I've been talking about it for ages, I know. That I should write a book-of-the-blog. I've been spurred into action by the latest and not precisely greatest offerings in what might be generously called "women's erotica" such as 50 Shades of Grey and assembled me-too publications.
I can do better, I thought. Even more so: I should do better. These books have sold in their thousands, millions. And the sort of tale they represent is fake. No more than a kinky twist on the classic romance which publishers like Mills and Boon have made their bread and butter. They sell, though. And why shouldn't they? After all, it's exactly the sort of fairy tale that we are brought up to believe expresses the sum total of female desire: only sexed up in an "exciting" kinky fashion. And it is fashion, I believe, as more and more I see the requirement for an extreme and indescribable want or desire fulfilled in literary terms by BDSM.
Here's the story we keep being told: a young woman, innocent, untouched, virginal, is shown the meaning of true passion by an older, more experienced (rich) man. The sort of man who knows that no means yes and he's only doing it so cruelly, so coldly because there's a part of him that is vulnerable and needs nurturing - by her. The princess is saved by true love's whip. The prince is saved by true love, which he could only previously experience as violent pleasure. Together they render each other meaningful. They live happily ever after.
Other people have examined the phenomenon of why it has done so well (note especially this article discusses why women love it, I wonder how many men have read it and what they felt).This lack-of-the-new has not stopped it selling like hot (cheese) cakes made from old (shibari) rope.
It's easy to criticise. Almost everyone has, criticising the book and the antics around it has become some kind of hobby. It's turning into a confusing mess, including domestic abuse charities burning the book and problematising ideas around female sexuality, BDSM sexuality and whether you must have deep-seated emotional issues in order to be a sexual sadist.
I'd like to set the record straight for kinky people. I'd be pretty pleased if I could make a pile of cash whilst doing it thus retiring to my chaise longue to write more mainstream books about BDSM whilst attractive semi-naked chained things fanned me with ostrich feathers and poured the coffee.
That's the fantasy. The reality is, as always, different and involves thinking and hard work.
In order to make any kind of challenge to this narrative I really do have to put my money where my mouth is. And so, I had a meeting a couple of weeks ago with a literary agent. We talked a little about the blog, we talked more about the process and the way in which I could turn my source material (me) into something that people would want to read. We talked about style, and narrative and the sort of story I would be telling. We framed some potential beginnigs, middles and ends. We talked about descriptive language and how I would have to give these as-yet-unknown-readers the words to let them imagine what my experiences had looked like, felt like, smelt like.
Because - and this is something that we kinksters, especially those of us snug in the bosom of London, forget. Most people do not know what it is like. Most people have not worn rubber, or been to a BDSM club, or even had a threesome. Most people are vanilla. Most people are straight - in sexuality and in outlook. That isn't a criticism, but it is a reminder. That the types of explorations we do are not the norm and so when I write I need to bear that in mind.
Which generally, I don't do here. I write fast and dirty. I assume a lot of prior knowledge. I assume that you get it. I write for you. Yes, you, my dearest constant reader. You who are probably known to me, or a friend of a friend, and certainly who is aware of BDSM and the realities of daily, perverted life. The agent assures me that in reality most people are not. And it is this candour that is sell-able. Not the high gothic towers full of mysterious beauties tied to exotic devices (or exotic beauties tied to mysterious devices). That sort of thing will merely make people jealous, or annoyed. The thing I'm going to write has to be real, on some level, because that is the selling point of the story I am offering.
Not a fantasy. Not a fiction. But an expose of what it is really like. Of how you find out you are kinky, of what happens next, where you go, what it looks and feels like. What that first trip to a fetish club does to you, what that first sensation of being tied up, or tying up means. And that's where I began to hesitate. If I do use the material here, I'll need to write more, and more concrete, descriptive things. I'll need to use my own history, my own background as a source and really bring the reader into my life. I'll need to open up more, reveal more and also at it's most basic: write more.
I am a very good editor, here, on the blog. I give you only the choicest morsels. Little, tasty tit bits. A couple of hours of my life, here and there. I don't give you much context, just straight to the good stuff. I know what you like. I also know that this blog isn't world famous, that I don't get thousands of hits and that my private life, for all my public writing, is still very much that. Private. Sure, there are naked pictures of me on various BDSM sites, and if you really worked at it you could connect the dots. Expose me. But why would anyone bother?
Like Belle du Jour, they wouldn't unless it became a story. Which it might. If I get what I want: lots of lovely book sales. Then finding out who I am will become worth someone's while. And that could cause a lot of problems, for me, for those around me, for my family.
As much as I take pride in who I am and what I do I also know how upset my parents would be if they knew about this. How sad they would feel. How anxious and frightened for me, how ashamed, how disappointed in me and in themselves. That they had somehow let me down, or that my life will be unhappy, incomplete. That it must be if I feel the need to do things like this. We're back to the argument of 50 Shades again where Christian Grey's sadism has its root in his abusive upbringing. That in order to be kinky he must lack in other areas - emotional fulfilment is beyond him. That question I've been asked by several people outside of the scene: how can you do that with someone you love?
So how can I do this? How can I write the book I want to write, and want it to succeed, without also being open to the possibility that it will change my life in very difficult ways. Arrogantly, I'm assuming a best-seller. Still, I see no point in aiming to produce something average.
The first stage is to see whether I can write it at all. Writing a book is very different to writing a blog, the agent assures me, and as I sit here, typing quickly in this familiar format I can see he is right. The idea of opening a blank page and starting from the beginning is quite intimidating. I need to work out how much of my life I use and how much I make up. I need to plan, in a way I never do with these posts, a structure to frame the experiences. I must do more than a series of vignettes, instead I need to take people on a journey that they can empathise with, even though they have never been to those places or done those things. I also need to protect myself, and my family, and those I have played with, to strike a balance between the reality and authenticity of my genuine experiences and the needs of narrative and privacy.
Based on a true account, I suppose.