Loving Oddly – Where Show Me, Sir Came From
Sonni de Soto
When I started Show Me, Sir, it had begun as a chance to redeem my main character, Max Wells, who’d unfortunately and a little unfairly been cast in the antagonist role at the end of my first novel, The Taming School. She’d been used to kick the story’s main pair into action, through her misunderstanding of their BDSM relationship. She, much like many of my family members and friends before I came out as kinky, had a very specific idea of what kinky people are like. That was in no way based in what it’s actually like to be kinky.
So, in her own novel, I wanted to give Max an opportunity to find out what kink can be.
Growing up, I remember hearing people talk about kink. Conservatives talking about how fetishes and kinks perverted family values and traditional definitions of love and sex. Health professionals talking about how non-normative desires were a result of bad brain wiring and unhealthy manifestations of past trauma. Even progressives and feminists talking about how disturbing it was that kink romanticizes, glorifies, and sexualizes oppression and abuse. I remember growing up, not just thinking, but knowing there was something wrong with me. That wanting the things I wanted made me broken. That desires, that felt natural and normal to me, were parts of me that needed to be fixed.
That takes a toll on a person. It’s a psychological weight that scars. And it took a very long time and a lot of research and introspection to overcome it. Even after I’d come out, knowing that, when done safely, sanely, and consensually, kink can be a healthy and happy part of my life and identity, I still had to convince everyone else in my life that everything we’d all been told about kink wasn’t true. That I wasn’t crazy or damaged. That my partners weren’t sex-crazed monsters with no limits or boundaries. That, as a kinky bottom, I wasn’t putting myself in danger or asking for abuse. That I was still the same swaggering, smart-mouthed, sass-filled feminist I was before I came out. That nothing about me—about the person they cared about—had changed. They just knew something about me now that I’d kept silent and hidden for most of my life.
And some of my loved ones got it right away. Took it all in stride and were supportive from the start.
And others…weren’t. Some of my loved ones took some hand-holding to come to terms with this revelation. And I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who loved me more than they feared the BDSM boogeyman we’d been taught to avoid. And, in fairness, I know that most of their concerns and confusion came from their love and worry for me.
And, more than anyone, Max’s story is for them. We too often only focus on discrimination when it comes from a place of hate. And forget or gloss over the times when it comes in micro-aggressions and well-intentioned misunderstandings from the people who love us and whom we love. Because, often, it’s easier to think of that kind of discrimination as an us vs. them battleground.
But, a lot of times, doing so makes that divide seem uncrossable. In fact, when I’d first tried to send this story out to publishers, many of them rejected it because they couldn’t fathom how someone like Max, who held the anti-kink beliefs she did, could change. It felt unrealistic to them. Because it’s a narrative we rarely hear.
But I’d held the hands of loved ones who couldn’t see past their prejudices and I’d chipped away at their worries and preconceptions until they saw me again. We forget sometimes that it takes someone looking their prejudice in the face for them to see the people, rich and complex, behind it. It’s so much harder to hold onto stereotypes when you know people who defy them.
Because kinksters are so much more than we’re often presented as to the world. One of the best parts of joining my local kink community was being able to see the amazing variety of kinks, relationships, and people that make up that world. So often, in fiction and media, we see kink as something static, filled with flat, stock characters. Big, strong, muscled leather daddies with their wilting, babydoll submissives. Cruelly sadistic dominatrixes keeping their humiliated boy-toy subs on tight leashes. Socially deviant, often dangerously so, predators preying on weak and naïve victims, who’ve strayed too far from the sexually normative path.
These are the images that come into mind when people think of kink. But, the truth is, there is no one way to do kink. Kink is whatever you want it to be; and, so long as it’s safe, sane, and consensual, that’s the point and fun of it. The people within it don’t fit easily into boxes, because who ever does?
