the closet Masochist

I had an enlightening conversation with a friend today.

I was, once again, ranting about what didn’t work about Vishous‘s book for me. I explained to her his Domination/Submissive sexuality, and how it worked when he was verbally controlling, but not when he let her strap him to the table and drip wax over him and whip him.

This was an emotional climax (apparently), as he never, ever allows himself to be submissive to anyone. I know it worked for some readers. Didn’t for me.

This was when the conversation got interesting. My friend said:

“A sadist has impulses that can’t be expressed, because they’re violent and illegal and they would hurt people. So they create these ‘games’ which allow them to safely enact what they will never be able to act out.

“But fiction is already make-believe, so to just have the fantasy and not the act itself seems like a waste of time.”


We went on to talk about whether it’s possible to have real sadistic acts in a romance context. She made the point that most sexuality in books is closet-masochistic, because most people have masochistic tendencies, to whatever degree.

A sex scene where no means yes, or where boundaries are getting challenged and stretched and comfort zones intruded on all have elements of (mostly) masochism already.

She also made the point that sadists are only ever brought in as a means to subjugate the masochist. “How can I put this?” she said. “If the masochist is getting off on it, then it’s not giving the sadist what they need.”

I don’t quite know what to take from this conversation, except that it was enlightening, and just adds another layer to what I think romance novels are able to explore.

Comments 10 Responses

  1. decadence

    This is an interesting post. I agree that what sadists are interested in isn’t actually a masochist, even though that sounds like the natural complement. It’s more fun for a sadist to be someone who is distinctly non-masochistic because they don’t want it.

    That’s not V, though. He doesn’t seem to understand why the females accept and even need his brand of sex. Their enjoyment is pretty much irrelevant, just as long as he isn’t abusing them (although I think his definition of abuse is a bit different from mine. I don’t want to say he abused them, but sometimes I’m not entirely convinced he didn’t, even though the emphasis in BDSM is on consent).

    I had a discussion with someone about V’s BDSM where we concluded that what he did was a perversion of what we understand true BDSM to be about. Bearing in mind that neither of us are in the lifestyle, my understanding is that BDSM affects the sub more — it’s about their trust, their limits. The dom makes the decisions, but ulitmately, the sub gets to say no. There should absolutely be room for the top’s needs to be equally met, but it’s the sub who has the power in the relationship. V never forced a female to do anything she didn’t want, but even though she could say no, there was no room for compromise with him. If they consent to sex with him, it was on the understanding that they only see him when he wants and that he was not going to be exclusive. If they didn’t agree to that, it was over. He wasn’t interested in their pleasure (although incidentally that treatment worked for them), it was all about dominating them until he wore himself out. There was no connection between them and he masked their faces so they’d just be bodies to him. A dom’s pleasure should theoretically come not just from being able to do the things he (it kind of relates to V, so I’ll just use ‘he’ here) wants to a helpless sub, but also his sub’s reaction to what he’s doing. His pleasure should in part come from hers.

    This is another way in which we’re different readers: the penthouse scene worked for me. I never thought that I would accept a scene where he wasn’t on top, but it was because he was just so open and receptive and connected. I actually preferred the penthouse to the bathroom, although that was quite hot, too.

    No offense to your friend, but I don’t agree about the fantasy without the act set in the construct of fiction is a waste of time. I think it’s about the line in the sand which can be in a different place for many people. I don’t think it’s a waste for fictional characters to basically say, “This is what I want,” and go there in a safe framework because I don’t feel it needs to only be presented as abuse or pure SM. We saw BDSM make V whole in a way he’d never been before. It wouldn’t have worked for me as an abuse scene. I work with a bunch of guys who call paranormal romance porn, but the difference between the two is in the feelings and the relationship surrounding the sex. V’s feelings made the penthouse scene, it wasn’t just this hot, muscled guy getting strapped down and flogged *fans self anyway 😉 *

    1. superaniistar Post author


      I totally agree that it has to be about the feelings. For some reason, for me, that scene didn’t feel like the ultimate vulnerability it was meant to be. I think it’s partly because I didn’t get the depth of feeling between Jane and V: ok, you definitely know where I stand on this, but it was still too soon after Butch for me to believe their love, which meant I still felt like Butch was the person he could ultimately be vulnerable to. Also I just didn’t quite get the kink.

      I think the whole BDSM thing really suits V, because of the emotional distance that it allows, and because it’s extreme. But somehow that scene became a bit detached from who he was for me.

      Hmmm. Dunno. It’s probably mostly about the fact that I was still sulking about Butch. And I want to say again that I like Jane, and I think she really works for V, but Ward just hadn’t taken enough time yet to convince me of that, and to convince me that he would make the ultimate concession to her.

      Still, the scene that followed still packed a huge punch. Owch.

  2. decadence

    I think that he wasn’t always distant and detached. When he was a pretrans he used to dream about a mother who protected him and treasured him. The distance was a defense he created to protect himself after his harsh childhood. If I hadn’t read that bit, I’d find it easier to see that the remoteness is really him. But he needed to be able to give himself to someone. Butch was not available to him in the way he wanted and Ward set Jane up as the cop’s ultimate replacement. V still gets to have his bromance but his big love is Jane. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m waiting to see what happens between them in Lover Unleashed. Yeah, we’re back to that again 😛

    1. superaniistar Post author

      🙂 I’m starting to think I just have to forcibly forget the books exist, because I don’t know how else I’ll survive 5 months without going a little bit mad. Mostly excited about more Blay/Qhuinn, too. But, er, not thinking about it. No, of course not.

