By Lisabet Sarai
I read a lot, by most people's standards. Since I am a reviewer for several sites, at least half of my reading material is erotica or erotic romance. However, it's fairly rare that I experience that mixture of admiration and envy that derives from encountering a work that I wish that I could claim for my own.
The last time this occurred was earlier this year, when I read Anneke Jacob's BDSM novel As She's Told. This book deals with a power exchange relationship that is more extreme and complete than most you will find in the erotica canon. Maia's deepest desire, for as long as she can remember, has been to be someone's slave--to be caged, controlled and protected. Anders has nearly given up trying to find a woman that he can make totally his own, someone who will give him absolute power over her, body and mind. When Maia and Anders meet, the intensity of their mutual connection is breathtaking. That was the point when I started to become jealous -- in between my exclamations of delight.
You can read my review here.
Ms. Jacob accomplishes what I've tried to do in every one of the numerous BDSM stories I've penned--to bring to life the electric thrill that comes with recognizing and acknowledging complementary desires, especially desires the world considers to be perverse. She expresses, with elegance and verity, the irresistible attraction, the sense of belonging, the fear and the eagerness that spill over into sexual realm, so that every touch is incandescent, leaving marks on the soul. I've already deleted the ebook that I used for my review, or I would include some quotations. It was clear to me, however, that Ms. Jacob had experienced this epiphany personally, as have I. She, however, had much better success in conveying the world-stopping intensity of this experience than I've ever achieved.
The early chapters of As She's Told are near perfect. However, as I read further, I became a bit frustrated by the novel, because nothing really happens. Anders takes Maia deeper and deeper into submission, turning her into an animal, a thing for his pleasure. The tale focuses on ever more extreme tests of Maia's devotion, increasingly shocking demonstrations of her utter servitude. There is no climax, no conflict really, nothing to propel the story but kink. In some ways, I feel that Ms. Jacob squandered the stunningly realistic depiction of Maia's and Anders' early connection by turning the story into a sadomasochistic fantasy.
My master and I have often discussed how a long-term, real-world D/s relationship would develop. (We have a long-distance connection that hasn't involved any physical BDSM in a decade, but I still mentally award him that title.) Surely it wouldn't be possible to continue pushing limits, engaging in more and more extreme experiments, more excruciating and challenging tests for the submissive. There are physical constraints. Yet a continued repetition of the same old kinks would get boring, wouldn't it?
If I were to write a sequel to As She's Told, I'd want to explore this question. Maybe Anders would try something that would physically damage his slave in some serious way. (I kept expecting this to happen in the original novel.) He'd come to realize how deeply he loved Maia and recognize that his arrogant superiority needed to be tempered by real world concerns. (This is the theme of my own story, "Higher Power", which you can find in my BDSM collection Rough Caress.)
Maybe Maia would discover that there was in fact some limit, some boundary, that she could not or would not cross. Perhaps Anders would get bored and find another slave, setting Maia free. How would she survive after having every detail of her life dictated by her master for more than a year? Or perhaps some natural or man-made disaster might separate them and the sequel could focus on their struggles to reunite, struggles that might require paradoxical assertiveness from Maia, patience and resignation from Anders.
There are many possibilities. Of course, I'll never write this sequel. For a long time, though, I've toyed with the idea of writing a successor to Raw Silk. I've penned a couple of chapters, but after all this time (I wrote this novel over a decade ago), my sense of the characters has become less vivid. If I did continue, the focus of the book would be on infidelity and forgiveness. Gregory is the same sort of absolutist as Anders, but Kate is not nearly as pliant as Maia. Although Gregory awakened her submissive tendencies, she would never allow him to make her into a thing. And she has an erotic imagination, fostered by her experiences in Thailand, that might not be completely satisfied even by a creative Dom like Gregory.
In any case, I've gotten over my envy of Ms. Jacob, though I still admire her accomplishment. And I'd love to see her write a sequel addressing the questions that her book raises for someone who is deeply interested in real-world D/s relationships.