piranha: red origami crane (Default)
[personal profile] piranha
i think the books that irritate me the most are those that have a story seed of something valuable and characters i could come to care for, which then gets squandered bit by bit until nothing is left.

i thought i'd give claire thompson another chance, despite my prior disappointment with masked submission. this time i read golden boy, the story of johnny wilson and eric méndez.

johnny is 24, and he has never been in love; he can't seem to connect with the women he's dated. and that's not the only problem in his life; he's not happy with his job as an automechanic in his father's garage -- his father is a bully as is his older brother hank, and not only has he buried his dream of doing something artistic, he can't get himself to stand up to their daily verbal abuse. the only really good thing in his life is his friend amanda, a gothy punk lesbian who befriended him in the library, and who's making it her business to get him to live a little.

unbeknownst to johnny, amanda thinks he's a closeted gay, and when she scores tickets to an exclusive hotspot, she drags him to the trendy gay nightclub.

eric méndez is a psychologist by day, and by night a "god" of the manhattan BDSM scene -- a much-sought-after dom, not only for his smoldering latino looks, but also for his capabilities in training and torturing submissives. but eric is growing tired of the scene, tired of the merry-go-round of a new slave boy every month, tired of never finding that perfect sub who doesn't just get off on pain and humiliation, but who perceives submission as a romantic state of grace.

well, guess what. across a crowded courtyard at the trendy gay nightclub, johnny and eric's eyes meet, and even though they don't exchange a word, they both go home remembering the encounter, and find themselves unable to forget the other, and fantasizing about him.

for johnny, in conversation with amanda, this leads to the realization that he is gay. and eric feels driven to find this man, his "golden boy".

aside from a little purplish prose, this started with some promise, mainly because johnny is an interesting character, complex and introspective. also, amanda is a breath of fresh air in a genre in which women either don't appear at all, are mere spear carriers, or throw wrenches in between the destined lovers. eric, well -- there's the usual problem i have with so many doms; he starts out being described in a way that immediately makes me raise my eyebrows and think "poser", though there is enough meat to overcome that for a while (and no, i do NOT mean _that_ meat, though of course it is substantial; no real dom apparently ever has an average penis *rolls eyes*).

unfortunately the promise lasts only for a little while. because eric is a BAD DOM. OMG, so very bad. and of course he seems even worse because he's been built up so much during his introduction, as an incredibly capable, responsible, and respected dom. and worst of all, he's allegedly a psychologist -- i was expecting some insight into johnny's vulnerable psyche from the man. but the reality is that he makes horrible mistakes with johnny from the get-go. i mean, ms thompson clearly does mean him to fail in the scene at the end of this book (there is a sequel in which i suppose he'll redeem himself, but i haven't read it yet, and am loath to), but i don't think she intended that i wanted to slap him around every which way to sunday from the very start. because, you know, he's made out to be so experienced, and a psychologist, and into this loving submission stuff. and yet from the very beginning he makes mistakes that IMO only a rank beginner would make.

before going into detail on what i think eric is doing wrong, some more of my thoughts on dominance and submission. bear in mind that this is navel-gazing for me on a subject which i am just exploring, and as an outsider to boot. i might be all wet -- feel free to tell me so; i'm want to learn.

i feel that something very important to such a relationship is that the dominant must create an emotionally safe space for the submissive, in which the latter can trust to voice all zir feelings -- including fears about the relationship, misgivings about certain scenes and expectations, and about the dominant's behaviour, without negative repercussions or actual punishment. i actually think this is pretty damn important for any close relationship, but it feels like it would be of primary importance in a relationship in which there is a conscious power exchange. if there is no such emotional honesty in a D/S relationship, especially about fears, how can the dominant possibly take control in a way that works well for both of the parties, and how can the submissive possibly trust enough?

a large part of what's problematic for me in this book is that eric assumes there is trust simply because johnny says he wants to try and be submissive. yes, that implies _some_ trust, but not the sort of trust that means eric can do anything he wants with johnny at this point. eric himself gives lip service to trust being earned, but he does not behave accordingly. and he pushes johnny consistently too far too fast. each time he promptly blames himself afterwards, and again talks about trust being earned, but he seems to have a damn flat learning curve as to actually applying the concept. and IMO he does not earn it; johnny gives him more because johnny wants to please him (partly because johnny is in love with him, and partly because he wants to get off, *sigh*). eric should be aware of this dynamic, and should counteract it, but he fails to pay sufficient attention or follow through responsibly.

