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Friday, 20 January 2012

Randy Reading #2: Yes, Ma'am - Erotic Stories of Male Submission

Following on from my review of the newbie-friendly collection of short stories, Black Lace Quickies 6, I thought I'd explore a collection that I personally found more appealing: Yes, Ma'am - Erotic Tales of Male Submission.  I do enjoy short stories, not least because, once something whets my literary appetite, I find it impossible to do anything until I've devoured the book whole, and short stories allow me to live a normal life despite how good they are.  Why, just the other night I stayed up until 5am to finish a novel, when I then had to get up two hours later.  Not fun.  So, yes, short stories are a thumbs up as a format.  I do also like a bit of spice to my erotic fiction, preferably either a bit of kink or the supernatural (or both), depending on my mood.

But, not all short story collections have the same umph.  Yes, Ma'am is published by the impressively elegant Cleis Press, who, to me, stand out even just by their Twitter bio as a company who try to keep a bit of class in with the ass.

Cleis Press publishes provocative, 
intelligent books in the areas of sexuality, 
gay and lesbian studies, erotica, fiction, 
gender studies, and human rights.

Sounds exactly like the kind of attitude I can get behind!  Intelligent and sexy is pretty much the best combo I can think of.  Add that to how well-received the counterpart to this anthology - Yes, Sir - Erotic Tales of Female Submission - I had rather high expectations of Yes, Ma'am.
"No" is not an option...

What makes a man cower before a powerful woman? 
Turning the tables on rigid gender roles, the stories in Yes, Ma'am 
 detail the adventures of men who revel in submission to stern mistresses 
who recognize their deepest desires. 
Whether bound and punished, ordered into a threesome, 
or put on full, naked display, these men receive the treatment they truly crave. 
With stories by Stephen Elliott, Alison Tyler, Dominic Santi and many more, 
Yes, Ma'am shows that pleasure is best when dispensed 
by a firm female hand.   

I'm a switch who has had her dominant side sidelined for a long time, and given I'd not had a chance to unleash some of that delicious topping energy, I was eager for something that was free of the submissive, and at times borderline insipid, female characters who had so plagued the erotica I'd been reading.

There are eighteen tales, ranging from the basic to the bizarre, all focused on men who crave punishment and the chance to worship a strong woman, and the ones who grant them the privilege (or not!).  The book is also larger than most collections - with larger page-sizes so that it's still a mere 188 pages - and has a decent heft to it, which does make me feel like I got good value for money, despite the slightly above average price tag.

The stories:
  • "Zero Sum Game", by Alex Mendra
  • "Secrect Desires", by Ellen Tevault
  • "Tea for Three", by Lee Ash
  • "Exhibit A", Chris Cooper
  • "A Different Kind of Reality Show", by D. L. King
  • "Secretary's Day", by Rachel Kramer Bussel
  • "Wedding Night", by Dominic Santi
  • "Flash", by Alison Tyler
  • "It's Cold Outside", by Stephen Elliott
  • "An Invitation to the Dance", by Sylvane Alistair
  • "Sticking with You", by L. E. Bland
  • "i 1t u 2 do sumfin 4 me", by George Cross
  • "Rope Burn", by A. D. R. Forte
  • "His Lady's Manservant", by Andrea Dale
  • "Taming the Unruly", by Debra Hyde
  • "The Big What", by Michael Hemmingson
  • "The Mean Girl", by Teresa Noelle Roberts
  • "Connection", by Kristina Wright

Whew!  With a contents page that packed, it's pretty unlikely that at least one of the stories won't appeal.  Actually, I found that most of them were bang on target.  The only thing that began to irk me as I progressed through the stories was the repeated theme of "he'd never considered himself submissive, but always craved something, when suddenly out pop some dea ex machina to convert him", which is understandable, since being a newbie avoids any need for background build-up, important when keeping the word count down. However, there are a few that find a way around that issue whilst allowing the male character some experience and background, which is both impressive as a show of skill and imagination, and more fulfilling for the reader.

I was glad there was such variety in the plotlines: it's an easy trap to fall into, having the high-powered businessman in his suit wanting to be bound and beaten by some cold-hearted bitch in rubber. That has its place, but there's only so many ways you can tell that story before it gets stale. These stories range from cuckolding to the husband and wife exploring a fledgling BDSM relationship together; exhibitionism to employer/employee power abuse; a circus of ex-prostitutes to Victorian-era roleplay. Each took a completely different view of what form male submission could take, and while some weren't the kind I'd ever care to indulge in, almost all had an aspect that appealed to me in a fantasy sense, and many did feel like I could step right into the story myself.

The only one that really didn't appeal to me was "It's Cold Outside". The story centres around what appears to be a male ex-prostitute travelling with a group of other sex workers as some kind of caberet-slash-circus show, who is 'dominated' by the girlfriend of a friend he stays with. I found the introduction and set-up rather clunky, and had to read the first few pages several times before I understood what the writer was trying to make happen. The character development was pretty much non-existent: apart from a brief glimpse of how an abusive relationship lead to him becoming a sex worker, we see next to nothing about why the character is so screwed up, so it makes it hard to empathise, and feels a little distasteful watching him squirm in such mental anguish without being allowed to even ask why. I think the concept was too big for a short story. Something so complex would require a larger medium, with allowances for more exploration and retrospection, so the story can breath and ultimately make any sense. Aside from the style and readability issues, the story itself annoyed me. There's a great struggle separating BDSM and abuse in the minds of the uninitiated, as well as to dispel the myth of sex workers as disturbed victims of abuse who revel in self-destruction. Seeing the whoring-because-I-was-abused-and-homeless stereotype was bad enough, but add to that having a scene that involved more non-consensual rape and torture than genuine BDSM, and I really felt as if this was written by someone who had learned of submission and domination through reading the Daily Mail. There is something that could be made into a good story in there, but it was the wrong format for the writer to have a chance of bringing it to life.

Now, while that one story did more for my rage than my lust, I have to say that it was the only one. Most were pleasing, and a couple stood out as truly exceptional. My absolute favourite was "Sticking With You", the tale of one man's fetish for sticky tape. It was hilarious, yet sexy, and found such resonance with my own less-tape-centred experiences: first time amongst others in the lifestyle and feeling like maybe you're not "twoo" enough, or hardcore enough, or simply BDSM enough to be there; thinking that your kink is so weird  - or so banal! - that you'll never meet someone to indulge with, and then having someone prove you wrong; the shame of failing; the cringe as you realise what your bad timing may have cost you; the hope that somehow you can still fix it. It's sweet and simple and somehow makes this 'freak' and his tape seem exactly the same as every other guy in the street. In a way, I like it because it's the polar opposite of "It's Cold Outside", as it humanises the kinksters, and lets the characters make the story instead of trying to jump the shark with hooker-circuses. His story of kinky tape play works because you can't help but like and empathise with 'Tape Boy', so it becomes less weird and more sexual.  I still smile whenever I think of it.

Some of the stories are completely unrealistic, but told in such a way as to make them believable as part of a fantasy. Some of them I could go to my fella next week and re-live in the flesh. But almost all of them show a real understanding of submission and power play, and have given me genuine pleasure. This is one of those books I'll be hanging on to until it falls apart. It might be slightly more expensive than most of the short story collections, but in my opinion it's well worth it.

     Great range of stories;
     Some clever writing;
     Nothing too intimidating or extreme;
     Overall a real understanding of submission.

     One of the stories annoyed me;
     Slightly more expensive than other books.

     Wonderful book, with many stories I'd read again, but those couple of flaws set it just shy of perfection.

Live a Sexier Live

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