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BIPOC reading list: Girl, Woman, Other

Posted at 15:00 on 26 Oct 2020 by eilidh

I’m having fun writing book reviews here. It's a great way to connect with you and share some of the reading that stays with me.
So far I've only posted about non-fiction. I shared my top takeaways about ‘White Fragility’, I recently wrote about three books about communication, and I’m percolating my thoughts on two other items from my antiracist reading list, ‘Why I No Longer Talk To White People About Race’ and ‘White Supremacy and Me’, for upcoming posts.
But I've also been reading a lot of fiction. Some of it has been pure indulgence - and some of it has educated me, moved me, and changed my perspective on social issues.
Fiction is a comfort and a joy. It's one of the few pieces of self-care that fits into my current hectic schedule, and I cherish breastfeeding for the opportunity it gives me to recharge by getting engrossed in a good book.
Over the last five years or so I’ve been intentionally reading fiction by women and non-binary authors, which works really well for me - but over the last couple of years I've come to terms with the whiteness of my library, and have started to seek out more fiction by BIPOC writers.
I can't call this part of the "work" of antiracism, but if I'm going to be reading anyway, why not take the opportunity to expand my horizons and increase my empathy and understanding of the lives of people with different experiences than my own? It's barely a fraction of the work required to dismantle white supremacy, but supporting and promoting BIPOC authors and opening my mind and heart to what they have to say is far better than a whites-only literary diet.
So welcome to the first post in a series of book reviews of fiction written by BIPOC women and non-binary authors.
I’m kicking off with 'Girl, Woman, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo. It's ranking high on lists and charts at the moment and I'm not surprised. I’ve never read a novel like it. 


As much as I’m almost tempted to just say “PLEASE go and read this groundbreaking, heartbreaking book immediately oh my god”, I’m aware that isn’t much of a review, so here's just some of the things that struck me about it.
Every chapter is a snapshot of someone’s life. The narrative voice is like a stream of consciousness; we’re taken inside the minds of our protagonists, shown their thoughts and impressions at a specific moment in time. Of course, nobody could be expected to understand your experience without understanding a great deal else about you and your history, so each  chapter is also a potted life story.
None of us stand alone, and we are all interconnected. As well as reverberating through time, the story also connects across social networks, weaving together a big picture that shows the same events from different perspectives. The troubles of a child are seen first through their own eyes, then those of their parent, then via a teacher or friend. Each retelling unwinds layers of nuance and meaning that creates a richness more detailed, complex and humane than most books are able to offer. It shows us how differently the same events can be internalised by different people, and reminds us that every single person we meet has as deep and complex an inner world as we do ourselves.
This is a book about the choices we make, and the thinking that goes into those choices. It’s about relationships, and love, and betrayal. It's about parenting and growing up; it's about being an immigrant, being black, being poor. It's about growing up working class and then going to Oxford and joining the middle classes, and all the complex layers of feeling that throws up. It’s about working hard for your Economics PhD in Nigeria and then coming to London and having to work as a taxi driver. It's about marrying someone whose life experiences have been wildly different to your own, and raising children in a cultural background that is not yours.
It’s about belonging, coming out, assimilation, acceptance and rejection.
It’s about a middle-aged lesbian who works in theatre, lives in London in a polyamorous triad and is a single parent. It’s about the feminist culture wars: the generation gap between the women liberated by second-wave gender theory and younger feminists rooted in intersectionality and trans activism. It’s about a working class non-binary kid from the north of England who isn’t politically active and doesn’t know all the fancy words we’ve made up, but who falls in love online and gradually figures out who they are. It's about rape and domestic violence, and the different ways we process out trauma and discover our boundaries. There's a content warning for sexual abuse, childhood abandonment and child death.
Not all of the characters are likable, but they’re all comprehensible. People you disagree with, people you may be prejudiced against: they're all introduced compassionately, as whole entire people with their own traumas,  concerns and rationalities. 
The story ripples backwards through time. The opening chapters are set in 2019, and each story then delves further into the past, via the ancestors and mentors of the younger characters, until we're reading the story of a mixed race person in the north of England in the late 1800s: and that history sheds new light on events in the present.