and there's more to this -- in a lot of BDSM fiction i get the feeling that the submissive is required to basically change zir personality, and i think that's completely counter-productive for what i imagine a healthy D/S relationship to be like. a secure dominant would want zir submissive to be truly zirself, to encourage zir to express the best parts of zir personality, to help zir heal whatever emotional trauma zie carries, to become stronger -- not so zie can take more whippings in public to honour zir dom, for heaven's sakes, but so zie can be a more fulfilled person, and so the power exchange actually means something beyond a temporary high. if a dominant doesn't act accordingly, IMO zie is nothing more than a control freak.

so here's what eric says to johnny on day 2 of their relationship: You are your own man. But to become my slave, to truly submit, as opposed to simply going through the motions as part of some game, you will have to break that down. To give up your private sense of self. To give yourself completely to me and allow me to rebuild you, in a sense. hell, no. *ugh*.

eric comes across as a pompous control freak to me. because man, johnny is so vulnerable at this point, what with his oppressive family background, and just figuring out that he is gay (which means that the family pressure will go up exponentially when they find out). johnny hasn't had anal intercourse, hasn't as much as touched himself there sexually. eric has no idea whether johnny is really submissive -- just because he gets hard when he fantasizes about being bound and a man stands behind him with a whip doesn't mean any such thing. so what's eric's first real dommy action on day 3 of their relationship? he orders johnny to let him stick a dildo up his ass. and when johnny can't get himself to do it, when he twitches away as soon as the cold thing touches his pucker, eric acts clearly disapproving even though he tries to suppress it, and internally argues with himself about it. he even tells johnny that it isn't his fault, but eric's own. but then he goes ahead and prepares some other sex toys in front of johnny only to tell him that he is obviously not ready and they will have to wait. and soon thereafter he sends johnny home for the rest of the week with the idiotic assignment of reading up on BDSM on the net (hint: typing BDSM into google results in 43,000,000 hits) instead of being a normal lover and maybe cuddling a bit on the sofa to let johnny down easy. BAD DOM. this isn't how you get somebody used to anal intercourse, you total arse.

there is no safe space yet for johnny. there are no safewords (eric doesn't believe in safewords for his relationships [1]). there is no clear delineation between eric and johnny as lovers and eric as johnny's dom. there is no negotiation, no clear agreement on just what eric expects of johnny, what will result in punishment. he doesn't even make the basic rules clear at the start, he springs them on johnny, such as interrupting him when he speaks to tell him he is not to speak, and then later, when he doesn't answer a question, by punishing him for not answering a direct question (my insane mother did this sort of thing; forever shifting rules are so much fun, let me tell you). johnny has no experience, not with the lover part and even less so with the sub part. he's insecure about so many things. and what does eric do? he talks a great deal about how loving submission exalts the sub. but in his rushed eagerness to mold his ideal sub, he makes johnny more insecure.

day 4 of their relationship features this little nugget: johnny is tied spread-eagled to the bed. it all starts very nicely, with telling johnny to lie absolutely still no matter what, putting a ruler across his chest that he is to keep there, and then running a scarf over his body. which tickles him, he wriggles, and the ruler falls off. with twinkling eyes (next thing you know he will sparkle) eric says he'll have to be punished. runs the scarf over him a bit more, tickling. Tickles, huh,” Eric said. “And you can’t get away. Well, don’t worry. I’m not interested in tickle torture. I prefer the real thing.” He took a long, sharp-looking knife from the night table and held it up in front of Johnny. “Are you afraid of the sight of your own blood? johnny panics and tries to pull himself loose. eric slaps him across the face. oh, i wanted to kick him in the nads. and then he has the audacity to pontificate some more about trust. Haven’t you spent enough time with me to know, to really know in your bones, that I would never hurt you? Never put you at risk? well no, you moron, he has spent barely 4 days with you, and you've not proven shit other than that you want to control somebody real badly. and again he does the martyr thing about how trust is earned and how he obviously failed since johnny isn't ready. nice guilt trip, asshole.

some weeks later a demonstration of why i think lack of safewords is detrimental in this case (eric whips johnny while he is supposed to maintain a standing position):

Johnny would struggle to obey [...]. Sometimes he could move past this stage, recapturing some of the peace and sensual serenity he’d felt earlier in spite of the pain, but more often than not he could not. Instead he would fall out position again and again, finally begging and cowering as Eric continued to lash his ass and back without mercy.

johnny is cowering, he isn't even trying anymore. if he had the option he'd have safeworded out. eric, who doesn't believe in safewords because he prides himself on knowing where his sub's limits are (how the fuck, eric when you do in fact not watch carefully enough), lets the whipping go on despite physical evidence that johnny can't handle it anymore. and why?

