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.