Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Toybag Guide to Clips and Clamps, by Jack Rinella

Description from Amazon:

From simple wood clothespins to a variety of metal and plastic devices, clamps offer infinite possibilities for painful and pleasurable fun. Covers types of clamps, where to place them, and psychological issues, plus zippers, weights, nets and other advanced techniques.

Amazon carries this title in paperback and Kindle format.  I read it on my Kindle.  

 - How kinky?
Clips and clamps are another type of play that serves as a "gateway" toy for many novices in the BDSM arena.  They can range from light and occasional, to heavy-duty and hardcore.  In this, they can represent a bridge between the not-very-kinky and the kinky-as-fuck.

- How accessible?
Very.  This Guide has so much information, ranging from basic to advanced, it would be difficult to find anyone who can't learn something from it!  Novices, and those who have never before played with this type of toy will find the information, and the way it is presented, extraordinarily accessible.
 
- How informative?
Very.  I learned so much. This slim volume is near bursting with detailed information about these wonderful toys, including photographs and safety information.  The author gives so many ideas for different uses of the various kinds of clips and clamps, and describes in detail their varied materials and the corresponding effects on the skin.  There is safety info and some first aid.  He advises on cleaning and caring for your collection, and importantly, areas of the body that are best to clamp.  A truly indispensable reference title for novices and those new to these types of toys.

- How well executed?
Quite.  The author clearly knows his stuff.  He does cover quite a lot of ground, and has a strong vocabulary to boot.  Extra points for use of the word "abrogate" :)

- Overall reaction
There was one facet of this type of play that I expected to find ideas on, and did not, which surprised me.  That is, that there are so many types of toys that fall under the umbrella of clips and clamps, and they are of such varied shapes, makes and materials, that roleplay scenes can be very well served simply by the use of appropriate clips.  For example, a scene involving a housewife using simple wooden pegs; an office scene employing heavy-duty bulldog clips; medical scenes using stainless steel hemostats; an industrial setting utilising evil-looking alligator clamps (or battery clips); a historical, religious or worship-type scene with the elegantly beautiful cloverleaf clamps ... and those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head.  This kind of idea wasn't included in this book, but it does contain so much more.
This, like the Guide on caning, is perfect for throwing into your toybag.  Take it with you when purchasing clips and clamps, and you will definitely need to refer to it when trying them out for the first time.  The ideas for pre- and post-play, and the info on appropriate aftercare, are truly excellent inclusions.  Anyone interested in these kinds of toys will appreciate this brilliant title.

A note:  As with the caning Guide, do try your best to buy this in hard copy.  The formatting in the Kindle version presents (relatively minor, but annoying) issues with the photos and their captions.

Four cocks!










Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Toybag Guide to Canes and Caning, by Janet Hardy

Description from Amazon:

A primer on the history, glamor, technique and art of erotic caning, including sections on cane styles and materials, pacing, warmup, aftercare, positions, first aid and safety issues. Includes a special section (on) making and maintaining your own canes from inexpensive natural materials!

Amazon carries this title in paperback and Kindle format.  I read it on my Kindle.  

 - How kinky?
Caning has become one of the more popular, and possibly well-known, of all the kinky activities.  I wouldn't say it has become mainstream, but it is certainly not as far-out as some other kinds of play. It might be ... medium kinky.

- How accessible?
Very.  This little guide answers all your basic questions in a very relatable, informative manner.  From why people like it, through to how to choose the perfect first cane for your needs, it really does have everything a novice might need to know before they get up and go to try and buy their first cane/s.
 
- How informative?
Quite! Hardy gives a quick history of caning, and goes on to give a wonderful overview of all the most basic topics concerned with the practice. There are photographs of the various kinds of implements, and even photos of positions for the caner and canee to assume. Perfect for the budding cane aficionado.

- How well executed?
Very.  The author is clearly an enthusiastic caner and canee, and writes with love and devotion on the topic, in very non-threatening, matter-of-fact language.  Lovely.

- Overall reaction
This, unlike the roleplay-based Guides, is perfect for throwing into your toybag.  There is information about the different types of implements and materials, so you can take it with you when shopping for canes.  There are photographs of caner and canee positions, so you can refer to it when trying out canes for the first time.  It has information on the various sensations to be felt from the different types of implements, ideas for warming up and cooling down during a scene, as well as the best ways to provoke the desired responses in a bottom. There's basic pain processing, beginner's safety and first-aid, and even a section on making your own canes, and ongoing cane maintenance.  Fantastic, and the perfect size to chuck into your bag for quick and frequent reference.

A note:  Do try your best to buy this in hard copy.  The formatting in the Kindle version presents (relatively minor, but annoying) issues with the photos and their captions.

Five cocks!








The Toybag Guide to Age Play, by Lee (Bridgett) Harrington

Description from Amazon:

Adult babies, sassy schoolgirls, bratty teens - all hold an honored place in the erotic roleplaying imagination of many adults. You'll learn how to express yourself through your ageplay role, choose a level of play that feels safe yet exciting, negotiate to be sure your needs get met, and find great props and equipment to inspire your play.

