Why do I bother? Another new BDSM club – they're sprouting like mushrooms these days – but it's always the same. The egos. The poseurs. The clueless wannabees drawn by imagined glamor or the trendiness of black leather with a set of cuffs dangling from your belt. The would-be serial killers gloating over the chance to draw blood. The doormats and the pain sluts, ready for anything that will pierce the bubble of numbness encasing them.

My costume broadcasts what I'm seeking, but it's obvious I won't find it here. As I sit at the bar, sipping plain tonic and wishing it were something stronger, I eye the burly guy flogging a girl on the cross. Sweat beads on his hairy chest, which is crisscrossed by an expensive studded harness. Framed by matching chaps, his bare buttocks flex with each ferocious stroke. His boots glitter with steel chain. He looks like the perfect top, but look again. Drunk on his own power, he's hitting her much too hard. She's way beyond what she can take, but she's too dazed or too embarrassed to safeword. He doesn't know, can't read the signs. Of course, how could you expect him to know? They just met half an hour ago.

They come to play, when the reality is deadly serious. They don't understand that it's not about force but about acceptance. Closed in their private fantasies, they miss the point. Nothing works if you're not open – the dom and the sub both.

Chris knew. Ah, Christopher. My dark poet. My master. The bitter tonic fizzes on my tongue. Will the empty ache under my sternum ever go away?

Chris knew how to coax me open, from the very first time he hung me from the ceiling in his dingy basement apartment. He was born to master me, or so we both liked to pretend, though we both knew that was romantic hogwash. My beloved, cruel, deviant Chris.

I would have done anything for him. I ate his shit once, because he asked me to, to prove my total devotion. It was disgusting – I still gag, recalling the stench, the slimy texture – and yet thrilling at the same time, to realize how completely I belonged to him. A flogging? That's nothing. I wear Chris' brand on the inside of my right thigh.

It took us three years to get to that point, though, three years of building trust and pushing limits. Every morning during those years I woke in a fever, trembling in anticipation of the tests he might set me that day. Never did he disappoint me. Although he was a true sadist – my suffering brought him the most profound pleasure – he still cherished and nurtured me, recognizing and honoring the depths of my surrender.

I suppose he was a bit crazy, extreme in his wild quest for more profound experience, more intense sensation. I loved that insanity, though, that uncertainty, the sense of threat that edged even his most affectionate caress. I wanted to be everything for him – his acolyte, his slave, his muse, his nurse, his whore. Because he was open, I sensed his emptiness. I yearned to fill it.

Someone else would see black humor in the manner of his death. Chris perished with a rope around his neck, splattered with his own cum. Auto-erotic asphyxiation - such a BDSM cliché! How embarrassing, especially considering his expertise in the art of bondage.

Don't go there. Don't think about Chris now, here. But how can I not, when that's what I so desperately need, a master who is willing to take everything from me, and give me everything in return?

His passing ripped a jagged hole in my existence. Nearly a decade later, after the pills, the therapy, the electroshock, after two years in a vanilla marriage where I tried to pretend I was normal, the chasm still yawns. I haven't recovered. I've just gotten more skilled at hiding my wounds.

Meanwhile, I can't deny the twisted need at my core. I've tried all the avenues. Clubs. Chat rooms. Munches. Personal ads. I've been beaten and buggered and pissed on, but really, since Chris, no one has touched me.

“Miss?” The pierced and tattooed bartender places a tumbler full of golden liquid in front of me. “This is for you.”

“What?” The honey-and-smoke scent of premium single malt tickles my nose. “I-I'm not indulging in any alcohol tonight.” I've learned the hard way that when I drink in a kink club, I tend to make bad decisions.

“He insists.”

“He? Who?” I scan the crowded room. Nobody seemed to be paying attention to me.

“The man who ordered the Scotch for you.”

“Who's that?”

“He's not here right now. But he expects to be obeyed.”

The barkeep hands me a folded sheet of cream-colored linen paper then backs away. I run a fingertip over the slightly nubby surface, curious about this unexpected missive despite my jaded attitude. The dim, red-tinged light in the club made it a bit difficult to see, but I think I detect traces of a monogram embossed in the paper. I flip the note open and try to read its contents. The graceful script is regular and fairly easy to decipher; despite its flowing lines, I suspect it's a printer font, not hand written.

I know what you need, Zoë.

A chill crawls up my spine. How can he know my name? I always use a pseudonym when I sign in at a club.

I've been watching you.

Oh great. A stalker. My heart beats faster, with fear, but something else, too. Excitement. Chris would play games like this sometimes.

You need a real master, not one of these counterfeits around you.
Everything about you cries out to be taken. Used. Known. Owned.

Yearning surges through me. Tears prick the corner of my eyes. I dash them away and read on.

