2013 8 May

How My Self-Published Book About Pickup Artists Made Me Famous In Germany

On April 27th, I returned from a week-long trip to Berlin, and I’m still kinda shell-shocked. Over that week, I spent hours every day being interviewed by all sorts of people: Europe’s biggest newspaper, for example. The German edition of Andy Warhol’s magazine, Interview. Four different German television stations. (Seriously. Four.)

This is all because my first self-published book, Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser, has been acquired by a “real” German publisher. The German translation of Confessions will soon be available in many German-language stores.

Perhaps oddly, this is my first deal with a traditional publisher. I started out as an obscure subculture blogger/activist, and then people started calling me an expert, and then I started selling articles and getting speaking engagements, but all my books have been 100% self-published and self-promoted until now. I used the constellation of platforms that we now call “social media” to aggressively promote my ideas, but I certainly did not expect my self-published book to captivate Germany. I don’t even speak German!

I am handling such complicated feelings. It is taking me forever to write this. But my first TV interview just aired — the channel is Taff on Pro7, and the German translation of my words has occasioned much discussion on my Facebook wall. Unfortunately the interview cannot be viewed from the USA, but there was also a recent article in a well-respected German newspaper, Zeit. (I hear that Zeit is analogous to the Sunday Times.)

There’s been other coverage too, plus a lot more on the way. So I guess now is the time to put this out into the world.

* * *

Where to begin?

The translation deal began with a piece of fan mail last year, early 2012. The message came from Jennifer Kroll, who bought Confessions on Amazon after the book hit #1 in two categories. She found me on Facebook and wrote: “I don’t think I have ever recommended a book that frequently to anyone before, and I work in publishing.”

We talked, and then we talked more. She flew me to Berlin, and then she flew me to Berlin again.

Jenny and I had lunch on my final day in Berlin, two weeks ago. I like her a lot. She’s cool and down-to-earth and she has a strong vision for her imprint, Eden Books. I like her so much, and she’s taking a risk on me. I don’t want to let her down.

I told her so, and she smiled. She said that she thinks my book is one of the smartest, most nuanced things she’s ever read about how people relate to each other romantically. She said that I shouldn’t worry about the money, that my trip was already worth it to her, that she was already thinking about reasons to bring me back.

No one gets anywhere in this world without a support network. Yet I worry that, when I thank the people who read and advocate for my work, it comes off as nauseating or insincere. I’m not sure I have the right words to thank someone like Jenny.

* * *

Where else to begin?

I have always been willing to take risks, yet I have always researched and calculated my risks. When I began writing about alternative sexuality, I calculated the risks and I chose to write under a pseudonym.

Fame, in itself, is a risk. It’s a destabilizing force. My regular readers know that I got a call from Oprah’s office in 2009, and when they asked if I would consider going on the show, I said no. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my career would become, and I had recently been accepted as a volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps. I’d wanted to serve in the Peace Corps for years. I knew that if I were publicly known as an advocate for sexual tolerance, then my service would be at risk.

I’ve often thought that the same emotional needs that drove me to serve in the Peace Corps also drove me towards the writing and activism that I’ve done. In fact, I was assigned to the Peace Corps HIV/AIDS program, and I worked with sex & gender minorities during my service. Is it ironic that the Peace Corps would have rejected me for my history, when my history made me passionate about my service?

Years later, here I am, making the opposite choice. I always knew that coming out as Clarisse Thorn might risk my future stability. In 2009, I chose not to risk a TV appearance. But in 2013, I chose to take that risk.

I think it’s the right thing to do. For one thing, the redoubtable Miss Thorn is now a respected expert in the field of sex & gender; she’s not just a counterculture blogger anymore. And global culture is in a different place now, in 2013, from where it was in 2009. Sexual tolerance is much more widely accepted; mainstream commentators covered Fifty Shades.

Plus, I moved to San Francisco, legendary for intellectual liberalism, and I work in a field where talent and results are the highest priorities. People here respect the savvy and creativity that led to my success as Clarisse Thorn. Fame may be a risk, but — of all the cities in the world — San Francisco respects a calculated risk.

* * *

And then there’s this guy.

“This guy.” I’m pretty into him. He has his own reasons to be wary of fame, and he asked me not to write about him from the beginning — but I can convince him to make exceptions.

He didn’t meet me as Clarisse Thorn, so I had to explain that whole thing on the third date. These conversations can be awkward. “I guess I’m kind of semi-famous, actually,” I said.

“You’re famous?” he said.

