Annabel Joseph’s “Imperfect in the Dungeon: Damaged Characters in BDSM Fiction”is a great reminder that, for all our safeguards and prevention methods and efforts to uphold the ideal and aim of Safe, Sane, and Consensual in kink, we’re human.
And, as important as it is to have accurate and realistic depictions of us getting kink right…I agree with Joseph, we need to show us falling short.
Because, for better or worse, so many of us—myself very much included—use fiction as a form of instruction. Hopefully, not our only or even our primary form, but a form nonetheless. Because, as I’ve said before, there is magic in stories. They give us peeks into experiences and emotions we may not have yet. They allow us to explore them in safe ways that beg us to think about our own experiences and emotions.
And being able to see our fictitious selves fail and then fix our mistakes show us that being a good partner isn’t about perfection or performance, it’s about something more. It’s about connection. How you handle your missteps and shortcomings says as much—if not more—about you as a partner as your successes. We need low-risk safe spaces to explore that and fiction is a great place to do that. It’s why I love the New Smut Project’s Between the Shores anthology I got to be a part of, that tackled this issue head-on.
Because, as Joseph says, as hard as you work to be perfect, “Scenes go awry, protocols fail to work, and mythic relationships blow up spectacularly as the rest of us look on in horror. Why? Because we’re real people, and people make mistakes.” It is inevitable.
But that doesn’t have to be the end of the world.
It doesn’t have to be a disaster.
I’d rather have a partner who knows how to check-in, how to do proper aftercare, how to discuss and negotiate after scenes than one who is relying on perfection every time. Because perfection is the real fiction.
I’d rather have preparation.
Read Joseph’s full piece, “Imperfect in the Dungeon: Damaged Characters in BDSM Fiction,” here.