Getting Comfortable over the Knee: An Interview with Lee Savino
By Alexa Day
If you’ve been hanging out with Lady Smut for any length of time, you know that spanking is a very popular subject around here. Kiersten Hallie Krum walks us through the Outlander spanking. Rachel Kramer Bussel educates us on how to climax from a good spanking. Elizabeth Shore shares The Art of the Spank.
They all make it sound like such wonderful, subversive fun. I love wonderful, subversive fun.
And yet, I struggle with spanking. I’m not sure I even want James Spader to spank me, which is saying something.
That kind of conflict — the kind that has me asking, “Do I? Should I? Am I?” — led me to pick spanking as the new-to-me kink for this year’s #ReadHotter challenge. I turned to Lee Savino’s Rocky Mountain Dawn, which features a very specific brand of spanking — domestic discipline — set against the backdrop of the Wild West. Newlyweds Esther and Johnathan definitely bring the heat in an undeniably kinky way, and there’s a lot of historical detail packed into this story, too. If you’re looking for new dimensions to add to your exploration of spanking stories, check out the whole Rocky Mountain Bride series! And if you’re down for a little think with your kink, I’m delighted to share my conversation with Lee. She helped me work through my feelings about the whole over-the-knee-okay-with-me thing.
AD: Lee, what is hot about spanking? What about it is such a turn-on for women?
LS: This is something I wonder about a lot. I write stuff that turns me on, and I’m the sort of person who has to know the reason behind my kink.
There are basic physical reasons why a real-life spanking turns people on—pain triggers an endorphin load, and the impact gets the blood flowing to your sexy bits. And I can tell you that the raw, floaty feeling you get after having a partner whale on your ass is addictive.
Psychologically, spanking is hot for a few reasons:
Power exchange. Being helpless and dominated takes away performance anxiety. When you give up control, you don’t have to make decisions, you can just relax. It’s like someone forcing you to eat a giant slice of cake; you get to enjoy the experience without the guilt or having to justify all those calories.
If I have a lot of baggage about sex and my sexual identity, then giving up control is a way I can enjoy it.
In real life, I’m a responsible, successful woman. In the bedroom, sometimes it’s nice to let go and let someone else lead. There’s something sexy about having your partner take care of you—and aftercare with real and fictional spankings is the best part!
Biology. I think women (and I’m generalizing here) are wired by biology to desire a dominant alpha male. The reason is perfectly primal: we are looking for a mate that can protect us while we raise our young.
So here’s this big strong guy who puts you over his knee and gives you a little taste of his power. What does that say to our primal selves? “I’d be a good mate because I’m strong. I can hurt you a little to prove it. See? I can care and provide for you, even when you are at your most vulnerable, carrying and raising our young.”
It may not be in vogue to talk about this, but there are basic evolutionary reasons why traditional gender roles came about. Writing stories set in the 1860s Wild West drove this home for me. Most women in that time period where either pregnant or breastfeeding 90% of the time. Right now, I’m actually pregnant myself (due in May) and I understand the urge to find a mate who can provide stability and care. That’s why billionaire romances are so popular: they satisfy this deep need for security.
It’s taboo! I’m supposed to be a strong, feminist woman, and here I am fantasizing about being treated like a naughty little girl. It’s humiliating, degrading and taboo—and the psychological embarrassment gets my adrenaline pumping, which gets the blood flowing…you know where. Spanking incites the same reaction as having sex outdoors, or performing any sex act you think is outside the norm of what you “should” do. Being naughty is half the fun.
AD: So, power exchange is part of the turn-on. It seems like the whole spanking scenario is designed to place the spankee in a position of submission — the physical position and the frequent use of spanking as a form of punishment.
LS: Yes, absolutely. And submission is hot. So is domination. Some people want to give up control and let go. Others want to take over and not have to conform to society’s rules of “be nice and polite.” Some people want to switch it up and do both!
AD: In the initial stages of the romance in Rocky Mountain Dawn, it seemed to me that Esther was really being spanked for punishment and not for play. Bearing in mind that spanking and domestic discipline were just part of life during this time period, is it difficult to portray less-than-completely consensual spanking as something arousing to the modern reader?
LS: Rocky Mountain Dawn and Bride (Book 1 and 2), the characters practice domestic discipline, a sort of power exchange that taps into traditional gender roles. So instead of “this is sexy pain/pleasure” it’s “you broke the rules, you get the consequences.”
This helps readers who need the submissives to be spanked for a good reason. Most of the time, the reason is the wife put her life in danger, and the husband “takes her in hand” to teach her not to do it again. If you feel a twinge of repulsion at that, I understand, but for me the touch of humiliation “I’m your husband so I’m the boss” dynamic make the submission more delicious.