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Tags: anti-racism, BIPOC authors, books, reviews


Diagnosing the secret fetishes of authors

Posted at 14:00 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.

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Tags: BDSM, books, caning, catgirl, corporal punishment, fetish, forced breeding fetish, forced impregnation, furry fetish, incest fetish, mind control, monks, monster cock fetish, monster rape fetish, oh so wrong, punishment, riding crop, scifi & fantasy, sex slave, sexy victims, sexy villains, so very wrong, welts


Justine Elyot, 'Kinky'

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

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.

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Tags: books, Fantasies, Gender politics, reviews


Curvy Girls

Posted at 09:52 on 31 May 2012 by Pandora / Blake

Curvy Girls is a new erotic anthology edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel, dedicated to stories about big, sexy women. I was very happy to be invited to join its virtual book tour: from the moment I heard of it I thought this book sounded exciting.

This is an issue I'm passionate about. People want to see themselves in porn, and erotic protagonists should represent the diversity of their audience, including all shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities and physical abilities. Video and photos are limited by the availability of performers, but in literary fiction you can do anything. Which is why I love Jacqueline Applebee's work so much, and why I find so much written erotica frustrating. When your characters can look like anything, it's a shame that so many female erotica protagonists look like skinny lingerie models. It's a damaging and wholly unnecessary self-imposed cultural limit. Porn teaches us about what's sexy, and all of us deserve to feel sexy.

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Tags: Body positivity, books, Female gaze, Gender politics, Politics, reviews


running away from school

Posted at 14:48 on 26 Feb 2010 by Pandora / Blake

I've just finished reading Sarah Water's new novel The Little Stranger. Set in post-war Warwickshire, it's about the Ayres, an eccentric, old-money family living in decline in a haunted manor house. Like all her writing, it's engaging, atmospheric and spooky, although I remain disappointed that she seems to have moved away from the (slightly trashy, but utterly wonderful) Victorian lesbian stories of her early career and is now a Serious Novelist. I want more Victorian lesbians!

Anyway, historical fiction often gives me ideas for great spanking scenes, and this is proving no exception. I got particularly hot and bothered about this conversation between Roderick Ayres, the heir to the manor, and the family Doctor (who is the book's narrator):

"Did you know I ran away from school when I was a boy?"

I blinked at the change of subject. "No," I said reluctantly, "I didn't know that."

"Oh, yes. They kept it quiet, but I bolted twice. The first time I was only eight or nine; I didn't get far. The second time, though, I was older, maybe thirteen. I just walked out, no-one stopped me. I got as far as the public bar of a hotel. I telephoned Morris, my father's chauffeur, and he came and got me. He was always a pal of mine. He bought me a ham sandwich and a glass of lemonade, and we sat at a table and talked it through..."

Oh, the potential! My mind raced ahead: Morris helping the boy escape, but the two being caught by a member of the family; the chaffeur sacked and the boy whipped. I read on:

"He wanted to take me back to school, but I wouldn't let him. He didn't know what else to do with me, so he brought me back here and gave me to Cook -"

Even better! The image of a big, beefy Cook giving Morris a piece of her mind, telling him to take the boy back to school at once before the Master finds out - but first, he needs to learn he can't come and go from school as he pleases ... Morris giving Roderick a sympathetic look, but not preventing Cook from turning the struggling thirteen-year-old over her knee, and walloping him with her strong, calloused hands.

