I write erotic romance, usually with a BDSM slant to it, so sexual negotiation is at the heart of my stories. Lisabet’s post yesterday set out the glorious complexity and core paradox which bedevils these delicate discussions. Negotiation, compromise, subtle and often unspoken agreements are, I would suggest, essential to all relationships, sexual or otherwise, kinky or vanilla. The world of BDSM just flushes it out into the open, makes overt what the rest of the world takes for granted or leaves unsaid.
Honesty, trust, transparency, key buzz words in the BDSM community. A BDSM playroom is no place for assumptions, therein lies the route to disaster, or at least the nearest Accident and Emergency department and we all know how over-stretched they are at this time of year. The last thing they need on a busy Friday night is a bunch of kinksters turning up. That said, I know of at least one ED consultant of my acquaintance who assures me it’s not that uncommon to be asked to retrieve various interesting objects from unusual places.
But we digress…
I’m not convinced that readers really enjoy reading the finer points of the sexual negotiation between characters. That can all be pretty repetitive in any case and I reckon they want to get to the good bit, and as a writer it’s tempting to dive straight in. But there are the purists out there, we find them in the reviews, taking issue about the level of negotiation, the breakneck speed with which a relationship builds from initial meeting to whipping out the cane (so to speak). I prefer to believe that no serious Dom or sub would rely on works of erotic fiction, least of all my books, for their introduction to the noble art of kink but there you have it. Do we have a social responsibility to offer factually accurate content and provide glittering kinky role models? Christ, I sincerely hope not.
I had plenty of comment along those lines in response to my first ever book which features some fairly heavy BDSM. Re-reading The Dark Side now, there is much that I might write differently. Back then I laid on the negotiating aspects with a trowel. These days I think I’d skip a lot of that stuff to cut straight to the chase.
This excerpt is from Darkening, the first book in The Dark Side trilogy. This is, as far as I can recall, the only one of my books to actually feature a written contract.
With a shrug, he gets up and strolls across the spacious office to his desk, then opens the top drawer and withdraws a sheet of paper in a clear plastic wallet, and his iPad.
Returning to the table to sit alongside me, he glances sharply at me, cool, efficient. “So, down to business. I want your consent, Miss Byrne. But it has to be informed consent. I always like to make our sort of arrangement really clear,” he states matter-of-factly, “just to avoid misunderstandings later.”
“But first, health and safety.” What?
“We need to sort out contraception, and disease control.” At my amazed expression, he goes on to explain, “I trust you do practice safe sex, Miss Byrne?”
Me? I don’t practice any sort of sex. And I need some practice. That’s the point of all this, why I’m even considering this bizarre ‘arrangement’. I just want to get laid. Nicely, of course. Skillfully even, if possible. But laid all the same. And I already know he has the skills I want. So if these are his terms…
“I’m on the pill,” I blurt out, realizing too late what impression that will create. In fact, I was prescribed the mini pill about three years ago to deal with horrendous heavy periods rather than to prevent unwanted pregnancies. You’d need a sex life for that to be a problem.
“Ah.” He looks a little surprised, but quickly rallies. “Well, that simplifies some aspects, I guess. So, just disease control then. I’ll use a condom. Is that okay with you?”
“Er, yes, yes, of course. But—I don’t have any…”
Idiot. You should have told him you were a virgin. Too late now…and anyway, you don’t want to put him off.
Grinning, he leans in and quickly kisses my mouth. “My department, sweetheart, leave the supplies to me.” Now, leaning back in his chair again and back to Mr. Cool and Efficient, he slides the plastic wallet toward me. “Read this, please.”
I take my time retrieving my glasses from my funky little satchel, perching them on my nose before glancing down at the sheet in front of me, at the words printed there. Then I blink, take my glasses off and clean them slowly with the little bit of soft cloth in my glasses case, buying time. He’s patient, unhurried, waiting while I collect myself before eventually looking again at the printed sheet, reading carefully to make sure it does indeed say what I think it does.
Words like ‘fuck’, ‘anus’, ‘feces’, ‘fellatio’, ‘dildo’, ‘vibrator’, ‘nipple clamps’, ‘strangulation’ and many, many more leap about in front of my eyes. Snapping my head up, I look back at him in stunned horror.
“What… What is this?” I ask weakly, my self-confident bubble in danger of bursting with a nasty pop.
“Don’t look so worried. It’s just a way to make sure we both know where we stand,” he replies calmly, obviously anticipating my reaction. Reaching out, he takes my hand and turns it palm up, then strokes gently, reassuring me. “Although, in fairness, standing’s not generally my favorite position for what I have in mind for you.”
His wry humor is strangely calming, and I look back at the sheet full of obscenities, taking a deep breath. If he wants to talk about this…stuff, I can handle it. I hope. I am fully aware we didn’t come to Leeds for a picnic by the river, but still…
“We need to agree on the parameters, know what’s allowed and what isn’t. Do you know what all these words mean?” he asks, still stroking my hand.
“Yes, of course,” I reply defensively. Then think better of it. This is no time for false bravado. “Well, I know what these things are. But what do they have to do with me? Or you?” The more frightening ones keep leaping out at me—strangulation, blood, naked flames… “I didn’t realize… I mean, I didn’t expect… I can’t just… This is really dangerous.”
“Well, that stuff on that side certainly is. That’s why it’s on the ‘don’ts’ list.”
“Don’ts?” Relief washes over me. Maybe he’s not a psychopath, after all. Not totally.
His voice hardens suddenly. “Pay attention, Miss Byrne, read it carefully. You have three lists in front of you. The first list”—he taps the sheet with his index finger—“here, this explains how our arrangement will work. This is a list of some of the things I want, intend”—he looks up sharply, catches my eye to make sure I get it and know he means business—“to do to you. What your role will be, and mine. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s enough to give you a pretty good idea what’s going to happen. Read that list, Miss Byrne. Read it out loud, please.”
I look down, peering at the words through my glasses, my eyes skimming the list… I start to read out loud.