Rape And Forced Orgasms: How Far Is Too Far?


BDSMBy Elizabeth Shore

Here at Lady Smut we’re a fan of writers. It can be a frustrating, lonely, difficult aspiration and we admire anyone who’s actually jumped in and taken fingers to keyboard to bang out the characters in our heads who refuse to pipe down. For those reasons and more, we salute our writing sisters and don’t believe in story smackdowns. However, that said, I recently read a book, labled a “romance” that stretched the boundaries of romance so much that it begs me to question: how far is too far?

I won’t mention the name of the book or the author, but here’s the jist of the plot: a woman who self-identifies as a sub is looking for her perfect dom. She’s new to the BDSM world and is about to embark on a first-time relationship with who she thinks is a great guy. He’s experienced and knows that in order for the relationship to work, they need to establish boundaries and explore what each one wants and doesn’t. Our sub heroine gets impatient with her slow mover and decides to play with another dashing dom whom she just happens to meet in a park. As it turns out, their meeting was no coincidence. The new dom had been stalking her and she’s his next victim.

Turns out that dashing dom is actually a sadistic serial killer. He kidnaps and brutally  tortures women, along the way teaching them the ultimate lesson in submission. Because, you see, as he’s torturing his victims, he’s also turning them on! So much so that their treacherous bodies forever hover on the verge of orgasm from the bite of the dom’s nipple clamps, the lashing sting of his whip, and the cuts from his serrated knife. His “mastery of their flesh” brings them to the brink time and again, yet he forbids the release they so desperately crave. If they succumb to temptation and climax, he kills them. And of course, they always, reluctantly, succumb. They’re supposedly so turned on they can’t help it.

The thing I find so disturbing about this premise is how far beyond a pleasurable BDSM relationship it goes. We’re not talking about arousing a partner with tantalizing spanks and whips, or even some waxy hot drips from a candle. This is torture, plain and simple. “Dried blood stained her swollen lower lip where sharp teeth had bitten through tender flesh.” A girl in one scene is hanging on a cross, angry red welts covering her body, swollen lip, nipples screwed tight on a “nipple tree.” Later the heroine finds herself in much the same situation. The nipple clamps are comprised of a “vicious set of sharp teeth,” so much so that her “screams strangled in her ravaged throat” and when the second clamp is applied she passes out from the pain. Yet despite the agonizing torture, she’s so aroused that she’s nanoseconds away from screaming out her release.

In my view, rape and forced orgasms are not OK, they’re not sexy, and they sure as hell aren’t romantic. But if you want to find it, it’s categorized as a “romance.” The romance part of this book, by the way, is between the heroine and her slow-moving dom and makes a chameo appearance at the story’s end.

Despite what it may sound like, this is not a criticism of the author. She’s written the story she wanted to tell and there are readers who will like it. The point I want to raise is whether this story truly belongs in the “romance” category. Yes, there’s a romantic tie-in at the end between the first dom and the heroine. In fact, interwoven throughout the story is the dom’s search for her once he realizes she’s missing. But is that enough to classify it as a “romance”? Are we misleading readers by including these types of stories within the genre?

I’d love to hear what you think. In the meantime, thanks for following us!

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40 Comments

  • liz everly
    October 2, 2013 at 7:07 am

    I admit I’m a bit confused about the lines between erotic romance and contemporary romance these days. I’m not sure there is any. I guess we rely on other clues, like the cover and cover copy to know how hot a book is? This book sounds like if it is in any “romance” category, it should be romantic suspense. Some RS is very dark. But then again, I’m often surprised by what gets in to that category. Thought-provoking post, Elizabeth!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 2, 2013 at 2:18 pm

      Thanks, Liz. The lines are definitely blurred these days and in some ways that’s good. Our genre changes with the times and it keeps us current. But this one really stood out in my mind because of the torture combined with the supposed arousal. Just didn’t jive for me. I found it distasteful and frankly, not believable. If someone’s beating the shit outta me so severely that I’m passing out . . . well, I have a hard time believing that my skin’s still going to be “flushed with the stain of arousal.”

  • Kemberlee Shortland
    October 2, 2013 at 7:21 am

    At first I thought you were talking about 50 Youknowwhat. This story sounds 50 times worse. Makes me wonder if the author is actually into the lifestyle or just a sadist. I’m guessing selfpub because I don’t know any publisher who would put their name on this cr@p. Would be interesting to know sales ranks though. Would tell of it’s popularity through sales.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 2, 2013 at 2:21 pm

      Yeah, her background is an interesting question. Not sure what she’s in to. No clues from her bio. However, the book is (alas), not self pubbed.