Finally Eric would stop, softly reminding him, “I stop when I think it’s time, not you. We will continue these lessons until you learn to submit with more ease. Until you truly give up control and give yourself to me completely.”

because eric is a fucking control freak, that's why.

Johnny was exhausted from these sessions and frustrated. Eric always seemed to push him to the point of failure. No matter what new skill he’d acquired or new submission realized, Johnny felt he could never be good enough.

johnny is constantly insecure and wonders whether he is even a sub, and IMO he asks good questions, and eric gives crappy answers. not always, mind. there are some instances of really good exchanges, but this is one of a crappy one, and eric is a BAD DOM.

oh, and remember my thoughts on honesty, and how important it is? early on eric pontificates along similar lines to johnny. and there are a couple of times where eric is straightforward and honest when a lesser person might weasel to save face; i really liked that. but he wipes that all out when he keeps johnny carefully at a distance and resists expanding their weekend trysts to include the occasional weekday evening just for watching a movie or having a pizza together, or letting johnny bring over a change of clothes. he tells johnny it would be too much, and when johnny counters "well, we don't have to do anything sexual" he lies with compliments about how he couldn't keep his hands off johnny. when in reality, he is afraid of getting too invested, worries that johnny won't stay with him because he's just his first experience, and wants to test johnny whether he is "worthy" of becoming his life partner, by displaying him and letting him be used by his scene compatriots. gee, great job, mr psychologist -- yeah, testing your life partner by publicly humiliating him without even telling him for what it's a test, that's loving behaviour. and honesty is important for the sub, but not for the dom? you immature bastard.

which leads us to the total clusterfuck at the end of this book.

johnny is confronted by one of his brothers about why they see him around so rarely, and after being pressured, he finally cops out and pretends he has a girlfriend. he's quite broken up about this, mostly because he feels he's betraying eric by denying him. and he actually talks to eric about this (ghod, johnny is such a great character), he talks about his fears, and how it affects him that eric doesn't seem to want a closer relationship outside of the D/S thing, seems to keep him at arm's length. and eric comes partly clean about how he fears johnny will leave him, and johnny says all the things that an actual psychologist would damn well know for himself, except for the bit about how keeping somebody at a distance will of course guarantee that they'll leave you sooner or later, like *duh*. it's not a bad conversation. and johnny comes out of it determined to come out to his family because he doesn't want to live with keeping eric a secret anymore.

which eric then uses to parlay johnny into his little "test". oh, the bastard.

remember, johnny has just been into the sub thing for a few weekends (we dont know for sure, maybe 7 or 8). he's not able to maintain what he's ordered to do during most sessions. and yet eric wants to put him "through his paces", which, as we are about to find out, consists of a lot more than just being paraded around mostly naked and being whipped in public by eric, no, apparently proving one is a truly romantic loving submissive means one lets oneself be fucked by any comer or sucks them off if one's lover/master so demands. and let's remember, eric has never actually as much as been to a BDSM club, not even to watch.

do all the rules get explained to johnny? no. he gets told the clientele at this exclusive private club is very demanding. he gets told that others will touch him -- but only with eric's approval. he gets told that he is not allowed to come, no matter what anyone does to him (he has had no special training for this, and eric apparently doesn't believe in cock rings nor in taking the edge off, rather the opposite). he doesn't get told what the consequences of failure might be. he doesn't get told what limits there are for other people. eric is a BAD DOM.

but oh, look! suddenly we hear of safewords, because apparently, even though trust in his master is 100% expected, and your dom has a magical sense of what you really want and what you don't, third parties might not, and your dom, while being 100% responsible for you, obviously can't be responsible for what third parties do to you. at this point johnny is voicing some serious reservations. is eric using his magical ability to sense what his sub really wants? no, eric pontificates about how this is probably scary because it is a GAY CLUB, but sometimes what we fear most we most want to experience. but hey, there's the safeword. some doms, johnny learns, punish their subs for being so puny as to bail on a scene, they send them out of the room in disgrace. but oh, not eric, no. that's why eric mentioned this just now, right? i mean, this is the time where johnny needs to hear about how some doms act towards their subs being in distress. eric is a BAD DOM.

