Posted at 15:00 on 21 Sep 2020 by Pandora / Blake
Do you ever read a novel and think, this author is clearly kinky?
I read a lot of sci fi and fantasy. I've started to get quite good at diagnosing the secret fetishes of the author from the way they write. Either these authors are deliberately dropping Easter eggs for like-minded pervs, or they're in the closet and revealing their kink without meaning to.
All stories need conflict. In fantasy in particular there are often very black and white Goodies and Baddies without much moral complexity. The baddies are the ones who conquer, enslave, torture and rape. The goodies are the ones who stop them. Sometimes you get priggish or obstructive goodies, but you rarely get honourable and well-intentioned baddies.
The Bad Deeds of the baddies need to be bad enough to drive the story. We need to fear what would happen if they win. But sometimes the Bad Deeds of the baddies are often described so explicit ly that they're almost pornographic. The details are salacious, the violence is sexual and the victims are often attractive young women. When the books are by female authors, I wonder if they're objectifying their female characters or imagining themselves in their place...
I don't want to throw too much shade, because these are books I love. Please understand that there's no harm in having a little fetish and sneaking it into your writing. I'm grateful to these authors for their brilliant storytelling, I hope they write more, and it tickles me to detect their secret kinks.
Disclaimer: The named authors are lovely wholesome people who have the right to write whatever they want. They may or may not have a fetish. I'm not saying they have any fetish in particular. Any suggestions made in this blogpost are entirely the result of my own perverted imagination and reading too much into things. Please don't sue me.
Mercedes Lackey's secret fetish?
I first noticed it in Vows and Honor by Mercedes Lackey. Our sword 'n' sorcery protagonists, hardass warrior Tarma and sexy sorceress Kethry, are up against a demon. The demon's thing is mind control. He likes to drain people of their will and make them dance to his tune - usually involving degrading orgies and sexual violence. O no, how evil! When the heroines are captured, the demon makes them do terrible sexy things.
It is actually kind of a horrible thought when you know the history of the characters, who are both survivors of sexual violence. But in the book, it's not really played for horror. There's lots of titillating details, it's more lurid than scary, and our heroines are super resilient and blessed by a healing goddess, so no harm done I guess?
It's clear that these scenes are going to be mad arousing to anyone who likes the idea of having a helpless, empty-headed sex slave doing debauched and horrible things under your mental control. Not that I know anyone like that.
The question "is Mercedes Lackey into mind control?" came up again when I read the Mage Storms trilogy. The Heralds of Valdemar and Hawkbrothers are teaming up to defeat Evil Mage Mornelithe Falconsbane, who's really the Legendary Ancient Evil Mage Ma'ar. He's a standard Evil Wizard Dictator with a castle and thugs and enslaved servants which he enjoys torturing at his whim. His big thing is breeding descendants with magical potential, then choosing a likely one and taking over the child's mind, killing the original person's spirit and occupying their body so he can have eternal life through multiple incarnations. Super gross and evil, right? He's also turned his latest body into a sexy half lynx cat man, and he likes breeding strange magical humans.
He creates himself a sexy catgirl daughter, Nyara, who he keeps as his personal sex slave to torture and abuse. He tests the cat alterations on her body, making her half cat, incredibly attractive, and super horny. She loathes him, but in his presence his will overrides hers and she just can't help being slutty and submissive for her big bad evil daddy, and taking pleasure in all the sadistic things he does to her.
So, like, mind control, tick - and also furry kink, incest and a hint of forced breeding? Tick tick tick.
Nyara eventually escapes and becomes an awesome character in her own right, who's adopted by an ancient talking grandma sword. So partly this can be justified as Character-Building Trauma ... But did we really need all those sexy details? From a plot perspective it's unnecessarily hot. Either Lackey is giving her fans what she thinks they want, or she's into it - or both.
Wen Spencer's secret fetish?
