Imperfect in the Dungeon: Damaged Characters in BDSM Fiction
I was joking. Mostly. The truth is, I find damaged, emotionally struggling, even badly behaving characters to be a lot more interesting than a parade of perfect D-types and quiveringly obedient subs. I disagree with the idea that if a character does something that’s not safe, sane, and consensual in the course of a BDSM story, the book and characters must be invalid. The dominant player especially comes under the lens. How can he or she be in charge of another human being if they aren’t completely put together themselves?
But I’ve spent my share of time in the BDSM community, talking and bonding with fellow kinksters. I’d say at least 98% of us are marginally imperfect, for all our goodhearted energy. Some of us are deeply imperfect. Scenes go awry, protocols fail to work, and mythic relationships blow up spectacularly as the rest of us look on in horror. Why? Because we’re real people, and people make mistakes.
Maybe that’s why I feel compelled to write about folks who sometimes (okay, often) screw things up, both in BDSM and life. In my most recent trilogy, the Rough Love series, the hero and heroine are deeply confused and damaged. The first book, Torment Me, details plenty of low-point moments that make the reader squirm. Safe, sane, and consensual play isn’t an ideal that either character aspires to.
Still, they’re emotional beings. They seek love and understanding like the rest of us. They just aren’t sure how to go about finding it, especially with each other. But this is romance, so don’t worry, things turn out all right. Over the course of the story, they work through their damaged feelings and begin to heal. In time, their play becomes safer and more fulfilling to them both.
I love this idea that through BDSM—and caring relationships—we can make each other better and happier people, even if we retain many flaws. Perfection is boring. I think a good BDSM story allows characters to make mistakes, just as we do in real life, and then allows those characters to scramble around until they fix them.
Annabel Joseph is a multi-published BDSM novelist whose stories celebrate the complexity and romance of erotic power exchange. When she’s not penning emotionally angsty tales, she can be found on Twitter discussing show tunes, Tom Hiddleston, trapeze sex, and other such vital topics.
This post is part of a guest series to promote the release of Show Me, Sir by Sonni de Soto.