I’m trucking away at the blogs I promised you from the classes I attended at the Romantic Times Booklover’s Conference. But this one was hard for me to do, partly because it makes me blush just a little thinking about it and mostly because I have absolutely zero experience in regards to this lifestyle. I could tell you how I walked into the class and was flabbergasted while trying to appear cool about all the toys on the table. I could detail the intense feeling that I was missing something. Or I could extol for you the tale of how I won 30 foot of white half-inch polypropylene rope, some of the softest I’m told. All of that would’ve been wildly entertaining, but none of it would help you understand BDSM in relation to your writing research – I was not doing this blog justice. Instead of trying to force it or confuse you or…god forbid…give you the wrong information – I went to the source. Writers and panelists for the class Does Anyone Really do That? Writing Realistic BDSM at RT13, Kasi Alexander and Reggie Alexander agreed to do this interview/guest post for me.
I had the opportunity, not only to attend their class, but spend some time with them at other classes in which they were in attendance. They’re approachable, open, and willing to educate folks – especially writers – on what realistic BDSM truly is. I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you find it truly educational in a way that helps you bust some of the stereotypes of BDSM, poly lifestyles, and helps you in your research.
Can you explain the realistic BDSM that is in “The Keyhole Series” and a little bit about the character Jill in Becoming Sage?
I can only describe what we mean by realistic BDSM as it relates to our writing. We write about the lifestyles that we live, BDSM, polyamory and power exchange. Much of what is written in the romance genre is what is commonly known as sugar kink or fantasy BDSM. In our stories, we try to share our real life experiences and knowledge with our readers. There is nothing wrong with sugar kink, which is a softer version of what is often practiced in real life or the fantasy version commonly written about, romance is after all mainly about the fantasy.
There are many stereotypes associated with these lifestyles. The most common for each is that BDSM is abuse, polyamory is about cheating and power exchange is about manipulation. In our book, Becoming Sage which is through Omnific Publishing, we intentionally set out to show that these stereotypes are not correct. Our main heroine, Jill Masters, confronts these stereotypes in one way or another in that story. She meets up with an old school friend, Sunni, who eventually invites her to join her family. Sunni’s family consists of herself and her master, Sir Rune.
During the course of the story we are privy to Jill’s thoughts, feelings and internal struggles as she learns about BDSM, polyamory and power exchange relationships. She dives into learning why a normal, sane vanilla woman would allow herself to not only share a man’s love and affection, but to gift that man with her submission. We see her struggle with jealousy and her triumph in learning to trust her Master, Sir Rune. We get to see that Rune takes into account both Jill and Sunni’s needs, wants and desires in the decisions he makes in the book. How he uses the power exchange and BDSM dynamic to help both Sunni and Jill (whose scene name is Sage) grow both personally and professionally to become more than they were before their association with him.
We really tried to show that BDSM forms of play are not about some maniac with a compulsion to hurt people. They are instead about both sides of the relationship getting the endorphin rush they crave through mutually agreed upon application of stimulation. We also demonstrate through various scenes that BDSM is not just people hitting one another. We place the characters into scenes that highlight some of the softer, more sensual forms of play. We use real scenes that we have either done ourselves or have seen done in the various dungeons we visit. This allows us to share a more realistic sense of the feelings, emotions and motivations for the various forms of play.
We also strive to show that the polyamorous relationships are not just about the man getting to sleep with multiple women. It is about all three of them falling in love with one another and the benefits of a multi-partner relationship. Some of those benefits are the increase in resources, be they financial, emotional, spiritual or intellectual, as well as the increased support partners give to one another. We show how they grow in personal confidence and inner strength through the use of the power exchange relationship.
We like to show how these lifestyle dynamics can be a healthy alternative to the normal, monogamous dynamic we are all taught is the norm. We never insinuate that these lifestyles are for everyone, they aren’t. They require a commitment and a focus that many would not enjoy. They require endless conversations and a willingness to think of their partners needs above their own and a willingness to venture into realms that could take many out of their comfort zones.
What are scenes or play?
If you want to play, a scene is what you often do. It can consist of any kind of play the participants want: spanking, flogging, whipping, fire, wax, rope, humiliation, percussion, psychological manipulation, electricity, fisting, sex, or whatever you can come up with. A scene can last between 15 minutes to a couple of hours. If the participants don’t have an established relationship, they should always negotiate the scene: what’s acceptable, how far it can go, what safe words will be used, and the things that are absolutely not tolerated. Scenes can be fun, playful, intense, painful, public, private, or whatever is desired. Play should be distinguished in books (it often isn’t) from punishment. Play, even when it’s extremely painful, is ALWAYS meant for the benefit or enjoyment of the scene “bottom.” No one should ever let themselves be manipulated into doing some kind of play they don’t want to do. The bottom, or submissive (although there is a difference) should always be the one whose preferences are taken most into account.
What is a dungeon and how are they stereotyped?