But Sarah Waters was way ahead of me:

"- and gave me to Cook, and Cook got me quietly up to my mother. They were imagining that Mother would look after me, make things easy with the old man - like mothers do in the pictures and on the stage. But, no: she just told me what a great disappointment I was, and she sent me down to Father, to explain to him for myself what I was doing here. The old man ramped like the devil, of course, and thrashed me - thrashed me right by the open window, where any outdoors servant could have seen." He laughed. "And I had only run away because a boy was thrashing me at school! A beastly boy, he was: Hugh Nash. He used to call me 'Ayres-and-Graces'. But even he had the decency to whip me in private..."

Oh, man. Can you imagine? The graceful window arches framed by willow trees, through which can be glimpsed, across the lawn, the stern figure of Lord Ayres, the tip of the cane flashing in the afternoon sunlight; the boy half-hidden, bent over the arm of a sofa, but his yells drifting out across the park. It would be a beautiful climax to a compelling M/m film, starting with the scene in the prefect's study with Nash which drove him to run away.

It's a good job it would be plagiarism, really, because I can't afford the location or the extras anyway. But my god, it would be gorgeous.

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Tags: books, Fantasies, reviews


"I'm Fiona Locke, and so's my wife!"

Posted at 18:16 on 13 Jul 2009 by Pandora / Blake

The reason I've never written a review of Fiona Locke's "definitive CP novel" Over the Knee is an interesting story.

When I was at uni, we had a "family" system for first years, where an older student doing the same subject would be picked to be your mentor. My uni "mum" and I couldn't really have been better matched: at the first family dinner in Freshers' Week, we clocked each other's dyed black hair, heavy eyeliner, and scarred forearms with a mutual understanding. She stayed on to do a Masters, and throughout my three undergraduate years we'd often be found sitting on the steps in halls, smoking Marlborough Lights (no, I don't any more), bitching and bonding. We kept bumping into each other on random online communities, we had very similar problems with food and our bodies at the time, and all sorts of other things in common.

When we were students, she wasn't into spanking. I talked about my kink and she listened, and occasionally made wistful comments about how maybe she was kinky after all, but then she remembered that she was really happy with her vanilla fiancé, so that was that.

She got back in touch a few months ago, and we met up for drinks. Both of us had fallen out of touch with most of our other acquaintances from uni, but we quickly realised that the other was what I think of as a real person: a kindred spirit, someone who gets it. I'm not just talking about spanking; we'd both turned into sexually adventurous, politically minded, independent women with very similar tastes. Except that she was still with her vanilla fiancé, so she hadn't yet had much experience of kink. She was interested enough, however, that I sent her away with my copies of Over the Knee, Dances with Werewolves and Sex in Uniform (which includes a delicious naval cross-dressed caning story by Fiona Locke), hoping that they would awaken her inner kinkster.

I had difficulty getting in touch with her for the next few months. After a while I stopped sending her emails, and figured she'd get back to me when she was ready. Eventually I got a text from her. Long story. Am moving to the States with my new Dom. Probably won't be able to take you up on that offer of drinks. Are you surprised?!

I wasn't. Not at all. But she still has my damn books.


There has been some speculation this week on the "true identity" of Ms Locke. It was all started when Emma-Jane vehemently denied that it was her, and set everyone to wondering. Zille Defeu sums up the available information, causing wild guesses that Fiona is Caroline Grey (she denies it), Peter Markworthy of English Vice (so does he) and Rosaleen Young. After all, what spanko conversation would be complete without mention of the International Bottom of Mystery?

Ludwig joined the fray with a flattering, but entirely inaccurate, theory that I'm Fiona Locke, which of course means now I have to post and deny it. Prefectdt offered the hilariously credible idea that it must be one of my Doms; I was tempted to play along and claim that yes, Tom is the true Fiona Locke, but when I asked him he didn't seem as amused by the idea as I was. In any case, while he is certainly more inclined to novel-writing than me, I can't see him ever publishing under a female persona.

Amy Hunter, observant wench that she is, has pointed out that I'm named on English Vice as a "friend" of Angie and Peter. Peter himself tells us that he wrote that paragraph, and he certainly isn't Fiona Locke.

