Consent and Complicity

by | January 21, 2019 | General | 5 comments

A few days ago, Robert Buckley posted a biting critique of political correctness in publishing, especially in erotica. He cited a personal experience where an editor had labeled his climactic scene involving two people who had a sexual history as a rape because the woman had not explicitly given her consent to the encounter.

Bob was dumb-founded – and I would have been, too. Lovers don’t need to ask permission. Even in an erotic interlude between strangers, mutual attraction can often be assumed, signaled by behavioral cues. We are, after all, writing for adults, not children who need every detail spelled out.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of readers who enjoy stories involving dubious consent, or even completely non-consensual sex. You can wring your hands all you want, but survey after survey has documented the fact that many women have rape fantasies. Do these women actually want to be raped? Of course not. That doesn’t diminish the erotic charge associated with being “forced” to submit to sex.

One reason this fantasy is such a powerful aphrodisiac is that it relieves the woman of responsibility for sexual activity. If you’re coerced into having sex, nobody can label you as a slut. You can remain a good girl even as you’re enjoying the enormous cock (or cocks) pounding your holes.

Intellectually, I can understand the appeal of non-con fantasies, but this particular kink doesn’t really push my personal buttons. I can recall only one book I’ve written that had elements of dubious consent (Rajasthani Moon). The novel begins with the heroine being kidnapped, whipped and fucked by a sexy bandit. The whole scenario is intentionally very exaggerated, treated in a light-hearted manner. No one could possibly doubt that Cecily Harrowsmith, secret agent extraordinaire on a mission from Queen Victoria, is having an excellent time. In general, serious non-con does not float my boat.

On the contrary, you might say I have a consent fetish. There are few things I find as arousing as explicitly agreeing to do something naughty. Even in a vanilla relationship, saying “yes” to passion is exciting and empowering. There’s always an element of risk in sex, emotional if not physical. When you overcome the fear and claim the pleasure, you reap incredible rewards.

Consent is even more potent in the context of dominance and submission. Nothing turns me on like a submissive agreeing to be tormented and used by a dominant. Admitting your deviant desires—taking responsibility for your own fantasies, twisted and taboo though they might be—scenes featuring this sort of dynamic never fail to get me wet.

My very first published work included this sort of interaction:

He leaned closer. “I want to tie you here, hand and foot, so that you will be more completely at my disposal. I believe that you want that, too. But you must tell me so. I will not do this without your permission.”

Kate was silent. She had never been so unsure in her life. Fear, suspicion, shame, and distrust warred with curiosity and desire. In his arms she had felt both sheltered and helpless, and she longed for those feelings again. Yet he was essentially a stranger, she reminded herself—a stranger with a shady profession and an unsavory reputation.

When she looked at him, though, she saw attentive concern in his eyes, belying the fierce reality of the cock which pulsed hugely from his fly. The sight of his manhood sent a delicious weakness through her limbs. I must be crazy, she thought, as she nodded her assent.

“Do it,” she murmured, and did not trust herself to say anymore.

With expert skill, he bound her wrists with the silken braids. “Silk is a marvelous substance,” he commented. “So soft, but incredibly strong. Like you, my little Kate. I know that you can endure much. Much more than you would believe.”

~ from Raw Silk by Lisabet Sarai

In more recent work, I’ve continued to explore the same themes, in perhaps more subtle ways:

“Look at me.” His tone was softer but no less firm. I raised my eyes to his, which were the startling blue of glacial ice. I shivered and burned. “You’re new, aren’t you?”


“Yes, Sir,” he corrected me. My nipples tightened inside my bra.

“Yes, Sir.” Just his voice was enough to make me ache.

“What’s your name?”

“Cassie, Sir. Cassie Leonard.”

“Don’t look away, Cassie. Look at me. Do you know who I am?”

“No, Sir. I just started at Lindenwood this week. Before that I was in the rehab department at Miriam Hospital.”

“My slaves call me Master Jonathan.”

My earlobes, my nipples, my fingertips, all seemed to catch fire. I wanted to sink through the floor. I didn’t want him to see how his words excited me.

But he did see. I stared at my hands, knuckles white from gripping the rail.

“You have a boyfriend, don’t you?”

“Yes, Sir, I do.” An image of Ryan rose in my mind, his brown curls and uneven grin, muscled chest and hard thighs. I did love him, truly I did, with his quirky humor, his gentle fingers and his boyish ardor. He was a fine young man. My mother approved of him.

“He doesn’t satisfy you.” It was a statement, not a question. Tears of remembered frustration pricked the corners of my eyes. “Why not, Cassie? Is his cock too small?”

I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation with a stranger, a patient, a half-paralyzed man forty years older than I was. I stole a glance at Dr. Carver. His mouth was firm but his eyes sparkled with suppressed mirth.

“No, Sir. His cock is fine.” Ryan was justifiably proud of his meaty hard-ons.

“What is it then? Is he a selfish lover? Does he come too quickly for you?”

