February is the Month of Love
at Chez SaFleur, and not just because Fifty Shades of Grey makes its cinematic debut. In addition to our uber giveaway here,
we’ve invited some special guests to talk love, dominance & submission and erotic fiction.
Today we feature a very special guest – Dr. Charley Ferrer, a world-renowned Clinical Sexologist and Sex Therapist. Dr. Ferrer also is an author of thirteen books on self-empowerment, women’s sexuality and BDSM. As a BDSM expert, she lectures throughout the U.S., Latin America and China on dominance and submission.
Dr. Ferrer also is CEO and founder of the BDSM Writers Con, which brings together authors and BDSM and D/s lifestyle presenters to provide education on the various nuances of the real BDSM world. Their tag line is “Where reality and fantasy come together!” We couldn’t host a better person than Dr. Ferrer to discuss the topic of truth versus fiction in erotica and erotic romance.
Note: BDSM and D/s sometimes will be referred interchangeably below. This synonymous use is only for editorial brevity sake.
Welcome Dr. Ferrer and thank you for being here.
ES: The BDSM and D/s lifestyle finally has cracked the mainstream – being discussed in the media, at cocktail parties, and in my case, even corporate boardrooms in Washington, D.C. What do you think has caused this new openness to discuss the lifestyle? It can’t all be the Fifty Shades phenomenon.
Dr. Ferrer: Fifty Shades has opened a door. But people have been pushing against that door for years, not knowing how to open it. Many people have been curious about BDSM but haven’t been able to define that curiosity and haven’t felt comfortable in exposing their interest.
Yet, D/s exists in our lives everywhere. People just haven’t named it as such. Have you ever given a hickey or gotten one? Why did you do that? It’s because you’re telling the world “this person is mine, don’t touch.” People will even brag about their hickeys, like a sub can often brag about their marks. They are proud to show they “belong” to someone. It’s the same thing in D/s, though the marks might go everywhere. <laugh>
Another analogy is why put a wedding or engagement ring on a person? It’s a symbol or stamp of belonging. The vanilla world has rings. The D/s world has collars. We are practicing the same behavior but calling it two different things. In truth D/s has been in everyone’s life from the time they were born.
ES: As someone who been active in the BDSM scene for many years, do you believe the understanding of the BDSM lifestyle and dominance and submission is then growing more accurate or less?
Dr. Ferrer: So much information is available. But too many people are turning to the wrong sources. Many people only see BDSM and D/s at the surface level due to what is right in front of them, like the Fifty Shades books. In particular, that book portrayed lifestylers as people who must be fixed. Yet, truthfully, this lifestyle is full of healthy people exploring themselves.
Eighty percent of the new people exploring the lifestyle are engaged in the “candy store effect,” enjoying new toys and dressing up. The other twenty percent of new people are dabbling deeper and asking themselves, what does wearing (or giving) a collar mean? Do I want it? Where should I look? Where would I research? Those are the people that aren’t in it just for the thrill of the moment but because it calls to their fundamental nature.
The question to ask [when interest is piqued] is this: Do you want to stay on the surface or do you want to investigate and explore the lifestyle and explore you – because that’s what you’re doing in this life.
In BDSM, you’re connecting with another person. But you’re also connecting with yourself. It’s not just about a spanking. It’s about what it means to you and what that spanking opens up in you. If you kneel in front of Dominant, what does that mean? How do you feel?
ES: Let’s talk about BDSM in erotic fiction. Real-world BDSM lifestylers want writers to depict the scene accurately. But, honestly, sometimes scenes can be interesting to witness as watching paint dry (unless you’re involved, of course). I can see why some writers might “spice it up.” Don’t readers want the fantasy anyway?
Dr. Ferrer: We all want to read books for some fantasy. But keep the fantasy balanced with some reality – such as how the relationships unfold. I see too many books where the writer obviously isn’t comfortable with BDSM. For instance, a female submissive in a story will see a Dominant they are attracted to and just throw themselves at his feet. That’s not how it happens, and scenes like that give the wrong impression of the lifestyle.
ES: So, where’s the balance?
Dr. Ferrer: First, remember that though you’re writing fantasy, this is an actual subculture and sexual orientation and lifestyle you are portraying. Please show respect to the men and women who embrace it. Second, know what you’re writing. Are you writing harder-edged erotica or softer erotic romance? Are you including hard-edge play like consensual rape scenes or even nonconsensual scenes, or softer D/s romantic stories? If you’re writing harder erotic stories, the stakes are higher for being accurate.
It also depends on your audience, who you’re writing for. You can include billionaires and fancy clubs, but let people know your book is fantasy and that you’re taking liberties with the lifestyle. Too many authors declare their D/s books as “this is how people are in this lifestyle.”
(Note from ES: I’ve talked with people in the lifestyle who’ve declared their way of engaging BDSM is the way, too. But that’s another blog post for another time.)
ES: What have you read in BDSM fiction that has you cringe?
Dr. Ferrer: Too often I see two kinds of Dominants: the Dom who knows everything and the Dom who doesn’t know anything.
