November 19, 2012

Femdom-ish Book Review Round-up November 2012

This month there's a book/novella (40k words) published by Carina Press, Forbidden Desires by Jodie Griffin. DearAuthor reviews Forbidden Desires by Jodie Griffin and finds it a bit, meh. Predictably, the heroine is actually submissive and the plot device that makes the desires 'forbidden' doesn't make much sense (-well I say that, it sounds like the forbidden bit is mainly just her going 'oh, I'm so naughty for wanting to be dominant, but that's fine, because I'm submissive anyhow').

Her Majesty's Plaything reviewed The Softness of His Fur, which sounds like a much better bet. A fantasy/alternative world pet/owner relationship between a domme and her pup, this seems like it would appeal to anyone interested in F/m pet play. Also, it has a truly awesome cover. I like the cover a great deal. The second instalment is available too, with the slightly less catchy, Beyond the Softness of his Fur #2.

I also noticed The Viscountess Investigates by Cameron Quintain. It sells itself as kinky universe Victorian mistress/slave team detective story. This sounds like a lot to take on in a 200 page book, but hey, it's an interesting concept. If you've read it, let me know what you thought of it.

What have you been reading this month? Have you found some wonderful new femdom fiction?

November 7, 2012

Why femdom doesn't sell. Or, the false dichotomy of 'normal' vs. femdom.

Romance is one of the best selling genres world over. There are countless genres - paranormal, historical, cowboy, contemporary american, religious, BDSM, medical - you get the idea. The BDSM is universally male dom, and there's one genre conspicuously missing. Femdom. It's not popular in the romance reading female population . But women who read romances (romance readers are predominantly women) are well educated (usually to degree level), relatively affluent and in happy relationships. That demographic sounds like women who run their own lives and the lives of others. So why on earth don't they want to read about women like them - women who control their lives, sex, and frequently, the men in their lives?

Research shows that people of both genders and all ages consistently rate women as being less competent than men, when they have identical qualifications. This is a professional context, but I think that there are social corollaries. In almost every scope of life, in almost every artistic genre, the sad fact is that almost by definition, strength, competence and dominance are male, and weakness, helplessness and submission are female.

I think that if I described a dom, and then said whether that person was a male or a female, that on average, people would judge the female dom as being less competent. Obviously, a woman who is dominant is equally strong, competent and sexy to her sticky-out-genitaled equivalent. And a relationship led by a woman is just as likely to be successful and happy as a relationship led by a man. But men are culturally seen as more competent and I think that this extends to guiding relationships too. I think that romances are full of alpha males who control the relationship and everything else because unconsciously people think that men are more competent than women at being in control.

Cultural norms are so strong, I imagine that most people don't even realize that they think that a relationship led by a dominant, strong man is more likely to work. And you know what - chances are you've thought it yourself. For instance, you hear that a woman colleague of yours is getting married. Wonderful news. Then you hear that she proposed to her boyfriend. Now, is there a little worm in your ear, saying that it won't last? She likes him more than he likes her, doesn't she? Because if he wanted to get married, he'd have asked, right?

Culturally, it's difficult for us to believe in a HEA that isn't male led and male instigated. Male dom in happy ever after is just what people think that they know: it's as 'natural' as being white, being straight and working in an office. For most people, male dom HEA just is. It's not that they can't articulate it, it's that they wouldn't even realize that they think it. Most books are written from the unconscious standpoint that everyone is better off with a man in charge. Most women are happy with that status quo, because they don't realize that the comforting normality of the alphahole male is a social construct not a reality.

There is a surfeit of data that shows that women are at least as good or better than men in all aspects of life except brute strength tests. I've talked about cultural norms, but even if unconsciously people like men to be in charge, many women like to believe in equality. So why is male dom almost universal in romances and erotica? Why are 'normal' romance books full of weak, submissive women and alphahole men when, if you asked them directly, most people say that they believe that men and women are equally competent? Surely there must be a market for books which competent, or even dominant women? I think that there are several answers to this question, but I'm going to propose this one: The alternatives are too extreme.

Anyone who looks for something different, perhaps a clever woman who isn't belittled by her partner, quickly discovers that this is difficult to find. Someone looking for a genuinely equal pairing of male and female might well fail to find it at all. Someone looking for something just the other side of equal, might start looking at femdom. At which point the first thing they will find is dommes who torture their male submissives, horrible women who will laugh as dogs rip men apart and cruel ladies who chop off men's dicks. That would send most people scurrying in haste back to the subtle male of dom of normality.

Male dominant normality vs. hard core femdom is a false dicotomy. But this is the choice that readers of erotica or romance are given if they want anything to the middle or female dom side of male dom. Faced with this, is it any wonder that vanilla women stick to their alpha males? Femdom books don't have to be all whips and chains. They can be subtle, featuring men who are brilliant followers to their caring, strong women.

