A Different Kind of “Coming Out” – Writing BDSM

I think I was 12 when I started sneaking my mother’s romance novels, ever since she made me return The Mammoth Hunters by Jane Auel to my 8th grade English teacher’s library because the book had too much sex in it. (For the record: it does.) I didn’t really understand sex until that point, certainly didn’t know more than the mechanics, but the world of hastily-skimmed romance novels taught me that the mechanics were just the beginning. When I first began reading The Mammoth Hunters, my innocent eyes were opened for good, and I wanted to know more. I remember those realizations, the wide-eyed tingly-parts moments, as significant in my own sexual growth and understanding.

Considering I remember so much of my sexual development, though, it’s amazing that I can’t quite recall when I knew I was into BDSM, or even when I first learned the acronym. One would think it would be just as significant an awakening as The Mammoth Hunters had been, but I don’t remember the details. I do know that I was always fascinated when people were tied up in the movies or on my favorite television shows. (It’s a surprisingly common trope, even for children’s programming.) I didn’t know what those feelings were, but I knew I liked it when I was the one getting “handcuffed” during a game of “cops and robbers.” I knew that I had certain daydreams that made me feel … different than other daydreams, even though I didn’t know why.

Somewhere between that innocent child and the woman I became, the little puzzle pieces began to fit together. At some point, I learned about BDSM. It should have been a major turning point, an “Ah ha!” moment, a realization that other people shared these feelings… but I can’t remember. All I know is that this has been so firmly ingrained in my identity that I can’t imagine being any other way.

Then, for my 10-year Nanowrimo anniversary, I wrote Purely Professional. I knew right away that the novel had potential. I’ve written a lot of novels, loved some, felt apathetic toward others, but this novel was the first where I knew, unequivocally, that I could find a publisher.

Meanwhile, my book club started discussing 50 Shades. I’d been nervous about that meeting, not sure how much I wanted to reveal. Once the conversation was underway, though, I had to share. I tried to keep my voice calm and stop my hands from trembling, knowing that I might be revealing more than my opinions about the book. “Although I found the sex fairly hot, especially at the beginning, my main problem was her treatment of BDSM practitioners. Not only does Christian not respect consent, but he was abused as a child, and he seems to be trying to be ‘cured’ as a result of his interactions with Ana. An interest in BDSM isn’t a disease to be cured, and I hate that this novel perpetuates the stereotypes that people who are into it have abuse in their past. This novel… isn’t what BDSM is about. And I have a real problem with that.”

My book club was interested, but didn’t press the matter. Then someone asked, “Well, could any of you all ever write something like this?”

I swallowed. “Actually… that’s what my book is about. This book I’m editing right now. It’s BDSM erotic romance.”

I’m not sure why this conversation felt so much like a form of “coming out.” We each have personal connections to what we write, and it’s certainly no different when writing erotica. Why would someone write erotica that didn’t turn them on? It doesn’t imply a personal involvement with that form of sex, i.e. I know many women who write m/m erotica, but it definitely implies interest. So while I’m not necessarily confessing my own sexual habits, I’m definitely confessing my proclivities. I’m slowly learning to be okay with that.

For my casual acquaintances, I tell them my book is “saucy romance.” To my friends, though, I’ve started to try and tell the truth. “My book? Oh, well, it’s BDSM erotic romance.” It’s gotten easier to say over the past few months. People might be drawing their own conclusions about me, but they always will. At least now their conclusions will be interesting.

 

2 thoughts on “A Different Kind of “Coming Out” – Writing BDSM


  1. fantastic post, Elia. Thanks so much – makes me feel like I am not alone!

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