Logically, the existence of Peter tells us certain things. Tempting as the arguments are for a male Fiona, if the "Angie" of English Vice is male, who is "Peter"? A gay partner? An invented character, mischeivously participating in the conversation on Zille's blog (in which case he's lying; he is Fiona Locke)? At this point the subterfuge becomes far too complex for me to wrap my head around, so for the moment I'm going to abandon that idea, although if you want to try and work it out, by all means feel free.

Obviously if I did know Angie's real identity, and was her friend, I wouldn't publish it here, when she's clearly not ready to share her secrets. But I'm amused that everyone's so quick to jump to the conclusion that the name-check on their website means I'm privy to their every secret. Is it so implausible that I only know Angie and Peter online? There are plenty of friends in this scene I haven't met in person yet: most of you lot, for a start.

Even if I don't know who they are (and if I did, I wouldn't tell you), it makes sense that Angie and Peter are the pseudonyms of a spanko couple we know under other names. After all, Angie writes about being active on spanking forums, and they still update their website occasionally, if less often than they used to: but they almost never post on blogs or forums, which seems strange for web-savvy, social people. Is English Vice the only place they talk about kink online? Or are they doing so elsewhere, under different names?

My personal favourite candidate is, and always has been, Haron of the Spanking Writers. Haron is a talented writer, an intelligent and very kinky woman, with many of the same tastes and fantasies as Angie. She clearly has a wealth of personal experience to draw from, and she's more careful about sharing information about herself online than some - perhaps to protect her nom de plume. We know she's a keen writer, quite possibly published; she wrote for Lowewood throughout its lifespan, and talks on her blog about writing erotic fiction.

We have never seen a picture of Haron or her partner Abel and so it's perfectly plausible they are the couple posing on the covers of Fiona's books, and for the photos on English Vice. They are English, and can you think of a better inspiration for the Professor character than Abel? I haven't yet read On the Bare, but a few scenes from Over the Knee are strangely similar to those in The Spanking Writers: like Angie, school roleplay and motivational spankings helped Haron while she was writing her thesis; and, like Angie, she was given a celebratory caning to mark its finish.

Of course, I've met Haron, so I know (and so do several of you!) whether or not she does in fact resemble Angie's photos on English Vice. But ... even then, that wouldn't necessarily prove it either way: Fiona could always have got a friend to model for her. After all, in Over the Knee englishvice.net already exists when Angie discovers it, run by another kinky couple with a penchant for outdoor punishments. Perhaps Angie identifying herself with Fiona is a sneaky piece of misdirection, to help keep her friend's identity safe?

It's all far too complicated. Fiona clearly doesn't want to be identified - yet. But I don't think she'd mind some idle speculation. As for whether she is really Haron - you'll have to ask her yourself :)

Keep reading »

Tags: books, Fiona Locke, making a scene, those crazy kinksters


a ghost from the past

Posted at 22:47 on 22 Mar 2009 by Pandora / Blake

I've spent the weekend back home for Mothering Sunday, which was entirely excellent. I gave my mum a couple of spring seedlings and we stayed up until 3am drinking single malt and setting the world to rights.

'Home' involved familiar countryside, family friends I haven't seen for fifteen years, and my parents' tiny but beautiful new house. There was a party on Saturday night at our old church hall, where I spent much time in Sunday School and as a Brownie Guide. As it happens, I have remembered that church hall many times when thinking about locations for spanking films. It's a bit grotty, but the perfect setting for those bleak, poignant school stories. I spent some time this weekend eyeing up the dusty wooden stage and old piano, mentally writing scenes. I made up an excuse about looking for music rehearsal spaces so I could ask how much it costs to hire. It's easily affordable, but I don't know if I'll use it. It's risky. And kind of sacriligious. But ... you know, that's part of the appeal.

There were lots of people there I hadn't seen since I was 9. One of them came as a bit of a shock. I remembered him vividly as soon as I saw his face, although I hadn't thought about him at all in the last 15 years. They had two sons the same sort of age as me and my brother, and we used to go round to their house on Sundays.

