Guest Opinion: The Power of the Male Submissive by Joey Hill
One book that I’ve read that has really challenged my own personal belief system is Natural Law by Joey Hill. It changed my perceptions about BDSM and won me as a reader for life for Joey Hill. She really has a gift of making a reader accept something that might be previously unacceptable. Her newest book, Mermaid’s Kiss, is due in bookstores on November 5, 2008. It’s a lighter book from Joey Hill (although that’s kind of a qualitative statement), still sexy, still different, and doesn’t have BDSM if that turns you off. But if you are curious, try out Natural Law. It might be an eye opener.
The Power of the Male Submissive
"service’, not "servile’
Months ago, before I entered the submersible known as "Deadline Hell", Jane asked me to write an article on this topic. I was flattered to be asked. I assume she thought I’d have good insight because my Female Dominant/male submissive erotic romances have crossed the intersection and proven themselves appealing to female romance readers who traditionally prefer alpha males. In preparation for this article, I put the question to my readers, thinking they would give me some good tidbits to explain this. As a result, I’m going to credit most of this article to them, because I can’t improve on their own words. Proving, as always, the readers are the best source for why a story works (smile).
When I started writing erotic romance, I went with the point of view with which I most empathized – Male Dom/female sub (Daniel and Meg of Make Her Dreams Come True). Imagine my surprise when I started writing my second erotic romance and the muse threw me a curve. The book I assumed would have a female submissive heroine ended up having a Female Dominant, with her male hero being the submissive (Lauren and Josh of Holding the Cards). Even more surprising was the warm response from my readers and reviewers who had a preference for female submissive stories.
So then I thought, maybe past male submissive stories just hadn’t been targeted for female romance readers. Because as far as BDSM goes, I found the psychological issues just as involving and arousing, no matter which gender holds the Dominant or submissive mantle. So then came Natural Law, and the phenomenon of Mac Nighthorse, a pure alpha cop, who was also a sexual submissive to the petite Mistress Violet Siemanski. As Jennifer, one of my bloggers agreed: "Natural Law was the very first book I’d read with a male submissive I drooled over. The awesome thing for me was to be able to relate to his submissive nature and yet, love his resistance. Mac was BRILLIANT. When he finally gives in-.it’s shattering. I absolutely LOVED this submissive male (which shocked me)-"
Every romance, whether BDSM or not, whether Male Dom or Fem Dom, must follow the tenets of good romance. The female reader might be intrigued by a male who will perform as a submissive, but she is often turned off if he abandons his responsibility to protect and care for the heroine, because that’s part of being a male hero. Those who follow my work closely know that I’ve come up with a term for it: "the palace guard submissive". He serves his lady, obeys her will, but protects her with his life and cherishes her completely – which means sometimes they don’t see eye-to-eye on her protection. The "palace guard" submissive is a far cry from the caricature often depicted of a cringing guy running around on his knees trying to lick his Mistress’s heel while she treats him like an abused dog.
That said, the reality of BDSM is that there are all levels of practitioners, including a semblance of what I just described, and that’s totally okay – to each his/her own, as long as it’s consensual and keeps you functioning as a contributing member of society (chuckle). But in terms of what female romance fans want to read-I think the palace guard archetype wins out.
Gwen, another of my bloggers, pointed out: "To be honest, the appeal of a submissive male surprised the hell out of me. I found Jacob (Vampire Queen’s Servant) to be sexy and not at all what I expected. He’s totally alpha, but submissive. Messed with my head. In a good way." Caro then practically wrote my article for me (including the byline under the title), when she noted, "Virtually EVERY romance is about an alpha male who is brought to his knees by love. The reformed rakes, the knights in SA, the gazillionaire CEOs, etc- name the hero archetype and if he is in a romance, then by story’s end he pretty much will do anything for his love. This plot dynamic is a tweak away from a sexy submissive. At least part of what drives the subs and what makes them so very sexy is pleasing their Mistress. Of course none of these subs are weak or completely dominated – that would take them too far from the Alpha mold and be a turn off for most: pathetic isn’t sexy."
Quixotic stated, "I’m a big fan of alpha males, there’s just something – tasty – about them. However, I also enjoy the thought of a submissive male, not because he’s necessarily "weaker," but in some ways I think stronger. He’s sublimating his own desires and wants in order to please his Mistress/Master, but in doing so, experiencing more pleasure than if he’d just taken what he wanted in the first place. I started reading erotic romances because a) the sex is wayyyy better, b) the situations often break the mold, and c) there’s a lot more shifts in terms of sexual dominance/submission." She noted that my subs were written like "doms-in-waiting, which makes your men so exciting and breathtaking. You never know if they will break out of the role and dominate their woman -‘ they’re the bad boy betas we dream about."
To date, I’ve written a variety of BDSM stories – Male Dom/fem sub, Female Dom/male sub, and even a story about two Dominants coming together in love (Ice Queen and Mirror of My Soul). Then, more recently, I wrote my first male/male BDSM erotic romance (Rough Canvas, with Marcus, a side character from Holding the Cards, and his lover, Thomas). I’ve written paranormal, contemporary and even some non-BDSM romance. Because of that, I can only agree with Terry’s opinion, which sums it up best:
"As far as how a book with a male submissive can be appealing to female readers who prefer the "alpha male’ – for me, it’s all in the telling of the story. If I can feel the emotions, then I connect, then I care. With a male/female D/s story, I always connect more with the submissive character, even if it is a male character. While I understand the physical actions & reactions of the female better than the male, I understand and identify with the emotions of the submissive character, regardless of the gender. Love is love, and when it’s told right, it shines through above all else."
* Thanks to all my bloggers for their help on this posting.