johnny is really afraid by now. but of course he tries to macho it out. not surprising, given his upbringing, and his desire to please eric. a "yellow" safeword would be good by now. but i am not a psychologist, what do i know.

so one of the first things that happen is that alfonso, another sub touches him -- he doesn't ask for permission from eric, but eric doesn't seem to mind, so johnny puts up with it. eric is a BAD DOM because he did not correctly explain this to johnny. johnny doesn't like alfonso, he makes him uncomfortable because he's too familiar, and he has an irritating, taunting manner. eric takes johnny around the playroom and shows him some of the equipment, all new to johnny, and then he goes to change him into his slave gear. "you ready, johnny?" ... johnny says "no" impulsively. eric's magical ability to sense what his sub really wants inspires him to laugh and tell him that he shouldn't look like this is an execution, it's supposed to be fun, and the guys out there are all salivating over him, johnny. strangely enough, eric's magical ability does not make johnny less nervous. he's not ready to be intimate with total strangers. and he told eric that. but eric has laughed it all off, telling him he is more ready than he thinks. hey, johnny? eric is a BAD DOM.

up to this point my interpretation of eric's magical ability to sense what his sub really wants has pegged it to him testing johnny's penis for hardness -- and yet he misses the telling point that johnny is 100% flaccid at this moment. so he sucks him a little, and johnny being johnny who has a hard-on for any touch from eric gets it up. alright! magical ability GO GO GO. eric sucks a little more so that eric almost comes (because this will make it oh so easy to keep the "do not come" rule, i guess. eric is so helpful).

and then we encounter alfonso again, the sub from before, the one who touched johnny. this time he has his master with him. who fondles johnny first, and then alfonso, who is allegedly the best cocksucker in ten counties, gets to go to work on johnny, complete with having to use his teeth to get johnny's cock harness off. johnny, if we recall, doesn't like alfonso, and having his teeth in close proximity to his privates is more unnerving than just being touched. but even though he is rough, he IS a really good cocksucker. and eric stands right behind johnny and whispers in his ear. johnny can't get away, and kaboom, he comes. alfonso taunts him about his lousy self-control, and spits his own come at him, and reflexively johnny, who still can't step back, strikes him.

that type of violence is apparently a cardinal rule violation at the club (and i understand why that would be, but johnny wasn't told). does eric take johnny out of there, since, hey, johnny has never been violent in his presence before, and he has seen nothing that would indicate johnny is in general a violent person, and this therefore constitutes some kind of a serious breakdown? no, because eric is a BAD DOM whose own pride matters more to him than the emotional well-being of his sub. instead he lets others manhandle johnny and tie him up for punishment. telling him that he needs to take it like a man, or he won't be welcome back at this club. johnny tries to say something, but eric shushes him. johnny is blindfolded, so he can't even see eric.

what makes this worse IMO is that eric actually knows alfonso, knows of his cocksucking skills, knows he's crude, and yet he didn't protect johnny, didn't let him ease into the experience at the club. and now he lets others handle the punishment. which proceeds apace, and is rougher than what eric ever dished out. but not enough, no, some people realize that johnny might get off on pain, and decide that's not a real punishment then. eric feels his masculinity as a dom is called in question -- his unquestioned dom supremacy might be in tatters, his reputation ruined, because of his disobedient and badly trained slave (who was that again who trained him, eric?). and so he still doesn't get johnny out of there, instead he agrees that he should service alfonso. eric is a BAD DOM.

johnny can't stand after having been severely beaten by several people and with implements he was never beaten with before, and sinks to his knees when he is untied. he whispers that he needs water, that he can't do this anymore. but eric's magical ability, oh wait, his fucking pride doesn't listen. alfonso wants johnny to lick his asshole clean. johnny can barely even kneel; he feels dizzy (dehydration will do that to you). eric forces him towards alfonso by pulling on his arms.

luckily we have the safeword, because eric is SUCH A BAD DOM. amazingly enough, screaming out the safeword actually stops him; i wasn't sure it would. eric is really sorry now. i want to castrate eric. look down much on posers, eric? you ARE the supreme poser.

i don't want to read the sequel, because no doubt johnny is so in love that he will not ditch this BAD DOM, and eric will get out of it without too much serious examination of just why he is a BAD DOM, and then johnny will become the perfect romantic loving submissive for eric. bah humbug. johnny is a great guy, he deserves so much better.