Amazon has this title in paperback and Kindle format.  I read it on my Kindle.  

 - How kinky?
Well, this sort of play falls into a category many would call Taboo Play, so yes, that's fairly kinky.  It's not about BDSM, in the usual sense of the term.  But as roleplay goes, it's pretty out-there (nothing wrong with that!).

- How sexy?
These sorts of guides are pure information, so I might dispense with the "How Sexy" question for these.  They're not.

- How accessible?
 I tend to think it is quite accessible.  It starts right from the beginning, and the author makes a point of addressing the "squicks" that people who haven't come across it before might have about this sort of play.  It gives a really good, basic overview, perfect for those who are coming into it brand-new.
 
- How informative?
Very.  It gives all the basic info one might expect to come across in a volume of this kind, and answers all the questions one might have to begin with.
 
- How engaging?
Again, same as the "sexy" question - it's irrelevant.  Plus, it doesn't have to be - it's only 112 pages long.

- How well executed?
Very.  Does exactly what it says on the tin.  Very well done.

- Overall reaction
 I love it.  As I said, it answers all of the question you might have coming into it.  However, because it's about a type of roleplay, it arguably falls into the category of Psychological Game, therefore a small volume like this might not be something you'd throw "into your toybag" to carry around with you.  It's the sort of thing you'd read once to get a feel for it, possibly read again to become more familiar with the subject if it interests you, and thereafter keep on the shelf to lend to anyone else who expresses interest.  The rest is really made up by you and your play partner/s, or researched independently.  It's not really the kind of guide you're going to need to refer to over and over.  That's just the nature of the subject matter, really.

Four cocks!








Sunday, October 26, 2014

Toybag Guides, published by Greenery Press

Hi again!

I recently made a lovely purchase from Amazon Kindle store: ten cute little guides, collectively known as the wildly popular Toybag Guides, published by (the prolifically awesome) Greenery Press.

Oh, look! Ten little guides, ten weeks between now and the New Year. How convenient! And not at all pre-planned!  It's my gift to you: Happy Holidays!

A new concept from Greenery - 4" x 6" quick reference guides you can drop in your toybag for less than $10! Each book contains at least as much information as you could get from a full day's workshop on the topic taught by one of the leaders in the scene - people like Jay Wiseman, Janet Hardy, Midori and John Warren. We'll be bringing out new ones every season. Start your collection now!

There are eleven Guides currently listed on Greenery Press' website.  All of the titles begin with the words "The Toybag Guide to ...", and all are written by a different expert within the scene.  They all have a wonderfully designed and well integrated cover theme, conveying their uniquely referential viewpoint - see bottom of page.

The Guides are as follows:

The Toybag Guide to ...


There are at least two out of print titles I can identify:
  • Chastity Play, by Mistress Simone
  • Parties and Events, by Lucullus

At this point in time, I have not found any references anywhere in cyberspace to any Toybag Guides but these.  The Guide to Parties and Events appears to be the most difficult to find; not even my trusted rare-and-out-of-print book dealers can find a copy.  That said, this is also the Guide most susceptible to carrying unusably outdated information (ie, information about parties and events taking place in any given year or city/country).  The other out-of-print title, Chastity Play, is much easier to find.

As for the other eleven titles, while I do have them on Kindle, I am currently in the process of collecting them in hard copy.  However, during my search, I have learned a few things about books and the interweb.  First, is that books being out-of-print is not necessarily an impediment to purchasing them nowadays.  The Chastity Play Guide is proving fairly simple to find from several different sellers.  However, controversial content will, unsurprisingly, make it almost impossible for a book to be found - the Erotic Knifeplay title is almost nowhere.

Another thing I have learned is about keywords, and Amazon.  When using keywords, sometimes not even the most obvious will yield results (eg, "toybag greenery" brought more results, not fewer, than just "toybag", from some bookselling sites). And occasionally, you need to know that what you want is there to be found, so that you don't lose your mind while searching for it (for example, "toybag" in the Kindle store brought only four results, none of which was Medical Play, but "toybag medical" brought up exactly what I was looking for).  Another thing is to try several approaches: is your keyword search not working in All Departments or the Books Department? Try just the Kindle Department. There it is!

The bottom line when using Amazon is this: sometimes they don't want you to find it.  A search for "toybag" bringing up age play guides, there for all those Christmas-list compiling kidlets to find? A sure way to have the publisher banned from Amazon marketplace altogether, as has allegedly happened in the past. But the book is there. In fact, Amazon.com carries ten of the eleven in-print Guides, all in Kindle format, as long as you search using the "toybag keyword" (ie "toybag taboo" or "toybag dungeon") method. The only in-print it is not currently selling is Basic Bondage, instead throwing up either an error page, or this:





Is it paranoia, or just experience, that has a little voice in my head telling me it's the Morality Brigade at work here?  Then again, they are still selling Erotic Knifeplay, so we can't be too upset. It might really just be formatting issues :)

However, there we some good things to come out of my wanderings.  My search also led me to a new favourite destination: Revel Books (Greenery Press' favoured seller). I shall be plumbing the depraved depths of their database for future inspiration and possibly some hardcore credit-card flagellation!  However, even they are not carrying Foot Worship or Erotic Knifeplay. Why are these the hardest to find, along with High-Tech Toys? I'm not sure, although it's possible it's just because they are the most recently published. (Incidentally, if you are curious as to the most commonly purchased title ... Canes and Caning!)

