D/s sans Humiliation: A Response to a Comment.

I recently got a comment on an piece of erotic fiction I wrote which I really liked because it asked a question I didn’t have a ready answer for. The story was Pleasure’s Apprentice and the comment was from Amy:

Amy on April 3, 2011 at 1:20 pm

I’ve read this one several times […] I guess I just like the straight forward, dominant element (with absolutely no humiliation — how do you manage it?).

I have to own up to the fact that it was no great feat. The absence of humiliation is a product of the personalities of the characters in the story. And I think I wrote them the way I did for a couple of reasons.

1. The silver shop in the burlington arcacde was just a great setting. I worked there when I finished school and so to a very tiny degree, it’s autobiographical. There was a very strange culture to the place – like time locked in amber. I wanted to try and capture that, and populate it with people who could, at least for a time, fit in well with that odd setting.

2. I’m a very analytical, talkative person. I find my bearings in reality by using words like measuring instruments, like linguistic sonar. And yet I’ve met happy, very grounded people who hardly talk at all. I wanted to explore how two people who don’t use language the way I do find each other in a very specific way. I noticed that, with people like this, there are almost two planes of existence: one of language and the other of feeling, and they don’t cross over. Also, how do people who don’t have the language for the kind of sexual interchange they are wired for act? How do they find each other?

3. I wanted to explore a very female-centered phenomenon. It’s the first time you are ever touched intentionally. What I mean by this is that, for a long time in my sexual adolescence, I was touched in careful, furtive, unsure ways, by nice, well-meaning people who were so determined to ‘get it right’ that they got it wrong. I remember the first time I was ever touched by someone – deliberately, intentionally, with absolute confidence – and it felt completely different. It was much more than a touch. It was being possessed.

4. I find that confident female characters who know what they want are always portrayed as socially and professionally successful. But I have noticed another type of woman. She might not know what she wants explicitly, but somewhere in her subconscious, there is a very loud voice which knows exactly what it craves and finds almost passive aggressive ways to get it. Rebecca isn’t a social outcast or a loser. Neither is she your typical example of mainstream success. But she isn’t insecure and she does implicitly know what she wants. I tried to be very careful when writing the whole breaking of the ‘apron’ rule so as not to paint her as a brat. More like a person who has found a very obscure key to a very obscure door and has quietly and determinedly decided she wants to find out what is behind it.

5. What I set out to write in Mr. Pierce was a man who is a dom by nature, not by nurture. He’s not the sort of man who would label himself. He just is what he is and it’s really not a matter of choice for him. It’s not only part of him physically – he’s big, he’s meaty. But it’s part of him psychologically. It’s how he finds his sense of place and agency in a very class-structured  environment. He can’t be any other way because his dignity won’t allow him to pretend he’s another kind of man. He’s not a brute or a bully or working out any sort of insecurities through his dominant tendencies. He’d never use the word ‘dominant’ to describe himself – he’d simply never describe himself because he doesn’t live in a world of that kind of self-description or analysis. He was much more difficult to write because the story is not in his POV and he’s quiet by nature. What I hoped was that the reader would speculate about him and his past. Surely he’s had encounters in the past that didn’t work out because of his ‘manner’ and so the only thing I allowed him to say to Rebecca that was at all self-revealing happens after their first physical encounter, outside the shop, when he tells her that it isn’t a game and that she should find herself ‘a nice young man’.

It’s ironic that this comment came in just before I was going to start posting my profiles of kinky people. Because there is one profile of a Dom that I got which is almost an exact match for Mr. Pierce. And I wonder if, when I post it, you’ll spot him.

6. So the long and the short of it is that this is a D/s story of people who are both really very happy to take responsibility for what they like. And there is very little room for humiliation – explicit or implicit – in this kind of a relationship. You have to be able to be ashamed of what you want to be humiliated. Neither of these people are. It’s about the closest I come to happy endings.

Amy, thanks for the question. I don’t know if you intended to get such a long-winded answer, but I thank you for asking it because it prompted me to deconstruct the story in a way I found very interesting myself.


  9 comments for “D/s sans Humiliation: A Response to a Comment.

  1. April 3, 2011 at 4:33 pm

    It’s so interesting to read a piece where an author is deconstructing their own story. Pleasure’s Apprentice was the first thing I ever read on this blog, and it remains amongst my absolute favourite pieces of erotic fiction. But I have to say, I’ve never considered it from this perspective. The lack of humiliation never even occurred to me. As you say, it just doesn’t seem in the nature of the characters, but it’s definitely interesting to read about how the story and the characters came about.

    Oh, and that line where he tells her to find herself a “nice young man” really leapt out because I have actually had that said to me! And it didn’t make a blind bit of difference to me either.

    • April 3, 2011 at 5:09 pm

      *laughs* No, it didn’t really scare me off, either.

  2. janeway
    April 3, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    The absence of humiliation never occurred to me, either. What you’ve presented highlights just how pervasive an aspect of mainstream D/s humiliation is.

    It’s an interesting conflict, I think. On the one hand, submissives are encouraged to abandon shame and embrace their sexual needs; on the other hand, without the shame, as you say, there would be none of the humiliation that’s so much a part of the typical d/s dynamic.

    • April 3, 2011 at 9:28 pm

      Oh, I don’t want to in any way suggest that there is anything wrong with getting off on humiliation and I think there is an interesting paradox when it comes to shame. There are people who probably should find a way to overcome their shame. But I think that for some people, D/s channels it into something they can use very creatively.

      Please don’t mistake me for someone who tries to say what ‘good’ D/s should be. Good D/s is whatever gets two consenting adults off. Humiliation doesn’t turn my crank and, in the case of this particular story, the shame that really does NEED to be present in order for humiliation to work isn’t.

      Hmmm…shame…it’s a good topic for a blog post, isn’t it?

      • janeway
        April 4, 2011 at 4:02 am

        Nor was I saying that humiliation was a bad thing (or good, for that matter).

        It’s simply a paradox, I suppose, without which certain d/s relationships would not work. What got me started thinking about it was what happens if a submissive no longer feels shamed by activities that once humiliated her/him? Surely that’s a good thing from one perspective, but not from the perspective of the relationship of which humiliation was an element – maybe a key element.

        Yes, it’s certainly a fruitful topic for a post.

        • April 4, 2011 at 6:59 am

          ooh, you realize there’s a story in that, don’t cha?

  3. janeway
    April 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    You’re a dangerous woman, RG…

  4. Ashes
    April 9, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I have to agree with the other people who posted here… I never noticed the absence of that emotion as it didn’t seem that the characters were wired that way.

    Very neat to see it from that side.

    Also nice question Amy as it lead to another great insight 🙂

  5. Amy
    May 3, 2013 at 5:54 am

    Cool! Love the explanation!


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