Guilt washed over me. Ryan would happily spend hours licking my pussy and fingering me, trying to get me off. The only way I could manage it was to think about scenes from the kinky porn I hid from him. Whippings and spankings, gags and handcuffs, all the clichés that I couldn’t stop myself from wanting.

“Well? Tell me, Cassie. What do you need that he doesn’t provide? What do you want?”

My mouth filled with cotton. I couldn’t speak. I was acutely aware of my rigid nipples pressing against the starched fabric of my uniform. My clit pulsed like a sore tooth inside my sodden panties.

“Cassie, I’m waiting.” His sternness sent electricity shimmering through my limbs. “Don’t disappoint me.”

I dared a glance at his face. His left eyelid drooped slightly. His eyes snared mine. I couldn’t look away. One eyebrow arched in an unspoken question.

“I—um—I want him to, uh, to do things to me. That he doesn’t want to do.” I tried to break away from his gaze, but the force of his will held me.

“Things?” He sounded amused. A fresh wave of hot, wet shame swamped my body. “What sort of things?”

“Uh—tie me up. Spank me. Use me. Treat me like his slave.” It all came out in a rush, the desires I’d never shared with anyone except Ryan. Even then, I’d only shown him the tip of the iceberg, the least perverted of my needs. “He wouldn’t, though. He was shocked when I told him. Disgusted. Said that I had a filthy mind.” The tears that had gathered earlier spilled out over my cheeks.

“I imagine that you do, little one, delightfully filthy.” His voice was a caress, soothing and seductive. “I knew that right away, just from your reactions to my voice. Your deepest desire is to submit to a strong master, isn’t it?”

“Yes—Sir.” I felt relief, now that I’d admitted my secret. He at least didn’t seem to condemn me.

“You want to be beaten and buggered, shackled to the bed and split open by a huge cock. You want to bath in your master’s come, maybe even his piss. To be forced to service his friends.”

It was thrilling and horrible, listening to him enumerating my darkest fantasies out loud. My clit felt the size of a ripe plum, swollen and juicy, ready to burst. I nodded, still finding it difficult to expose myself so completely.

“I will do those things for you, if you’d like.”

~ from “Stroke” by Lisabet Sarai, originally published in Please Sir: Erotic Tales of Female Submission, edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel.

Why do I find this scenario so exciting? Well, I’ve been there. I’ve stood in front of my master and been invited to admit that what he wanted to do to me, I wanted, too. I’ve consented to things I’d never dared to imagine. I’ve writhed under his blows, turned on despite the very real pain, recognizing in wonder that I’d asked for this. That realization raised the erotic temperature to an even more fevered level.

Certainly I wanted to please him. Knowing he truly appreciated my surrender made it all the sweeter. But the intensity of my arousal derived more from other aspects of our interaction. His vision, seeing through my good-girl persona to the twisted creature underneath, a woman I hardly knew existed. His whole-hearted acceptance of my deviance. My secret, shameful, delicious knowledge that I was complicit in my own debasement.

We shared the communion of outlaws, two souls with perfectly complementary fantasies. I’d stepped over that line deliberately, trusting him and myself.

He and I are still in touch, though separated by many thousands of miles. He recently sent me a video of “Wolf Like Me”, by the group TV on the Radio. I’d never encountered this song before, but now I can’t get it out of my mind.

Charge me your day rate
I’ll turn you out in kind
When the moon is round and full
Gonna teach you tricks that’ll blow your mongrel mind
Baby doll, I recognize
You’re a hideous thing inside
If ever there were a lucky kind, it’s
You, you, you, you

I know it’s strange another way to get to know you
You’ll never know unless we go so let me show you
I know it’s strange another way to get to know you
We’ve got till noon; here comes the moon
So let it show you
Show you now

I concur with his suggestion that the lyrics hold many D/s echoes. We both understood it in the same way—as an invitation to venture beyond the bounds of convention and normalcy, into the fierce, hot, wild unknown of power exchange.

An invitation to consent.

Lisabet Sarai

Sex and writing. I think I've always been fascinated by both. Freud was right. I definitely remember feelings that I now recognize as sexual, long before I reached puberty. I was horny before I knew what that meant. My teens and twenties I spent in a hormone-induced haze, perpetually "in love" with someone (sometimes more than one someone). I still recall the moment of enlightenment, in high school, when I realized that I could say "yes" to sexual exploration, even though society told me to say no. Despite being a shy egghead with world-class myopia who thought she was fat, I had managed to accumulate a pretty wide range of sexual experience by the time I got married. And I'm happy to report that, thanks to my husband's open mind and naughty imagination, my sexual adventures didn't end at that point! Meanwhile, I was born writing. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, though according to family apocrypha, I was talking at six months. Certainly, I started writing as soon as I learned how to form the letters. I penned my first poem when I was seven. While I was in elementary school I wrote more poetry, stories, at least two plays (one about the Beatles and one about the Goldwater-Johnson presidential contest, believe it or not), and a survival manual for Martians (really). I continued to write my way through high school, college, and grad school, mostly angst-ridden poems about love and desire, although I also remember working on a ghost story/romance novel (wish I could find that now). I've written song lyrics, meeting minutes, marketing copy, software manuals, research reports, a cookbook, a self-help book, and a five hundred page dissertation. For years, I wrote erotic stories and kinky fantasies for myself and for lovers' entertainment. I never considered trying to publish my work until I picked up a copy of Portia da Costa's Black Lace classic Gemini Heat while sojourning in Istanbul. My first reaction was "Wow!". It was possibly the most arousing thing I'd ever read, intelligent, articulate, diverse and wonderfully transgressive. My second reaction was, "I'll bet I could write a book like that." I wrote the first three chapters of Raw Silk and submitted a proposal to Black Lace, almost on a lark. I was astonished when they accepted it. The book was published in April 1999, and all at once, I was an official erotic author. A lot has changed since my Black Lace days. But I still get a thrill from writing erotica. It's a never-ending challenge, trying to capture the emotional complexities of a sexual encounter. I'm far less interested in what happens to my characters' bodies than in what goes on in their heads.