I also found this. Completely irrelevant, but I just imagine an avid DIY enthusiast's frustration when trying to find this book, and finding instead our beloved sexy disciplinary methods, and it makes me smile:


As always, I welcome and sincerely enjoy feedback and comments, so let me know of your adventures in bookfinding, or anything you happen to know about past, present or future Toybag Guides.  What's your favourite?

Until next time!









Thursday, October 9, 2014

{RE-REVIEW + EDIT} Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening, by Sophie Morgan

Here's my first review of this book:

Subtext: A Modern Day Tale of Female Submission, by Kate Marley


Yes, you understood that correctly - there are two books, with different titles, carrying different pseudonyms, with almost THE EXACT SAME TEXT inside (see my note at the end of the post).
 
Since I wrote the previous reviews, I have re-read this book several times.  (One of the perks of having a terrible memory like mine is re-reading books and not remembering the details - it's like a new book every time!)  I have also read the expanded book, and found it to be a huge improvement.

Description from Amazon.com:

The “real” Fifty Shades of Grey…A true life erotic story of female submission to rival The Story of O.

In Diary of a Submissive, Sophie Morgan candidly explains what exactly an independent, 21st century woman gets out of relinquishing her power and personal freedom in a submissive relationship with a dominant man for their mutual sexual pleasure.

In the wake of Fifty Shades of Grey, here is a memoir that offers the real story of what is means to be a submissive and follows Sophie’s story as she progresses from her early erotic experiences through to experimenting with her newfound awakened sexuality.  From the endorphin rush of her first spanking right through to being collared, she explains in frank and explicit fashion her sexual explorations.  But it isn’t until she meets James, a real life ‘Christian Grey,’ that her boundaries and sexual fetishism are really pushed. As her relationship with James travels into darker and darker places, the question becomes: Where will it end? Can Sophie reconcile her sexuality with the rest of her life, and is it possible for the perfect man to be perfectly cruel?

Daring, controversial, and sensual, Diary of a Submissive is filled with a captivating warmth and astounding honesty such that no one— man or woman—will be able to put Sophie's story down. Once you read the book you will understand why Sophie Morgan is a pseudonym.

So here's my updated review:

- How kinky?
Quite.  Morgan knows kink; this isn't a 50 Shades of Grey-inspired romp with silk scarves and hand-spanking.  This is a bedroom-submissive experimenting with everything from corsets to ownership, toys to orgies.  She digs humiliation and obedience, and that is the main plotline throughout - the obedience.  She's good at it!

- How sexy?
Not as much as you'd think.  As mentioned in my previous review, she is so straightforward and matter-of-fact that it kind of breaks the sensuality of the scenes.  There are a lot of details she leaves out, and she tells you there's more to the story than is printed, so it does leave you wanting more.  Reading it is more like having a conversation with a raunchy friend - it'll get you hot and bothered, yes, but you'll always wish it was just one step closer to actual erotica.  Well, I did anyway. - EDIT - The AKA book has a lot more detail.  Heaps more!  It's much better now - in fact, it's bloody fantastic.

- How informative (for non-fiction) or inspiring (for fiction)?
This book, in a way, is both fiction and non-fiction.  What I mean is, it is non-fiction, but isn't a dry reference book, so I can't really call it "informative".  It reads like fiction, and my man is convinced it has been fictionalised and sensationalised - not knowing the author I really couldn't say.  But, between informative and inspiring, I'd have to go with inspiring.  It has some great ideas, some great fantasies, and in a way, it could almost be used as a fun intro into bedroom D/s for beginners - people who think that 50 Shades of Grey is kinky might have their eyes opened by the much deeper, more real scenes and language depicted here.  Plus it's so easy to read!

- How engaging?
Very.  I love reading this book, every time.  Hate putting it down.  I think just the fact that I've just finished reading it for the fifth time tells you just how engaging it can be :)

- How well executed?
Very.  As I mentioned in the earlier review, the author is a journalist, so she really knows how to string a sentence together.  The writing is easy to follow, easy to get into, and her vocabulary and grammar are impressive.  None of this "Oh, holy shit!" writing of certain other "kink" books I could name (is it obvious how much I hate E. L. James?  I know, I hide it well.)