WTF does any of this scene have to do with what eric claims he wants from a sub? what does perfect submission to somebody one loves have to do with letting any and all strangers manhandle one's privates? why should a submissive be treated like an object? those things do not automatically (or even at all) go together.

this sounds like a really bad review, when in actuality golden boy is far from the worst m/m BDSM i've read, in fact it stands out slightly positive overall. johnny is earnest and thoughtful, bits and pieces of eric and johnny's relationship are rather good, and as already mentioned, johnny's friendship with amanda is a breath of fresh air. but eric's flaws are so serious that i'm thoroughly irritated, much more so than by the average eye-roll-inspiring vampire and werewolf porn.

[1] i realize that lack of safewords is ok for some relationships, but IMO it's not safe/sane for a brandnew relationship with a complete newbie.

on 2008-06-25 04:19 (UTC)
lcohen: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] lcohen
no help here. that sounds dreadful and i would want to kick eric every time that you would want to kick eric.

on 2008-06-25 04:47 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] la-penguinita.livejournal.com
Wow. OK. That WAS long--even for you. :-)

The thing that I kept thinking about as I read this is, "Well, it IS fantasy." Even in straight-up hetero bodice-rippers, the MAN magically knows EXACTLY what to do to get the heroine off. Even when the character is an ass, he's AMAZING in the bedroom--because they have this phenomenal tele-erotic connection that ONLY works for THEM. (Granted, in the end, the MAN realizes he's an ass and progresses to being the Perfect Man, but that's beside the point! *grin*)

There are plenty of asshole posers who pretend they are Real Doms. (Conveniently, they're easy to spot due to a penchant for adding "Sir" or "Mistress" or "Master" to their names, because that's all anyone needs to prove their superiority over all humankind.) But I'd go so far as to say that a big chunk of Eric's faults are designed to highlight what some would consider the "romantic" part of the book. The ULTIMATE fantasy submissive can take everything and never need a safeword and will thrive on obeying the Master's whims. The very act of submitting is supposed to bring them great inner peace and strength. And then there is the thrill of the forbidden--the step BEYOND their limits where they get to prove their worth to their doms... Yeah. Right. Yada yada yada...

From what I've seen, the real world is far different. The things you list as good behaviors are what should constitute a healthy D/s relationship... Those are the things that I see people striving for. I've had some of these kinds of discussions with a friend who identifies as a master. When you think about it, a slave--or even a sub--needs to be independent and able to take care of themselves. How else could they take care of and serve their master/mistress/dom? And, yes, there is a lot of responsibility laid on the dom to care for and protect the sub who has entrusted them with their body (and, quite possibly) soul. How else can you take someone to the edge of their limits and yet still keep them safe?

Fiction is fiction. And the real world can be far, FAR stranger--and far, FAR more interesting. *grin* It's just hard to keep that in mind when a character is being so amazingly stupid and careless and just plain poorly constructed.

Oh, and one thing about safewords? As much as they should be discussed beforehand, a responsible top will listen to plain-spoken English and will check to make sure that they understand what the bottom is really communicating. Not that this happened--or ever WOULD happen--in the book you reviewed!! But even safewords don't always work and using normal, everyday words will need to suffice.

Interesting review, though. :-)

Re: BAD DOM

on 2008-06-25 06:22 (UTC)
eagle: Me at the Adobe in Yachats, Oregon (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] eagle
I get what you're saying about the fantasy angle, and there's certainly something to that (I'll read erotica that has completely unbelievable characters and actively offensive behavior if it happens to press the right buttons, and I expect that's more common than not). However, even with fantasy, dwelling on the bits that are unrealistic is just bad writing style since it turns off the people who can't manage to ignore it long enough to get to the erotic bits.

This is one of the reasons why writing BDSM stories set within the scene strikes me as more challenging. If you're going to bring in the real-life structures, that immediately brings into play all the stuff like safewords and real life conditions and whatnot and creates a reader expectation that the characters are going to act at least vaguely in accord with how the real BDSM scene behaves. (And, frankly, a lot of that structure is pretty boring to read about or at least difficult to write in a way that isn't boring, particularly repeatedly, so I do understand why authors avoid it.) If the story then contradicts that by going off into fantasyland, it can completely throw one out of the story.

