The D/s Dynamic by Sayara St Clair
Writing the Dominant/submissive (D/s) dynamic in my Dante’s Purgatory novels
If your only exposure to BDSM is from social media or online movies, you may be forgiven for thinking that it’s all about pain and humiliation—perhaps even abuse. However, this is not necessarily indicative of real-life D/s relationships. There are numerous aspects of the lifestyle that are totally omitted from “online BDSM”—aftercare, or care in general, being a couple of the most glaring ones.
My novels are heavy on the romance. No matter how kinky the sex, love and caring underlies everything my characters do. The relationships are loving and respectful. And that love and respect flows in both directions. Characters endeavour to find out what their partners need and then deliver that in a caring way. So even though in Yearn For You, Dante might be giving Erica a spanking, he whispers endearments to her while reddening her ass. Highly romantic, no?
I’ll break my writing down into individual components for discussion. So, let’s start with sex, shall we? Always a good place to start in my opinion.
If the sex in my books was portrayed in a movie, there wouldn’t be diaphanous curtains wafting in the breeze, soft lighting, fuzzy filters and actors being gorgeous and sexy one hundred percent of the time. I write sex that is raw, sometimes rough, sometimes tender…sometimes all simultaneously. It can be animalistic or messy, and there are occasions where the characters laugh themselves stupid and destroy the whole sexy vibe. (How I tolerate such unmanageable individuals, I have no clue.) But that’s how sex happens in real life. And that’s exactly how I write it. Real and raw.
BDSM sex in particular
My Doms spend a great deal of time and energy determining their sub’s needs, both physical and emotional. There is much watching, monitoring, and deep thinking with a view to understanding their partners. The subs—also wanting to please—are doing much the same, only going about it in a less bossy way than the Doms. Here are Erica’s observations and thoughts from early on in her journey into BDSM.
Erica was mesmerized and awestruck by the interactions she saw between real-life partners at the party. If you didn’t look past the surface, you’d only see the Doms spanking, cropping, caning, fucking and subjecting their subs to various forms of sensual torture. But closer scrutiny revealed how much care a Dom took to bring his sub to just the right point of pain before administering pleasure. It showed the Dom’s intense and utter focus on his submissive; the tiny quirk at the corner of an otherwise stern lip when his sub willingly took what he meted out; the satisfaction he gained from transporting her to such a mindless, begging, needy state; the pure pleasure from taking her body exactly the way he wanted; the approval on his face when she came exactly when he told her to; and the love and appreciation in his eyes as he held her and stroked her afterward.
And searching deeper beneath the struggling, writhing, crying, pleading, screaming and coming of a submissive, Erica saw a person who was brave enough to give herself over to another in a way many people could not. There was so much trust. And when a submissive opened herself up to her Dominant, for pain, pleasure and everything else he might want from her, Erica could see a freedom in it, a kind of fearlessness and a total letting go.
So, where do these types of D/s interactions inevitably lead? To incredibly DEEP and INTENSE relationships, that’s what! I love deep and intense. What romance reader doesn’t?
Same as the wafty curtains mentioned earlier, another thing you won’t find in my books: People meet, exchange a couple of “Hey, how are ya’s,” and the next minute are bonking like sex-starved rabbits at the Viagra convention.
My books are practically vibrating with sexual tension. My poor characters are most likely vibrating with it also. But to me, sexual tension is an important element in developing heightened awareness and more intense (there’s that lovely word again) relationships between the characters. By the time my guys get to the good stuff, they’re practically dying for each other. And readers are so invested in the relationship, they’re possibly tempted to bust out their pom-poms and cheer.
When you delve beneath the sex and get into the emotions and psyche of the characters, the characters become real and understandable.
When writing relationships where the characters are trying to understand each other on such a deep level, there’s a quite a lot of psychology involved. Fortunately, I’ve always been a student of human behaviour. I did actually study some psychology at university, but more to the point, from childhood, I’ve always observed and pondered deeply about people’s reactions and motivations. Here’s a recent comment from a fellow author who has read my work: “You can write with such insight into the human persona!”
I also “investigate” my character’s childhoods, including important events that shaped them into who they have become. Readers have the opportunity to get into the minds of the characters, enabling them to comprehend why people are behaving in certain ways. And writing from both the male and female POV, helps readers fully understand the complicated heroes and heroines they’ll meet in my novels.
Some of my characters have had difficult childhoods or been in bad situations as young adults. That’s not to say, people who have been abused are more likely to choose BDSM as a way to express themselves sexually. Paul for example, in Hurt Me, Heal Me, had a perfectly wonderful upbringing. So much so, that he felt bad to even tell Caitlin about it, since hers was so awful. Here’s a snippet about Paul’s formative years from Caitlin’s POV:
She loved the story Paul told her of how he would steal his sisters’ dolls and tie them up using ribbons or string and suspend them from things. His sisters thought he was being mean when they would find their dolls hanging from trees. But he said he just loved tying things up even before he knew there was anything sexual about it.