- Overall reaction
One of my bugbears about this book is the author's apparent self-loathing about her own proclivities.  Frequently, and I mean at least once every chapter and in several cases many times, she mentions the "fury" she feels when ordered around, the "anger" that rises up whenever she hears certain words or phrases.  She is so stubborn, argumentative and reluctant to give in that I start to wonder if maybe she has deep-seated issues about why she submits.  She can come across as someone who hates that she is a sub and feels frequently embarrassed about her reactions to scenes.  It can seem at times like she finds it difficult to just accept it, go with the flow and just be.  It doesn't mean she's not a sub - quite the opposite, as she never fails to do what is asked of her and she is actually impressively obedient.  I'm just pointing out that it slows my reading down as I get a bit frustrated with her sometimes.  It's the *only* reason I did not previously give this book 5 cocks.  However - EDIT - the Morgan version has extended the narrative, quite significantly, and while Morgan still speaks a lot about her fury and embarrassment, she also explains that she is very aware of the fact that she is a walking paradox, and does make significant efforts to overcome that and just give in.  She never makes the reader feel bad or awkward for enjoying what she's writing about, and for revelling in their own submission, and so overall I felt less uncomfortable for her.  I felt she really puts across how hot she finds it all, and how she's never coerced or forced into anything, and how her embarrassment actually deepens and heightens the scenes for her.  

However, there is a serious (in my opinion) issue with the Morgan version of this title.  Namely, the realisation that this is not in the strictest sense a non-fiction memoir.  This is, quite possibly, a work of fiction.  What makes me say this?  Well, my memory of the Marley book was that one of the pivotal scenes with a former lover took place at a kink club, while the female protagonist was roped up in a shibari situation, her breasts on display and yet her dignity intact.  It was impressive, and left quite an impression on me.  When I read Morgan's book, I looked for the same scene, and it was gone.  "Oh,"  I thought, "She must have felt it wasn't in keeping with the tone of the restructured narrative."  I went back to the Marley book to reread the scene, and possibly figure out why it may have been cut.  Imagine my surprise - and dismay - to discover the exact same dialogue that, in the Marley version, had taken place at the club, had taken place in the Morgan version, on the woman's front doorstep!  Well, Author, did this happen on your doorstep or in a club?  It dawned on me.  It's entirely probable this scene never happened at all.  It's possible none of it did.  Is it a work of imagination, of fiction?  I feel somewhat betrayed, as a reader - Morgan does claim that this is a non-fiction work.  Call me a pedant, but in my book I believe a work of non-fiction should contain no fiction. An author should own up and be honest when any aspect of a memoir has been fictionalised, or they have taken imaginative liberties with parts of it (she does admit to the fact that "... the timeline and a few people/experiences have been amalgamated together both to ensure that they're not identifiable and to make the narrative structure of the book flow better," but is it the same?  I'm not sure)Am I being melodramatic?  Possibly.  But I take this stuff seriously.  Without honesty we cannot have trust.  Sophie Morgan, if you're out there, I would love to discuss this with you!  Please get in touch! :)

It is important to stress that the story is the same, with names changed, and the dialogue remains consistent.  But Morgan's version just reconstructs the narrative in a way that, in my own personaly opinion, makes a mockery of the non-fiction/memoir genre, and I believe that is an important factor to consider.

While I had previously awarded the Marley version 4.5 cocks, I was prepared to upgrade my rating and award five cocks to the Morgan version.  However, with the change in focus from memoir to fiction, taking that into account in my judgment, I will stick with ...

4.5 cocks!




Please also check out the sequel:

No Ordinary Love Story: Sequel to The Diary of a Submissive, by Sophie Morgan


AN UNUSUAL POST-SCRIPT ...

So, about the two versions.  This is, needless to say, a very unusual situation.  I am told that things like this usually happen when a book is published by a major publishing house, and then the text is plagiarised by a smaller house, changing the names and title as a nod to preventing litigation.  This doesn't seem to be the case here, though my own personal research into it continues.  The Morgan book purports to have been published by Gotham Books, an imprint of Penguin, truly a publishing giant.  It even carries Library of Congress cataloguing-in-publication data, including an ISBN.  The Marley book is published by Xcite Books, a smaller and no doubt niche company, but contains all the correct legal information regarding copyright on the fly leaf.  The strange thing is that the smaller house seems to have published first:  the Marley book was first published in 2010, while the Morgan book claims 2012.  It's all a bit confounding, really. 

Besides the issue of "to whom should we be giving our money", the text of the books is close to identical.  The characters' names are different, and the narrative is broadly expanded (and drastically changed in places) in the Morgan book. Plus, the Marley book has been removed from Amazon, leading me to recommend you purchase the Morgan book, and not to worry that you have missed out. It is, all things considered, the better version.



Sneaky mag ...

Yes, I know, I've mentioned it before.  But I have decided to post this mag because it's just so brilliant, and needs support to survive (as do all indie mags these days, what with competing with the internets).  They have regular columns by a sex worker, and review events including sexy sexy art showings, and BDSM-related happenings.

This month's story picks:
And so, so much more.  Check it out.  You can get it at many newsagents now, or subscribe.  Get your filthy hands all over it however you can.



Sunday, September 28, 2014

Acessibility

Hi everyone,

A friend recently asked me, "Do you review the accessibility of a book?"  I asked what he meant. He said, "Sometimes I have wondered if, as a newbie or a vanilla, a book might be too intense, or hardcore, or even assume prior knowledge I won't be aware of. I just thought maybe you could incorporate those kinds of comments into your reviews."