I wanted to present shades of kink that we don’t see as often. I wanted Max’s submission and her Sir’s Dominance to look and feel uniquely different from the D/s relationship I’d had in my first novel. Because, of course it would be. Being the people they are, their play should feel different. It would feel like a competitive game, a constant bid to one-up the other. If the couple in my first novel were a modern twist on The Taming of the Shrew, Max and Hayato are my take on Much Ado About Nothing’s Beatrice and Benedict. Two people who are very, very different—who believe different things and live different lives—who find ways to fit. Two people who are not with each other despite their differences, but are very likely together because of them. Because they find the fire of the fight exciting. No matter how many times I see it performed or how many times I read the play, there is never more chemistry between Beatrice and Benedict than when they’re verbally sparring with each other. In fact, often, watching them agree and endear themselves to each other through more traditional courtship comes off as humorous, at best, and sometimes even dishonest. They are at their best when they are disagreeing and debating with each other.
And that delight in the challenge they both present to the other is what always made them a favorite for me and what I wanted to capture and play with in this novel. Max and her Sir aren’t a traditional Dominant top and his submissive bottom. So much of their relationship isn’t about establishing an exchange of power, where one person gives control to the other, but about a constant shift and flow—an endless exchange—of power.
Even their scenes together look and feel different than the kink we’re typically used to seeing. While, yes, they both enjoy things we normally associate with BDSM, like bondage and impact and sensation play, they have entire scenes where they never even touch. Yet what they do and how they act still feels playful, still feels distinctly kinky. We see them play with power, with Dominance and submission, both with and without using many of the tools, like pain, intimidation, restraint, and fear—all fun and awesome things to consensually play with—that we normally expect. Because, for them, their kink is never about any specific act. Even while engaging in those acts, their play is rooted in something else. In that challenge.
Even the title of the novel hints at this celebration of the subversive. Show Me, Sir is a command—a dare and a demand—packaged with a D/s address. It’s meant to question how we typically view these kinds of appellations and types of relationships. Too often, we confuse submission, in a kink-sense, with passivity or weakness, when it’s not or, at least, doesn’t have to be. Max and her Sir can have a D/s relationship without her ever giving up an ounce of her strength or spirit. It can, in fact, be exactly what makes playing with that particular power dynamic fun and meaningful. In the novel, you can watch Max’s attitudes toward her partner and play in general change with her usage of this one small, three-letter title—from punctuation to capitalization to phrasing.
That ability to restructure and reshape your world and your place within it is one of the greatest and most unique aspects of kink. It gives you the permission and the freedom to be whomever and whatever you want to be. To be things that, under normal circumstances, you can’t. To do and say things that, outside of the suspended state of a scene, you never would.
I wanted Max’s partner to embody that capacity for transformation and re-creation. I’d met people in my community who, for reasons—because they’d been disowned by family or pushed away by friends or for reasons I’ll never know—had to reinvent themselves. It takes an immense bravery to leave your past behind and forge a future of your own making. To refuse to settle for the person the world expects you to be and become who you want to be.
Hayato is odd. He doesn’t look, sound, or act like anyone you’ve ever met, so much so that many of those same publishers who took issue with Max took issue with him. They saw him, a man who looked nothing like the usual romantic leads we’re used to seeing, as unsellable and undesirable. But that’s kind of the point. He’s not usual. And shouldn’t have to be. There is something innately admirable and attractive about someone who is exactly and unapologetically who they want to be and doesn’t really care what anyone thinks about it. After all, if you’ve grown up knowing that the world thinks there’s something wrong with you even though you know there’s not, what does it matter what the world thinks of you and your decisions? What is the point of trying to conform to a world that can’t accept you?
Kink not only gives people the courage to embrace the differences within themselves, it also creates a welcoming haven for them. It offers a home for people too often seen as misfits. It allows a person starting their first steps on this journey to see what paths others have taken. It offers help to those who stumble and encourages those who see others fall to reach out. It creates and cements bonds between people who’ve been made to feel like outsiders. And it can offer support against a world that can be unkind. Kinky or vanilla, that kind of acceptance is a powerful and attractive thing.
And that sense of community, more than even just her relationship with Hayato, is what ultimately changes Max’s mind. As Dan Savage often says, there are “two kinds of people at kink events and in kink spaces: people who’ve always known they were kinky […] and people who got into kink after falling in love with someone who was kinky.” And this novel is Max’s opportunity to really look and fall in love with a man, a community, and a world she’d never taken the time to understand and explore before.