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Justine Elyot, 'Kinky'

Posted at 14:53 on 22 Jan 2013 by Pandora / Blake

Tags: books, Fantasies, Gender politics, reviews

Kinky by Justine Elyot is an erotic novella recommended to me by both D and, I think, Adele Haze. I grabbed the Kindle versionlast year but only just got around to reading it. I raced through it, staying up late last night to finish it after only two evenings, and lots of orgasms!

It's not long; in fact I think it's just the right length for the story. The narrative is well crafted, with no gratuitous or unnecessary scenes. Each sex scene is integral to the story, and the overall plot is entertaining, and doesn't feel "pasted on" like in some erotica.

The story is set in Shoreditch (an area of London I know rather well) around a fictional underground club/venue called Kinky Cupcake. (These are apparently really a thing. Who knew?) It follows the adventures of two newcomers to kink, shy marketing professional Rosie and adventurous Russian traveller Dimitri. I found myself caring about them and wanting to know what happened next in the story of their relationship, as well as being keen to get to the next kinky sex scene we're promised in each chapter. Overall, this made for a page-turny read. It helps that it's well-written, wry and unpretentious. Elyot's prose is compact and engaging with a light touch.

There are lots of other things I liked about Kinky. Dimitri is an unusual but appealing male lead. He's attractive despite the eccentric moustache (sorry Justine, I like facial hair but for me it's all about the beards) - in fact his attractiveness has almost nothing to do with his physical appearance, which is barely described, but is all about his personality. I liked that. Dimitri is playful, bold, full of fun and spontaneity. He effortlessly blags his way through adventures but at the same time is appealingly honest, wearing his heart on his sleeve and talking easily about emotions. This emotional honesty andcommunicativeness, despite his at times poor English, is one of the most attractive things about him. His youthful exuberance sets him apart from the usual domly dom who takes himself far too seriously, but it also makes the moments when he switches to growly disciplinarian mode that much hotter.

As an introduction to kinky play, this book is superb. The sex scenes are surprisingly realistic given the stereotypical nature of some aspects of the fantasy (the kinky underground club, the devilish foreign stranger). For instance, I enjoyed the way that Rosie almost always needs a finger stimulating her clit to come during penetrative sex, and that she doesn't come every time from vaginal sex - nor need or expect to.

Condoms are used throughout, which I always like to see in porn, and Dimitri and Rosie's kinky explorations are handled with lots of consent and negotiation, including the occasional miscommunication. The sex and kink scenes are human, believable, and all the hotter for it.

Some of the kink scenes were so explicitly educational that they weren't terribly erotic, such as the scene in which they try out different implements for the first time. But I think that was probably deliberate, and overall, it works in the book's favour. Dimitri is approaching the experiment from a consciously scientific perspective; he's primarily seeking knowledge rather than gratification. And the care and empathy with which he tests each toy provides a great foundation of trust, both between Dimitri and Rosie and between Dimitri and the reader.

After that scene you know that Dimitri is a careful, responsible player who is willing to learn, and that Rosie is capable of communicating with him in scene and articulating her limits. It makes the more immersive play that comes later much more enjoyable.

Generally, to my surprise, I found the sex scenes hotter than the spanking ones. It's not because the spanking scenes aren't hot, but they're all foreplay, consensual explorations between lovers, rather than asexual non-consent fantasies. In other words it's the sort of spanking I enjoy in real life with my partners, not the sort of historical punishment scenario that first awakened my kink. And in my real love life, spanking usually leads to sex and orgasms. That was very much mirrored in how I enjoyed this book; the spanking scenes were titillating, but the sex scenes were what got me off.

I particularly enjoyed (ie wanked off to) the first fuck in Rosie's office, the bondage/orgasm control scene in the dungeon (oh god, several times during this one in fact), and Rosie's caning. But the hottest scene of the book was the first-time anal sex.

Oh my goodness, it was perfect. Both the way they approached the act, and the descriptions of how it feels. In fact I noticed this throughout Kinky - different pain and pleasure sensations are described well and effectively, in ways that chime with my personal experience. But the anal scene ... fuck. Elyot not only taps into the filthy, raw, hotness of the act, but the way the intense physical sensations go hand in hand with intense emotions. It's perfectly described, and beautifully intimate.

There are also things I didn't like about Kinky. No-one will be surprised to hear that my biggest criticism is lack of diversity. Basically, it's a bit too M/F oriented for my tastes.

This is particularly jarring given that, early on, there are several nods to other orientations. We glimpse an M/M couple at the beginning, and several characters ask each other "are you dom, sub or a switch", acknowledging that men and women might be any of the above. But none of the actual characters that recur throughout the story are anything other than female subs and male doms. Rosie and Dimitri, fine, it's an M/F romance - but I'd have liked to see more variety amongst the other Kinky Cupcake regulars. It wouldn't have taken much - for instance, the orgy scene could have involved more people and a wider range of orientations. It seems that switches, female doms and male subs are still as rare in erotic fiction as non-white characters (yes, some of those would have been nice too).