“Semi-famous. Semi-famous,” I said. “And most people don’t know what I look like.”

He wanted to read my books and I begged him not to. “I don’t understand,” he said.

“People form a strong image of me, based on my writing,” I said. “I don’t even like everything I’ve written. And I really like you. I just want you to get to know me first.”

He’d read a few of my articles — not many — by the time I left for Berlin months later. But he still, thankfully, has not read my books.

“It’s strange to think that you’re an internationally famous BDSM writer,” he said, the night before I boarded the plane.

“I’m not famous,” I said, and he laughed.

The next day, he emailed me the Wikipedia entry on BDSM in culture and media, which lists my book The S&M Feminist.

“You’re sooooo faamous!” he wrote. “I still like you, though.”

* * *

All these beginnings, and not a single ending. Here’s where I am now:

These days, I’m a digital strategy consultant. I know that many people see “marketing” as a dirty word, but I must admit that I enjoy it. After all, I get to spend my time on the Internet analyzing the media I’ve always loved. Two common phrases for what I do are “content strategy” and “social media marketing” — I personally think that these are fun, fascinating, creative endeavors. Much of my time lately has gone towards learning how to do this stuff better, especially in the world of startup tech.

Also, I pulled together the courage to move from Chicago to my favorite city: my beautiful hallucinatory heartbreak city of San Francisco.

And also, this guy.

So: there was a pause. Then suddenly, in the middle of a new life: Berlin.

Reporters keep asking me about my next book. I have some sex & gender projects in the works, but I want my next long-form book to be about something else. Would you believe that there are many things that matter to me and have nothing to do with sex? I was a writer before I had coherent thoughts on these topics, and long before I created the pseudonym Clarisse Thorn.

I’ve been thinking lately that I want to write an exploration of Silicon Valley and San Francisco culture. These days, there are so many media portrayals of this hallucinatory world, and none of them feel complete or nuanced. Some articles capture facets like the gentrification juggernaut or the much-discussed behavior of rich young tech employees; others discuss the wild adrenaline rush of startupland. But few people seem able to move between “new” San Francisco (i.e., high tech) and “old” San Francisco (by which I mean artsy activists), and no one has connected all the dots.

I’d love to document the intersections and oppositions of the many worlds out here. I may seek a traditional book deal in order to do this, or I may go through other channels. We’ll see.

I will continue to publish occasional articles and books as Clarisse Thorn. (Also: you can still hire me to speak!) But I doubt that I will regularly blog again. I will post updates here about my projects, and I may cross-post articles that I publish elsewhere, but it will be irregular. (Keep in mind that if you don’t want to check back regularly, you can always subscribe by email.)

Still, I will ensure that my archives remain available. And no one gets anywhere without a support network. My mixed feelings include a lot of gratitude. Thank you for reading and feel free, always, to get in touch.

* * *

This post is sticky. It was originally posted in May 2013, but it is not my most recent post.

2013 12 Oct

Oral History of BDSM Experience: The Your Personal Kink project at the Leather Archives

Back in 2011, I volunteered semi-regularly at the Leather Archives & Museum in Chicago — the world’s only BDSM museum. The museum’s executive director, Rick Storer, knew that I had a strong interest in the history and culture of the BDSM community. He also knew that I was very interested in understanding different people’s experiences and perspectives on BDSM — the good, the bad, the surprising and fascinating.

So one day, Rick and I sat down and developed an oral history project that we named the Your Personal Kink project. Here’s how we described the project’s goals at the time:

The goal for the “Your Personal Kink Project” is to collect information about the experience of people who do not identify as part of the “BDSM community,” but who practice BDSM in their relationships. By “BDSM Community” we mean the wide network of dungeons, educational demonstrations, conventions, club nights, meetups, and other fora that function to socially network, educate, and acculturate many BDSMers.

We acknowledge the difficulty of describing the limits of the “BDSM community”, and we acknowledge that the degree to which individuals are “in the community” is different from person to person and even from day to day. The focus here, however, is on finding people who see themselves as specifically choosing not to take part in the BDSM community at all, yet who perform acts that would be recognized by most of the community as BDSM acts. BDSM stands for Bondage, Discipline, Dominance, Submission, Sadism and Masochism; BDSM acts often practiced by people who do not identify as BDSMers include spanking, choking, tying up with furry handcuffs or silk scarves, biting and scratching, roleplaying rape and/or slavery scenarios, and a host of others.

