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BDSM WEEK – GUEST POST: Jack L. Pyke

We asked some authors who write BDSM about BDSM.  Here’s what Jack L. Pyke had to say:

The Accidental BDSM Reader

I can still remember the first BDSM novel that I read. It was long before I’d even considered writing BDSM-themed novels, and my big newbie hands going up here, I sat there staring at the script, never more turned off at the possibility of turning those pages. Usually I get such a thrill out of reading, but I’d never practiced BDSM, I didn’t know anyone in the BDSM lifestyle, and I’d never read anything BDSM related. All of that presented one huge problem for me: I had no experience to draw on that said I could empathise with what I was about to read; and empathy is integral to enjoying a novel as far as I’m concerned. So the question was: why the hell was I sitting there considering it?

In all honesty, it was purely a matter of money. I was a line editor at a publishing company at the time, and when a short deadline to get this novel through the system came in, I offered to take it on. Sex has never been the main selling point in a novel for me: I like my suspense, my thrillers, my horror, and political intrigue. So this BDSM novel was getting a very sceptical brow on my part. I had no idea how complicating a novel with kink was ever going to forward plot and portray character the way I like it.

Deciding to go through with the line edit, it signified one huge upheaval for me.

The BDSM novel itself only had light BDSM techniques: the lightest sprinkling of spanking and a touch of bondage. But it introduced me to the whole dominance and submission dynamics found within BDSM itself. I loved it, and by love I mean I was completely and utterly floored by how this whole lifestyle of emotional, psychological, and sensual expressions of sexuality brought the pages alive, opening up this insight into such a varied and vast way of life. With all those first-time blushes going on, I fell in love with BDSM, although it left me with one major problem.

BDSM still seemed a world away from my lifestyle. I had no way to fully understand what a BDSM participant was going through. So needing to find that empathy level, I signed up at the publishers to receive anything and everything BDSM related – copyedits, slush pile, you name it.

Finding Empathy Levels: RACKing the BDSM Reader

RACK. Sounds almost painful! But I promise it has nothing to do with me tying any readers down on to torture equipment to see how loud I can make them squeal. But in signing up to the BDSM genre with my publisher, terms like RACK and the more well-known SSC started to appear.

When it comes to the BDSM lifestyle itself, the definition of RACK (Risk-aware consensual kink) is pretty straightforward:

“As a guideline for BDSM, it means participants are well-informed and aware of the risks involved in the activity, and mutually consent to participate in the context of that knowledge.” If you’re new to BDSM, the term might be less familiar than “Safe, Sane, and Consensual”, a widely-disseminated phrase designed to convey the essence of BDSM and how it is done. Along with having mutual informed consent, the idea of SSC is that activities and participants are and should be safe and sane. However, applying a definition of those simple words to reality is a very subjective process, and as an alternative, RACK supports each participant defining the risks in their own context.” (Dilo Keith http://dilokeith.wordpress.com/resources/writing-bdsm/ ).

RACK and SSC are guidelines that wouldn’t usually be associated to the BDSM reader, who in turn only turns the pages in order to experience the fictional dungeon. Yet when more exotic terms like “taboo” started to creep in, the concept of RACK came back into sharp focus. Anything marked as “taboo” has always been a draw for me, but it highlighted a particular BDSM rut I’d become stuck within. Reading material only came from one source, where the primary focus was on light BDSM techniques. This didn’t really give me the chance to explore and find my own kink levels as a BDSM reader.

And there it was: my empathy level.

As a literary reader looking into the BDSM world and trying to sort in a knowledgeable way through my BDSM tastes, I was no different to those who stepped into the BDSM lifestyle for the first time. They started tentatively, too, working out how their tastes varied, some only liking a light touch of BDSM play, others going to the more extreme end, living the likes of a Dom and sub relationship, 24/7, but all guided by being aware of their kink levels and knowing the risks they were undertaking when exploring them. By acknowledging the risks and different tastes, I was echoing RACK.

