Given the the popularity of the Fifty Shades books, I started to wonder if more romance writers will jump on the BDSM bandwagon. If so, how will these folks do research? Will these authors, like EL James, just use the internet? Or will they buy and read "BDSM for authors who don't know much about BDSM" books?
BDSM for Writers by Charley Ferrer is also a potential resource. Ferrer tells us "It's imperative to understand that BDSM is a distinct community with its own belief system and even its own psychological make-up." This grand statement is intended to establish her authority in BDSM matters. It's also wildly incorrect. Kink folk don't take a certification class in order to call themselves BDSM practitioners. They are not a mono-culture. BDSMers are just as inhomogenous as the rest of society. I suspect such simplifications may be a general problem with "BDSM for authors who don't know much about BDSM" books. In reality, one person can't explain everything about BDSM. Not the belief system, not the psychology. That usually makes writing BDSM fiction guides pretentious or defensive. Or both.
I was pretty interested when The ABC's of BDSM by Dama deNoche came out. This book is not meant for writers. Officially anyway. It's a sort of dictionary, wherein various BDSM terms are defined. I downloaded a sample--getting all the A's and midway through the Bs.
I don't review BDSM fiction in this blog, because I consider it a
conflict of interest. But I'm okay with reviewing non-fiction. So here's a review of the sample. (Is it fair to review just part of a book? Maybe not. But the abc's aren't intrinsically biased, and there's no true climax and resolution in a dictionary. )
The ABC's of BDSM starts out with a forward which refers to the "Lifestyle". Guide books use the lifestyle term all the time. I've blogged about my objections to it. In my opinion, it's an example of pretension: everyone's doing the same thing and lives the same way, and the way BDSMers live is important enough to be capitalized.
Now to the dictionary--at least up until the middle of the b's. There are indeed many relevant entries in the sample: anal play, aftercare, bondage. The emotional content is, unfortunately, missing. The book gives a dry recounting of what's what. Not the whys. Why does the bottom get a charge out of immobility in bondage? What does the Top get out of tying someone up? No answers in this book.
The weirdest thing about deNoche's book (partway through the B's at least) is a rather long explication of
Bestiality. She points out that "the human and the dog can be physically harmed during the sex act even if they are trying to be careful and safe." Most of us, Lifestylers included, would not classify bestiality as a part of BDSM. Neither would they think a dog is capable of being "careful and safe." To her credit, she does admit that consensuality is absent in these interactions.
Books on writing BDSM don't sell as well as general writing books like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, or Stephen King's On Writing. That could mean that most writers unfamiliar with BDSM use the internet as a research partner. That's probably not such a bad thing--if the research includes investigating the emotional aspects of kink. There are many intimate, highly moving blogs by practitioners on the web. Another option for BDSM writers is to read guide books for BDSMers. I'd recommend books by Jay Wiseman, Dossie Easton, and John and Libby Warren.