I was a bookish, antisocial child, and used to avoid the boys. They played with trucks in the sandpit while I curled up on the floor by the bookcase, reading until one of the adults came over and forced me to interact with other people. This house had two whole shelves of vintage Beano and Dandy annuals. I got completely hooked. Over the course of a few years I worked my way through the whole collection several times. The Dandy was funnier with better adventures, but the Beano was my guilty pleasure. I devoured the Bash Street Kids even though I didn't really like the characters, all for the looming, sinister presence of Teach's canes hanging on the front wall of the classroom, and the tantalising promise of their all-too-occasional use.

But Dennis the Menace was my absolute favourite. Page after page ended with the same beloved sequence: Dennis caught mid-prank by his enraged dad, tossed over the knee and spanked angrily with a slipper. Sometimes the strip ended there; sometimes there was a further panel, of Dennis sulkily clutching his sore behind, standing up at the dinner table while his mother makes an arch remark.

These panels are imprinted on my memory. I remember most of the stories ending that way, but I'm now unsure how true that is; maybe those strips simply stuck in my mind, and I returned to them again and again. (I haven't been able to find scans of any of the relevant strips while googling. However, the wikipedia page mentions the slipper a telling number of times. Was it really a ubiquitous feature of the strip, or is the wiki editor one of us?)

Sometimes, I would be interrupted while poring over one of these strips, and give a guilty start. I was convinced that the source of my fascination must be obvious, but I continued regardless. On our way there my mum and dad would encourage me to be more sociable this time, and sometimes I would make the effort, but my happiest visits were always the ones spent privately, nose in book.

Then something happened which changed everything.

I was playing upstairs, with the boys. I think I had been caught reading earlier in the afternoon, and told to go and play with the others. I was eight or nine. My mum, who has never spanked me in her life and is strongly opposed to the idea, found us in the bedroom; it was nearly time to go home. My little brother and I were giggling on the bed. She joined in the game. I can't remember what we'd been playing, or what I said or did to trigger it, but she joked that we had been very naughty, like Dennis the Menace, and had to be punished. She pretended to smack us, shielding our bottoms with one hand and clapping with the other.

I think I must have squirmed away, or changed the subject. I remember being taunted, all the way home, by the certainty that I had been rumbled. She had cleverly found a way of showing me what she knew, in front of everyone, and humiliating me in so subtle a way that the others didn't even notice. She had never joked about that before, never mentioned it; I would have remembered every burning syllable.

I never read those comics again. I was too ashamed. My mum knew my secret, and I couldn't indulge my guilty pleasure with her knowing what it was that I skimmed the pages in search of.

All this flashed through my head when I shook hands with our family friend on Saturday. My mum was standing next to him, smiling. And I was thinking, did he know, too? Was I right about my mum knowing, or was it just a joke, a coincidence, a chance morsel for my obsessed, guilty brain to fret over?

We made polite small talk. I made my excuses and slipped away. I'm not ashamed of my kink, these days. But I couldn't bear the idea that my strange, pre-sexual eagerness for Dennis's spankings was obvious to everyone around me. These adults would be much more able to remember the details of my behaviour then. I preferred not to take the chance of reminding them.


I still don't know for sure whether my mum knows I'm into spanking, or if that would mean much to her if she did. But that doesn't matter. She is an amazing woman, and I love, respect and admire her more than I can say. We don't need to share this thing to be close. I'm glad I was able to spend this weekend with her, and I hope all the mums reading this feel as loved as she is right now.

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Tags: books, Fantasies, meta-analysis



Posted at 19:01 on 29 Dec 2008 by Pandora / Blake

Merry Christmas! I hope everyone's having a brilliant holiday. Today was my first day "back at work", but I'm afraid I haven't achieved very much. Having spent the last four days drinking, carousing and staying up all night with my family of choice, I'm still recovering. I got up this morning, blearily checked my email, cursed my freezing cold flat, and at the point I discovered I had neither hot water for a shower nor milk for tea, I gave up on the day and went back to bed.

