"Use my insights as jumping-off points, not terminal destinations. While I have written the truth as I know it, based upon both my own experiences and all the research I could gather, I did not try to represent all points of view."I wish I had the good sense to put that statement in everything I've written about kink over the last few years!
-Dr. Gloria G. Brame
She is right, her new book Come Hither: A Commonsense Guide to Kinky Sex definitely feels like it was written by a heterosexual female dominant that is into a sensual kind of D/s with a focus on fetish and light sadomasochism and bondage. I have no clue whether that describes the real woman and her play style since I don't know Dr. Gloria Brame on a personal basis, that is simply the impression the book left me with. That said, the value of her book is that she wrote it. If she hadn't expressed her own viewpoint then it would read like stereo instructions rather than the thought provoking and frequently lighthearted quick tour of kink that it is. This book doesn't have a lot of information that will shock anyone who has been around the scene for years, but it does give a quick and sex positive tour of the gigantic spectrum of kinky sex while inspiring either a giggle or a growl depending on your personal philosophies. I think it is a great book to start your exploration of kink with, and I'll be giving my copy to my lover to read.
This isn't the book to learn how to use a violet wand properly or to tell you the finer points of how to use a crop. It IS the book to tell you what a violet wand and crop are, what they might feel like, and who might use them and why. It is the book to assure you that you haven't lost your mind if you have thought about using them and how you might move forward and find a safe partner to experience them with if you are ready. It is even the book to read if you have a partner you are trying to tell your fantasies but you don't know how, or when you find yourself wondering how you will reconcile your feelings with your faith. It tackles a lot of topics I really haven't seen handled very clearly in the past, and although I didn't always agree with the author, I thought she did a wonderful job of bringing the topics up. I found that by having the topic brought up through my reading I sought out my partner to discuss it. Frequently we had discussed things before but her perspective brought new questions, arguments, and a fresh perspective to things. In honesty, my partner frequently got to hear rather long winded rants about my personal disagreements with some statements made in the book and answered with long rants of his own. As an example, the fact that breath play (a type of asphyxiation play) and feeding (the practice of encouraging a partner to gain weight) were the only things described as edge play within their definitions in the glossary led to a rant the size of which has not been seen before. That said, what a wonderful thing that it inspired so much talk between people who have been playing with each other for awhile and found a whole new reason to discuss what edge play is to us, what qualifies it to be such, and how we feel about it! Aside from a good book for lovers or play partners, I think this would be an excellent discussion book for a mailing list, munch, or workshop.
One thing I really love about this book is how she creates short lists of things to think about or do when considering different situations in kink. For example, I really wish I had a copy of her "Ten Rules to Remember" when I had first started to explore kink. Here are a few of her rules and how I personally felt about them and would have benefited from them:
I remember the first time I set out to get the experiences and the love I craved. It led me to a situation in which I called the first Dominant to come along "Master" and entered into a full-fledged 24/7 slave arrangement with someone I had never negotiated with nor felt I had any right to question. Heck, I hadn't even MET the person in real life yet. As so many today, my first reaching out to other's with similar interests in a serious and conscious way to pursue my kink happened on the internet. I didn't understand the seriousness of what I was doing, or if I did I simply decided not to think about it because I had my eyes on the prize and couldn't stop to do such silly things as consider the VAST consequences of getting into such an arrangement. I happened to strike it lucky and find great teachers and friends along the way, but too many people do the same thing and get emotionally used or wounded in a way that turns them off forever or makes them think that kink only has those situations to offer. Many, like myself, make their first commitments without being aware that there is a scene out there or that there is any way to learn how other's manage their relationships or what types of negotiations are common. I simply knew I craved something and I leaped into the unknown after my hunger. This is a romantic notion, but it rarely works out. It would be much like agreeing to marry a person simply based upon the idea that the other person also found marriage appealing...though you both have never discussed what you think marriage is, who you are as people, or how you plan on both being happy. I've talked to many people that started this way and felt they had to make an all or nothing commitment. What a relief many of us would have felt if we would have known the vast spectrum of arrangements available out there and would have chosen commitments we were ready to keep!
