This is going to be a pretty long one, sorry. I've been reading some novels lately and a few things have been on my mind.
A trusted recommendation led me to start reading Joey Hill's Naughty Bits series. It was supposed to portray a BDSM relationship in a realistic manner, as opposed to FSOG, Crossfire, or various other series. I like the premise, but I'm having some issues with it. The main character's sister dies and leaves her sex and lingerie shop to her. The thing is, she also 'gives' (her words) her sister to the guy next door, who happens to be a local dom. Who has a secret wood shop full of St. Andrew's Crosses and cages. And who has decided that the main character should try being his sub. From the first time they talk, he's already telling her about being a dom and how his employee is a sub that he's training, inviting her to come to a training session. He doesn't know this woman except through what her sister has told him, never met her before because she lived and worked a good eight hours away, until she uprooted herself to take care of her late sister's store. Madison, the main character, is interested in BDSM, but it seems like the decision to actually take the plunge and work on realizing her fantasy has been taken out of her hands and given to someone else, *by* someone else. Not only does this seem unrealistic, it seems dangerous. Logan, the male 'hero', really knows nothing about Madison besides what's told to him by someone else. One very positive thing bout this series, and I do see it, is that they spend a huge amount of time on communication, something that other more fantasy-oriented series just ignore. But rather than the sub having the power, it seems to be tipped in favor of the dom, who is only ever a dom.
I have been interested in bondage and in reading about it, as I find it pretty sexy. OH is willing but doesn't have the same level of interest that I do, so reading is my way of indulging.
But here's what bothers me: 99% of the books I've seen that feature couples, no matter their orientation, have a very strict idea of D/s and one person fits one role, all the time. The ones that feature hetero couples have an alpha (or 'alphole', a term I quite like, for an alpha guy who is also an asshole) male and a submissive woman who doesn't even always know what she's doing or what she wants. The woman is usually vulnerable and not often actively interested in exploring BDSM- it's usually coincidental to something else or just based on her SUPERLUST at first sight. Lust which leads her to completely abandon her personality or allow herself to be 'owned' because she's told she is a sub- I'm particularly calling out FSOG here.
Are there *any* books out there that DON'T have a professional dom and have two people who are actually on equal footing switching up the power dynamic without designating one D/s? I don't want to read about some alpha male (alphas are a HUGE turn-off for me) dominating a shrinking violet because he decides he wants it and she goes along with it. I also don't find the 'you want that, don't you?' or 'you've been a bad girl, haven't you?' kind of talk at all sexy. Communication is sexy- 'what do you want' or 'do you want me to ____', even 'what if I _____, would you like that?' all have a much, much better ring to them. And I'm not judging D/s relationships- I'm just saying the strict power dynamic is not for me. I am not turned on by a woman calling a man 'Master,' I am actively turned off. Vice versa is also true- femdom literature is not for me.
Like I said, I'm curious about bondage and possibly even pain but just because I might want to submit now and then, that does not make me a submissive. And this is an attitude that I've never really seen in any kind of erotica- everyone is immediately pigeonholed. I just can't get into the head of a woman who falls so easily into that role, not in a piece of fiction, and never asks questions or communicates because the alpha man is so overbearing. What would truly make me weak in the knees to read would be a couple who love and trust each other, having been together for a long time, deciding to try something new and playing with sensory deprivation, pain, bondage- without making it into a lifestyle that colors all of their actions outside sex. Like I said, more power to people who are into that, but I'm not- a full-on D/s relationship is not my kink, and I don't particularly enjoy reading about kinks that aren't mine. I've found one series of novellas that's pretty good- Seductive Nights by Lauren Blakely, which has 'equal-opportunity bondage' in it, and which I found immensely sexy. There is absolutely no fear in this relationship, not a hint of anything unhealthy, not imbalance, just two people enjoying experimenting and then switching roles.
Consider this a springing-off point for discussion as well as asking for book recs. Sorry that was so long! I think, since I'm not into the full spectrum of BDSM, that I have certain presumptions that are probably wrong, but I still get annoyed by things that seem unrealistic in books, even if those books are meant to be a fantasy. The best fantasies are the ones you can imagine yourself in, and if the character reacts in a way you would, that's what makes it so enthralling.