I have been participating in a great back-and-forth over the last couple of days on a blog site called governingana. Visiting Author Cara Bristol wrote about the nature, or in her words, the 'Catch 22' of Domestic Discipline fiction, and pointed out that 'Domestic discipline requires an approval from the reader that other contemporary fiction doesn’t. A reader has to accept that spanking for discipline is okay on a basic level for purposes of the story to enjoy it. (They don’t have to accept it in real life.) To some people, the idea that a man punishes a woman is totally unacceptable even in fiction and you’ll never find an offense that warrants a spanking in their minds. But they’re not your audience.' Then Cara went on to say the following:
'What intrigued me about TTWD was the aspect of living a double life, keeping TTWD secret from vanilla friends & colleagues. Being in the closet. That’s what inspired the Rod and Cane Society series…what if within a context of closed society, people could be open about TTWD?'
This launched the discussion about what VANILLA actually means.
When I first heard the term, many years ago, I thought it was clever. I got the metaphor. Plain. Ordinary. Regular. When I started writing romances that contained spanking scenes I believed I had not yet crossed that line from vanilla to whateverelsethereis. In my early work, and even in my published work, especially The Point of it All, the sex, while hot, was...regular. The relationship between Val and Diana was very passionate, yet I did not write the sex scenes with lots of erotic descriptions. Vanilla all the way. That he spanked her and she allowed it, though...where exactly did that fall?
So what does VANILLA mean, exactly? Well, if you look it up on Wiki or whatever, it's as you'd figure: VANILLA SEX is regular, conventional sex, without the kinks and labels.
Ah ha!!! Without the kink. So, then, if you have a hero (or heroine) who spanks for discipline and/or sex in your book, it is kink? Have you crossed that line into theoppositeofvanilla? Good question, and one we pondered over at goveringana.
Pick up a Johanna Lindsay romance from the 80s or even the 90s, and you'll find a spanking scene, or at least the threat. Grab a book by Linda Lael Miller or Kat Martin from this decade and you'll find the same. The brilliant Tai Pan by James Clavell has two scenes. Kinky? I'd say not. The sex in all these books is pretty much fade-to-black, but the hero spanks the heroine for some misdeed and they move on. It's not what the story is about. Vanilla? You bet.
So, then, when is that line crossed into another flavor? To me, it's when convention is set aside, when normal is not the norm, when regular turns to irregular. Now, one can argue that regular is in the eye of the beholder. True, but for yuks, let's all assume that regular is tab-A into slot-B sex, with oral tossed in for kicks, that there is no tying up of hands or feet and no whips, paddles, hairbrushes or leather of any kind is used. Oh, and she can be on top as much as he can. So then NON-VANILLA sex would be implements, binding, some humiliation, some age play...we could go on and on. I think we get the picture and we can agree on some sort of dividing line, and how faint that line is lies with the beholder.
So as writers, when defining our audience, does VANILLA play into it at all? Cara answered a commenter's musings on audience with this:
'...interesting points by touching on audience perception and predisposition toward spanking. The question is who is the audience? What is considered “spankable,” to a Spanko audience can be very different to a vanilla audience who only wants to read a little kink. An author has a greater burden to prove that the spankee deserves to be punished with a vanilla audience.'
I can attest to the very real fact that if the wrong person gets hold of a book with non-consensual spanking in it, you, the author, will hear about it. It isn't for everyone. Can an otherwise VANILLA reader become titillated by reading a spanking scene? Yes. Does that make them suddenly NOT VANILLA? I don't think so. The vanilla sensibilities are still there. We can talk about wiring, how some of us are predisposed to spanking, BDSM, domination, submission and the like, yet our lives day to day are decidedly normal. VANILLA.
Clearly I've just muddied the waters here. I have no answers, and a vanilla person can indeed become turned on and turned around by reading a well-written spanking or BDSM scene. When I first started writing I was not comfortable with words like pussy and cock. Never used them. My sex scenes, while hot, were more about feelings and romance. Things got a bit hotter with To Love A Woman, but I think in the erotica genre I have a ways to go. VANILLA. That's me.
Where do you stand on the issue? I'd love some other opinions.
10/18/2012 03:51:26 am
Hurray for being the first one to blog about it! I think Cara is planning to blog, too. Once I set up a tab, I'll add this post to the links. I'm hoping that many others will join in. Another blogger picked up a different topic from the discussion and is starting a discussion on the likability requirement of characters in DD. It's amazing to see which directions people are taking this.
10/18/2012 05:15:17 am
Oh, good, Ana. Can't wait to read it.
Robert A. Santa Maria
10/19/2012 08:44:31 am
We are told as writers "Write what you know."
10/20/2012 04:57:59 am
Thank you, Robert. Some excellent points. We can only write what we write and then try to pitch it to the proper audience. Those that 'don't get it', as you and Cara pointed out, are NOT my audience. Vanilla to be sure, but so are some others who get it, go 'Ah! Interesting. I LIKE this!' and move further.
John & Dana
10/20/2012 09:35:23 am
I am sorry, we would like to know what "TTWD" means
10/21/2012 04:14:48 am
It stands for THIS THING WE DO, code for spanking fetish.
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Jade Cary writes Romantica and Romantic Suspense, on the rocks with a twist. Bottoms up!
SITES I DIG
A FADED ROMANTIC
ALTA HENSLEY, ROMANCE AUTHOR
ART OF AUTHORITY
BASIA ROSE, AUTHOR
BLACK VELVET SEDUCTIONS
BOTTOMS UP BOOK REVIEWS
CARA BRISTOL, AUTHOR
CDD FOR LIFE/PATTY DEVLIN
CELESTE JONES, AUTHOR
THE DISCIPLINED FEMINIST
EMMA K. GARDNER, AUTHOR
FREDDY AND EDDY - A WEBSITE OF ALL COUPLES
THE HAND OF LOVE
HEART AND SOUL
THE IMPROVED CHAUVINIST
KARLA DOYLE, AUTHOR
KOREY MAE JOHNSON, AUTHOR
LAZY DAY PUBLISHING
MY BOTTOM SMARTS
RENEE ROSE, AUTHOR
SADEY QUINN, AUTHOR
SARADORA'S SPANKING FICTION
SUE LYNDON, AUTHOR
TROLLOP WITH A LAPTOP