I think it is a great idea. I never considered it before, being as desensitised to the subject matter as I sometimes feel I am. So, I have decided to add that element to my reviews, under the sub-header, "How accessible?", as well as adding a new tag, "Good for novices".  However - and this is important to me - I would not want anyone to get the impression that a book that may be "good for novices" has nothing to teach those who may be more experienced.  It is just not true. In fiction, a book which is good for novices may just mean it is more softcore than some of the more advanced stuff, and there's nothing wrong with preferring your porn softcore!  In non-fiction, a book which is good for novices may simply mean it starts from the beginning, and builds on the basics. These books often also go on to contain some extraordinarily helpful and useful information for the more learned among us - but they also explain the basic premises, and teach you from the ground up. That's what I intend to mean by "good for novices".

I don't want anyone to take offence at my own personal views on the relative accessibility of particular works. I do ask for assistance in this area, from lovely helpful friends who are perhaps less accustomed to the language and subject matter. If my wording sometimes sounds slightly patronising, please know that I would never, ever mean it this way. But if you disagree about my views on a particular title, please do let me know.  I always love to get feedback, and I never take criticism personally - I actually enjoy it!

Keep enjoying my blog, and spread the word!

Love, Alex




Carrie's Story, and Safe Word, by Molly Weatherfield

Descriptions from Amazon.com:

Carrie's Story:
"I had been Jonathan’s slave for about a year when he told me he wanted to sell me at an auction. I wasn’t in any condition to respond when he told me this…" So begins Carrie’s tale of uncompromising sexual adventure. Imagine the Story of O starring a Berkeley PhD in comparative lit (who moonlights as a bike messenger) with a penchant for irony, self-analysis, and anal sex. Set in San Francisco and the Napa valley, Carrie’s Story takes the reader on a journey into a netherworld of slave auctions, training regimes, and human "ponies" preening for dressage competitions.

Carrie’s Story is S/M smut for people who know how to read. The author is herself obviously well-read. Because the story is told from the POV of a smart, hip, curious, awake young woman, Carrie’s Story stimulates the intellect far more than you’d expect from porn.


Safe Word:
From the author of Carrie’s Story comes the continuing tale of a young woman’s uncompromising sexual adventure. Carrie leaves behind her life with Jonathan, the S/M master who initiated her into a life of slave auctions, training regimes, and human "ponies" preening for dressage competitions. Whisked away to Greece by the demanding gentleman who has chosen her as his own, she learns new, more rigorous methods of sexual pleasure.

Amazon lists these titles as being available in paperback and Kindle format.  I read them both on my Kindle. 

- How kinky?  
Oh, wow, is it ever!  More kinks than you can poke a supple leather crop at. The order of the day is slavery, and it underpins every interaction the female protagonist has with her world.  She does begin by being afraid, or perhaps a better word would be wary - but she soon grows into it, and we see just how perfectly suited to the role she is.  She lives it, she breathes it, she adores it.  Never does she question its sanity or safety - she just knows this is what her life will be, now.  Magnificent.

- How sexy?  
Undeniably.  The writing is, like a good whip, finely crafted and beautifully balanced.  The author is intelligent and well-read, and it shows in the dialogue, but the sex scenes are no less sizzling hot for the intellectual banter and narrative.  Every "bad" word is used here, to brilliant effect, highlighting the smut just as it needs to be seen - white-hot, and just a little bit sleazy. Perfect. 

- How accessible?
I would say, probably not very. This is not an "entry-level" text.  It is hardcore, and deals with consensual slavery and pony-training.  I am not trying to put you off, but perhaps better to try something a little gentler first - or start with this, and dive-bomb into the deep end!

- How inspiring?
 This book has been my good friend for some years now.  It has inspired *many* a fantasy and scene. Very, very inspiring indeed.

- How engaging?  
Oh, incredibly.  The universe the protagonists inhabit, fictional though it may be, is so well fleshed out, so three-dimensional, that I honestly wish I never had to leave.  The characters have history, the scenes have substance, the colours and costumes and sights and sounds are so finely drawn that you can close your eyes and see yourself there (as you will wish you were!).  My main complaint is that together, the books are too short!  I just want to live here ... well, let's just say, any book that can make stubborn, mule-headed me want to try being a luscious pony-trained sex slave like Carrie, must be doing something right!

- How well executed?
Brilliant.  As I have mentioned, the author is amazing at her craft.  The literary references might be beyond some (as they were beyond me), but you don't need to understand them to enjoy the books.  All you need to know is that Carrie is a woman with an intellect, versatile and sharp, and very, very visible, and she submits willingly and courageously to her goal.  She voluntarily gives all she has to slavery itself, and we applaud her for it, through her witty and observant asides that bring out the poignancy of her situation.  Ms Weatherfield (un nom de plume, naturellement) is a master of literary sculpture.