Paul is now a dominant man. He’s also a shibari expert and loves nothing more than tying up and tormenting his partner for both his and her pleasure. An important point to note is that people who are into BDSM are no different from people who prefer vanilla sex. They come from all walks of life.
I very rarely do this, but I’m going to make a broad generalized statement here. And that is, many books about dominance and submission are extremely serious. The sex is serious, as are the characters. I believe people with senses of humour also enjoy BDSM. (See statement above RE: different walks of life.) So, although parts of my stories are serious—sometimes deadly serious—there’s also humour. Trixie, for example, in Master Me, is the most hilarious character I have ever written. In the book she describes herself as, “approximately three quarters crazy, about seventy-five percent of the time.” And I have to say, she’s pretty spot-on with that assessment.
This is an example of what goes on in Trixie’s mind. Note: Xavier seems to bring out her inner cavegirl.
She wanted to delve into him and discover more, but the thought of her heart getting involved was a tad unnerving.
Her inner cavegirl, though? She gave no shits. That little ho just wanted to lift up her… Wait, what would a vegan cavegirl even be wearing? Not an animal skin. Maybe something with leaves. Whatever.
Anyway, Caveslut was falling onto her back and throwing her legs wide open.
Sometimes, I use humour to push the envelope a little. Characters might engage in sexual activity, that if written in a serious way, people might find it a little out-there. But you know, it’s quite hard to be offended when you’re laughing your guts out. (Sneaky author! Somebody really should spank me.) *Insert cheesy wink here.*
I am an incurable and unashamed romantic. I enjoy reading and writing books with off-the-charts levels of emotion and romance. My heroes, however, will never bring chocolates and flowers.
Xavier produced a packet of marshmallows. He got a couple of long sticks, poked a marshmallow on the end of each and handed one to her.
She opened her mouth to say she’d toast it for him, not wanting any for herself because of the animal products they contained, when Xavier said, “They’re vegan ones; no gelatin.”
Trixie’s heart did a crazy little twirl.
Usually when it came to Xavier, it was Trixie’s loins and panties that were affected. This behavior, however, was hitting her somewhere else altogether.
A man could buy flowers and chocolates for any woman—every woman—but Xavier’s offerings of soysages and gelatin-free marshmallows showed specific thought for Trixie. Beneath Xavier’s tough, indifferent shell, there was quite a measure of caring and thoughtfulness hidden.
Sometimes, as is the case above, the heroes have no clue how romantic they are being.
And other times, the romance goes something like this:
“It’s been difficult watching you all night, flitting about in your sparkly dress with that blasted ribbon tied around your thigh. I wanted to push you up against the wall and fuck you in front of all those people while they nibbled their canapés and sipped champagne. And now I have you naked over my lap,” he toyed with the ribbon, which was the only thing she was still wearing, “I want to take out all my frustrations on you.”
I believe readers are falling in love with the characters from The Dante’s Purgatory Series because the characters have flaws and real-life problems. They may have specific needs requiring fulfilment, however, no matter how kinky/unusual their sexual preferences, deep down they are all highly romantic and utterly beautiful souls.
About The Author
If someone told a young Sayara St. Clair that one day she would be an erotic/paranormal-romance-writing Aussie expat living in Thailand, she would have snort-laughed and yelled, “You. Be. Crazy!” If someone told her the same thing now, she would not yell, only nod solemnly. Because that actually happened.
Sayara has a science degree, with majors in both microbiology and biochemistry. Working in the fields of serology and tissue banking, she got to do lots of cool and sometimes slightly weird stuff. She was employed as the manager/buyer for furniture retail stores, where she had a chance to unleash her inner interior decorator. (Interior design is one of her great passions.) And for a time, she taught English to students in Asia. (Hanging about in a roomful of extremely loud, pint-sized humans is not one of her great passions.) She has written: ads for TV, print and radio; real estate brochures; website copy; and a screenplay. Now she’s writing fiction and has discovered it’s her favorite thing to do. She’s also learned that writing sultry romances is so much more fun than writing dry old scientific journal articles. No one has sex in scientific journal articles. Not the ones she wrote anyway.
When not writing, she may be most commonly found in a horizontal position reading, in the kitchen baking, in the garden planting, or somewhere else singing at the top of her lungs. She loves music and is prone to spontaneous bouts of dancing. With regards to vampires and chocolate: she bites one on a daily basis and has had a lifelong obsession with the other. And she’s not telling which one’s which.