I absolutely don't regret this decision, as I can catch up on work later in the week, and my morning was delicious. I didn't go back to sleep, but I ate all of a Thorntons Eden box of very sinful chocolates, and finished reading Affinity, the new Sarah Waters novel which was my Christmas gift to myself.

Sarah Waters' books perfectly map a substantial part of my fantasy landscape. The only difference is that her Victorian London is queer, and mine is queer and kinky. The queer relationships she describes tend to be tragic and complex; full of repression, oppression, changing alliances, dysfunctional power dynamics and unrequited longing. As a queer woman I kind of wish she applied her formidable skill as a storyteller to describing healthy, cheerful lesbian relationships ... but hey, they make much less interesting stories. (And, I'll be honest: her portrayal of same-sex relationships pretty much matches my own experiences so far. I hope to meet a woman one day with whom I can enjoy romance without unnecessary drama, but haven't yet. This might say more about me than anything else though.)

The lesbians aren't the main reason I love Waters' work, although as a submissive I adore the unjust power dynamics in her romances. And I admire the sophistication of her narrative techniques, her twisting, thrilling plots that never fail to surprise me. But her main appeal, shallow though this may make me, is the immersive, compelling way she writes about Victorian institutions.

Huge households, where the family and staff form an insular hierarchy, with the lowest servants at the mercy of those above them. Asylums for the insane, where women are straitjacketed, subjected to electroshock and cold water treatment, have their hair cut and are punished for not conforming. More indirectly, she also writes about the intricate, written social institutions of the Victorian underworld: the theatre; sex workers; families of thieves. In Affinity both these trends are continued with a story that threads between three settings: the dark circles of Victorian spiritualists, dabbling with ghosts and mysticism with their own set of rules and expectations; a miserable great house rife with tensions between aristocrats and servants; and a ghastly, towering women's prison cut off from the rest of London on its own grim island.

I bought the book since writing my last post, without even realising what it was about. Having finished it, I'm finding it harder than ever to get my image of prison out of the 19th century.

Affinity doesn't contain any mention of CP, but every scene seems to be pregnant with the possibility of it. The strict rules of the prison and the ogreish matrons who patrol it. The tragic stories of the women who find themselves there - abortionists, attempted suicides, prostitutes, pickpockets - most of them poor, few of them with other options. The aristocratic ladies in Waters' books are rarely sympathetic, and her working-glass characters tend to be far more real and interesting.

My fantasies tend not to focus on deserved punishment, but on unjust mistreatment; what better setting than a barbaric, miserable prison populated for the most part, not by criminal masterminds, but the gutsy victims of misfortune?

Affinity is packed full of details to delight the kinky imagination. The rigid structure of the prison day; the lessons given twice a week from tattered textbooks, in which the grown women stand with hands clasped before them to recite their Bibles. Visits to the prison chaplain; the chief Matron's office with its wooden posts and shackles. Cruel forced exercise; pointless work that makes your fingers bleed and your eyes itche; stockrooms full of chains, hobbles and handcuffs; tiny, damp, freezing cells buried deep below the Thames where rebellious women are straitjacketed and shut up for days in the absolute dark.

Or maybe the details aren't important. Maybe the point is the system, the institutional structure intended to shut down all humanity ... and yet, conversely where the tiniest glimmer of kindness seems to glow all the brighter.

Sadly, I don't have the budget to make a spanking film set in Millbank Prison. But if it's possible to make a film that captures the essence of the institutional context - the controlling, oppressive, punishing atmosphere and the inspiring way that the human spark can respond to it - then, I think, I'll be on the way to expressing one of the most important internal narratives of my kink.

All I need now is for Waters to write a book set in an educational seminary for young ladies, and I'll be set.

