This is much too broad a topic to write about here in a blog post, so I will address one aspect of “kink ethics” that has been bothering me of late: the soft tyranny of Safe Sane and Consensual (SSC). Uh oh, now I’ve stepped in it. I’m off the reservation. There, got my mixed metaphors out of the way:)
SSC as a concept is a great thing, but there is a problem with it. It’s morphed from something that was formerly a rallying cry, a call for rational, clear thinking to a thing resembling a cudgel to be used to keep the pervy riff raff in line.
Everybody wants everyone to be safe; I think that should go without saying for 99% of us. However, some people who practice BDSM don’t want to be “safe”. I’ll use extreme breathplay as an example. Some normal, awesome people enjoy it. I don’t, but you sure as hell won’t hear me tell someone else that their kink doesn’t fall within the lines (read: prison bars) of SSC, and thus is wrong. This is where SSC becomes kink shaming – which drives me bat poop crazy.
SSC is one way to keep people safe, a set of guidelines perhaps. But it’s not the be all and end all of kink (yes, I realize nobody is saying it is – I loathe strawmen). SSC should absolutely NOT be a way for fellow pervs to deem other pervs beyond the pale.
So why am I writing about this? For those of you who’ve been following along with me, you know I am not a pro Dom. I don’t do clubs. I don’t scene. I am a relationship Dom (mostly). Is that even a term? Doesn’t matter. Why does SSC get under my skin so much? Because I am also a writer of BDSM erotica (and eventually erotic romance).
I am not here to call anybody out…but I have seen some things that disturb me vis-à-vis SSC and BDSM fiction.
I’m going to be blunt here. Fiction is fiction – it is not kink prosletyzing.
If someone wants to write about unsupervised body suspension, mummification, extreme breathplay, texting while driving, whatever it is that causes the SSC acolytes to fall to the ground in grand mal seizures, then they should be able to do so. Fiction is not real life – it’s shit the author made up. That’s it.
An author wants to tell a story – something that makes the reader feel. A writer wants to craft something that connects with the reader as a human being. You don’t tell a story by hitting all your marks in SSC dogma. If you try that then you end up writing a how-to manual. How-to manuals are great for what they are. But they aren’t the same thing as a story manufactured out of whole cloth. When I see someone tear down an author’s work because something occurs in their story that doesn’t conform to SSC, I scratch my head.
Do we berate someone like thriller writer Chelsea Cain? She depicts absolutely ghastly things in her books. But they’re great books, great fiction. Her books are not a how-to for serial killers, or profilers, or cops. They’re fiction; shit she made up. Do we wag our finger at her for depicting something that violates all laws, morals, and basic human decency? No, we see her books for what they are: great, gripping yarns. The end.
(BTW – if you haven’t checked out Chelsea’s Gretchen Lowell series, you must do so. Like yesterday. Incredible characters, incredible voice. You will not regret it. Sorry, I can’t help it – I am a Chelsea Cain fan.)
But, in BDSM fiction we are seeing just that. It’s happening by inches, but it’s as relentless and unstoppable as the grind of a glacier. BDSM is being normalized, mainstreamed. Is it due to 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t know. I suppose it could be part of it. I think it’s actually more of a function of the commercial success of erotic romance in general.
What particular sub-genre of erotic romance sells the most books?
Paranormal? Maybe in 2010.
Yes, you guessed it – it’s BDSM. I think it’s a GREAT thing. I really do. But, I wonder if the attention currently focused on BDSM is going to turn it into something many of us no longer recognize? Only time will tell.
I’ve seen other writers struggle with their erotica being lumped in with erotic romance, and suffering the ire of erotic romance readers because the story doesn’t include an HEA or strays into areas (such as non-con themes) deemed to be too dark. It’s not fair, but it’s happening.
I’m rambling here, so I am going to wrap this up. I guess what I am getting at here is that the very thing that differentiates kinky people from others – the “forbidden” nature of our orientations – is undergoing some change. How is it possible that BDSM is being both normalized/regulated (SSC dogma) and sanitized (the mainstreaming of BDSM in fiction and the popular consciousness)? I don’t know, but it’s happening.
What does this mean? My guess is that it means one of two things: either the spotlight will eventually move on to something else (and us sickos can get back to the business of being regular sickos), or it doesn’t move on – and it really becomes a new world for kink. Things might get even more interesting!
This post morphed into a mini-rant about a single topic, so maybe I will just call this Day 11 part I 🙂
Until next time.