But a lot of the bashing of the books is making me deeply uncomfortable.
Mostly because it’s coming with little to no context.
Take for example the faux posters with book quotes on them that have been reblogged all over the place. Do those quotes look bad taken out of context? Sure, yeah.
But here’s the truth: As uncomfortable as it may make people—as much as they wouldn’t want it for themselves—under the right conditions, fully informed and fully consented, there’s actually nothing in any of those quotes that’s bad.
Like I’d said about Iron Bull and the kink in Dragon Age, kink exists in a very context-specific, context-driven world. One in which the usual rules that we play by in the vanilla world don’t always apply.
Now, understand me, I’ve read enough of the first book to be fairly confident that the kink in that series is awful and abusive and isn’t actually kink at all. It’s just straight-up abuse. Believe me, I may never have even gotten to the so-called kinky bits of the novel, but I read enough.
But that’s kinda my point.
I read the book—as much of it as I could stomach. And, more importantly, I’ve read about and learned about and researched and lived kink enough to know about it. To be confident in my context about it.
But, if you haven’t read the books, you have no idea what Ana and Grey have or haven’t negotiated. You have no idea what either of them want or desire or are willing to do or be for the other.
Given those quotes alone, I could write an entirely different story around them that was fully consensual and incredibly sexy. Hell, I wrote a consensual non-consent story with worse language than this. Alone, these quotes are not enough to indict the story.
But, because it’s as trendy to bash the books as it is to love them, we’re all content to latch onto things like this without really thinking about the implications.
We’re too quick to assume what’s bad about them without actually looking closely to see what might be wrong—and what might be right—with them. And, with kink—even badly written, completely unresearched erotica—we cannot afford to do that. As kinksters, we cannot afford to let people do that.
Because we need that context. We depend on it. It is too easy to mistake or to willfully see what we do as abuse.
I remember going to a kinky seminar about consensual non-consent and hearing about a Dom who would tell subs not to bring their phones or mobile devices to play sessions—they’re loud, obnoxious, and can take both people out of the scene in a space of a ring. And, if a sub did bring one to the play session, he would take it, strip them naked, tie them up, beat them, fuck them, and then send everyone on their contact list pictures and video of the whole thing.
I remember being horrified by this. That’s awful. That’s unfair. That’s crossing so many boundaries that I can’t even begin to count them.
But then I had to remember: that wasn’t my scene. I wasn’t the one playing.
I had no right to judge.
Your Kink Is Not My Kink, But Your Kink Is Okay. It’s an important tenet of our world, so much so we gave it a pretty stupid-looking, pretty unpronounceable acronym. And, as long as SSC rules apply, so does YKINMKBYKIOK. Even though I would never agree to such a stipulation, would see it as an invasion of my privacy, that doesn’t mean that others would too.
After all, that Dom was sure to inform all potential play partners of his rule; you brought your phone with you at your own risk. Those potential partners agreed to his terms and played with him willingly. In fact, he’d told a story about a partner who brought a very specific pre-paid phone with people to send pictures and video to as a form of play-acted punishment. He also mentioned a particularly bratty sub who brought a phone with no contacts but their own on it, who walked away with pictures and video that no one would ever see but her.
Kinda sweet, if you think about it. Definitely hot.
But you needed context to get you there.
So, sure, hold the books accountable for what they get wrong—please, do; they get quite a bit wrong—but do it with context. Believe me, if the first seven chapters are an indicator, the book gives you plenty to work with.