So, in my opinion, there are two obstacles to femdom stories. One is the ingrained idea that men are better leaders than women and that we need a man in charge to have a successful HEA. The other is that currently, there is very little which caters for an audience of readers who would like a vanilla female led relationship.

How do we define what is a femdom book? This is practical as well as a philosophical question for me - you've seen the labels 'not really femdom', and 'subtle femdom' on this site. These are the kind of books that I like best and I think that other romance readers like them too (more on that in a subsequent post). This post is my attempt to suggest that there is a gap in the market for female led relationship books. Stories labelled as 'femdom' are tainted by the extreme kink which is never going to appeal to the mainstream. We need to get beyond femdom and normal as a dichotomy and look at combatting the biggest problem here: the incorrect idea that women are less competent than men. How do we do that? Like any ingrained cultural problem, half the battle is recognizing that there is a problem.

TL,DR: Many people unconsciously think that HEA is more reliable if a man is in charge. But romance readers take control of their real lives. It's the false dichotomy of normal vs. extremely kinky femdom with unsympathetic cruel dommes that puts readers off. If there were appealing vanilla options of novels featuring female led relationships, I think that romance readers would read them.

November 2, 2012

Review: Double Take by Rynna Cress

This is the perfect jerk off material for submissive men who fantasise about their lovely neighbour. I don't quite fulfil the criteria to really love this story, but in general, I did enjoy it.

Gabe is in love with Ashley, his neighbor. So when she phones and asks him to pick up her sister from the airport for her, after he stops his heart palpitations, he readily obeys. What she doesn't tell him is that he is picking up her evil twin. Gabe is supposed to be innocent of BDSM, but he takes to Jenna (Ashley's twin) ordering him around rather easily. Gabe's awkward flirting quickly turns into Jenna telling him what to do. The first thing that Jenna does is grab Gabe the balls, and squeeze. As it turns out, Gabe likes this. Though of course, as this is mainly from Gabe's point of view (the story is in third person, but we mainly hang out in Gabe's head), he has to posture about how much it hurts. Jenna proceeds to take all sorts of liberties with Gabe's body.

Gabe is mortified that he is betraying Ashley, as although nothing has happened yet with her, it's Ashley that Gabe really likes - loves maybe. So he is terrified that Ashley will walk into her apartment and find him with Jenna. So it's rather a co-incidence that when Jenna goes to "get changed", Ashley walks in to find Gabe naked, plugged and shooting off all over her floor.

Ashley though gets straight into the spirit of the situation that has been left by her sister

Since this is a novella, only about 30 pages, with plenty of sex and kink, there is obviously not much chance for little things like realism, safewords, or character development. And that's okay. The thing that rather didn't work for me is, as ever, a spoiler.

*** Spoilers ***

In the epilogue, Ashley walks into her kitchen, to find that Jenna has put the dildo into the dishwasher. They joke that they can have him in shifts. The twist is of course, that they really are twins. They joke about sharing and stringing him along, that they are the same. I guess it's a fun sort of ending, imagining poor Gabe being ordered around by these twins. But I'm not keen for several reasons. I'm not a big one for sharing - I like my boy all for myself. Then, I'm not keen on any sort of familial relationship mixed up with sex - it squicks me out. Deception rather ruins the HFN, as although Gabe probably wouldn't give more than a token resistance to the idea, it doesn't feel quite right. Also, I'm not sure that two doms and one sub is a fantastic combination. Too much potential for jealousy and, really - is one sub enough for two women?! It doesn't seem to me to be woman's fantasy, to share a sub with her sister (it certainly isn't mine). It's a man's fantasy, and that's just fine if you're a man.

*** End Spoilers ***

This story has Cress' trademark humor and high sexuality. It's brief and fun, and features moments like this that I like:
“Ass up in the air, darling, and spread those knees…”
Gabe obeyed, his eyes growing wide as his cheek landed against the carpet once more. He felt her hand on the small of his back, pushing it downwards and stretching his backside into a position of maximum vulnerability.
My ass, he realized… she’s going to fuck my ass.
Who can resist such a delightfully obtuse submissive? I can't.

I should add another squick warning. This story includes a sort of golden shower moment, when Jenna forces Gabe to drink her urine straight from the source. This didn't work for me. I couldn't really understand why it was there - Jenna was already pushing his boundaries pretty comprehensively, so I didn't feel it was needed. Was it a punishment? Or a reward? I wasn't really sure what purpose it had. And personally, I think that unsolicited pissing in your sister's living room is a hard limit when it comes to politeness, never mind kink.

Apart from that, it's all rather tongue in cheek and sexy at the same time. So yes, I enjoyed this on balance. It's not the emotional connection between a mistress and her submissive that I really crave, but it was entertaining. For being fun, but not really for me, it's a C+.