      Interestingly, I didn’t feel as convinced by V’s childhood flashbacks as I was by Z’s. Or maybe convinced is the wrong word – but somehow they didn’t work as well as flashbacks within the story as a whole. Or something. Ahem. But it made me realise, when you said that about his childhood, that it’s a difficult thing, to make a character with super-defences become vulnerable again, or their “true selves” from before the pain was done to them. The defenses are strong for a reason, and a person doesn’t give those up without some real physical discomfort (ha! could be an argument FOR the wax!).

      I recently read Demon from the Dark, the 8th Immortals After Dark book, and I think Cole managed it really well. Her hero Malkom is pretty full-on, but his vulnerability to the heroine – despite and because of his history – is believable and an integral part of the book. This goes to the heart of one of the romance genre’s greatest difficulties: the moment of capitulation.

      I definitely found that the hardest part in my first ms. How do these characters, who have had such good reasons for not being intimate, accept the need and desire for intimacy and follow that with action? And how to do all that in a believable and even enjoyable way?

  3. decadence

    Maybe not just “real physical discomfort”, but V had the illusion of freedom because Jane would not retain her memories of him, so their time together falls outside of reality because he still retains control and sole possession over their time together and also because its duration was always meant to be limited. It’s not real, it’s just now and there are no consequences because she’s going to be scrubbed and he has his destiny.

    Then V was starting to fall apart towards the end of Lover Revealed when he acknowledged just how much he cared for Butch and his fear of losing his roomie to evil or Marissa or both. When Butch came into the Brotherhood’s world, V assumed responsibility for him so he was kind of like the dom in that relationship. Then after his drunken meltdown on his penthouse roof, there was a reversal where Butch said, “Until you can look after yourself again, I’ll look after you.” Butch then assumed a form of responsibility for V, but more of a duty of care while V couldn’t function.

    The release V found in domination wasn’t anywhere near as effective as it used to be. He’d fallen into a state of “all need and no ease”. It used to wipe his emotional slate clean but doesn’t anymore, so he’s still carrying a lot of crap that he hasn’t been able to discharge through sex like he used to. And the less he can let go of, the heavier the load he carries and it keeps building.

    After he was shot, his care was shared between Jane and Butch. There was that hot scene when V took his razor out of Jane’s coat that showed that even though he had the physical strength to overpower her, it wasn’t what he wanted because she didn’t want him to do it. For once, a female’s needs were put before his and even though V was stronger, Jane had the power to say no and make it stick.

    Then on top of all that was the sword of Damocles that was his pending fate as the Primale. Once he takes the job, he wouldn’t be able to have D/s sex with the Chosen or be allowed to look outside the Chosen for an outlet. For him, going to the penthouse was a case of now or never. Plus, she had got under his skin in a way that not even Butch had (Ward showed that Jane had supplanted Butch in V’s heart, even though the cop would always be extremely important to him), so if he was ever going to do something like that with someone, it would be her.

    All of these things combined wore down his defenses and there was massive tension in the moment after he offered himself while he waited for her to accept or reject him. I think by then he was finally ready to go there because he’d already been in Butch’s care first, then Jane’s. It was a perfect storm.

    I’m way behind on Kresley Cole, so I haven’t read #8 yet. Your other comments make me so glad I’m not an aspiring writer and have the heavy burden of creating something and finding the most effective way of conveying believable and realistic change. Good luck, I hope you find a way.

    1. superaniistar Post author

      hmmmm, that’s a pretty convincing case as you’ve outlined it! I’d forgotten about the short-term/memory-wipe clause, which certainly allows something he wouldn’t do otherwise. I’m definitely going to have to read this book again, now.

        1. superaniistar Post author

          that may have been becoming clear to me… 🙂

          He and Z were the first characters who I saw really clearly – they just popped for me and were whole and unique in my mind’s eye. Which actually happens so rarely, I think. Characters are normally a collection of traits/features, or I have a sort of stock character face that I just graft a certain eye colour or something onto.

          But those two appeared fully-formed. I think it was the Sox cap pulled low over his face, the goatee, him quietly going about his business in the background. And I love the fact that even though he’s had his own HEA he’s still – in Ward’s own words – a prick. There’s a lot there that fascinates.

          I had the same in that scene where Bella sees Z for the first time – I saw him so clearly. I think there’s was my favourite as far as a romance novel goes, but I’m definitely most interested/invested in Butch and V.

          Probably Butch is my fav character, which is sort of a surprise. I was totally put off by his name when I first read the book blurbs, but he’s grown on me a lot throughout the series. He’s the most “human” character, I guess, which makes sense. 🙂 You also get to see such a deep affectionate and loyal nature in him because of his relationship to V – the fact that he can lighten up someone like that is a huge testament to him.

          Some of the other characters I haven’t really been able to picture properly. I love Wrath, but Ward’s descriptions of him always put a really weird caricature in my head: widow’s peak, wrap-arounds, huge boots (er, sorry, shitkickers)… hmmm.

          V definitely leaves a lot untold, which means there’s always more to want to find out.

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