- Negatives? 
Only a very minor point: the universe Ms Weatherfield has created contains characters only ever seen in fiction.  An outrageous bugbear, I know - "A fiction novel containing fictional characters? Preposterous!"  But fictional characters is a very different concept to stereotyped character-types.  Two such character-types come to mind here: the Hardcore Kinkster who Dresses as To The Manor Born, and the Mindreading Dom/me.  I do realise that this book is intended to be filed directly under "Neo-Victoriana", but the bit players who wear such My Fair Lady-esque dresses and hats, the upperclass, stiff-upper-lip ladies-who-lunch, really didn't make me feel that the ladies in question were all that kinkily inclined.  Where is the fetish gear? Where are the everyday corsets?  Where are the tattoos and facial piercings?  Even the offspring of the obscenely rich, when kinkily-minded, tend to dress as neo-punk-cum-rebellious-teenager, even into their thirties. Heck, even when they're not kinky, they dress like that.  It's the 21st century.

And so to the Amazing Mindreading Dom/mes.  A character straight out of every kinkster's dreams, who has never and will never exist, sadly.  A simple flick of the eyes in the direction of one's shoes, and suddenly SuperStrict Domme is commenting, "You're right about these shoes. They are too expensive, even for me," as she grinds her leather toe into slave's cunt.  Really? She knew instinctively what Innocent Waywardly Slave was thinking? She should be on TV!  Or more likely, she was just guessing.  In fiction, a Domme can be just so immensely Dommely that she knows precisely what's going on with all slaves at all times, catching even so much as a flick of the eyelids or momentary crinkle of a dimple, and will punish accordingly later. In reality - sadly it's more likely that eyelid flicks and dimple crinkles are lost by the Dom/me, too busy just being human to notice the most infinitesimal details, and when coming up with statements such as, "You're right in what you were thinking just now," is as likely as not to be utterly wrong - but since the slave cannot correct their Master, Master may forever be convinced they really do know what their slave is thinking. Food for thought.  

(Incidentally, this brings up another thought - in fiction, the eyelid flicks and dimple crinkles may just as likely be due to a lapse in training, or simple curiosity. In reality, it can sometimes just be an effort to get the Dom to notice that slave is being naughty, in order to get punished. Bratting, in other words, in the small ways that slaves can brat. Do real-life slaveowners really notice these things? Do real-life slaves ever get five for looking at Master's face? Please let me know; it just feels all too superhuman for any real-life Dom/me to accomplish with any consistency.) 

- Overall reaction
I. Love. These. Books.  Love them.  Adore them.  One thing I loved about this story is the aspect of absolute consent.  Carrie wants to be a slave, needs to be, must be. She is not drawn here by coercion, by trickery, by a suave and charming man who strips off his charisma the minute they are alone - too often the gateway to an exciting non-consent element in fiction.  Don't get me wrong, I love non-consent in fiction, but Carrie's incredible story doesn't need it to be brilliant.

Why should I not give them five cocks?   Can I really mark books down just for being too brief?  Can I mark them down because MindReading Dom/me makes an appearance once in a while?  Hard to say. I choose not to.


FIVE COCKS!






Buy this book if:

  •  You have been reading Subtext/Diary of a Submissive and want to move on to the next level.
  • You have been reading The MarketPlace by Laura Antoniou and want something a little more character-based; a little more sentimental.
  • You enjoy slavery and pony-play narratives, and especially when they are mixed together!
  • You enjoy well-written, intelligent storytelling, and love to immerse yourself in a world with many dimensions; to lose yourself in the plot.  And a wonderfully foulmouthed, sexy-as-hell vocabulary :)



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Domination & Submission: The BDSM Relationship Handbook, by Michael Makai

Description from Amazon.com:  

The definitive handbook on Domination and Submission (D/s) relationships and the BDSM lifestyle. A must-read for anyone considering or curious about non-traditional relationships within a fetish culture context. Funny, insightful, educational, and inspiring.

Author Michael Makai goes in-depth on Dominants, submissives, switches, primals, and their relationship dynamics. Learn about BDSM activities, bondage, toys, groups, protocols, and safety. This book even dares to go where others fear to tread: Primal relationships, online BDSM relationships, the Gorean subculture, first meetings, religion vs. kink, and the many ways it can all go wrong.

You'll love Michael Makai's irreverent and humorous treatment of this subject as he gives you the benefit of his 35+ years of experience in the D/s and BDSM lifestyles.


Amazon lists this title as being available in paperback and Kindle format.  I read it on my Kindle. 

- How kinky?
Pretty much. He covers a very wide gamut of practices, from physical to psychological.  "Kinky" isn't up to your definition in this book. No matter what your definition of kinky, it's probably here. 

- How sexy?
Well, it is a reference book, so it doesn't necessarily have to be sexy.  But Makai includes a lot of his own anecdotes, and some of those get pretty hot.  (Then again, at least one of his stories paints himself in a bad light, and then there's the ridiculous and unnecessary Spaghetti Story ... they're not all sexy!) 

- How informative?
Very.  there is a lot of very good info in here.  A lot.  It's lovely and long, which so many books trying to be 'guides to kink' just aren't.  There are so many subjects he leaves out, however - politics, for example, and an outline of the law in any country besides the US.  It's not comprehensive. 

- How engaging?
Mildly so.  Some chapters I was sorely tempted to skip, but I never do when I'm reviewing.  Other chapters, I didn't want to put down.  So it lies somewhere in the middle between 'riveting' and 'shut up now please'. Previously not-much-written-about topics Makai covers in detail include: Gorean lifestyle, toys such as chastity belts, play such as Primal play, identities such as Lesser Gods, and philosophical topics such as relating your kink to your religious beliefs.