  • C. Margery Kempe
    October 2, 2013 at 7:53 am

    This is usually what happens when people ignorant about BDSM write books about it. I’d be interested to know the publisher, because categories of genre are usually their decisions.

    I find romance and erotica readers really expect the content to be spelled out. I’ve run into problems from readers who for example can’t stand an F/F scene and feel they should be “warned” in advance.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 2, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      And you know, there’s no clue from the cover that the book is going to be so violent. The cover is actually what intrigued me. It was well done and kind of a “standard” bdsm romance cover.

      Dinged for no warning in an F/F scene? Wow.

  • Author Charmaine Gordon
    October 2, 2013 at 8:10 am

    Whoa. In a word, disgusting and another word, despicable. What is the world coming to? And whatever happened to real romance, pure love, decent people? Thanks, Elizabeth, for another thought provoking post.
    I’m still thinking about ‘Doubt.’

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 2, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Thanks, Charmaine. It definitely made me think, that’s for sure!

      Thanks for the mention of the doubt post. One of every writer’s universal struggles, that’s for sure.

  • Madeline Iva
    October 2, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Yet again you walk where angels fear to tread, Elizabeth. Wow.

    I don’t feel conflicted by the idea of the genre ‘dark erotica’ where relationships are hard hitting, even brutal, and deliberately walk away from typical romantic tropes. These stories can be a defiant ‘F— you’ to romantic conventions and expectations, at the same time exploring tortured needs, compulsions, and desires.

    I assume folks in that genre work hard at their writing and are committed personally to self-expression.

    That said — man, this stuff is so not for me. Hearing the details of this kind of writing spoils the party for me entirely–it sends me right to that insecure spot where I see-saw about the ethics behind writing erotic romance and feminism, etc.

    And at heart, for me, romance is a party, a celebration of love and connection. I can embrace perversity and know the heart can be a twisted organ, but this type of story–Oy.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      I so agree, Madeline! And as you know, I have no problems with the dark stuff. I’m a huge fan of horror, even erotic horror. But for me the lines need to be clear. I don’t want to read about a truly evil person torturing a woman, raping her with foreign objects, smacking her, and still be told to believe that he’s a master of her body and in spite of everything he’s able to get her aroused to the point of climax. Ummm … no.

  • Kemberlee Shortland
    October 2, 2013 at 8:39 am

    One might find that an author writing this kind of stuff has a one sided view of BDSM. They like watching but have never participated . . . or they’re the giver, never the receiver. And the more they watch, like a drug abuser, the more it takes them to get off, thus the harsher the story or the act. When does a flirt with BDSM or an appropriate lifestyle become a serious emotional dysfunction?

    • Madeline Iva
      October 2, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Yes, Kemberlee — what a very interesting comment. I couldn’t articulate it as well as you, but I think you’re right. There’s something not engaged with the compassionate side of feeling the pain and being connected to the anguish. There’s that other side instead, that’s a watcher, a distant observer….

      On the other hand, I’ve found out that some people out there actually are intrigued by this story and want to know more (like the title and author). I’ll see if I can get permission to post their comments. I’m always open to the other side of the debate.

      • Kemberlee Shortland
        October 2, 2013 at 9:50 am

        In a sick way, I’m curious about which book it is too, but reality checks in with my brain and says, “You know, if you find out, you’ll want to read a sample, and you KNOW somethings can’t be unseen or unread, so you better not.”

        I worry about people these days. Every day I wake up and hear on the news about some crazy MF who thinks what he’s doing is OK when it’s clearly not.

  • Sofie Couch
    October 2, 2013 at 11:04 am

    Wow. When does it cross the line to misogynistic?

    • LizEverly
      October 2, 2013 at 11:24 am

      I wonder the same thing.

  • Madeline Iva
    October 2, 2013 at 11:35 am

    Okay, so here’s what someone emailed me this morning:

    I read LadySmut this morning and Elizabeth wrote about a sadistic book she read with a bdsm serial killer. If you can, can you please tell me the name of the title and author. Sounds like something I would read – okay, that sounds really bad, but I hope you know what I mean… She stated on the post that she won’t release the name of the book or the author, unfortunately, on the blog post.

    Totally intrigued now,
    xxxx

    Naturally I asked this person for more info–what was so intriguing specifically? Of course there is that kind of trope where the bad boy really is a bad guy–but before the heroine gets that completely sorted out, she’s incredibly attracted to him and he represents a massive temptation.

