“Would you like to share?”
I… would not.
I’m on the weekly video call with my teacher and classmates for an online class offered through a writing workshop. We’ve just done a freewrite, and what came out on the page this time was the beginning of a new plotline for an in progress work of BDSM fiction.
I have never finished a BDSM related writing piece longer than a few thousand words; I’ve written a small handful of shorter fiction pieces mostly by request, and write my blog posts, and compose love letters to Mistress that are seen only by her and the filing cabinet, but this longer work is something new. I’ve written plenty of vanilla novels, but…
Not today. And this is not a kinky class.
“I… kind of got inspired for something in the middle of a big project; it won’t make much sense out of context. And I kind of misinterpreted the prompt,” I say, which is all true. “I’ll pass.”
Like with others who said, “I’ll pass,” though, the teacher is overly encouraging. “That’s okay. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just a freewrite. We don’t need to know what it means as long as you do. And the prompts are open to interpretation!”
In grid view, a few classmates nod sympathetically.
No, you really, really don’t want to know what this means, I think.
But it’s going to get even more suspicious the longer I try to pass. And this class is in part about overcoming writer’s block and doubt and self consciousness, even if those aren’t the parts I’m here for. I could pass, but it’s not worth it. Next week maybe I’ll watch what I write.
So I start reading.
It was only a five minute exercise and so there isn’t anything terribly long or elaborate on the page.
But in a small page and a half of handwriting, there’s a clear power imbalance, honorifics, the implication of permission required to leave someone’s presence, kneeling, and a final sentence about that new plotline that I just have to eliminate altogether.
I take out words as I find them. Cut honorifics off the ends of sentences. Soften up some phrasing. Put less correlation between one’s action and the other character leaving the room. Change “went and knelt next to her” to “went and found her”. I have to think fast; I’m used to much slower proofreading and revising, for myself or as a service.
I’m still paranoid by the time the next person starts reading, thinking that something has slipped through my filter that I’m too immersed in my own dynamic (and writing) to notice, something that I think of as perfectly normal, something that would raise some eyebrows.
No such looks from the people in my computer screen, though.
Not that I am so afraid of being out in this group, but I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, either.
Still, I ponder my choices on what to cut or modify.
The vast majority of my writing over time has been vanilla fiction. My interests and knowledge bases seep in, but aren’t overt.
Recently, I was writing a scene amongst a vanilla fiction project in which a character is being whipped, among other things. None of the characters involved are so much as really BDSM aware, and while it would take a long sidetrack to explain here, there was dystopian interrogation context. No one was having fun.
But, as a kinkster, I’ve experienced pieces of some elements happening in the scene I described, in a fun way. I know a thing or two about being whipped and restrained.
While the scene was appropriately vanilla, I knew that if I was reading this with a different author’s name on it, I would be going, “Well, that author’s kinky.”
Mostly, it was the word choice that gave it away. I had to edit. The scene was in third person, and not so limited that the words really had to be the choice of someone involved, but still.
My experience added some realism, whether a vanilla reader would know it or not, and I had a lot of phrases in mind to describe elements of the scene that I hear used mostly in BDSM circles, but are perfectly acceptable words in the vanilla world.
But, knowledge shows up in little pieces. Types of whips. Which ones are more, or less, common. Where on the body being hit hurts more or slightly less. Basic impact techniques. What draws blood. The concept of sting versus thud. Where to grasp for best control when pulling someone’s hair. The parts of a single tail. What you can do with a knife to threaten but not yet hurt. How it all feels in detail.
While at least one character in the scene might have researched parts of those—with different reasons in mind than a kinkster—word choice counts. They might have, in choosing and purchasing a whip, had to know exactly what kind it was. But in this moment, would they make that distinction? Probably not.
In the actually kinky scene I wrote during that writing class, it was much more the power dynamic elements of the scene that were overtly not vanilla, not any sadomasochism. Dialogue and actions were the giveaway, not descriptors. And I may have even been overly cautious—honorifics can be perfectly vanilla, for starters.
As I set out on writing BDSM fiction, a place to let those dynamics and that knowledge run free overtly through characters and relationships, I’m interested to see what I write for the first time, and what I find surprisingly familiar.
For the curious, that fiction work can be found here.