Dungeons can be public or private. Private dungeons are often rooms in someone’s house that have play equipment somewhere in them. Other people may or may not be invited over for “play parties,” where there are multiple scenes going on at once. Public dungeons, or clubs, are membership groups (to distinguish them from sex clubs) that have shared space and equipment (not toys) and set times for play parties. The stereotypes we’ve seen in books are that there are Doms wandering around picking out the submissive they want to play with that night. Usually, almost everyone who goes to a club already has a partner or partners they usually play with. There are some singles that play with lots of different people, but it’s mostly couples (and usually over 35 or so). Another stereotype I’ve seen is that if you belong to a club, you belong as either a Dominant or a submissive, sometimes having to sign a contract when you join that specifies which you are. That is not true. You don’t have to declare your proclivities and many people in fact take different positions with different people, they’re commonly called switches. There is usually no specific dress code, except on things like High Protocol nights, and submissives are often submissive ONLY to their own Dominant. You are not required to call a Dominant “Master” or even “Sir”, although that is quite common. And no Dominant has the right to order around or punish a submissive unless they belong to him or her. Sometimes people are called “Master So-and-So,” but usually that is because they’ve been in the community for a long time and have been recognized as a Master. You still don’t need to call them that and nobody should ever come in to a club calling themselves “Master So-and-So.” They’ll be seen as a pretentious wannabe. We have almost never seen private rooms in a club and the ones we have seen have always had windows or no doors. Voyeurism is pretty universal. That’s why most people go to clubs: to watch scenes and be watched while they’re doing them. People go to play, seeing actual, penetrative sex, with the exception of oral sex and fisting, is fairly uncommon in clubs. Nudity is very common, though. The best thing about public clubs, in my opinion, is that they’re not full of gorgeous, size-zero model types. They’re very normal, average people, and when they get naked in public, even if they’re old, large, out of shape or whatever, they’re still honored for having the courage to do it.
Can you explain more in depth the mutual exchange of power? At the class you and Reggie mentioned doing a contract, would you be willing to share how that concept works?
Power exchange is an interesting concept, but not well understood in general. It’s not a matter of one person bullying or bossing the other one around, although there’s certainly an element of that. It’s more like two (or more) people combining their resources toward a common goal and deciding who is going to be the leader. Contracts set out how the people are going to relate to each other, what each person’s responsibilities are, how they’re going to be held accountable, and what they expect from each other. Yes, the submissive has expectations from the Dominant as well, and if they’re not met, then there needs to be more serious negotiation going on. Contracts can last anywhere from a couple of hours to a lifetime. We did ours for three months at a time until we felt ready to do an open-ended one, which is still in effect. Basically it’s a way to avoid the “I do so much for you and you don’t think about my needs at all” trap that so many marriages fall into. If you sit down to negotiate how you want to be treated and what you’re willing to give in return, then you have a tool to make sure that you both know what is wanted and needed from each other. If you’re not getting what you need, you pull out the contract and re-negotiate it. If both parties aren’t concerned with the other’s needs and desires, they shouldn’t be in a relationship to begin with.
Kasi can you define for me a dominant and a submissive?
A Dominant is an individual who is willing to take responsibility for their partner’s welfare, pleasure and growth. They are often detail-oriented, goal-driven, and have a highly developed personal code of conduct. A submissive is someone who enjoys a supportive role, being of service, being part of a team, and feeling helpful and valuable. Both roles are willing to be held accountable to each other for the benefit of their relationship. A Dominant/submissive (or D/s) dynamic can last anywhere from a single evening to a lifetime.
This is different than a scene dynamic. If two people are coming together to do a scene, the one who inflicts the sensations is the top, and the one who receives them is the bottom. Often, but not always, the top will be a Dominant and the bottom a submissive. Sometimes, though, submissives will top for other people even though the activity doesn’t come naturally to them – that’s called being a “service top.” Dominants should also bottom some time so they experience the things they are planning to do to someone else.
A Master/slave dynamic differs from a D/s relationship in that it usually focuses strongly on common goals, personal, professional and spiritual growth, and relies heavily on shared rituals to maintain an intensity of connection. These titles are all personal – you can be a slave even if you don’t have a Master, and no one can tell you that you’re one or the other. You can be whatever you choose to define yourself as.
We strongly believe in these relationship dynamics and try to promote healthy examples of how some might live them. We not only live and write about these dynamics but conduct workshops on them around the country at the various events we attend. If you have any questions about any of these lifestyles please do not hesitate to contact us at reggiealexander3 at gmail dot com, kasialexander at gmail dot com or check out our blog at www.naughtyeverafter.wordpress.com.
We are happy to answer any follow up questions this might generate.
Reggie Alexander and Kasi Alexander
I just want to thank Reggie, Kasi, and their family for taking time out to educate me and my writing community on realistic BDSM. I feel, as with anything, that taking time out to understand something – no matter how you feel about it – can only help us find common ground.
© 2013 C. S. Jameson