    Also there are tropes like the TV show DEXTER — he does kill a lot of folks (they’re all bad guys) but it’s more about creating a cathartic perverse release for beta types in our world who resent their constant domination by the alpha bullies that abound in life.

    In the end the person emailing me wrote this:

    I don’t believe in true 100% evil, so if she did the story correctly, he wouldn’t be a caricature representing evil. Remember, even the most notorious serial killers were in some sort of relationship, usually before they were caught.

    Of course, I’d love to write a story about a serial killer as the hero, and plan to do so…it doesn’t mean that it has to have a HEA, which romance requires, and for my writing,I’m not “stuck” in that formula.

    xxxx

    • Kemberlee Shortland
      October 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      All I can say is, yikes!

    • SM Johnson
      October 3, 2013 at 10:18 am

      I’m totally intrigued, as well. It sounds more along the lines of dark erotica, rather than erotic romance, but dark is what I love.

      • Madeline Iva
        October 3, 2013 at 11:25 am

        Thanks for commenting! I love the SOUND of dark erotica more than I think I’d love reading the actual blow-by-blow. Dark erotica shoots from the hip, takes no prisoners. I have to admire the gutsiness and the messiness of that. But I think I’m more suited to admiring it from afar.

  • Elizabeth Shore
    October 2, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I’ll say that the author appears to believe in 100% evil, because she writes of no redeeming quality in the sadistic serial killer character in her story. In the end, it’s the story she wanted to write. But yeah, I’m with you, Kemberlee. Yikes!

  • elfahearn
    October 2, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Frankly, the story sounds more like pornography than romance. Yikes for me, too.

  • Alexa Day
    October 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm

    See, this is why I like being part of the crew here. I’ve been thinking about this post all day. 🙂

    I’m a big fan of “pure” erotica, as well as the other erotica blends like erotic horror. My personal opinion is that very often stories like the one we’re talking about here are being shoved into romance because someone thinks it will sell better that way. That’s why the romance seems tacked on like that. It’s unfortunate because I think all parties are better served if stories like this stay in erotic horror or in “pure” erotica, where the genre requirements are a bit more fluid. This is also unfortunate because erotic horror is kind of an underserved genre. So much of it is sliding into paranormal romance. Not that there’s anything wrong with paranormal romance, but sometimes a girl just wants the horror.

    It’s also distressing to see the elision between this violence against women and BDSM. Consent isn’t just the cornerstone of BDSM, it’s foundational to BDSM. It is entirely possible for both partners in a BDSM relationship to consent to this level of violence — and it’s none of my damned business if that’s what they’re doing unless and until they want it to be my business. But that’s not what I’m getting here. You know, mostly because the “good guy” needs to rescue the heroine. Ravishment/rescue fantasy aside, one does not typically need to be rescued from consensual behavior.

    I don’t want to judge, especially without having read the book. I’m just saying that I think a lot of dust-up is avoided here if the romance portion of the story is not taped on.

    Incidentally, the fact that serial killers have girlfriends doesn’t mean anything about those guys, necessarily. It might just as easily mean that those women don’t think they can do better, grew weary of dating, or are too frightened to leave.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 3, 2013 at 9:12 am

      Agree agree agree! Well put, Alexa. The romance part of it being tacked on was a fundamental problem with this story. The thing about erotic horror is that it’s getting lumped in with romance, so then the author’s sticking in a romantic element as if to fulfill that part of the requirement or something. Frankly, IMHO erotic horror should be either categorized as a subgenre of horror, or a sub genre of erotica. But it’s jammed in with contemporary romance and even, as you point out, sometimes with paranormal romance.

      And yes, sometimes a girl just wants her horror. Incidentally, I just started reading Doctor Sleep, a book I’ve been waiting on for ages, ever since I heard S. King was writing the Shining sequel. So far, loving it!

  • Kate Kinsey
    October 3, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    I’m curious about this book myself, as a writer, a reader and a practitioner of BDSM. Because I actually live in this world, I am extremely sensitive to the blurred lines and nuances of consent vs. non-consent. I am constantly pulled back and forth between ferociously supporting the right of anybody to their fantasies, and a frantic desire to run around telling all the writers of BDSM that they have to be careful about how they portray our community.

    And if the writer in question isn’t actually a member of the BDSM community in real-time, well… that’s when I get really anxious and annoyed and start considering non-consentual punishment for those who write irresponsibly. (But who decides what is irresponsible? Arrgh.)