During the project, I did a number of interviews and took a number of recordings. The final step was to figure out transcripts of the audio interviews; I thought about doing it all myself, but transcription is a lot of work and I was hoping to find someone who could help me out, so I delayed … and then I broke my neck in an accident. So I was out of commission for a while, and the project got lost in the shuffle.

Recently, one of the people I interviewed checked in with me about what happened to the project. I still have all these recordings and press releases and stuff, and I’ve discovered that the Archives does not have everything. At the Archives’ request, I am sending them some DVDs containing all the work I did. I’m also posting one of the interviews publicly here.

Interview With An Independent BDSMer

I’m publicly posting the recording I took with “Molly K.” because, out of all the people I spoke to, Molly had the least exposure to the “formal” BDSM community. Thus, her answers reveal some particularly interesting ways that a person might practice BDSM without being involved in the scene at all.

Everyone I interviewed gave their full consent to being part of the oral history project, of course; Molly also gave consent for extra usage: “You have my permission to use what I said in the interview for your purposes. Be it transcription, publication, articles, books, whatever.”

Here’s Molly K.’s interview — it’s a sound clip on the audio sharing site SoundCloud. The audio quality is not perfect, sorry!

And here are her answers to the initial questions that I asked by email (PDF file).

The rest of the material that I gathered for the Your Personal Kink project is on file at the Leather Archives — or at least, it will be once those DVDs arrive. Other respondents had different reasons for keeping themselves apart from the community.

For example, some had experience in the community, but they didn’t like the people or social dynamics; many were female dominants and male submissives who felt that their local communities over-emphasized female submission and male dominance. Other people were geographically isolated, but they read all the books they could find. Everyone had interesting things to say, so if you’re ever at the Archives, check out the project!

Thanks again to everyone who participated. If anyone uses this material or has comments about it, please let me know. I’d love to know your thoughts!

2013 3 Oct

Extra Book Covers for “BDSM & Culture: 50 Shades of Stereotype”

So, right now I’m telling everyone about my latest book. I mentioned that I’m pretty excited about the cover:

I got this cover by running a design contest at the website 99Designs. (You can see all the entries in the contest here.) But after I announced the contest on Twitter and started telling my friends about it, I was surprised that a few people got upset. One of them linked to this comic that talks about why contests are bad for artists.

To be clear, I have entered many contests in my life as a writer and artist. I’ve won some and lost some, and I don’t think that I have been exploited. But I was already feeling bad about the amount of time that some people invested in my cover contest … and my friends’ comments clinched it. So I started trying to figure out a way that I could make my contest a little better for the people who didn’t win.

One thing I can do is link to the contest itself, so you can all see the extra covers. The other thing I can do is display a few runner-up covers here on my blog, and link to the creators.

This, for example, was my second favorite cover! The creator, Shinoshima, asked me to link to his 99Designs profile page:

And a few more — featuring everything from Proust + fuzzy handcuffs, to Greek statues wearing collars.

By Photeur (99Designs profile page)

By Leslie79 (99Designs profile page)

By Banateanul (Ad agency website in Romanian)

By Nowitza (99Designs profile page)

By Dalim (99Designs profile page)

Last but not least, here was a different entry from the winner, Llywellyn, that cracked me up:

Thanks to everyone for the effort they put into the contest!

And again, the book itself exists! Now is a great time to buy it!

BDSM & Culture: Fifty Shades of Stereotype
* Amazon page for Kindle version
* Smashwords page for other ebook formats

2013 28 Sep

New Book! “BDSM & Culture: 50 Shades Of Stereotype”

My new book is available now — I love the cover so much:

Everyone knows what a dominatrix is. We all know what Fifty Shades Of Grey is about. Or do we? If you want to know about the real scandals, visionaries, history, and culture that shape BDSM, then this book is for you.

Buy it on Amazon for Kindle, or in other ebook formats at Smashwords. Tell your friends!

* * *

I decided to write BDSM & Culture when I suddenly realized that lots of my knowledge was wrapped up in my lectures, workshops and events.

I realized that I had not written much about BDSM history, for example. And I wanted to compile all the most interesting BDSM cultural reference points in one place.

My blog and its associated book, The S&M Feminist, is personal and philosophical and contemporary. My book about pickup artists is, well, about pickup artists. I’ve got an anthology about rape in virtual worlds; an erotica novella; and even a story based on Indian mythology.

But I’ve never simply compiled all my knowledge about BDSM stereotypes, cultural tensions, community issues, and other contexts. So here it is — for all the people out there who are as nerdy about sexuality as I am. Enjoy! And if you have any questions left when you’re done, feel free to leave comments.