Drink the scotch. Savor it. It is my gift to you.

Then, if you want what I have to offer, go home. Remove your clothing and lie down on your bed, completely still. Don't move a muscle until you get my message on your mobile phone. That's very important. If you move at all, you'll disappoint me.

And I will know. I'm watching you, my lovely Zoë. Remember that as you hold yourself immobile, fighting the urge to twitch, to scratch, to reach between your legs and rub that juicy clit that begs for your attention.

Give me your stillness. And in return, I will give you everything you crave.


I shake my head. I can't believe this, I just can't. It's another trick, a lie, someone having a laugh at my expense.

But what if I'm wrong?

The single malt is ambrosial, liquid heat coursing down my throat and lighting up my body. I sip it deliberately, knowing somehow that M would want me to take my time.

Then I visit my locker, grab my things, and leave, my heart slamming against my ribs and my pussy soaked.

This is the first chapter of a novel I've been contemplating for some time. I don't have a title. I don't even really have a plot, just a concept, a theme – really, a message.

The message: the essence of dominance and submission is psychological, spiritual, emotional - not physical.

I've toyed with this theme before. In my short story “Just a Spanking”, the psychological effects of a spanking bring a sub to orgasm even though the dom never touches her in any sexual way. In “Stroke”, a partially paralyzed Dom nevertheless manages to dominate his secretly submissive nurse. In “Higher Power”, a magician proves that that the power of mental connection between dominant and submissive can counteract the effects of swords and a guillotine. When the sub momentarily loses faith in her master, though, when she doubts his power, her spine is severed.

Not the most light-hearted tale, I admit, though I suggest that with her renewed dedication and trust, her master may heal her. Needless to say, Cleis didn't want that story!

This novel, though, will go far further. M does indeed turn out to be the master Zoë so desperately craves. Chapter by chapter, he sets her new tests and draws her closer to him. His intuition is unfailing. He metes out both pleasures and punishments, fulfilling Zoë's kinkiest fantasies. The pain of her loss begins to ebb. Her devotion to her mysterious Dom grows.

However, he dominates her by proxy. They do not meet until well past the middle of the book. And then Zoë learns that M is a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down in an auto accident.

Yes, you read that right. I'm contemplating an erotic novel in which the hero is an almost completely disabled cripple.

He's physically attractive, intelligent, wealthy, with the power to control others, but he can't control his own body. He can't whip her or bind her. He can't come on her tits or force his way into her ass. He can't feel her touch on his cock.

Could this possibly work? Could I make this erotic?


Could I every sell it to a publisher?

Highly unlikely. And if I did, I'd undoubtedly be beset by angry hordes who'd castigate me for fetishizing disability (which is not at all my intention) or inaccurately portraying the life and capabilities of a quadriplegic (which might be a relevant criticism). I'm sure I'd also get plenty of criticism for writing a book that was a “downer” in a world and a genre where happy endings are prized.

And yet, when I imagine this novel, I do see the ending as happy. M could very well be the exactly the master to heal and nurture my damaged heroine. Zoë could serve him in concrete as well as symbolic ways, with the satisfaction that she's truly meeting his needs, needs that would make most subs run away screaming.

Still – I'm sure I'd be accused of deep political incorrectness if I ever brought this into the world, possibly even by practitioners of BDSM.

So I'll probably never write this novel. But I'm so, so tempted.

I've been thinking about this book for a long time, without writing a word. Then, I sat down to consider the Grip topic for this cycle and wrote the chapter above in about an hour. Clearly the book is waiting there, growing inside me.

Maybe it's time to let it out.


  1. Lisabet, if the novel is screaming to be born, I would say bring it forth! Several years ago, when "erotica" per se seemed to be giving way to erotic romance, Marilyn Jaye Lewis had a novel inside her, set in the indie music scene of 1980s New York (a scene she had experienced), but publishers wouldn't accept it. So she self-published Freak Parade, and set it loose in the world. It got several rave reviews (one from me). IMO, it's a fabulous read, partly because it doesn't have the commercial aura of something that was written mainly because X (vampires, werewolves in love, whatever) is apparently selling well this year. Re "the BDSM community," I get the impression there are actually several of these, and they don't all coexist peacefully. (Think of Orthodox vs. Reform Jews, Sunni vs. Shiite Muslims, the whole clashing spectrum of Christians since the 1500s, etc.) I bet your novel would get respect from some BDSM readers. As you say, however, you could expect some flak, and that is unfortunate.

    1. Thanks for your encouragement, Jean.

      I've read bits and pieces of Freak Parade and liked it. Probably I should buy the book and settle down with it, if only to support brave people like Marilyn.