After the option of other orientations had been explicitly raised, this was disappointing. I did wonder if Dimitri might turn out to be a switch - after all, we do see him getting his bum beaten - and Rosie's relief to discover he wasn't one was a bit grating. What's wrong with being a switch? If Dimitri is it doesn't mean Rosie has to be one, and more than if one of them were bisexual. Her discomfort smacks of prejudice.

This brings me to the main thing that annoyed me about the story, and particularly about Rosie, which is her insecurity and jealousy. I was rooting for her, but I did find her annoying. Like many erotica heroines, she is a bit wet, shy and neurotic. She's not the best at communicating what she wants and is fairly passive at times.

I suppose I can see the sense of creating a nervous, inexperienced character if you're writing for people who are new to exploring their kinky fantasies. I guess we all have to start somewhere; I was that girl too, once. And Rosie has her self-aware, articulate moments, usually encouraged by Dimitri. She knows her limits, she musters the courage to request both the anal sex and the caning that most terrify her, and she both understands and is able to express the paradoxical wanting/not-wanting of pain to a masochist. When it comes down to it, she does know what she wants, even if she's mostly too shy to say it.

No, the thing that annoyed me most about Rosie was her sexual jealousy. As a sex worker, I found the way this interacted with sex work in the story particularly grating. It was great to see some frank discussion of the professional spanking scene, the idea that not only women are sex workers, and that every sex worker offers different services and has different boundaries. But Rosie's sexual possessiveness confuses things.

By the end of the story, there's this idea that sex work is incompatible with true love; that real romance is exclusive. Perhaps Elyot's intention there was simply that Rosie is a monogamous character, and so true love, for her, includes finding someone who respects that boundary. But the idea that monogamy is the most valid form of romance has a lot of social currency, and I'd have liked to see more acknowledgement of the ways in which openness and sex work can be valid parts of an emotionally committed relationship.

The other thing that left a vaguely bad taste was the pressure the existing club members and organisers put on both Rosie and Dimitri to push their limits. It seemed to jar with the emphasis on consent and responsible play throughout the rest of the book. In many ways Kinky Cupcake offers a fantasy of ideal kinky explorations, and being pressured into orgies and public scenes before you're ready shouldn't be part of that.

I expect the idea here is that none of the characters, including experienced kinksters, are perfect, but frankly I'd expect better ethics from professionals providing a service for newbies, and nothing in the book criticises this behaviour other than Rosie's discomfort - which, given her insecurity and paranoia in places, isn't the most reliable test.

I found this had the effect of blurring the lines between scenes where Rosie is pushed into things because she's too shy to do what she wants without encouragement and being dominated creates a hot fantasy, and the scenes where she feels her boundaries are genuinely being pushed in a way that isn't hot or okay. Erotic fiction is full of fantasies where the heroine is rushed or forced into a situation she would not have chosen but which turns out to be super-hot, but that trope feels out of place in a book which is mostly about responsible communication and enthusiastic consent.

It created an ambiguity where it was hard to tell, going into a scene, whether this was meant to be a hot dominance fantasy or a nasty incident where Rosie needs to enforce her boundaries. Usually, how horny Rosie gets makes it clear in the end, but not being able to tell straight away whether a scene is consensual or not made it hard for me to enjoy some of them.

Overall, though, none of the above stopped me enjoying it (ie having orgasms). I would highly recommend Kinky as a hot read, entertaining story and informative kinky primer. Plus of course, like everyone else I suspect, I do wish Kinky Cupcake really existed.

The Kindle versionof Kinky is currently free - grab it while you can.

Comments

Not sure if this comment is really topical, but the part where you complained about the lack of non-white characters made me think.

Is it proving that hard to add non-white models to the "Dreams of Spanking" roster?

In general video's limited by the availability of good models, where written erotica doesn't have the excuse. But yes, it's definitely something I need to fix. So far I've not hired many new people, and tended to work with people I already know well, but I'm planning to branch out more this year.

The spanking industry is very white, especially in the UK, but yes, I have a couple of names in mind.

I figured that was the case. But your answer just makes me wonder.

Why is the spanking erotica/porn/blogging/etc world so white? Most spanking models are white. Most spanking stories are about white characters, which (I assume) means that they're generally by white authors.

Its not like white people are the only ones with this fetish. I've spanked a black girl and been spanked by an Asian. So how come 95%+ of spanking videos and literature are white-centric?

Giant question, and one which I think we should generally leave to people of colour to answer. But here's my best stab at answering it so far.

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