I’m thinking that this book will be part of a series — the sex+++ series about sexuality and culture. I have some other topics lined up and I’ve been talking to other writers. Stay tuned!

BDSM & Culture: Fifty Shades of Stereotype
* Amazon page for Kindle version
* Smashwords page for other ebook formats

2013 22 Apr

Meet me in Berlin

I don’t know why I haven’t written this post before now. I’ve been busy, of course. But I think it’s actually because this all feels unreal. Also, I was trying to update my site design before I got to Berlin, and there were technical difficulties — but it’s done now! I apologize in advance for hiccups while the site transitions.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I? Plus, my new site is beside the point. The point is: I’m in Berlin. If you’re in Berlin, then you should totally meet me at the Liberate, 7pm Wednesday evening (April 24th). And the news gets bigger: I have a translation deal with a real German publisher, and I’m in Berlin on a real promotional tour.

Yes indeed — my little self-published book has been picked up by a real German publisher, and my publisher has flown me to Berlin! Check out the German-language cover for Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser:

I laugh with excitement whenever I look at that cover. It is soooo European and amazing! The title is not a direct translation of Confessions of a Pickup Artist Chaser — it translates instead as Evil Guys?: Out And About With Pickup Artists. A Close Encounter / Experiment.

I’ve only been here in Berlin for a couple days so far, but I have already interviewed at BILD — Europe’s largest newspaper — and I guess that article is going live soon. There’s another interview with me in the April 15th issue of NEON Magazine — I don’t know what the interview actually says because they translated it into German, but my publisher told me it came out great. I’ve also interviewed at FluxFM, an alternative radio station — the sound clip starts with the host introducing me in German, but the interview is in English because I don’t speak German. I have a ton of other interviews this week, including TV appearances. I am both terrified and thrilled.

I’m sharing my terror and thrills on Twitter, as always. If you’re in Berlin, then again, please come meet me at 7pm on Wednesday the 24th. And I’ll write more when I’m less jetlagged. I have a lot to share. I can’t believe I didn’t write about this sooner. It’s just that I was so busy at home, and then I’ve been so busy in Berlin. And this didn’t feel real until now.

2013 21 Apr

I’m Finishing The Site Redesign – Thanks For Being Patient

Hi everyone!

Remember how four months ago, I said that I was doing a site redesign? Well, it’s done now, and I’m still fixing it up. I apologize in advance for hiccups while the site transitions. Doesn’t it look awesome, though?

If you find problems on the site after Saturday April 27, please feel free to leave a comment here or contact me directly!

2013 8 Jan

Site Redesign! Any thoughts?

NEWS, March 2013: The new site is basically done, but I’ve been absurdly busy and therefore haven’t implemented it. I moved to San Francisco; started working way too many hours as a social media consultant; and I’ve been dating a man I really really like. Thanks to everyone who has sent notes inquiring about how I’m doing. Things are stressful and great, and I will update you all on my upcoming writing projects as soon as I can.

ORIGINAL POST FOLLOWS:

Hi everyone!

I surface from my blogging-break to let you all know that I am redesigning clarissethorn.com. Right now, you’re looking at the old site; I’m asking for feedback about the old site because if anyone has strong opinions about the old site, I can fix those problems when I unveil the new site.

Most of the big stuff is done, but if you have strong preferences or pet peeves about the current site, please let me know in the comments or contact me otherwise.

Thank you! I hope you all had wonderful holidays.

2012 17 Dec

[storytime] Context

The older I get, the more I see myself in context. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Internet fifteen years ago, before it became a thing that everyone did, back when I was a strange kid because I spent all my time glued to a screen. What I remember most is the anonymity — the easy, expected, natural anonymity — and the ability to play with identity, both around the general Internet and in online games.

You still have some of that anonymous identity-playing, especially in gaming, but it’s not the norm anymore. Using a fake name on Facebook or Google+ actually violates their Terms of Service. People increasingly tell me that it’s “weird” for me not to post a photograph of myself on my blog. The Real Name Standard is even starting to encroach on gaming: one of the biggest game companies, Blizzard, attempted to require forum users to go by real names in 2010. The backlash forced Blizzard to back down, but a writer in The Guardian suggested that real names on online fora are becoming “necessary.”

Necessary? Really? It’s all so bizarre to me.

