The topic for today’s post stems from several bits of reading I’ve done on the web over the past few days.
In one thread in the romance section at Amazon someone wrote on the forum requesting recommendations for realistic BDSM erotic romance or erotica. From the description of what they wanted (and what they didn’t like) which took form through the course of the thread it seemed that what they wanted was a book that depicted their own experience of the BDSM lifestyle. They were disappointed in the books on the subject because they didn’t depict their experience of the lifestyle.
After each recommendation the poster voiced something they didn’t like about the recommendation. Many of the negatives seemed to be that the depictions of BDSM in the books didn’t match their real life experiences of the scene. Well…pardon me…but not every depiction of vanilla relationships in books matches my experience of vanilla relationships. When I read a vanilla book in which the characters are not exactly like me, don’t practice their relationship exactly like I practice mine, I am able to take a step back and see the characters as individuals who are not me — who are separate and distinct from me – who practice their relationship in their own way. I can still enjoy these books even though the characters and their relationship is different than mine.
My question is — does fiction need to follow realistically every facet of a lifestyle in order to be good? Can alternative lifestyle fiction like GBLT, BDSM, D/s realistically hope to depict any one person’s experience of the lifestyle any more than books about vanilla relationships can depict the way that any one person practices a vanilla relationship?
Is it fair to expect authors of alternative lifestyle fiction to depict the lifestyle according to any specific practice of it?
In another post at the Dear Author blog Sarah takes Tymber Dalton to task for her book The Reluctant Dom – a book I personally read, enjoyed immensely, and recommend to others. Sarah’s primary complaint with The Reluctant Dom seemed to be that the couple in the book – Leah and Kaden practice BDSM because the practices help Leah who had a terrible childhood process her emotions. Sarah’ objects to the BDSM as therapy aspect of the plot. She has a right to her own opinion on the matter — as we all do and I’m not posting this to debate her opinion which she’s already expressed on her blog. My question is — does romantic fiction need to instruct people on what they should do in a given situation or in how they should behave? When an author sets out to write a book should they insure that the hero and heroine do exactly what the author would recommend someone in real life doing?
Is it too much of a leap to concede that many things besides counseling help people heal? Many of us have had bad childhoods, endured things we shouldn’t have had to endure. Many of us pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and move on with our lives without the aid of counseling. Often we’re able to do this because of the other supportive relationships in our lives – often the relationship with our spouse or other significant other who either directly or indirectly helps us heal. This seems to be perfectly acceptable in vanilla romance novels. However when it is combined with BDSM in romance there seems to be a different standard applied. The standard sometimes seems to be BDSM couples should seek counseling while vanilla couples can heal without counseling.
My question is does fiction need to instruct people on the correct, socially accepted, courses of action or is it acceptable for heroes and heroines to follow less socially accepted courses of action which might not work for everyone but which do work for the characters in the parameters of their story? Is there a different standard for couples in BDSM relationships than for couples in vanilla relationships?
It is fiction…how realistic does fiction need to be? Is it different for different kinds of fiction? Is there a different standard for vanilla romance than for erotic romance with a BDSM theme?