This is a fantasy, and it’s not going to appeal to everyone. By modern day standards, most of my main guy characters are assholes! If a man acted the way they do in real life, I’d probably kick him in the nuts and run in the opposite direction. I worry about my heroes coming across as cocky dickheads, but then I realize that it’s part of the fun: watching this aggressive male get tamed by a woman’s love. Their bossiness makes the tender moments more powerful. My latest book, Rocky Mountain Rogue (book 5), was a huge hit because of this. Jesse is a supreme jerk, but he knows it, and in the end he’d do anything for his lady love, Susannah. She’s a pretty little school teacher from Boston, Massachusetts, and he’s a gun-slinging outlaw who robs her stage coach.
FYI, the premise for Jesse and Susannah’s meeting in Rocky Mountain Rogue was based on a true story I read in a book called “Heart’s West, The True stories of Mail Order Brides on the Frontier.” After reading that book, I knew I wanted to write this series. The 1860s time period lends itself to power exchange. Ordinary men had to be tough and dominant, not just the billionaire alpha bosses or MMA fighters we see in contemporary BDSM novels. And women, while strong and tough as men, also needed care and community when they were married—because they were most likely bearing and raising children.
AD: Are there elements of age play in Rocky Mountain Dawn? Some of Esther’s punishments — I’m thinking of the apology notes Johnathan makes her write — are reminiscent of the sorts of things that make up children’s punishments.
LS: In Rocky Mountain Dawn and Rocky Mountain Bride, Book 1 and in Book 2, the couples practice domestic discipline, where the husband leads and the wife follows. I don’t know why that dynamic is so hot to me, but it is.
Esther is very, very submissive and enjoys following her husband’s lead. She’s also a painslut so spankings turn her on. In my mind, my characters are very real. They tell me what they will or won’t do in the bedroom.
So Dawn doesn’t quite contain age play—Book 6 with Calum and Phoebe is more of a true age play—but the punishments Esther and Johnathan practice are meant to be humiliating, along the lines of Christian Domestic Discipline. One reader complained that my hero treated his wife like a two-year old; that was actually the point. Having a husband belittle his wife in that way is pretty taboo in our post-feminist world, but maybe that’s why it turns me on.
AD: Let’s talk about the rest of the series — are there more Rocky Mountain Bride books coming?
LS: There are going to be 8! There are 5 out so far, and the next one, Rocky Mountain Wild, stars Calum MacDonnell, a Scottish-American mountain man who’s a total teddy bear Daddy Dom. I had to follow Rogue Jesse’s book with a gentler hero. Calum’s book has a lot of age play elements.
The thing about kink: it’s not vanilla, so there’s 30 plus flavors. And you can mix and match as you wish! I write about spanking, non-consent/reluctance, age play, menage, anal play and punishment.
AD: What else are you working on?
LS: I just wrote an erotic Western about a brothel worker who is kidnapped by five of her regulars to be their shared bride. It’s so hot! I realized as I was writing it that part of the menage fantasy is having five men see to your needs, sexual and otherwise. Back to that need for security. Of course, the sex is scorching (this would be a menage a six, with one woman and six men), but I also had fun going deep into the different characters and their personalities, and how they all want to connect to Pearl, their captured bride. That book is called Pearl’s Possession and it will be out with Blushing Books in a few months.
AD: Annnnd what are you reading?
LS: Everything! I read about a book a day, from romance to nonfiction (most popular topics are business, marketing, and now babies). As far as romance, my old favorites are Knight or the Rock Chick series by Kristen Ashley. I just picked up a new fantastic author, Melanie Merchande. Both those ladies’ books have some spanking, though for some good spanking action check out authors Renee Rose, Sue Lyndon, and Vanessa Vale. I recommend these authors’ entire oeuvre.
I’d never read a Western before starting the Rocky Mountain series, so I had a blast researching this time period. I already mentioned the nonfiction book “Hearts West: True Stories of Mail Order Brides on The Frontier.” I also love “Covered Wagon Women”, an amazing eleven book anthology made up of real 19th century women’s diaries, written during their time on the Oregon trail. The entries are mind blowing: “Left today. Didn’t tell my ma and pa that I’ll probably never see them again.” or “Husband died yesterday. I hope I can make it to Colorado Springs before I give birth to my seventh child.” Their voices are funny and sad and triumphant. Men claimed the West, but women civilized it. I read about those tough pioneer women and I wanted to tell their stories.
I just added sex and spankings to make it fun.
So spanking is wonderful, subversive fun! What wonderful news! And just what I hoped to find about a new-to-me kink — it’s like hearing that someone’s been waiting for me.
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