Maybe it was inevitable. In “real life,” subcultures where people often go by fake names are considered marginal or at least “weird” — even the relatively non-oppressed and upper-class subcultures like BDSM and Burning Man. When I was younger, I was positive that certain types of stigma would die as the Internet became more popular, because it has become so hard to control the flow of information and there are so many nigh-permanent records of what we do. I thought Internet culture would inevitably influence “real world” culture towards itself. Some of that is happening, but what’s also happening is that “real life” is bringing itself onto the Internet and demanding that Internet denizens behave by “real life” standards.

And little by little, we are.

This has not been un-profitable for people like me. I’ve sold thousands of copies of my books, and I don’t even have a “real” publisher (yet). Social media is birthing jobs that didn’t exist five years ago, and I’m starting to occasionally get paid actual money for consulting. (Shameless self-promotional parenthesis: if you want to hire me for social media, feel free to get in touch. Plus, you can read my free guide to self-publishing here. Part 2 is on its way!)

It’s nice, of course. But it’s an odd feeling. Partly, it’s odd because I’ve always felt uneasy about my knack for marketing, like it makes me somehow impure. I think that unease is shared by a lot of people in my demographic, which is why hip startups always come wrapped in a save-the-world message, and Facebook keeps trying to convince us they’re all about social justice.

(Though we seem to be “growing out of” that, for better or for worse. Google — our cult leader — has long since dropped the “Don’t Be Evil” slogan. Businesspeople want us to believe that information should not be free, that such an idea is irrational, that data is just “an asset like everything else.” And of course I don’t deny that data can be an asset; yet I get so creeped out by aggressively “rational” economists who insist that their paradigm is the truth rather than a truth. I guess everyone does this. A lot of hard-line feminists, my own tribal leaders, demand paradigm dominance too. Could it be that philosophical bright lines are more important in the Internet age? When information is the ascendant currency, paradigms are kingmakers.)

It’s also odd to see us hone social media’s psychological exploitations and profitable feedback loops. When you work in social media, you get used to the new economy of people who are paid to create viral content, who are then paid to distribute it, and sometimes even paid to read it before they go back to the drawing board to create yet another top-5 list. I recently discovered a Facebook app that allows you to automatically “Like” every status a given person posts. (“There is always someone special, who’s status we don’t want to miss to like, and moreover, we want to be the first to like that status.” Grammar errors in original.)

(more…)

2012 7 Dec

The Future of S&M

If you do not define yourself, you will be defined by others — for their use and to your detriment.

~ a friend of mine in the S&M community

* * *

Back in 2008, I had just started writing this blog and curating my sex-positive film series, and I met the seminal S&M writer Gayle Rubin while volunteering at the Leather Archives. I was really excited to meet her. I remember trying to explain that I thought we were at a cultural tipping point about S&M and maybe sexuality in general. She asked where my film series was hosted, and I said I was working with Jane Addams Hull-House Museum — a famous and historic feminist site — at which point Ms. Rubin choked on her coffee. (I don’t know if she remembers this the way I do; maybe she doesn’t remember meeting me at all.)

I thought I was riding a wave, and at this point, I know I was right. My film series was only supposed to go nine months, but it succeeded massively and lasted four years (the final screening will be next Tuesday!). I’ve had other professional success too (buy my book The S&M Feminist!) … but what’s more important is that my topics become more legit every day, and there are lots of other people exploring them too.

Firstly, almost nobody is trying to ignore S&M or shut down public S&M discussions anymore. Secondly, the idea that S&M should be integrated with feminism and other gender/sex subcultures is not very controversial anymore. Not only did Fifty Shades of Grey grab massive sales this year; mainstream feminist speakers actually defended S&M when the commentary rolled around, and Bitch Media ran a series on S&M. There is surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of consent tactics in the mainstream; in late 2009, I even saw an article where the author said that she associated safewords with “humorless third wave feminists.” If I had been drinking coffee, I would have choked on it. Safewords? Humorless feminists? Wow.

The early battles with S&M focused on getting good information out into the world — information about health, safety, best practices, and so on. (You can see my resources list here.) Later battles focused on fighting negative stereotypes about S&M — and people like me focused on feminism. (An example from 2009: my post Evidence That The BDSM Community Does Not Enable Abuse.) These are still important topics, but I think those of us who write and speak publicly about these matters should start thinking concretely about future messages.