- How well executed?
 Aha.  Well.  Makai writes well, and his writing itself can be quite engaging, but he makes an attempt at writing a "definitive guide" (his words) and, IMO, fails quite badly.  It's difficult to claim that it is poorly executed - it just doesn't live up to the goal that the author was clearly trying to reach. 

- Negatives?
Oh, boy. I just truly dislike the egotism that is practiced within the writing.  He claims to be so experienced and knowledgable; claims to be writing a definitive guide; claims to be writing from an objective perspective, and fails sadly.   He even included little additions at the end of each chapter, called "My Two Cents On (Subject)", whereas arguably, the entire chapter is his own opinion of said subject.  He writes from one perspective only - not a problem if your book is intended as "Michael Makai's Book of Dominance and submission", but a serious issue when touted as "The BDSM Relationship Handbook: The definitive guide" etc.  Plus, I have always been a firm believer in that old red-flag: "Rule of thumb: If you need to say you’re a master, you probably aren’t a master. Be wary of any top who brags excessively about his “experience” and “scene cred.”"

Makai gives broad-brush descriptions of almost any toy you can imagine, for example, but doesn't mention key safety information.  He talks about wax play, and mentions beeswax candles, but doesn't seem to be aware that most wax play practitioners caution us never to use beeswax candles as their melting point of about 63°C will burn skin, not just feel hot (which is the desired sensation in wax play).  An example of this is in the Toys chapter, where he tells us he is a fan of Saran Wrap as a BDSM toy, but that we should "take proper precautions."  That's it. That's as far as he goes on the subject of Saran Wrap, arguably an incredibly dangerous toy when used improperly.  He does not mention that it should never, ever cover the mouth and nose, that it should never be taped on without safety measures taken, and that the mummified person should never be left unattended.  I agree, he does tell us "to take proper precautions", but doesn't go into detail about what those precautions might be. He also mentions Waterpiks, telling us joyfully that they are lots of fun for sensation play, "Or, if you’re an adventurous and creative kinkster, for your nipples, clit, cock and anus.And then promptly neglects to even mention that they should never, ever be directed into the vagina or anus for safety reasons.  I would have thought that would be considered a necessary point to add.

Now, this may seem nitpicky to those who say, 'But it's just common sense!' or, 'But it's not his job to explain safety precautions', or even just, 'He doesn't have to go into safety as a subject - it's not a safety book'.  To those people, I reply: Common sense is not that common, we all know that; he does state that this is a "definitive guide", so one would presume (unwisely) that he covers all basic aspects of the subjects he writes about; and thirdly, he does expound lengthily upon the safety of some other types of play, dedicating multiple pages to safety during cell popping, and when learning to use bullwhips (should those even be included in a beginner's book?), and mentioning several times that breast play can cause fibroids: "Fibroids are not inherently dangerous to a woman’s health, but they can result in false positives in mammograms and may affect the aesthetic appearance of the breasts." Makai, Michael (2013-09-20). Domination & Submission: The BDSM Relationship Handbook (p. 235).  . Kindle Edition. Going into that sort of detail regarding a situation that isn't dangerous (but affects the look of your titties!), one would expect he would expand thoroughly on ensuring your bottom's ability to breathe.  

Makai also doesn't even touch on the subject of negotiating or discussing possible psychological side effects of physical play, such as past trauma triggers etc. Knowing that the book is designed partially to cater to newbies, who may not be aware that such pre-discussion is necessary, I feel this presents an ethical conundrum.

Side note:  He does give over almost an entire, quite lengthy, chapter to safety of person and information when meeting people online.  While it was tedious to read (because I agreed with him), I cannot bring myself to condemn such excruciatingly detailed chapters.  Safety online, and especially when meeting someone IRL, can never be taken too seriously.

Other areas that irritated me were supposedly final words on subjects which are clearly open to argument and discussion: "In fact, there is no shortage of people who typically react to the merest mention of Gor almost viscerally, with much hostility and resentment. What causes them to respond so negatively to anyone or anything seemingly connected to the Gorean way? The answer lies in two little words: the internet." Makai, Michael (2013-09-20). Domination & Submission: The BDSM Relationship Handbook (p. 150).  . Kindle Edition.   He goes on to explain that the only reason we hate Goreans so much is obviously because of the internet. Well, personally, I for one react slightly negatively towards the idea of the Gorean phenomenon due to the fact that I once narrowly escaped a situation with a man who truly, no-joking believed in the planet Gor, and followed the dictates of the Gorean philosophy to the point of almost fanatical obsession - in his private and public life.  He did not temper his beliefs to anyone, subs or co-workers alike, and treated those who were not Gorean with an attitude of contempt and derision.  I am by no means trying to imply that all, or most, or even that many, Goreans are like this.  I am just pointing out that Makai has a narrow world-view and writing style that does not appear to be unduly influenced by opinions other than his own.  As I said - he tends to comes across as extraordinarily egotistical (he has an entire appendix dedicated to quoting himself).

