“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” –Nelson Mandela, 1994 inaugural address.
That’s an odd thought to have while reading Power Play: Resistance by Rachel Haimowitz and Cat Grant, but that’s what rattled around in my head.
I started reading the book expecting BDSM with a physically strong submissive. Anyone who knows me knows that is my biggest kink. Tom from Blowback is still one of my favorite characters.
However, I got something a little different. I got what feels like the BDSM version of a rape fantasy. Bran may have submissive tendencies, he may not. After Jonathan decides to take their relationship far past the bounds of any RACK or SSC relationship, it’s hard to tell.
The excessively rich dominant, Jonathan, offers Bran three million dollars in return for six months of sexual slavery. He ignored the fact that Bran has never played and has only a fuzzy idea that BDSM is about being handcuffed to a headboard, which means there is no “risk awareness.”
When Bran uses his safe word, Jonathan tells him that he’s ‘abusing’ the safeword (which will result in Bran violating the contract) because the pain is emotional and not physical. Jonathan does respect the safeword if he thinks Bran is physically at an edge, but Bran is a macho man who endures bruises the linger for weeks and has pain in his fingers from wrist bruising (suggesting internal damage) before he safewords, which means this is not safe.
This is the main reason that good Doms don’t wait for safewords—masochistic subs, macho subs, and subs too far down into subspace can fail to safeword out even when in serious distress.
The book bothers me because it is so extreme, and yet is it really different from the rape fantasies that we so often run into on the internet? Yeah, I’ve failed to backbutton quickly enough a couple of times, and I’ve seen stuff I would have preferred to never see. In each case, an individual is abused… hurt… and they find they like it.
Now, I don’t for even a second believe that anyone learns to like it, although I am well aware of the psychological damage done by abuse and the ways the victim can learn to identify with it. But the fantasy isn’t about identifying with and enduring. The fantasy is about desire.
And there’s where Mandela’s quote comes in (although I’m sure he would be horrified to see his words used in this context).
Alternate sexualities, and that can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, are scary. If you were raised on the penny method of contraceptives (keep a penny between your knees—if you don’t spread your knees you can’t get pregnant) then any sex outside of marriage is alternate. For some people, alternate means homosexual relationships, for others it’s about having a fetish or a dominant or submissive personality.
No matter what the “alternate” taste is, to have the strength to step outside and embrace that is hard because it makes you different. If Bran had stood in front of his coworkers and said, “Hey, I’m gay. Get over it,” that would have been an expression of power.
But that power is terrifying because it comes with consequences. The raised nail gets hit with the hammer. The individual who is different is singled out by a society that claims to embrace individuality even while trying to get everyone to wear the same damn style of stupid mesh shirt.
That power scares us. It scares me. It’s easier to hide in the dark, as Mandela says, but in this case, I see the darkness as the conformity that strips us of our voice.
Here, Bran doesn’t have to embrace that power. He doesn’t have to stand up and risk standing out. He is forced into a relationship he barely understands—coerced by his own stubbornness and his need for that three million dollars. Hell, I’d consider putting up with a sadist for six months if he paid that well. Maybe. Hell, who knows.
But the fact is that this is bad BDSM. Bad, bad, bad BDSM. You don’t suspend someone from metal cuffs. You don’t allow wrist bruising deep enough to impair the feeling in the fingers. You don’t use tazers on someone genitals or repeatedly tazer someone (heart damage anyone??). I could keep going, but let’s face it—this isn’t BDSM.
This is fantasy. This is not significantly different than a rape fantasy. This is all about the fantasy of indulging in an alternative sexuality without having to step up and embrace the power for yourself.
This is not my kink.
I want my six dollars back. I want two hours of my life back. I want a physically strong submissive who kneels for his master. I think I’m heading back to fanfic land