  2. Hi, Lisabet,

    I decided to pop into the blog today, just to see what was happening. Glad I did. I was reading this post and thought it was going to be a short story of type some of you post here. You definitely set the hook. I have to say that I was disappointed that it was not a whole story, but the just the first chapter of a book you have not yet written.

    And I'm even sorrier to hear that you think it may never be written and published, only because of the anticipated reception from the politically correct factions. It's too bad, really, because it could be a deeply moving story. This is the kind of thing upon which the doors stay closed, by some kind of tacit agreement in the erotica market... sexuality in physically disabled persons. The heroes and heroines of erotica and erotic romances, no matter how emotionally challenged (which is, more often than not, the type of challenge that is overcome before they saunter off into the sunset) are buff and beautiful ideal physical specimens, with, at most, a vision impairment that requires the wearing of corrective lenses. (Of course, never so bad that they're legally blind without them. The glasses come off more as a fashion statement and a measure of intellect than anything else.)

    But from the standpoint of the type of relationship you're talking about here, the quadriplegic hero would be amazing. Erotica takes place between the ears and this would be a perfect scenario to illustrate that, plus the angst of people who are sexual beings, but have virtually insurmountable issues expressing their sexuality due to physical disabilities.

    What I do wonder is if this could be a really powerful *mainstream* novel. I think the only thing you might want to do, if you haven't already, is research and interviews of people who *have* such disabilities and ask *them* what their thoughts are on bringing some of this out into the open. I mean there *have* to be some BDSM and D/S folks with serious physical limitations who yearn for some understanding of the desires and limitations. I wonder too, if it becomes a matter of "If you write it, they will read." Perhaps this could *be* the breakout novel for this type of situation.

    I know it wouldn't be easy, but I think you should write it, if only just to ensure that this story is told. I think it *should* be told. Easier said than done, I'm sure, but if you really feel it, don't deny the compulsion to write it. If nothing else, it certainly wouldn't be the same old same old about poseurs and wannabes as your Zoe observes in the club.

    Rose ;-)

    1. Thank you, Rose. If I ever do take on this beast, I'll definitely do some research, if only to avoid stupid mistake ;^)

      Your suggestion that maybe there is a disabled BDSM community is an interesting thought.

      Oh, and there *are* erotic romances about disabled people. I had an author pimping a book with a blind gay hero on my blog just a few weeks ago.

    2. An ERWA subscriber was talking about sex including disabilities on 'Writers' not too long ago.

  3. Hi Lisabet,
    Why not write it and indie-publish it yourself? If you're worried that it would hurt your brand, you could use a new pseudonym, yes?

    1. I suppose you're right, Sybil. I don't know if I have the time or patience to self-publish.

      Certainly I would not use a new pseudonym. The notion of starting all the community building all over, from scratch, is horrifying!

      Thanks for dropping by!

  4. That book probably wouldn't be for me. It may not be completely PC, but I must say that obvious physical or mental anomalies tend to make me uncomfortable. Of course, as Rose says, it could be a good mainstream novel, especially in the hands of someone like you, Lisabet. In any case, it looks like this is something you want to do, so do it!!!

    Maybe in your spare time. What's the emoticon for tongue-in-cheek?

    1. I don't think I'll ever write a mainstream novel. I have no idea how to sell or market such a novel. Furthermore, mainstream novels by definition are not allowed to arouse the reader. That's not my work...!

  5. I know that there have been (and still are, I think) disabled people in the women-only Boston-area BDSM group MOB. One person with Muscular Dystrophy used the term "Crips with Whips" in a way that made me think that she was talking about a formal community, but Googling doesn't bring up anything so maybe it was just an informal in-group term. I knew someone else who was working on developing sex toys for disabled people--I think it was for his independent project at Hampshire College, and he hoped to start a real business--but economic reality drove him into Silicon Valley work.

    1. Thanks for the pointers, Sacchi.

      I have to say "Crips with Whips" make me cringe, though I supposed if you're disabled yourself the term is more ironic and less derogatory.

  6. Lisabet:
    Darn my incapable brain. These days I only remember non essential stuff, like the phone number of my best friend, Spring 4-5389. I remembering reading about a line of romantic fiction some years ago about persons with disabilities. I'm sure it exists as a sub-genre somewhere. I say why not write it.

  7. Lisabet!

    You're not asking for advice necessarily, but because you have so often been my creative partner and muse I have an idea to offer on this theme.

    Have you ever seen the Clint Eastwood movie "Million Dollar Baby"? If you haven't, I won;t describe it to you, so you can see it cold. But its along a similar premise to what you're thinking, though non-sexual, and it was hugely successful. Very compelling premise and it may give you a way into it.


  8. This book sounds strong to me, and it's written with that kind of passion (the kind that makes you bang out chapter 1 in an hour). I do know some publishers who might be interested. I'll shoot you an e-mail since I'm reading this so long after you posted.