I recently wrote what was intended to be a very satirical, tongue-in-cheek online article about the 50 Shades of Grey book trilogy. Although I did actually read the books, which were a total wrecking ball on my life for two weeks, I had very little understanding of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, and Sadomasochism) or the dominant/submissive lifestyles. After the article was posted, a reader accosted me with comments for “slut-shaming” people who participate in alternative sexual experiences. The shock passed quickly, because she was wrong and obviously didn’t see the article for its intended humor, but it did manifest a curiosity about the role of the sexual submissive, particularly for women.
I swiftly assumed the character of the cat curiosity killed and started ingesting any related information that I could get my hands on. Admittedly, watching Real Sex and reading BDSM literature was some of the most entertaining research I’ve ever done. Not long after (by chance and with a stroke of luck) I was introduced to Joey W. Hill, a successful author of erotic and paranormal romance novels, and herself a submissive.
Hill explained that many people have a natural inclination toward a submissive or dominant lifestyle, just as people are intrinsically attracted to men or women. “At 6 years old, my Ken doll was tying up Barbie in the basement of the dreamhouse," Hill said with a giggle. “I was an administrative assistant for 20 years. There is just that orientation in me to support. It’s what I am.”
I asked her to share her perspective on the appeal of the submissive/dominant relationship, and how she feels about the idea that women who serve as submissives are taking a step backward in regard to our sexual evolution. She explained that some of the most confident and powerful women that she knows prefer a submissive role in the bedroom.“Women take on so much every day, it can be very liberating to just let go and enjoy the journey. Above all, the submissive/dominant relationship is about trust,” she said.
For her, the opinion that women who choose to assume a submissive role are somehow committing an offense to female sexual liberty is small-minded. “Society has an archaic need to belittle women’s sexuality. There is an underlying sense of threat when women take control of their sexual choices and who they are.” A recent example to support this is the mainstream media referring to the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy as “mommy porn,” as to not take large numbers of women having hearty erotic appetites too seriously. Giving the popularity of the books a kitschy and silly name made the reality less uncomfortable.
Roughly 99 percent of Hill's literary work focuses on BDSM, and more and more women have been reaching out to her about it. “The popularity of my work has increased exponentially over the past five years. Although it is still considered a deviant lifestyle by many, there are people from all walks of life, socioeconomic statuses, and professions who participate in BDSM. With any group, there is an extreme fringe, but BDSM and domination is not the scary pictures that you see on the Internet. BDSM is far superior to the whips and chains ... it’s the power exchange.”
Having had my conversation with the delightful, and anti-climactically “normal," Joey Hill, in conjunction with my own experimentation with BDSM practices (wouldn't you like to know more!), I can now say that I have a deeper knowledge of the appeal. In your face, accusatory comment lady!
Although I can’t say that I have any more appreciation for the mediocre and repetitive writing (at best) in 50 Shades of Grey, there is a positive spin on E.L James’ books catching wild popularity fire in order to bring some light and understanding to the BDSM world. Indeed, women taking and retaining ownership of their sexuality should extend to all tastes, not just the ones that mainstream society deem appropriate or politically correct.
If you are interested in more of Joey Hill and her writing, visit www.storywitch.com, where you can find free excerpts from her latest book Hostile Takeover. Hill has been writing for Ellora’s Cave and Berkley Publishers since 2007. She won the Lifetime Achievement Award for Erotica in 2011 from RT Book reviews. In addition to writing a lot of good sex, Joey also fosters animals and is an active advocate for animal rights and the Humane Society.
Megan Henshall is a project coordinator by day, favorite child, rollerskating enthusiast, blogger, and lover of all things social and under appreciated. For more writing/ramblings/rants visit www.dearsuchandso-keyboardventing.blogspot.com.