Whatever floats your boat...

Of human bondage

My novel The Remainders will be published by Black Rose Writing on September 2, 2021. I will describe my book in this series of posts. You can read other posts in The Remainders category on my website.

Is it OK for writers to include their fetishes in their stories? That question came up on Reddit, and I gave a well up-voted reply. If you’ve been reading my speeches and blog posts, you know I cover that particular motif a bit. And there are the novels, like Offline:

She hmmmffthed and moaned, rocking her body violently against her bonds. He stared at her dispassionately.

“You say you want to know me. Now, you do. This is what it’s really like to be me.”

And Doria:

“…But if you ever talk that way around these children again, I’ll report you to the Secretariat. Got it?”

Valeriu stiffened. “You were better in the movies when you were tied up and gagged.”

And Amiga:

“He stuck a gun in my face! He tied me up! He could have killed me! You don’t forget something like that!”

He turned his face away from me. “But you can forget how to be a wife.”

And yes, also The Remainders:

She looked down at my hands. “Then can you tie me up?”

She still liked things spicy, but it became less like wasabi and more like Taco Bell sauce packets.

So, what the hell is my problem?

I don’t know where people get the idea of rope equals sexy fun-time any more than folks are into feet or dressing like a plush animal. My best guess is that I grew up in the sixties and seventies when TV was filled with damsels in distress. Some beautiful woman gets captured in a Western, spy thriller, or gritty detective drama, and they need to be rescued by the handsome male hero. Unfortunately, these scenes contained ugly stereotypes—not just of “meek and helpless” women, but of the “swarthy” villains who took them captive. But underneath the mustache twirling and knot tying, there was a current of hope. As long as the captor kept our damsel alive, there is the hope she will be rescued. And since the hero always triumphed in the end, our hopes were realized. The message is that if we hold out and endure whatever situation we’re stuck in, we can make it through.

This message helped me when I got tied up in real life.

That’s why I find bondage and the limitations of agency interesting. We all go through moments of powerlessness, when our options are limited, and we feel trapped in situations beyond our control. It’s especially true now with the pandemic, Afghanistan, political instability, natural disasters, and all the other problems we are facing. Sometimes, we have to stop struggling against our bonds, take a deep breath, assess the situation, and gather our strength to act when an opportunity for escape comes. When you are the captive, it takes mental and emotional strength, more than physical strength, to survive. We can’t always count on the hero to rush in and save us. We have to hold out long enough until help arrives, or we can save ourselves.

And bondage as a form of physical intimacy has positive points. It’s not about dominance and subjugation, but an act of trust between consenting partners. One person voluntarily gives their power to another, and the recipient takes responsibility for their safety and pleasure. For those who shoulder plenty of responsibilities, letting someone else take charge is a relief. And for those who find little control in their daily lives, having someone value and trust them enough to give power over them is liberating. It can be a beautiful thing.

As one character explains in The Remainders:

When you think about it, love is a form of bondage. You trade a bit of your freedom for companionship, caring, and support.

These days, many of us feel like our hands are figuratively tied. We need to know that we can get through whatever we’re dealing with. We can endure difficult situations through persistence. We need to learn to depend on others. When we can’t solve problems ourselves, we can ask for help. Acceptance, endurance, and patience are not signs of passivity, but of courage. Stories about people whose hands are literally tied can help us learn this.

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