Erotic Interlude:Safewords
By Hapax Legomenon

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After emailing my latest story, Erotic Notion #14: The Ice Cube to Lisa, I was nervous and excited. It was my most sexually explicit story so far and I wondered if she'd get into it. Sure, I found the fantasy alluring. But would a woman? Would Lisa?

But when I saw her two weeks later, all she did was blurt out a question, "Why are your sex scenes so passive? Isn't it sexier to have two people actively participating?"

"That's not true! After the man used the ice cube, the woman takes over."

"But all she did was take control away from man, not redefine the relationship. Sex is supposed to be a two way street."

"You're talking about morality," I said. "I'm talking simply about what turns people on. People find submission and domination to be turn ons. The more you assert, the more you serve. The more you surrender, the more pleasure you feel."

"But is it really a turn on? Yes, I know, sometimes imagining consent and submission is titillating, but how would it be in real life? Wouldn't boredom set in?"

"Maybe...maybe not," I said. "Submission and domination may help delay the onset of boredom. For the submissive, there is the expectation of reward. For the dominant, there is the chance to explore just how far the subservient partner will go to satisfy the master."

"Let me ask a question. Have you actually been involved in one of those dominant/submissive relationships?"


"Then how do you know what you're talking about!"

She was right, of course. Defending a perversion without experiencing it firsthand did seem dangerous and even delusional. But it wasn't always right (or moral) to require direct experience to imagine what it would be like.

"Let's turn the question around," I said, "how do you know it would be bad? Wouldn't it depend on the individuals involved or the way they played along? I'm not talking about bondage or sadomasochism or cruelty. I'm simply talking about what goes on inside the bedroom. If your dream man treated you lovingly in real life but insisted on complete submission in the bedroom, could you really refuse?"

"Everything has limits. You cannot escape from freedom, no matter how sexy your master or mistress is. A relationship dependent on dehumanizing mind games won't last long (even if done with the best of intentions)."

"But in erotic fiction everybody is forced to do unusual or forbidden things. Maybe it's not normal (or legal), but that's what the genre is about. To read erotica is to let yourself dream about the thrills of domination or submission."

"No," Lisa said, "you're talking about porn, not erotica. In erotica people treat others with respect and dignity. Love and sex are intertwined. You can still fantasize about a sexual encounter without having to be a victim or victimizer."

Lisa, I observed, frequently distinguished between porn and erotica. For her erotica was sweet and romantic and positive, while porn was dehumanizing and dangerous. But these were just labels; it is harder to distinguish these two things (in reality or fiction). Porn and erotica essentially focused on the physical sensations of sex, mixed with varying degrees of violation and gentle persuasion.

"I'm not talking about victimization," I said. "I'm talking about the giving and taking of control. The challenge of sex is surrendering to another's desire without suppressing your own. Can we assert our will without imposing it on others?"

"True surrender is impossible. You can surrender, but you can't forget yourself. Submission to the will of another is not a natural way to live. Or love."

I looked at her. She was not prepared to back down. At times like these, I realized the futility of trying to make her see my point of view. She smiled in her usual sexy way and waited for my answer.

"Maybe you're right," I admitted.

Written, March 2006

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"For her erotica was sweet and romantic and positive, while porn was dehumanizing and dangerous. But these were just labels; it is harder to distinguish these two things (in reality or fiction)."
Ingres, Jupiter and Thetis, 1811
Ingres, Jupiter and Thetis (1811)
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