Keep reading »

Tags: books, corrupting the innocent, Fantasies, meta-analysis, reviews, Victoriana


With the flat of a sword

Posted at 17:46 on 8 Jun 2008 by Pandora / Blake

I had a delightful dream last night, full of pirates and conspiracy and being on the run out of Manhattan in a huge inflatable dinghy with spies and freedom fighters. At one point, one of the pirates broke an article of the pirate code and was duly punished by the pirate captain: eight hard strokes, applied on the bare with the flat of the captain's sword. The welts that blossomed under the tempered steel were very distinctive; raised white and purple weals fading to red at the edges.

Now, despite both my doms being experienced fencers, I've never been beaten with the flat of a sword. Neither of them has fenced for years, and these days their hectic work schedules mean we don't get the chance to play as often as we'd like - and when we do, we tend to stick to what we know works. So I have no way of knowing whether or not the dramatic welts my subconscious produced were realistic or not.

I've googled, but to no avail: the internet doesn't seem to have any photos of people being spanked with swords; the closest I could find was a reference to the Bride's fight with Crazy 88 in Kill Bill, where she sends the last man standing on his way with a humiliating smack to the arse with her sword - but over clothes, disappointingly. I also found a couple of fantasy porn stories which mentioned sword spankings, but in my opinion nothing can rival the formative scene in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which affected me deeply when I first read it aged 7, and which has stayed with me ever since.

It's early on in the book, before Eustace's transformative experience on Dragon Island, when he's going out of his way to make himself objectionable to everyone on board. He particularly dislikes Reepicheep, the chivalrous talking Mouse, and one day Eustace sneaks up behind Reepicheep on the deck and swings him round by the tail. Reep stabs him in the hand, and then faces Eustance, brandishing his rapier and challenging him to a duel:

"Why do you not draw your own sword, poltroon!" cheeped the Mouse. "Draw and fight or I'll beat you black and blue with the flat."

"I haven't got one," said Eustace. "I'm a pacifist. I don't believe in fighting."

"Do I understand," said Reepicheep, withdrawing his sword for a moment and speaking very sternly, "that you do not intend to give me satisfaction?"

"I don't know what you mean," said Eustace, nursing his hand. "If you don't know how to take a joke I shan't bother my head about you."

"Then take that," said Reepicheep, "and that - to teach you manners - and the respect due to a knight - and a Mouse - and a Mouse's tail -" and at each word he gave Eustace a blow with the side of his rapier, which was thin, fine dwarf-tempered steel and as supple and effective as a birch rod. Eustace (of course) was at a school where they didn't have corporal punishment, so the sensation was quite new to him. That was why, in spite of having no sea-legs, it took him less than a minute to get off that forecastle and cover the whole length of the deck and burst in at the cabin door - still hotly pursued by Reepicheep. Indeed it seemed to Eustace that the rapier as well as the pursuit was hot. It might have been red-hot by the feel.

There was not much difficulty in settling the matter once Eustace realised that everyone took the idea of a duel quite seriously and heard Caspian offering to lend him a sword, and Drinian and Edmund discussing whether he ought to be handicapped in some way to make up for his being so much bigger than Reepicheep. He apologized sulkily and went off with Lucy to have his hand bathed and bandaged and then went to his bunk. He was very careful to lie on his side.

- C. S. Lewis, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader"

Eustace doesn't earn himself a beating again, although before he reforms he comes close one more time, when Reepicheep catches him trying to steal water from the ship's rations. The incident is reported in Eustace's diary:

"I had to apologize or the dangerous little brute would have been at me with his sword. And then Caspian showed up in his true colours as a brutal tyrant and said out loud for everyone to hear that anyone found "stealing" water in future would "get two dozen". I didn't know what this meant till Edmund explained it to me. It comes in the sort of books those Pevensie kids read."

Which I always thought was a nice little meta-textual reference: of course any child reading the Narnia books would know what it means, too.