Speaking of furries and forced breeding, I've just finished the Elfhome series by Wen Spencer. Elfhome is a parallel universe alongside Earth, which humans accidentally get to when we create a gate intended to do space travel. The gate malfunctions and transports the entire city of Pittsburgh to Elfhome instead. This series perfectly blends junkyard cyberpunk with flowy high fantasy elves, and I recommend it.
Elfhome is threatened by the oni; animalistic monsters from the next dimension over, whose shtick is rape, torture, genetic engineering, and breeding millions of oni until they take over the world. They are like, mega evil. They kidnap children and perform experiments on them, they keep female captives in breeding pens to get raped by monsters and animals so they give birth to intelligent half-animal oni, and their favourite party game involves removing people's bones. So in terms of the story, our protagonists are super keen to defeat the oni, got it.
But some of those rape and breeding and forced impregnation scenes are described in titillating detail. Sometimes the victims are kids, and it's all very serious and traumatic, with no explicit details at all. But sometimes the victims are hot female characters - particularly hot mean female characters we don't like very much. Making it clear how sexy the victim is creates an erotic dimension to the whole scenario, and making the victim sexy and unlikeable aligns the narrative with the sadistic gratification of the perpetrators, rather than with the suffering of the victim. When we do empathise with the victim, we still get to see it from an outside male gaze perspective that kind of normalises what's happening.
Basically, if you had a forced impregnation / monster cock / furry fetish this would all be, like, right up your alley.
Neal Stephenson's secret fetish?
Finally I want to give a shout-out to Neal Stephenson, who first clued me into his corporal punishment fetish in The Baroque Cycle. I read all these books years ago, so I'm going on memory here. The Baroque Cycle is about the development of modern science in Britain, set against the backdrop of 18th century Europe, including slavery, piracy, rebellions and the Inquisition. It's rammed full of sexy and not-so-sexy torture, bondage and punishment, including a rather flirty scene in an underground lake with a riding crop.
My hunch was confirmed when I read The Diamond Age, which is set in a steampunk alternate near-future. First we have a young male character's run in with the judiciary, resulting in him getting a Singapore-style caning that leaves his bum welted for days. The emphasis on the welts (which I seem to remember showed up on infrared cameras and were used to identify the boy, or something like that) was... relevant to my interests. And I'm pretty sure I remember another scene where a character is threatened with the cane but talks his way out of it. I'm going to have to re-read it.
Then there's a whole subplot about an actress who works as a character in a computer game, which has some not-so-subtle sex work overtones. The characters end up in a high-end brothel, where one sex worker has a submissve client. It's very clear that Stephenson is fully aware of erotic caning and BDSM - which makes the titillating caning details earlier in the story seem a lot more deliberate.
Then there's the less explicit, but much more creatively sadistic punishments in Anathem, where disobedient monks are sent to isolation until they've memorised a certain number of chapters of The Book. Each chapter of which is a more headfucking blend of complex nonsense than the former, designed to make any sane person want to scream. If you've been assigned enough chapters, the later ones are so creatively fucked up that the process of committing them to memory can actually make you insane.
Some friends of mine in a dom/sub relationship once played with this in a domestic discipline scene where the top actually wrote a chapter of The Book for her to memorise. How's that for personalised creative punishment?
It's uncomfortable when a violent incident in a story seems intended to be awful and traumatic, but the writing lingers just enough on the explicit details, and the hotness of the characters, that it's also horny. Like, am I meant to be appalled or aroused? Did the author really mean to make it both? Are they deliberately planting kinky Easter eggs for furry fans, or am I just a perv to find this monster rape scene kinda hot?
Any non-consensual scenario can be told in a way that emphasises the hotness, or the trauma. I've definitely read corporal punishment scenes that were detailed, but ugly and frightening enough to be genuinely upsetting, with no sexy vibes at all. (The domestic violence in Purple Hibiscus by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie leaps to mind). When violence is straightforwardly horrible it's very easy to not eroticise it at all. And when it's straightforwardly erotic, I don't register the horror at all. But sometimes authors manage to hit both notes, and it's confusing damnit.
What are your favourite horrible-but-sexy scenes? Are there any books where you thought the author might be revealing their secret fetish to those in the know?