A few years ago, Alan from Polyamory In The News posted his thoughts about this topic for polyamorous people. I’ll adapt his first four points to S&M, because they’re both basic and important:

A. Keep stressing that successful S&M requires high standards of communication, ethics, integrity, generosity, and concern for every person affected;

B. Emphasize that S&M is not for everyone, and that many people will have a better time avoiding S&M;

C. Insist on the part of the definition that stresses respect for everyone and the “full knowledge and consent of all involved”;

D. Expand that to not just “knowledge and consent,” but well-wishing and good intention for all involved.

So, yeah, definitely those. I’ve written about those. A lot. And my own pace of production has already slowed down, because I’ve figured out a lot of the basic stuff for myself, and because I’ve got a lot going on in other spheres.

But even so, I remain committed to serious thinking about this topic. I do have further ideas about the future, and maybe I’m totally out of this world, but I think these are worth thinking about:

1. Intelligent frameworks that show how S&M theory is relevant to other topics. And I don’t just mean the usual suspects. Those of us who know a lot about S&M and feminism already know that tons of recent “groundbreaking” work among anti-rape educators actually originated in the S&M community. That’s important, and I certainly believe that S&M practice can offer crucial insights into discussions about abuse. But we can think more broadly, and we can even break out of gender discourse altogether. This, for example, was one goal of my introduction for Violation: Rape In Gaming — to situate S&M as something that can give us insights about other types of play.

Of course, I don’t think we should talk about all-S&M-all-the-time. That gets boring for everyone. So let’s be smart about this. But when S&M is genuinely relevant, there’s nothing wrong with showing its relevance.

2. Public emphasis on the S&M community that includes public sponsorship, outreach, etc. An ex-boyfriend of mine used to joke that he wanted to see us sponsoring Little League teams. Right now, S&M groups tend to have very little money, and when they have money, they tend to keep it in the S&M community by supporting other S&M projects. That’s cool, but can we do more? Can we make ourselves more publicly available, and make positive contributions to our larger communities?

The S&M social networking site FetLife supports two great S&M organizations, the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom and the Leather Archives. But what if they took up a holiday season charity collection for at-risk youth or something like that? That would be awesome.

As a side note, this may include more people coming out of the closet. And oh yes, I know how complicated that is.

3. More precise legal and pictorial standards. What, exactly, should happen if an S&M rape case goes to court? How, exactly, can we differentiate between photos of S&M and photos of abuse? This will be extremely difficult, and the S&M community won’t have central agreement on it, but if we don’t start thinking precisely about this then it will be imposed on us from outside. (To some extent, it is already being imposed on us from outside, because S&Mers don’t usually trust the established court system to handle our business.)

The current “answer” (such as it is) has involved a lot of ideas about intentions and personal ethics. To be sure, some really awesome and careful work has been done on those questions, like Thomas MacAulay Millar’s series about abuse in the community, and obviously I’ve written about it lots. There has also been some work done by porn companies, as for instance with the post-scene processing videos that are packaged with some S&M porn. Is it possible for us to give more precise standards for measuring this stuff? I actually don’t know, but it’s worth thinking about.

At the very least, we should know how to explain the difficulties with legal and pictorial issues, clearly and concisely. I kind of tried to warn about this in my science-fiction story “Victory“; I don’t know how successful I was.

4. Speak publicly about the messy stuff. That includes the work about abuse in the community, and also essays like my recent piece I Can Be A Kinky Feminist And A Messy Human Being. It also includes the very edgy stuff, like Mollena Williams’s courageous work on playing with race. By “messy,” I’m not saying we should write without caution or control or compassion. But for a lot of people, S&M can get to some pretty dark places and can sometimes be harmful, and we should acknowledge that.

Can we talk about this without doing gross trauma-porn? Without putting ourselves on display for exploitation? While keeping faith and keeping the other truths of S&M — the beauties and benefits — front-and-center? If so, then let’s.

* * *

2012 30 Nov

[fiction] Near-Future Science Fiction With S&M Plus Moral Questions!

So a few years ago, I wrote this science fiction short story called “Victory,” about S&M and politics with a dash of feminism. When it was done, I felt very uncertain about it, and I left it alone on my hard drive.

And then last week I heard about a fiction contest, and I thought Why not?, and I cleaned up the story and sacrificed it upon the uncertain altar of popular demand.

* * *

 

A hazy image of a woman, viewed through a screen. This is how I think of the story’s main character, Serena.

* * *

If you like “Victory,” please do me a favor and click “Recommend” at the bottom (you need a Twitter account). Also, send it to your friends! Again, you can read the story here.

Commentary is, as always, welcome.

There are other stories in the contest! You can read them here. If you’d like to enter the contest yourself, the rules are here.

Image credit to freedigitalphotos.net.

* * *