By Tara Buckley
I am a late bloomer. I have come to the world of BDSM very tentatively and very gradually. And I love it. It’s a very private, delectable component of my marriage. But out there in the world? I don’t know if I qualify.
I have been preoccupied with issues of legitimacy and authenticity lately. What makes something “real”? Is it merely an act of self-identification? If I say I am gay, then you would accept that I am gay. If I say I am straight, you would accept that I am straight (or maybe think that I was repressed). But if I say I am into bondage? Then what? Is it a habit? A pastime? A vocation? A lifestyle? When our declarations are laced with controversy or experiences by which others want to measure us, it gets complicated.
In practical terms, I know that there are all sorts of restraints and collars and cuffs and things tucked away in my bedroom somewhere out of reach of the children. And I know that when that bag is opened and I am at my husband’s beck, I am transported. Released. And not just orgasmically (but that too). It is very real. And, for me, it is much more exciting and fulfilling to be tied with real leather and nylon than it is to be hemmed in philosophically, parsing constructs.
In theoretical terms, it becomes foggy. I dislike group activities (um, I’m not opposed to the idea of, you know, Group Activities, but…). Anyway, I dislike organized religion, I dislike large groups of people clapping in unison, I dislike groupthink. The irony is not lost on me that, by becoming a writer, I have to seek out the validation—or at least the attention—of the masses that I have such a supposed distaste for, but we’ll save the inspection of that personal flaw for another time. (Like, never.) The point is, I identify with BDSM in some very particular part of my brain and I don’t need anyone to validate that for me. But twenty years ago I might have appreciated a little validation. A little heads-up that the possibility was out there. A viable option. And a fun one.
I read E.L. James’s Fifty Shades trilogy recently and loved it. From a writer’s standpoint I opened the first book with a mental red pen in hand, cracking my neck and thinking, “Show me what you got.” From a reader’s standpoint, the red-pen-wielding bitch was gone in sixty seconds. This book has garnered its share of critics who question its literary “legitimacy” (it came into this world as Twilight fan fiction) as well as its BDSM “legitimacy.” Is the author suggesting that the main character needs to be “cured” of his Dominant proclivities? Is that insulting to “real” BDSM people? (Quick! Someone call The Eulenspeigel Society!)
First of all, I have never read any of the Twilight books, so I cannot address that first qualm. But as for the “cure” complaint? Puh-leeze. It seemed pretty obvious to me that the hero suffered from an acute case of self-loathing, nothing more. Both his lady love and his shrink spend the next six hundred pages educating him (and us) about the difference between what goes on in his dark, self-hating heart and what goes on in his (charming-please-invite-me-over) playroom. I don’t think E.L. James ever wrote these books with the intention of being taken as seriously as, say, E.L. Doctorow. They are just pure adulterated fun.
So, last week when I saw those books referred to as Pornography for Mommies (see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julie-gerstenblatt/pornography-for-mommies_b_1213270.html) I was thrilled. I’m all for it. I’m all for real women in real marriages having real sex. And if a “fake” book can bring about that reality, then I’ll have the “fake” that she’s having.
I am a middle-aged woman and I no longer feel like I need to defend myself or my choices—especially my sexual choices—to anyone, but I do want to have a care for other more inexperienced or more tentative women and men who feel like their only shot at a hot-and-heavy sex life is for their car to break down near Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle. I despair of anyone feeling excluded or insecure in their sexuality or their sexual choices. I want to wave them over and let them know the water’s fine, come on in. Married, single, straight, gay, trans, we’re all the same: we can’t know what we haven’t learned. The only way to be experienced is to experience. And I intend to experience with enthusiasm.
Tara Buckley is the author of “The Realm of You” (available now) and “The Reins of Love” (due in February).