If the story is going to ignore the standard safe, sane, and consentual safeguards and do the sort of stuff discussed in this review, I think it's much better for the story to clearly set itself in fantasyland and even be explicitly nc. If the story is nc, the reader doesn't go in expecting the dom to do the right things and be supportive and there isn't that same jarring disconnect between save behavior in the real world and the author's fantasies. Just say hell with it, have the sub kidnapped or something, and if the author still wants romance, do the nc romance angle instead. That set of expectations is easier to live up to, and the people who don't want to deal with stories where the dom does not honor the wishes of the sub will get warned off by the nc label and won't read it.

With this sort of story, as described, one gets the impression that the author thinks they know how the real BDSM scene works and is just horribly bad at it. Or, well, I guess writing a bad dom intentionally so that they can get better, although I'd want a lot more telegraphing of that and belief that the author is seeing all the problems than it sounds like was there.

Re: BAD DOM

on 2008-06-25 09:27 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
yes, exactly. as usual, you nail it. :)

i am writing off certain stuff in this story as typically fictional romance fantasy -- such as how amazingly good-looking and trim and fit everyone is; how eric and johnny's looks meet across the crowded courtyard and wow, instant destiny; how sublime the sperm of one's master -- and his puerto rican cooking -- tastes; how the perfect job appears when johnny needs it; how money is never an object for our dom; how twue luv conquers all; etc. those are no big deal, just tropes.

but the author herself sets the book in the manhattan scene, she herself has eric say all those things he doesn't live up to, and i am most heavily criticizing the book for eric's many inconsistencies. if, for example, eric were as green a dom as johnny is a sub, i'd be much more ok with the story as written, i'd expect eric to make lots of mistakes (and i'd forgive them; that is part of the fantasy, that your true love doesn't walk away even if you make humdingers that in real life would have most people leave, *wry grin*). if eric were to be shown as a poser, and johnny taught to, say, value true friendship over fall-in-love-at-first-sight luv, this would also be fine (but then we'd need a GOOD DOM to rescue johnny). but as set up, eric is clearly meant to be very experienced, eric usually says and thinks the right things, and so i am primed by the author to expect eric to do the right thing most of the time, with crises created from small issues, not major inconsistencies. for example, it's relatively easy to have a major crisis for the relationship be a scene gone bad without the dom basically doing everything he can so it goes sour; unforeseen shit happens. and it's entirely possible to have personal growth experiences for a dom without going from perfect to incredibly stupid -- i mean the "world-weary cynic rescued by innocent" is a well-worn trope in and of itself (and one i happen to like a lot), and one can certainly do this without even going that far.

but eric just oscillates between saying the right thing and a page later doing something totally wrong. and that's a serious flaw in plotting (or maybe characterization), or as you said, in the author's understanding of the real BDSM scene. i am leaning towards the former -- there are other indications that the author's voice isn't too sure, because the very cool amanda, johnny's only real friend, becomes unreasonably weird at some point as well, and the tertiary characters of johnny's bullying father and brother are really bad cardboard cutouts. it feels like the author has certain ideas, but doesn't always know how to get there from where she started.

on 2008-06-25 09:32 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jodawi.livejournal.com
I think lack of safeword is never ok, no matter how much trust. "What, don't you trust me? X and Y don't need a safeword, so you think X is better than me somehow? Safewords just totally ruin the excitement." Sub relents; realizes after months or years of increasing evil abuse that it's ok to escape.

Type thing.

safewords

on 2008-06-25 23:46 (UTC)
ext_481: origami crane (Default)
Posted by [identity profile] pir-anha.livejournal.com
i think arguments like "X and Y don't need a safeword, so you think X is better than me somehow" are really lousy arguments.

"Safewords just totally ruin the excitement" on the other hand, i can sorta understand. some people want to live on that edge. i can empathize with it because i also don't want to be protected from myself at all times -- if i have informed myself, i want to be free to choose, even if that choice is viewed as extremely dangerous by others.

there are some people whom i've trusted with some things more than i'd trust myself, at certain times in my life. that feels distinctly different from living on the edge; it's a much quieter thing. i can imagine, if i were at all submissive or inclined to play dangerous sexual games, that if i were to do it with such a person, that a safeword might really not be necessary. i'm talking real, bone-deep trust that has been earned, not the sort of thing brought on by romantic fantasies in a new relationship.

at the heart of it there's always that thorny question whether people should have agency to give up their agency. how much informed consent do we require for that to happen?

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