  1. larry archer

    We seem to forget that erotica is a story and nothing else. A story is designed to entertain and assuming it’s not educational, that’s pretty much the whole rationale behind a story. Erotica should be treated like a Stephen King story about a clown who lives in the sewer and kills little kids. Certainly, we would never allow clowns to live in the sewer and entice children to their death but where were the hew and cry when the story came out?

    We didn’t pass a law and outlaw killer clowns much less let them live in the sewer. How many people wrote their elected officials exhorting them to put all clowns on death row. Ludacris you say, I say bullshit, what’s the difference?

    For some reason, when we talk about people fucking and sucking that suddenly there are different rules about what’s okay and what’s not? If it excites you to feel a spike heel in the middle of your back while being called a worm, is no different from being lured into a damp dirty sewer or maybe being eating by a giant shark or perhaps by a T-Rex.

    Non-con is the same thing and we need to take a breath before railing against the author. Years ago there was a study on pornography where the political leaders (maybe in the 70’s?) by a group, probably Republicans, where they tried to prove that porn was turning people into perverts. No matter how hard they tried, every approach ended up with the fact that porn didn’t make people wear raincoats and sit in the park with a bag of candy.

    This is the reason we are supposed to have freedom of the press, people should have the right to write and read what they like. For example, I don’t like to fish so does that mean that I can force Field and Stream to go out of business? Everyone needs to read 1984 and see how frighteningly close we are to 1984. Alexa are you listening to what I’m thinking?

    I agree with Lisabet that generally speaking women often enjoy non-con sex. Don’t rag on me as I live with a women’s libber and am as PC as you can get. If you’ve never tried it, the next time you’re in the rack, try pinning your wife/girlfriend’s hands down on the bed when you’re on top of her. If you like a fair percentage of the women I’ve known, you will see and feel a definite change in their behavior and response.

    I abhor violence, especially against women but the good lover is one who is sensitive to their partner’s desires and if their partner enjoys it, why not? Our job is to bring pleasure to our partner and not worry if it becomes messy.

    Didn’t mean this comment to turn into a rant but just because someone doesn’t enjoy what we like or our partner likes and it doesn’t harm another person, why not do it?

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Thanks, Larry!

      Guess I touched a nerve here! But of course you’re right.

      • larry archer

        You’re right, it is a sore spot with me.

  2. Rose

    “One reason this fantasy is such a powerful aphrodisiac is that it relieves the woman of responsibility for sexual activity. If you’re coerced into having sex, nobody can label you as a slut. You can remain a good girl even as you’re enjoying the enormous cock (or cocks) pounding your holes.”

    I’ve cogitated, often, on the idea of rape fantasies. I wonder if there is another possible take on what lies beneath.

    We are told, and I believe it, that rape isn’t about sex, but about power and control. It’s an act of violence towards someone over whom the perpetrator wants control.. What if the rape fantasy, in some instances, with some women, isn’t about being forced into having sex, but instead is more about “projection,” wherein the fantasy isn’t about being the victim of the rape, but rather the perpetrator? What if that part of it — the taking of control and the wresting of power — is exciting to some women, perhaps? What if, in the fantasy, they assume the other role? What if some women aren’t the sweet little things who want to be relieved of the responsibility of having rough sex, through a rape fantasy where they are being “forced” to enjoy the sex (without any fallout) but instead are more predatory, even towards their own gender. What if the fantasy is about putting the shoe on the other foot, as it were?

    There are some pretty deep, dark abysses in the mind.

    Just tossing that out there as something to ponder.

    Rose 😉

    • Lisabet Sarai

      Interesting theory, Rose.

      I think you are on to something, though I see the dynamic a bit differently. Women who fantasize about rape in fact imagine that it’s about sex (even though in the real world, as you say, it’s not). In most rape fantasies, the perpetrator wants the woman so badly he takes her despite her protests.

      And THAT’S a kind of power that women may find seductive — power to excite lust so extreme it compels a man to violate the norms of consent.

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