Author Stella Harris looks at the challenges involved in exploring BDSM fantasy vs reality in fiction and real life. What are the differences we should be aware of?
 

One of the benefits of writing fiction is getting to explore things that could never happen in real life. In a book, the author's imagination is the only limit. In the science fiction and fantasy genres, for example, readers don’t expect what they see on the page to be a roadmap or how-to manual. However, with erotica, this same assumption doesn’t always hold.
 

BDSM fantasy vs reality: make sure it's safe

Perhaps it’s because of the recent BDSM craze that many readers seem to be treating erotic fiction as if it’s educational material, blurring the lines of BDSM fantasy vs reality. Talk to the proprietors of local sex and leather shops, and they’ll all have stories of people coming in wanting to try out things they’ve read about. That’s not necessarily a bad thing— generally, that’s great. Erotica can be one of the best ways to explore new fantasies.

But in all too many cases, when it comes to kink and BDSM, people talk about what they’ve already been doing and often it’s less than safe. In my own erotica reading, when I read stories that don’t use a safe word, or misuse one, I always cringe a bit. Yes, it’s a story— it’s not real. But where does our ethical obligation as authors end, or do we have one at all? That’s an issue I struggled with when writing one of my first published pieces: a story of dubious consent. I even blogged about how the class of ‘dubious’ only exists in fiction. It’s a grey area you don’t have in real life. When you don’t get a yes, you must consider it a no.
 

BDSM fantasy vs reality: safewords and negotiation

When I’m writing a story, I’ve got to keep good storytelling practices in mind. Chances are I jump in right in the middle of the action - or at least close to it. Especially in cases where my characters are in an established relationship, I’m not going to back up far enough to show negotiation and establishment of safewords. In real life, it’s vitally important stuff, in fiction, it would draw things out a bit too long for short format writing.

Maybe I— and other kink aware authors— should make ourselves a personal challenge. Much like some safer sex practices have made their way into mainstream porn, perhaps safer kink practices could make their way into our fiction? What would that look like? Maybe it’s the mention of safe words before kink play. Or perhaps it’s noting the presence of safety shears on the bedside table during a rope bondage scene.

Maybe the characters can talk about the workshop they went to together, and what they learned, or perhaps it’s the simple mention of a how-to book on the nightstand. What better way to cross-market something instructional from the same publisher?
 

BDSM fantasy vs reality: the importance of foreplay

When I’m teaching sex and kink workshops, I always tell students that negotiation is part of the fun. The line between BDSM fantasy vs reality is foreplay. And if that’s true, it should be easy to add to stories as another hot component. Using dirty talk to check in with partners, or using a quick reminiscence or flashback is another way to establish that negotiation has happened.

Like a writing prompt that makes you stretch your writing muscles, incorporating these elements might be good not only for readers but for writers, too.

Stella Harris is an author, educator, and coach who focuses on sex, kink, and intimacy. Through her writing and teaching, she explores the complex world of love and lust and strives to help people explore their sexuality safely and free of shame. You can learn more about Stella on her website,www.stellaharris.net or follow her on Twitter @stellaerotica

 

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Cover image: Apollo Scribe. Flickr Creative Commons


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