So, as many of you will be aware, erotic romance is a thing. Now, I’m going to get pedantic for a second and remind everyone that it was a thing among romance readers long before a certain title that rhymes with Schmifty Schmades of Schmey came out, but regardless of how you feel about that particular title, erotic romance is now no longer just a thing, it is a trendy thing.
What does that mean for writers? Well, it means opportunity. Retailers are clamouring for erotic romance to fill their shelves, titles that will appeal to readers looking to move on, move forward, or explore more deeply within the genre. Publishers are clamouring for titles that will help fill that need.
Romance readers know that good erotic romance is about more than just sex – that what happens on the psychological and emotional plane is just as, if not more, important than what’s happening on the physical plane. Which brings us to this blog’s main topic: BDSM.
There’s a lot of talk out there as to what BDSM is, and many authors trying to add a BDSM flavour to their erotic romance. So I want to explore some of the pitfalls and problems that are associated with writing BDSM erotic romance.
Quick definition: BDSM stands for Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism, with the D and S also standing for Dominant and submissive. In general terms, in erotic romance, the main role that BDSM plays is in D/s – that is, Dominant and submissive.
One of the misunderstandings I’m seeing a lot of in submissions is the depth and breadth that BDSM can play in the relationships of players. For people in the BDSM scene, it’s a true lifestyle, and takes place in more than just the bedroom. In fact, for many BDSM participants, ‘playing’ or ‘scenes’ may have little to nothing to do with sex at all – it can be about control, submitting, or role-playing. While sex, as a deeply emotional and primal act, may be fundamental to a BDSM relationship, it’s not necessarily the aspect of the relationship where BDSM is played out.
It needs to be made very clear: your characters may indulge in, and get off on, any or all of the B, the D, the S, and/or the M and still not be in a BDSM relationship. There is a difference between two people in a relationship who participate in BDSM, and two people in a BDSM relationship.
As with all erotic romance, the romance – and the eroticism – needs to start in the mind. To convey the lifestyle, you need to convey the emotions and psychological aspects long before you focus on the physical.
My advice to authors looking to explore this area of eroticism is to make sure you do your research, and do it well. There are a number of great websites that detail relationships, and a number of people in the scene who are very open to discussing what it means in the context of their lives, their careers, their families, and their relationships. BDSM can certainly add dimension to your characters and to your story, but only as a well-researched, understood, and respected lifestyle choice. Readers will know the difference – and so should you.