    The uncomfortable truth is that there are people who “play” at very hard levels. Every club has at least a couple or two that play so hard that the dungeon empties out when they start up, because while their friends and acquaintances accept their extremes, they prefer not to see it. There ARE actually those who play until they bleed or pass out, and can having screaming, earth-shattering orgasms while doing so.

    However, among those hard players, almost all of the ones I know still respect consent as sacrosanct.

    On the other hand, I have met quite a few people over the course of the last twelve or thirteen years who confess to some seriously non-consentual fantasies. Would they ever really want to act them out? Probably not. But a few…. maybe.

    I’ve had some unhappy readers who thought my book, “Red,” was just too extreme. I was unfortunate that the publisher seemed to be marketing it towards romance readers when it was in no way, shape or form, a romance.

    As an educator in the community, my biggest fear is always that people who don’t know much about this stuff will be confused and think that someone’s wild fantasy is suitable for playing out in real life. But then I remind myself that the biggest cause of accidental death in BDSM usually comes from accidents with rope that lead to positional asphyxiation, not a sadist who thought cutting someone up was acceptable foreplay.

    But I’d like to know the title of this book, especially if as you suspect it is not self-published.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 4, 2013 at 9:32 am

      Kate, thanks so much for your thoughtful and insightful reply. I’ve left the name of the book and author for you on your website.

      Your points are well taken. If couples want to “play” and play hard, even to the point of causing someone to pass out, I say go forth and have fun if it’s their thing and everyone consents. But that’s the key isn’t it: consent. In this book, it’s not there. it’s just torture. And then the author throws in some romance to boot. (sigh).

  • Tiffany
    October 4, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Coincidentally I have read this book, too. Not my cup of tea, but to each their own. I just wanted to add that I find it odd that it is classified under romance at Amazon, but is clearly marked as erotic horror on the publisher’s site. I wonder if pubs do this to avoid Amazon’s auto filtering on anything labelled erotica?

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 4, 2013 at 9:34 am

      Hi Tiffany, thanks for stopping by. Very interesting point about the Amazon auto filtering. I wonder.

      Not my cup of tea, either, but it certainly has provoked some interesting conversation.

      • Kemberlee Shortland
        October 4, 2013 at 12:44 pm

        I doubt very much it’s Amazon auto filtering. As a publisher myself, when I’m loading a book, I’m given two areas to fill in — genre and keywords. For genre, you scroll down to fiction, click the genre and then any subgenres applicable. You have two listings under this function. Unfortunately, under fiction erotica, it doesn’t list any subgenres. Go under fiction romance, and you can then also choose erotica but again, nothing further.

        On the genre listing, there is no other choice for listing anything erotica. It’s simply fiction erotica or fiction romance erotica. Period.

        The second section is keywords. This is where you can input keywords to define searches, such as contemporary (or historical) erotica, fetish erotica, erotica, fetish, menage, three-some, hard core erotica, hard core porn, hard core, porn . . . You get seven keywords. Words are whatever you can fit between the commas, BUT they must be accurate because you can’t put in a string of keywords and expect the search engine to find the book unless the user knows exactly what the keywords are in that section and in which order they were written.

        I’m sure Amazon has their own filtering system, but for publishers who input all their own data, it’s up to them where they categorize it and choosing their keywords.

        But keep in mind, Amazon only lists TWO areas for erotica . . . in fiction and in romance. Perhaps a petition needs to go to Amazon to add classifications in their genre categories so that erotica authors have more appropriate places to list their books.

    • Madeline Iva
      October 4, 2013 at 11:57 am

      Ah! How clever you are–I bet that’s it.

      • Kate Kinsey
        October 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm

        YES! That is an issue. Darned keywords. I’ve run into that as well. IT’s like being given a choice between an apple and an orange and you’re looking for a banana.

  • Normandie Alleman (@NormandieA)
    October 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Sounds like that book really needs a better warning. My publishers warn about everything that could potentially tweak a reader. I think they’d prefer the person not to buy the book than be peeved and leave a horrible review. That’s smart on their part but I don’ always agree they need some of the warnings.

    This sounds like a total rape situation so it would definitely need a non-consent warning. (Maybe it has that.) Usually I think of force orgasm as when the Dom makes a sub either orgasm again when her body is “too sensitive” after the first orgasm, or when they draw out the stimulation after the sub would be more comfortable with them stopping. Then the sub needs to use a safeword to have the Dom stop. In other words – the Dom wants to see how much the sub can take. That is a part of BDSM play, and I think it’s okay.

