Erotic fiction author Xan West writes with an honesty I didn’t even realize I was missing until I read it. And when I did read it, it felt a bit heart wrenching. Or maybe the word I want is gut wrenching. Like when you’re walking along and BAM; you ex’s fragrance floats by you on the street and suddenly you’re in another place or time with other people – it’s visceral.
I knew West is an author who cares about a realistic representation of those on the left side of the slash. Tops and Daddies and Masters who are portrayed as full human beings, not just one dimensional fantasy dispensers. I knew coming into reading Show Yourself To Me that West considers it important to include D-types who factor various level of (dis)ability into their play and aftercare (The Tender Sweet Young Thing, Falling for Essex) and focuses on how part of what goes into co-creating consent within a scene is reassuring your top you want this as much as they do (My Precious Whore, Please, My Pretty Boy).
Still, I wasn’t fully prepared to read this:
The secret truth of it is this: many of us that moved to the other side of the whip did it to approximate what we had longed for and rarely received… No one tells those stories. It would not do to talk of the ways we suffered from neglect, betrayal, abandonment, and flat-out abuse as bottoms. It would rip open our mythology and make our boys doubt our desire for them.
It’s been years since I heard someone name this. This very true aspect of BDSM culture that simply isn’t talked about. West points to some of it with this passage; that it would attack the shiny fantasy that is so often sold to newcomers and the outside world at large, but there’s more to it.
Pressure to be a good bottom flows freely in the scene. And good bottom is always a bit of a moving target, isn’t it? Be obedient, but no one likes a mindless pushover. Have a high pain tolerance, but don’t make your top feel inadequate. Accept that your top will play with others, but any additional partners for you must be approved by your top. And if you don’t? You can be replaced. There are always more bottoms to go around, so don’t cause a fuss. No one likes drama, sweetheart. [Fun side note: even though I’ve always retained my right to be in charge of my own play I’ve had tops refuse to negotiate with me, because it would show disrespect to my Sir to not go through them. How about showing respect for my agency? What do you think this is showing me about your ability to listen to what I say to you?]
Add in those who have turned to topping after a bad experience as a submissive (which is actually touched on in another of West’s stories My Will) and you’ve got a significant number of folks who came to holding the paddle for reasons beyond simple desire.
I don’t want to wax nostalgic and tell you there was a time when Tops where Real Tops and never failed to treat bottoms – especially unclaimed bottoms – with care and respect. I don’t think that time exists. Humans sometimes treat each other badly over the simplest of things – like refusing to show others the same respect we expect for yourselves. I’m certainly not naive enough to think in an arena fraught with scarcity mindless (which sexuality is) there’s some golden age of BDSM where no one ever let down or abandoned their once partners. And I suppose it isn’t all Tops behaving badly. Bottoms can just as easily let down, abandon and disappoint. I know how lonely and bewildering it is to find yourself out in the void alone from the bottom side of the whip – I can only imagine what it feels like from the other side.
I just wasn’t expecting to hear it talked about in my erotica.
And that’s not a complaint.
Missing Daddy isn’t the only story to directly mention the uglier side of BDSM. My Will flashes back to a bottom who left a destructive (and although West doesn’t explicitly name it as such, I think a relationship that tears people down instead of raising them up is an abusive relationship by its very nature) relationship and finds peace though ordeal and choice. And while I wouldn’t call it ugly, First Time Since speaks honestly to finding your way back from endings and opening yourself up once again to that thing that makes power exchange so damn hot (and bootsex. Unf. The bootsex).
So all that to say, many of these stories tugged at my heart, but Missing Daddy did so in unexpected ways. And I guess that’s the thing that I like about West’s writing – even before I got to know a bit more about the person and the mind behind the erotica. Xan is willing to destroy the fantasy to talk about something much hotter; real life. Play with real pain and vulnerability. Moments of power exchange building on tentative trust. Sex that isn’t afraid of rage and the complicated messy glory of human identities.
Am I making this sound smutty enough? It is, I promise you that. West’s characters have filthy, filthy mouths, so if you’re into dirty talk, or looking for some scripts to follow the next time your tender sweet young thing is looking up at you expectedly, take note. And dacryphillicas – Jesus. Rejoice. West really likes tears.
Wanna grab your own copy?
For ebook or print copies at Go Deeper Press.
For ebook on Amazon.
To learn more about Xan West – and to see who else is on this blog tour check out Kink Praxis.