There were one or two other irritations within this book, such as the fact that the chapter on 'First Meetings' is entirely, without exception, devoted to meeting someone for the first time in real life after having an online relationship first. I'm not saying this is uncommon, but some info on how to meet like-minded people in the lifestyle without having met them on the net would have been a good thing to include.  Meeting partners, and especially having online relationships, simply isn't as prevalent as Makai would have you believe (IMO).  If a newbie were to pick up this book, and go only by the info within its pages, they may get the impression that meeting partners and beginning relationships online - even having entire relationships conducted online, from first contact to falling in love to arranging shared residences - is the norm.  I do not personally believe this to be the case. (Common, yes; desirable, arguably not; more common than having relationships in real life, I seriously doubt it.)  In fact, Makai doesn't touch on how to begin a real life relationship (as in, without the use of the internet) at all.  This truly worries me. 

Some, though few, value judgments are made. One that comes to mind is the instance in which Makai equates promiscuity with (the debatably existent condition) sex addiction.  This is just likely to alienate readers who hold the increasingly popular view (famously espoused by the book The Ethical Slut, by Dossie Easton and Catherine A. Liszt) that promiscuity is powerful and empowering, and overwhelmingly a good thing, something to be proud of.  Get with the times, Makai!

A minor but important point I would also like to make is this: the editing could have been much better. This is evidenced by several errors, and instances of poor writing.  Firstly, factual errors, such as when Makai tells us that the word 'polyamory' comes from the Latin roots poly and amor - in reality, the root poly is of Greek origin.  There are spelling errors, such as the chapter in which he consistently misspells "reigns" - in terms of horse tack, it is always spelled "reins".  Then there is the the fact that Makai - utterly unnecessarily - italicises at least one word per sentence throughout the entire book (unbelievably irritating to read). He also commits some irritating grammatical errors, e.g. "hypothetically scenario", "a kajirae" (which is the plural form of kajira), and "that big of a deal".  All things that just point to bad editing.

Also note: He defines some things in a way that not everyone will agree with, but presents them as though they are accepted definitions.  Some examples: "BDSM is what you do, D/s is something you are ..." (a debatable definition), and "A BDSM scene is simply any BDSM activity that is done in front of an audience. A scene should be considered a performance ..." If you are one of those who uses the word 'scene' to mean 'any interaction or play between two kinksters', this may annoy you.  YMMV.

- Overall reaction
This is a useful book, with many wonderful additions.  It is, to date, the only guide-style book I have encountered with an in-depth view of the Gorean lifestyle - a fantastic introduction to those who have heard the term, not understood it, but don't necessarily want to have to go read all 32 Gor novels, or purchase a dedicated Guide To Gor-type volume.  It covers aspects of kink that I would consider essential, such as applicable laws (though only mentions the US), and safety when meeting online, and gives some marvellous pointers and great tips on keeping ourselves and our information safe if we are attacked, threatened or otherwise victimised.  Religion and kink is covered extensively, which is refreshing to those who have read so many books which either don't address the philosophy of kink, or do so poorly and exclusionistically.  It even covers topics that I have never even heard of, such as Primals, and Lesser God Doms - regardless of your personal beliefs on such subjects, it does give a great overview of these topics and so many more.

Overall, my main bone to pick with this book is the very fact that it calls itself "definitive", without being even close to it.  I keep coming back to that word, "definitive", because it calls out to newbies and frenzied persons, promising to cover every possible base, and start their kinky education with a heavy be-all-end-all tome.  This book does not deliver that specifically.  It is not an encyclopaedic work, with indicators to further research, nor does it touch on every subject in the kink world, as it would be almost impossible to do so within one volume.  It does not point out that further investigation of your chosen kinks may be desirable or necessary, and it does not indicate that perhaps Michael Makai isn't the Extreme Ultimate Master of All Things Cell Popping and Branding, so perhaps you shouldn't try it at home using only his three-page description of such practices (in which he includes zero information about first aid).

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone interested in a broad, inclusive view of many specific topics in the kink lifestyle.  I would not tell them it is a definitive guide.  At the same time, I would also recommend extensive further research on procedures and precautions involved in their particular kink, and especially first-aid and aftercare, which Makai does not even begin to cover. The only reason I have for marking it down in the rating is the, in my own opinion, extremely misleading synopsis and description of it as being "definitive".  Not only is it irritatingly incorrect use of English, it can also be downright dangerous to those less gifted with "everyday" common sense.  My advice: use your brain, and research your interests thoroughly.

Overall ... four cocks.

Buy this book if:

  • It is not the only book you buy on kink. More information than this is needed to play safely.
  • You are starting out, have heard some terms, wonder what they mean, and need a general overview of some rarely touched-on topics.
  • You have been in the scene for a while, and want to know a bit more about topics you haven't learned about before.
  • You like learning new things, and it doesn't bother you that all the info in the world isn't contained in one volume - only the basics are discussed.
  • You aren't bothered by irritations such as inaccuracies, constant italicised emphasis, and a supremely subjective viewpoint - if you can put it all aside and enjoy the book anyway.