There is a big difference between simple consent ("I'm a little drunk and it is not a school night, so why not?") and informed consent ("Let's talk about what we want to do"). This is something that I know I wasn't completely up on when I had my first scenes. Gloria Brame doesn't go into this as much as I wish she would have, but I am just so glad she brings it up. There are the basics to consent, such as that a person is of legal age to be involved in the activity and that they are there of their own free will and capable of making decisions. Then there is the word "informed" which although she doesn't explore it much, certainly infers that a person needs to really understand what they are consenting to and/or negotiate beforehand so that if they are giving blanket consent that they have well understood limits about what that means. Not having a good understanding about this leads to one of the biggest mistakes I see people make and have made myself. The mistake is that as a bottom you answer questions about limits with, "Whatever you want to do is fine." I think some people really mean that, but it is rare. Most of us have limits and need to express them, not only as bottoms but also as tops. If you don't seem to consider your own limits often enough you may get pushed past your comfort level in damaging ways. As I have said on many occasions, you are not a novice for asking questions or setting limits. You may, however, be one and remain one if you are not asking questions or failing to set limits when you need them.
I think many people lose sight of this when they find that there are entire communities out there with politics, types of etiquette, and more "One True Way" syndromes than anyone could begin to count. It is easy to get sucked into the scene and forget why you are there! I attended a class on SM burnout awhile ago and there were a lot of people in attendance because they had forgotten what they found so wonderful about SM. The speaker (who was absolutely fabulous) reminded us time and time again to remember what had brought us there to begin with...our PASSION. I remember when I was first poking my head out of the darkness and into the scene with no knowledge and LOTS of curiosity, it certainly wasn't very long ago. One thing that I faced was figuring out what I wanted as opposed to how other people do things or what someone else wanted me to want. I had found my tribe and felt a strong need to belong, which of course bred a bit of imitative behavior that wasn't always necessarily to my benefit. One of the most striking examples I've seen time and time again is when someone is a masochist or a fetishist and they find themselves in a scene where they feel they must be submissive which is a completely different kink. I've met a lot of people that may love pain but never want to belong to a Master or Mistress. They don't even want to do any service or answer to the person on any level other than equal. On the other hand, there are many submissive people out there that crave that power exchange who will never be masochists. They may find themselves pressured to be masochists when they enter the scene, however. It can be very confusing to sort out what you want when you have forgotten that the reason you came to this point initially is that you were driven there with a passion for what you want and need. When a person forgets that they are there out of passion and that they should be able to expect pleasure, it is easy to get caught up in simply fitting a label or trying to impress and be accepted by other people.
So, whom would I recommend this book to? I think this book would be good for anyone who is kinky or has curiosity about what kink is and what we do. I think that people who are at the early stage in their self-discovery would benefit from it most, but it will be interesting to anyone regardless of their level of knowledge. For those that think they know everything, there is a very fun section called "The Twisted Torturous Trivia Questions." A sample question from the quiz is, "What signer of the Declaration of Independence was a member of England's notoriously kinky 'Hellfire Club'?" Do you want to know the answer? See, you don't know everything yet smarty pants. Buy the book! (Okay, if you write to me at email@example.com I'll give you the answer. I'm not THAT cruel!) I won't tell you which trivia question she got wrong in that quiz, but if you catch it you deserve a gold star.
Who would I tell not to bother with this book? Well, the obvious groups that wouldn't like it at all are those that reject kink as a valid form of sexual expression! Other groups that may find this book a bit annoying are some of the gay/het/bi/trans community members that get annoyed by constant het references or assumptions about gender. This book kind of assumes a female het dominant and male het submissive type of relationship throughout and that might grate on not only the non-het communities but also on the non-D/s focused people. I think if you can relax about those things and simply read it for what it is, you can learn a lot though. This book talks about serious matters but it does not have a very serious tone, it is easy to forget that the intention of the writer is to be somewhat light hearted and to give a general overview rather than write a thesis on a subject. My own hackles were raised at some points because I take some issues very seriously and I felt they were dealt with so light hearted that they weren't done justice. At that point I had to remember that what I was all concerned about would have bogged down a general overview of kink with too much detail and hard reading. I think the author made a judgement call about how much info to include, and I think she made good calls. She includes a bibliography of kink books to supplement a person's education and I think that was a wonderful addition!
This book will be passed to my partner and then go up on my shelf well read. It is now dog eared and highlighted as many of the other books I have reviewed are. The difference with this book is that the points I've marked seem to be less "inspirational quotes" or "important technique" and much more focused on things I need to talk over with my partner. The highlighted bits are things that I disagreed with so much that I want to write about it or discuss it. I think this book is a great SUCCESS because of this. It will generate a lot of talk, help a lot of people navigate kink easier, and cause a lot of thinking. Hat's off to Gloria Brame, she's done it again.
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