One of the most common comments on my book Out Of The Shadows And Into The Darkness is that it is 'a great love story'. This comment is usually delivered with a certain amount of astonishment, as if that was the last thing the commenter expected of a book about BDSM.
While I am very happy and flattered to hear my book described as 'great', just as I am happy and flattered about any positive comment, as any author would be (and this is a happiness quite unlike any other), I also feel a little stab of pain every time I hear it.
It reminds me that, for many in the mainstream, and perhaps also for quite a few in the community, BDSM is still not seen as an expression of love , but as an 'experimental' sexuality. Good for adventures, for excitement, even for self-exploration, but separate from love.
On the other hand, I am happy that people feel they can relate to my characters and experience them as 'one of us' rather than a somewhat suspect minority. I hope that they will remember this!
I can understand part of their confusion – many BDSM novels are fantasies with castles, billionaires, and film-star-beautiful characters who spend their entire lives having impossible sex in a fantasy world. In fact, the most successful novel of all times (so far, I'm not giving up hope!) is just such a book, portraying BDSM as ultimately an obstacle to, rather than the essence of love.
One of the reasons why I devoted four years of my life to writing 'Out of the Shadows' is that I want us to be taken seriously as a sexuality, like any other sexual orientation. Yes, we are different. Yes, we love, just like you do. But books like mine are still labelled as 'erotica', or even as 'romance' (although one reviewer did praise it as 'intelligent romance').
'Out of the Shadows' also has an exotic Asian setting, a travel and 'urban nomad' theme, and a strong message about self-discovery and following your dreams. None of these will help to shelve it anywhere else but in the erotica department. Because that's where books about BDSM relationships are shelved. At least when they are written by women.
Writing about sex is still seen as different from writing about anything else. The Guardian even offers its own very popular creative writing masterclass on it, and that's highly commendable, since readers, reviewers and sometimes even editors keep talking about 'sex scenes' in our books, as if sex was not part of the evolving relationship between the characters and an expression of their individuality, but some kind of generic 'set scene' that is routinely slotted into the plot.
Do people need special classes for writing about food or feelings? (Maybe they do...) And what other theme has anything like the 'bad sex in fiction' award – something that shows, in my opinion, a juvenile fixation on sex that can only be tolerated by ridiculing its very object. BDSM, of course, often attracts such fixations – I can't count the times when I had to endure immature jokes about Kink that managed to convey both a fascination with this sexuality and a simultaneous disgust with those who practice it.Maybe pushing us into the 'erotica' corner is also part of this immature (and very harmful) attitude towards sex.
In spite of all this it seems that readers find the books they need. I am happy that they do, and I am happy that they can relate to my love story, even if it is the first time they have read about BDSM as a real life sexuality. With its joys and fears, its wonderful, deep connection in relationship and the loneliness and despair it can mean to walk this difficult path, as Sonia founder of Coffee, Cake and Kink points out in her review.
What I really want is for our sexuality to be accepted, and to be able to finally come out of the shadows. That, however, seems a dream that may not come true within my life time. So, for now, I will just focus on love..
Ed Note: - You can read and discover more about Senta Holland, author of 'Out of the Shadows and into the Darkness', HarperCollins, 2013 by checking out the related articles below, we also look forward to your comments.
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