However, even wonderful excerpts like this don't help with the question of what the marks look like. I imagine it depends on the sword - rapier welts would look very different from those left by a flatter blade. I'll try and persuade one of my boyfriends to introduce me to the sensation (and hopefully take some photos for you while I'm at it. I might even dress up in a wench outfit), but if any of you can find pictorial evidence to assuage my curiousity in the meantime, I'll be a very happy girl. And it'd hopefully give me some idea what to expect ...

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Tags: books, Fantasies, flat of a sword, Spanking and bondage porn



Posted at 18:21 on 22 May 2008 by Pandora / Blake

Posting about wooden paddles got me thinking. So much of a person's pain threshold has to do with familiarity. As I was discussing with Ludwig in a comment thread recently, familiarity with your play partner, and trust in them, is a huge factor. Familiarity with the scenario is another, although I guess that's counterbalanced by the thrill associated with fear of the unknown. But for me, familiarity with an implement is hugely significant.

My favourite implement is the cane. I think it works both ways: I like the cane, so I'm more likely to be caned than anything else; and the more I'm caned the more I like it. Part of that is knowing I can take it, having the experience to trust myself to let go and accept what's happening to me. Canings affect me deeply but they don't freak me out. I'm very at home with the implement, and however horrible it is at the time, being aware intellectually that I've done this before and it's okay does tend to help. (I haven't, however, been caned to the standards of Lupus or Mood Pictures. I keep going back and forth on whether I'd want to. Part of me would want one of my Doms to do it if anyone was going to - another part of me would want the experience to be "worth something", to be as part of a story as rich as the ones Lupus create. Maybe I'll make my own severe caning film, someday.)

So my inability to take a real paddling has nothing to do with my basic pain threshold. I've been taken pretty deep in the past. It's to do with the type of pain, my body's reaction to it, and how used to it I am. Part of processing pain is shock. The shock of something unfamiliar is much more powerful than the shock of something familiar. Part of the terror of the paddle, for me, is not knowing what to expect.

To me, this would seem to tie into the fear of canes you often see in spankees who are used to the paddle. It's a different sort of pain. It's unfamiliar, it's scary, and your bottom is less used to taking it and processing it and healing from it. As such, an unfamiliar implement used on an experienced bottom is often like being a newbie again. You have to go through the whole learning process again every time you encounter a new kind of sensation.

It occured to me that this process, of familiarising certain bottoms with certain implements (and simultaneously rendering them unexpectedly vulnerable to unfamiliar ones) could be thought of as "tuning". And it's not just canes and paddles, although the American/British school conventions have created an obvious binary. I know subs who can fly from a flogging but shy away from more traditional spanko implements. Anne Rice's Beauty trilogy is full of severe beatings with leather straps and wooden paddles because those are what the author was most familiar with, but there's nary a crop or cane in sight. And I know spankos whose comfort-zone is hand-spanking, plain and simple, and who dislike "harder" implements but can probably take a far harder hand-spanking than I could.

I've certainly been "tuned" to different implements at different points in my life. Which makes me wonder whether it's a question of circumstance - that a bottom is tuned to whichever implements are most readily available when they first start playing, and then re-tuned to whatever is used on them most often - or preference? Do some people just like different sensations and experiment till they discover what they like best? Will I always be tuned to canes, or would be it be possible to re-tune me, teach me to take those severe paddlings I fantasise about? Or is the effect cumulative, and being tuned to an implement doesn't expire when you're tuned to another one?

I doubt I'll ever be tuned to heavy wooden paddles: Mr C. believes that repeated use numbs the nerve endings of the bottom, and he wants to keep me as sensitive as possible. (Although Bailey's self-confessed vulnerability after years of heavy paddlings would suggest that isn't always the case.) And besides, if I was tuned to them, they wouldn't be horrifying any more. And where's the fun in that?

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Tags: books, Fantasies, implements, learning curves, meta-analysis, Performers and producers, Spanking and bondage porn, those crazy kinksters


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