    However, what you’re talking about here is really different. Doesn’t sound like a romance because it sounds like the most important part of the book is the serial killer and his torture rather than the developing love relationship between the main couple. So shame on the pub for false advertising. That just makes readers upset.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      That’s exactly it, it’s false advertising. You can’t tell from either the cover or the description what you’re in for. With this book, the heroine had long given up thinking of the dashing dom as a dom; he was just a serial killer/torturer. So there weren’t safe words or anything like that because it was 100% non-consensual.

      And yeah, I agree, with BDSM play, I think pretty much anything goes if it’s agreed upon by both parties. When it’s not, though, we run into big problems.

      Thanks for your comments, Normandie!

  • wordsmith_lara
    October 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I’ve just stumbled on this thread – and on the Blog (now following). I practice BDSM and starting to write ‘erotic romance’. Nothing that I’ve written is as strong as the extract quoted. Principally because that level of SM doesn’t do it for me. Although I find some elements of SM erotic and almost spiritual, I’m much more drawn to the Domination and submission aspects of the scene – the psychological turn on and power play.
    It also sounds non-consensual as has already been pointed out. Actually, what it really sounds like is a fantasy that’s been written up as a story, which in my view is rather dangerous. Many of us – myself included – have extreme fantasies, but I cannot imagine REALLY living some of them out. Indeed, my instinct tells me to run from those who I think might try to encourage me to do so.
    But the thing I can’t understand is why the secrecy about the title and author of the book in question. if it has been published and being sold by Amazon, surely it’s not a secret. Perhaps quoting from it may infringe a copyright? I don’t know. But I’d be interested to know what this book is. Is the so-called fast moving ‘Dom’ actually a serial killer, or is that part of a game?
    Intrigued lara

    • Madeline Iva
      October 6, 2013 at 7:13 pm

      It’s interesting to think about what people see as obvious fantasy and what people see as upsetting…

      Quoting won’t infringe on a copyright– perhaps Elizabeth just wanted to talk about the issue, rather than in any way provide negative press for the author.

      You’re not the only one interested in finding out more about the book. I’ll email you.

      • wordsmith_lara
        October 7, 2013 at 3:51 am

        Madeleine, I think you’ve hit the nail – or at least one of them – on the head. One person’s fantasy is another’s offensive. How could it be otherwise? Probably this applies most in the erotica genre than most others.
        We only need to look at the top female fantasies in the empirical studies that have been conducted to see that some of the most reported faves will be either un-publishable, or will deeply offend some people. The task of the erotic/erotic romanced/dark erotica writers is to tread that fine line between popular fantasy and offence. Don’t let’s forget that much of what we find ‘offensive’ in the ‘nice’ part of our brains, we find really hot on the wild and naughty side. For me, the real skill is in the writing.

        I’ve read different writers essentially describing very similar scenarios and relationships, but my reactions have been very different to each. Some I find boring, or at best ‘one handed porn’. Others I find scary, because I think they are dangerous, or make my stomach do several somersaults. Then there will be the nuggets that are skilfully written, with three dimensional characters that are hot and engaging.The other feature this last category will contain is some aspect that presses my own personal buttons. Otherwise, I may admire the writing, find them interesting, but won’t find them sexy
        I daresay there will be many who may find my style of writing too slow or not strong enough. But, I can also write some extreme kink that although don’t cross the boundaries of legality, are probably too taboo for many. Those will almost certainly never get published – except on very specialist online groups dedicated to the subject. The point I make is that I write them, in addition to much more lyrical, or even slightly humorous kinky erotic romance. Under another name, I also write literary fiction. None of us is one dimensional – neither are our fantasies!

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 6, 2013 at 10:12 pm

      Thanks for the follow and for your comment. As you say, the issue is the non-consent, as well as the fact that a romance is thrown into the mix and thus labeling the book a “romance.”

      I’ve left the name of the book for you on your blog site. As Madeline states above, my post was more to raise the issues brought about by the book rather than give a negative review to the author. Thanks again for stopping by!

      • wordsmith_lara
        October 7, 2013 at 7:28 am

        Thanks Elizabeth. Responded to you on your site. I’ve downloaded a free sample of this book from Amazon, but don’t want to buy it as I can see from the synopsis and your comments that it’s not for me. But will be interested to read the sample.

        I’m glad I stopped by your Blog. It is a good find!

  • johncoyote
    October 11, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Rape is a crime. If someone wants to be in a game of a sort. Two willing people. That is their decision. People who rape and torture people need hard penalties for their actions.

    • Elizabeth Shore
      October 11, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Absolutely agree, John! If there’s no consent, it’s a crime.

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