Risk-aware Consensual Kink for the Reader

Every reader will have their own empathy levels, and different BDSM techniques and role-playing scenarios will trigger different experiences, some good, some bad. But as with the concept behind RACK, sorting through the different kinks in a knowledgeable way will help protect the reader against any surprises.

Without needing much explanation as to why, reviews to BDSM novels are a first stop for most readers new to the BDSM genre. Taking time to read through both positive and negative reviews can give a very balanced view of techniques and scenarios. A five-star review from reviewers who specialise in BDSM for the BDSM community, for example, might offer a specialist language that is too technical for the reader who is still learning the genre. And with reading being so subjective, a one-star review may simply show how that reviewer’s comfort levels were breeched. But that doesn’t mean that every reader’s comfort level will be breeched. Comparing and contrasting can help offer that more balanced view. Reviews can, however, run into a problem. Most won’t cover every BDSM technique or role-playing scenario that might be portrayed within a novel. So one possible step beyond the review is going direct to the source of publication to find out what level of kink is in a novel.

Publishers play a big part in marketing different levels of BDSM kink. Going back directly to them will allow a reader to find and look at the content tags that publishers themselves are required to tag to each released work. Content tags are important because the last wish on behalf of the author is to provide material that might adversely trigger a reader. So the tags are there as a protective barrier for everyone concerned. With regard to BDSM, I’m loathed to call them “warnings”. Where the likes of rape in any lifestyle choice rightly comes as a warning in fiction, with BDSM itself I prefer the term “kink-highlighter”. Warning always seems to suggest a negative connotation, and just because one might find a particular kink uncomfortable, another reader will not.

Some publishers will look at this issue and only specialise in a certain level of kink. They’ll target the readers who are perhaps only after the romance and psychology behind BDSM kink but who don’t particularly want heavy techniques and role-playing. So they’ll publish the lighter side of BDSM play: spanking, flogging, bondage, knife-play that doesn’t result in scarring. On the flip side, other publishers will publish techniques and role-playing that targets the heavier side to the BDSM lifestyle: like punishment where the Dom will draw the sub’s blood, sounding (urethral insertion), or water-sports (not the skis and jumpsuits I originally pictured!). Whatever they choose to publish, it’s their choice to market what they feel is right for their readership.

This isn’t meant to discount the likes of self-published authors here; they will be guided by content tags if they decide to sell through major distribution sites such as Amazon. Sometimes authors themselves will also sell work directly from their author website, particularly if content is too extreme for most distribution sites. This variation in kink levels can still leave the reader turning in circles with not knowing how to research different levels for themselves. Here the likes of the Goodreads’ BDSM group (https://www.goodreads.com/) can help. They offer a full BDSM A-Z that covers most techniques and role-playing scenarios. They also offer discussions on releases and hold talks on which publishers provide some of the best BDSM works. Listening to people who are in the lifestyle is something I always, always do. They know their kink levels, what sometimes works for them in fiction, and what doesn’t.

But what works in fiction will always have that subjective element. Boundaries can and will be pushed in any fictional work, no matter the genre. Even having a base of reality within the BDSM lifestyle itself, most BDSM fiction is still a work of fiction and shouldn’t be used as a guide on how to practise BDSM away from the pages.

Taking all of that into consideration, the answer to my own original question was there: How can adding kink to a story forward plot and portray characters? It can’t. But the whole BDSM lifestyle and everything that comes with having explored it: that can and has (for me at least).

Jack L. Pyke:  www.jacklpyke.com

Author of Don’t and it’s upcoming sequel, Antidote (a Society of the Masters project)

5 comments on “BDSM WEEK – GUEST POST: Jack L. Pyke

  1. Pingback: Hooray for Activists | Belasarius & curvy_bottom

  2. silkeeeeeereads
    November 18, 2013

    Super informative, Jack. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  3. “But what works in fiction will always have that subjective element.”

    Boy, isn’t that the truth? No one size fits all here, for sure. Thanks for the informative post Jack ;)

    Like

  4. loederkoninginkatinka
    November 19, 2013

    I’m saving this one for work tomorrow, teehee!

    Like

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This entry was posted on November 18, 2013 by in BDSM and tagged , , .

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