Please don’t have your Doms be omnipotent. That’s a stereotypes that gives the wrong impression. Dominants don’t know everything automatically. They aren’t psychic. They need the submissive’s input. They can be wrong or make mistakes. Doms are humans. In reality, BDSM relationships go wrong when one person believes the other one to be perfect.
Then there is the Dom who is insecure and second guesses his or her every move. They don’t know where or when to push.
Rarely do I read about two Dominants talking and checking in with each other. But this happens in real life. Doms mentor and train each other and help each other resolve issues with submissives; just as friends do in the vanilla realm. And it’s not just how to throw a whip better. We get into the psychology.
In the erotic fiction genre, there aren’t many books that portray dominant women well. They treat all Femme Dommes like they are pro-Dominatrix in a club. And those female Dominants are portrayed as whores, only in the scene for the money, and secretly submissive. Or as in the case of a ménage, she’ll have another lover who’s “her Dom” while she dominants the submissive male.
Another error is Female Dominants switch midway through the story suddenly become submissive. Why can’t she just be dominant? Woman are strong…really! *smiles*
ES: What about tropes? They exist in fiction often because they help readers identify with the story. Yet the BDSM community is so varied. I have yet to meet a person who fits a stereotype in this lifestyle. What happens if a writer is accused of writing someone that “couldn’t be true” because he or she didn’t fit a stereotypical trope?
Dr. Ferrer: The idea is to make your characters human. You could include some very simple words to give that person a unique persona to make sure they are not your stereotypical alpha Dom and show he or she is a realistic individual.
Interesting pieces to play with in your stories are around what the dominance brings to the relationship. What does the sub get? What does the Dom get? Sharing, being vulnerable, growing stronger, these are all themes around opening one’s self.
Whenever a submissive man comes to me and says “I want to be yours, connect with you.” My first question is why? Why am I different? What are you bringing to me? The truth is, you’re bringing to me what your submission means to you. You’re opening up a side of yourself you don’t share with other people.
It isn’t just what the Dom wants; it’s also what the sub wants to give. Then, the dominant wants to take the sub to another level. So, how does it make you feel to take them there? What’s in it emotionally for the dominant?
These are interesting things to explore in writing. Get into what happens between the two people because there is a reason why people are into BDSM to begin with.
ES: What about education? Is it the responsibility of an author to say, include safe sex talk or BDSM education?
Dr. Ferrer: Teach but don’t preach. Protocol is important in real life, so you’ll want to include some of it in your writing. But, you can teach readers about real-world BDSM by setting up proper scenes without having your characters say certain things out loud. If you have a character kneeling and your Dom wants her to have a proper pose, he might run his hand up her spine to straighten her. This is a “show don’t tell” moment educating the audience that there is a preferred pose. You don’t need to go into why you need certain things, such as a safeword. Just ensure there is one!
ES: Any other advice for authors of BDSM and D/s stories?
Dr. Ferrer: My first advice is to write a story you want to read. Don’t write for someone else. Write for you and your story will resonate with the other millions of people who think like you. If you’re just writing to a publisher’s specifications, it will show. And if you don’t believe in like BDSM don’t write it! Also, write well rounded characters, and don’t have someone be broken, just to be broken.
ES: What would you like to see explored more in erotic fiction involving BDSM?
Dr. Ferrer: Sensuality. The BDSM Writers Con will have a session on the topic of building sensuality into your books. If an author isn’t comfortable with the BDSM topic, it shows in the writing, especially around the lack of sensuality.
For instance, a whole page could be written on how a Dom connected with his or her sub before cuffing them to a St. Andrews Cross. The Dom could brush against them as they leaned the sub against the cross. He kisses her wrist before locking the cuff. Make it more sensual, because in reality, it is. If someone hasn’t actually engaged in a St. Andrews Cross scene, they might not get those nuances. It would be like telling a virgin that sex feels great. So, get educated and be sensual.
ES: Speaking of BDSM Writers Con, was there a pivotal moment when you thought, we have to start bringing readers, writers and BDSM experts together?
Dr. Ferrer: I’ve been teaching and educating for almost twenty years one-on-one and to groups. But a few years ago I read one of Joey W. Hill’s books. It was so well done, I had her on my radio program. It was from that interaction that the idea was born to get writers involved in writing about BDSM more accurately.
BDSM Writers Con is the only event educating authors and writers about Dominance and submission as well as marketing and writing craft. Authors and readers receive valuable information on various aspects of the D/s lifestyle during this four-day conference. Cecilia Tan is our keynote speaker this year, and we’ll have dozens of live, hands-on demos, a BDSM Club night and a book fair. Plus, we’ll be announcing the winners of our Golden Flogger Awards for best BDSM book of the year, sponsored by De Tail Toys.
Many thanks to Dr. Ferrer for stopping by and helping us become better writers of BDSM erotic fiction – and perhaps helping educate a few readers who now know what to look for.
Note to readers: BDSM Writers Con is for you, too! If you’d like to learn more about this lifestyle or just want to meet some of your favorite BDSM writers, it’s a welcoming and safe place to attend.
Check out their Kinky Chats to hear from various BDSM writers here.