Dark Erotica Fail

Man struggling with tied wrists
Image courtesy of Tom Lin (CC BY‑NC‑ND 2.0).
This post is part of the Is It Bad for Me? series. You may wish to begin with Part 1.

After reading my last post about stories that do it for me, a friend asked, “What about Abuse → No rescue → Happy ending? Doesn’t that storyline exist?”

In a way, yes. And some people love stories like that. Just look at this spread from Jessy’s Book Club.

Book covers: Favorite Dark Reads from Jessy's Book Club
Image from Jessy’s Book Club

Yes, it’s a whole genre called dark erotica. There are token rescues, but it’s really not what the story is about.

And no, it doesn’t work for me. It’s just depressing. In fact, it feels like Abuse → No Rescue → Bad Ending, except without the good parts.

And believe me, I have tried to like dark erotica. Look at everything I’ve tried:

Dark erotica: The Edge of the Earth by Molly Joseph, Fog by Jeff Mann, Frog by Claire Thompson, Take Me, Break Me by Cari Silverwood, Tender Mercies by Kitty Thomas, Trust in Me by Skye Warren.

Not really erotica: The Tied Man by Tabitha McGowan, The Flesh Cartel by Rachel Haimowitz and Heidi Belleau.

And those are all good books, but I couldn’t even rank them in order of preference, because my kink gagged on all of them equally. (Sorry, authors! Your kink is not my kink but your kink is okay!)

Wait, there was one I really liked, The Tied Man. But probably because it wasn’t erotica, even for the author.

‘Imagine, Lilith. Imagine what it’s like to live out any fantasy you’ve ever had without fear of censure or discovery. He can be whoever you want him to be, and you can do whatever you like to him.’

I could say nothing at all, and Blaine took this as permission to continue. ‘Try it.’ She pressed the crop into my hand. ‘You’ve been a very bad boy, haven’t you, Finn? I’m sure Lilith is capable of teaching you an important lesson.’

He slowly turned to face me so his head was forced to one side against the smooth wood. The huge eyes that had sparked with a life beyond this place were dull and dilated.

– Excerpt from The Tied Man (Chapter 7) by Tabitha McGowan (2013).

Gag. And yet that excerpt is awfully similar to the following scene in Anchored, which was part of my biggest category of favourites, Abuse → Rescue → Happy ending.

Mr. Fos­ter slapped him hard across the ass, more heat than pain com­pared to all he’d en­dured al­ready; he barely flinched. When a hand set­tled on each cheek and spread him wide, his fin­gers curled numb around the table and he whim­pered once, soft and sharp, be­fore he could stop him­self, re­mind him­self that he was sup­posed to be pre­tend­ing to like this.

“Say it again,” Mr. Fos­ter said, the blunt tip of his cock nudg­ing at Daniel’s hole.

“All this trem­bling makes me not be­lieve how much you want me.”

“I want you,” Daniel said, but he could not strip the fright­ened child tone from his words.

– Excerpt from Anchored (Chapter 16) by Rachel Haimowitz (2011).

And I’m afraid that works for me. So what is the difference?

I think there are three things happening here:

  1. I kink on sadism, in fact I need it.
  2. However, I squick when the victim squicks.
  3. My brain is very good at not getting obvious implications.

So if the abuser is really enjoying himself, I’m loving it. (Until afterwards, that is.)

If the victim is hating it, my good time is uninterrupted as long as (a) they are experiencing sexual pleasure, however non­consensually, or (b) they are only saying or doing the things I would if I were enjoying it.

Book cover: The Tied Man by Tabitha McGowan
Image: The Tied Man by Tabitha McGowan

So – whimpering, trembling and a frightened child tone, yes. Dull eyes, no – screeching brakes.

I am not proud of this mind-blindness. But there it is.

But why on earth am I the odd one out? There are hordes of submissive women out there reading dark erotica, and most of them don’t seem to have struggled with an addiction to Abuse → No Rescue → Bad Ending.

To obscure matters further, I think factors 1 to 3 also apply to those other readers.

  1. It’s a BDSM truism that the sub needs the dom to enjoy it.
  2. Most readers are more easily squicked than I am.
  3. But dark erotica wouldn’t have a market if readers couldn’t selectively ignore the victim’s problems.
Anchored by Rachel Haimowitz
Image: Anchored by Rachel Haimowitz.

I think the difference must be the abject submission. I really don’t do screaming in ecstasy or “Yes, yes, yes!” With me it’s trembling and terror and tears. Mr. Foster would be utterly disgusted.

The times when I really want it are probably the times a bystander would find hardest to watch. Well, at least until they listened hard enough to make out the sobbed litany of “Please, please, please” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

I probably ought to go to bed feeling bad about the mind-blindness. But to be honest, it’s just such a relief that so much of my apparent callousness goes back to the abject submission.

Postscript: For what it’s worth, one reason I am fairly sure of this analysis is that Anchored didn’t work quite as well for me as you’d expect, considering how abject the sub is. Evidently my conscience only owns a few brain cells, but they did try to mount some kind of protest!
Post-postscript: Many thanks to those who answered my cry for help in Abject Submission 1. I have been sorting things out and feeling better, it’s just proving really difficult to articulate. But you will get an attempt by next Saturday, promise!

What do you think?