Consent in books

This isn’t my usual type of post. Normally I’m either reviewing a book or joining in with a fun blogging meme. However today I feel the need to just share my thoughts on a subject, even if it’s only with the ether!

Today I DNF’d a story, nothing unusual there, but I DNF’d it for EXACTLY the same reasons as another book, that I borrowed via Kindle Unlimited, only a couple of weeks ago. Both books fall into what I would classify as the domestic discipline, or spanking, trope, where one partner (usually the male) is dominant and disciplines the submissive partner when they infringe the rules or behave in an inappropriate manner.

Judge me all you want, but I like books that contain power exchange relationships. I like a little more bite, if you will, from my contemporary romance and you can take ANY pun from that description that you wish! I need something that adds a little more interest, perhaps it’s the slightly taboo feel that some of these stories have. It’s not from reading 50 Shades because I’ve haven’t done so, though I have read the likes of Cherise Sinclair, Kitty Thomas, Lexi Blake, Candace Blevins and Claire Thompson who stepped through the door FSoG opened but whose contemporary BDSM romances follow the tenets of BDSM more closely.

One of the most fundamental principles of any kind/BDSM ‘scene’ or relationship is that it adheres to a few ‘rules’. These rules being either the activity is SSC or RACK, where in BOTH cases the ‘C’ stands for consensual. SSC, is Safe, Sane and Consensual, RACK is Risk Aware Consensual Kink (for those activities like breath play where safe can not be guaranteed.) And this is where both these books sparked my ire and earnt my wrath, and in a surprisingly similar manner!

The first book has an overworked lawyer being sent BY HER BOSSES to a ranch where the cowboys discipline the guests. Our hapless heroine has no idea, she is expecting to arrive somewhere nice for a spa break. Upon learning the truth she makes it quite clear how shocked she is – this woman isn’t even in the lifestyle. Despite knowing she would not have willingly signed up for what was on offer, and not having been given consent of any kind, one of the workers decides she needs a spanking, because she walked off from him. The ranch owner agrees and a bare bottom spanking is given. Even after she reminds them she hasn’t consented to one. This is wrong on just so many levels, from her employers who have stepped over EVERY boundary there is, to the ranch hand who basically assaults her, since she hasn’t agreed to anything. I think what really annoyed me was that for some supposedly tough and bad-ass lawyer (yes she was a lawyer!!!!) she barely made a murmur of protest, where she actually should have been threatening them with a sexual assault law suit, because – CONSENT.

I then fell victim to an almost identical scenario. A lawyer’s assistant this time, who has a strange arrangement with her boss where he spanks her once a fortnight. Said boss sends her on a ‘business trip’, read opportunity to meet the guy he has already decided will take over and become her Dom without even mentioning a word to our heroine. Any Dom who doesn’t understand that consent is key to any relationship is an abuser. Now despite having gone along with the plan, our ‘hero’ is not happy at lying to the heroine, so he explains her boss’s plans at the earliest opportunity. Later in the day he bullies her into going to his office, LOCKS HER IN AND REFUSES TO LET HER OUT WHEN SHE ASKS HIM TO. His next step is to cut the top of her jeans so that they fall down after ignoring that the heroine clearly isn’t on board with being spanked by a stranger. The next minute she is letting him spank her, without a protest. I’m not sure whether the man – who is clearly not a hero – was worse for ignoring the word no, because that is what rapists do, or if I was annoyed that the heroine allowed herself to be abused without kicking up a fuss. Or should I say the author wrote the heroine that way. If she had entered his office and agreed to a spanking, not a problem, but why do some authors feel it is fine for no NOT to mean no?

I feel like fool my once shame on you, but fool me twice? Well my excuse is that I expect a book to warn me if it’s going to contain scenes of non-consent and as far as I am concerned that is exactly what both of these stories contained. I actually love a good dark dubious/non-consent read, I’m not triggered by rape or by violence. There are a whole lot of spanking, domestic discipline, BDSM and dark romance books on my Goodreads ‘read’ shelf.

I do not object to spanking for discipline, in a book or real life. I do not object to assault of the heroine by the anti-hero in a clearly labelled dark romance. However, I DO object to non-consensual acts by the ‘hero’ upon the heroine in a contemporary romance. I HAVE enjoyed non-consent spankings in paranormal romances involving shifters. This is because in many shifter books, their societies are very patriarchal with the male wolf discipling his mate. In the past I have defended the right for authors to write books with dubious and non-consent scenes and I would gladly do so again, as long as those acts are acknowledged for what they are, rather than being treated as ‘normal’ or ‘ok’ or (and this one really gets my goat) ‘deserved’. I appreciate that Amazon’s nasty censorial attitude makes it difficult for authors to give adequate warnings in the blurb, but it is the acknowledgement within the story that is key. The very fact that in both these books the spanking was subsequently treated as being acceptable is the cause of my anger.

Whilst these different tropes/sub-genres of romance are all works of fiction, contemporary, by it’s very nature, should surely follow the rules of society. And the rules of society say that the word “No” means no. It doesn’t mean “maybe”, nor does it mean “yes if you push and pester me enough and don’t listen to my noes”. So there it is, off my chest and onto the page. Thank you if you’ve read this far!

8 thoughts on “Consent in books

  1. I agree! That’s why a clear label for that kind of story is there. Don’t call it contemporary when it’s obviously not. And don’t allow the h being abused,because that’s what is within these settings. With a clear label of DE,you get an idea of what to expect. And a DE reader is a very different kind of reader than a contemporary romance reader….They KNOW it’s not normal to treat people that way,they KNOW in real life it’s NOT acceptable. Someone that’s into contemporary romance expects boundaries to be met. And no to mean NO. They’re not expecting a blatent disregard of the h’s comfortzone or needs….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Cecile. We know that Kitty Thomas or Cari Silverwood are going to push on that line, but they also acknowledge that both parties know the line has been stepped over. It’s part of the appeal of the book and it is expected but it is never presented as ‘OK’ or ‘normal’. They clearly show that the male character is an anti-hero. But when he is portrayed as a hero, then he should never step over that line.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Like you said. They dó acknowledge the fact that they do so,and their readers know it’s not “normal”. They expect to be pushed and they enjoy their kind of stories. But if,again like you said,you write contemporary and the guy is supposed to be the hero,he should act accordingly.

        Liked by 1 person

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