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Friday Spotlight with Ciara Ballintyne

December 7, 2012

CiaraI am happy to have Ciara Ballintyne stepping under the Friday Spotlight on the e-rotica blog. I love when Ciara visits as she is one of those fun, intelligent guests who have no problem offering up their opinion. Today is no different as Ciara talks about, among other topics, where to draw the line when it comes to forced sexual encounters in books in general and BDSM erotica in particular. I do have my own opinions about this so Ciara might have inspired me write my own post on this thoughts on the subject in the near future. Now, without further ado, let’s welcome Ciara Ballintyne!

Boundaries in Erotica

A month ago I attended a seminar on boundaries in genre fiction where we discussed what’s out-of-bounds in fiction. This varies from genre to genre, obviously, but there were a few taboos that were considered applicable to all genres.

Then I read The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by Anne Rice, which in my opinion proceeded to break a bunch of those taboos, to ill-effect. If you’ve read the book, you may or may not agree with me, but you at least probably know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, then in a nutshell, it’s a re-telling of the Sleeping Beauty legend in which the Prince takes Beauty as his sex slave, and proceeds to rape, physically abuse, humiliate and degrade her. Apparently it’s the habit for his kingdom to routinely do this to the princes and princesses of neighbouring kingdoms, and Beauty is taken to the palace where some twenty or thirty other princes and princesses are abused in similar fashion.

Now I know there is a part of the BDSM culture that enjoys humiliation and degradation in addition to pain, and that’s fine. I take no issue with how someone chooses to get their pleasure, so long as all involved are consenting adults.

Oops, there’s a word that might cause a problem – consenting.

If two people consent to enter into a BDSM relationship that involves pain, humiliation, degradation and any number of other acts agreed between them, that may be something I don’t fully grasp, but it’s their business.

If, however, one person takes another against their will, keeps them in captivity, and proceeds to inflict rape, assault, humiliation and degradation on them, we’ve stepped outside the BDSM culture – now we’re talking sociopathic, possibly psychopathic, criminal behaviour. The stuff of profiling crime show Criminal Minds.

In my opinion, The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty falls into the second category, and that’s not only in poor taste, it’s horrifying. Sure, some of those captives may take pleasure in their own mistreatment, but nevertheless it is not a consenting relationship, they have no power to stop the abuse, and in some cases (or perhaps many) it’s not genuine pleasure, rather they’ve been trained, conditioned, to respond to the abuse in certain ways that is pleasing to their captors.

What do you think? If we take away the consensual nature of BDSM, is this nothing better than torture?

Let me add another element – Beauty is fifteen. So now we not only have something purporting to be BDSM, but which isn’t, because it lacks the critical element of consent, but it’s being done to a fifteen year old, who would legally have no ability to consent anyway. If the world in which the story takes place has different treatment of people this age, that isn’t established.

I could accept the tale if this was set-up as some monstrous evil that must be cleansed from the face of the earth, and we could expect the hero to sweep in with fire and sword to raze the whole place to the ground, but instead the story is presented as the sexual and physical torture of a fifteen year old girl for the gratification and titillation of the reader.

The only emotions this book evoked in me were anger and boredom.

Boredom, I say? Oh yes, did I mention how much spanking this book contains? If you currently have any kind of obsession with spanking, reading this book will fix that. You’ll never want to hear the word ‘spank’ again.

I read this book as co-host of Club Fantasci. If you haven’t read it, I don’t recommend it. What I do recommend, however, is Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey, which is December’s Book of the Month for Club Fantasci. You can tune in to watch us discuss the book on December 29 at 7pm CST.

Also fun, though less erotic (sorry to disappoint) is that one of my short stories has been published in an anthology! Yay! Three cheers. OK, sorry, there’s no sex. Just magic. And music. All right, all right, it’s not much of a substitute, but what can I say?

While it’s fantastic the story’s been included in Spells: Ten Tales of Magic edited by Rayne Hall, the world the story is set in is just so brilliant I now feel the need to write a novel there. Just what I need – more novel ideas! I already have at least ten book ideas waiting to be written, and this would make eleven (or more).

The essence of A Magical Melody is that magic is woven with music. ‘Magicians’ are either composers or performers. Composers can write new music (spells), and improvise a tune to do almost anything, while performers tend to be the most powerful magic-users, but can only create magic with a melody someone else has already written.

Avram, a composer, is thrust head-first into disaster when two of his powerful spells are stolen; one to destroy demons, and the other to manipulate time. Events come to a head when he realises someone is playing one of the scores, and they’re playing it wrong.

I only have the very basic elements of a novel idea so far – I’m thinking maybe the short story is a part of the history of the world, and the characters of the book need Avram’s music to manipulate time, but it hasn’t been seen since it was stolen. So it would be some kind of magical time-travel story, but I’ve got nothing beyond that, and haven’t thought to pursue it much since I have so many other stories to write as it is.

If you’re at all interested in the anthology you can buy it at Amazon or Smashwords.

And don’t forget to come along to Club Fantasci’s hangout and watch us discuss Kushiel’s Dart for a smacking… er, smashing good time.

~

Keep in contact with Ciara via any of the following links!
Twitter – @CiaraBallintyne
Facebook – www.facebook.com/CiaraBallintyne
Website: www.ciaraballintyne.com
Club Fantasci – www.clubfantasci.wordpress.com
My short story – Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Spells-Ten-Tales-Magic-ebook/dp/B009YKBT34 Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/249480

Ciara, thanks for visiting the e-rotica blog! Please come back any time.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2012 4:01 pm

    Great points, Ciara! Not that the Anne Rice book was even remotely on my radar, but you’ve now pushed it into my “Don’t waste my time” reading pile. I look forward to checking out the anthology. Congrats on that!

    • December 8, 2012 11:11 am

      It wasn’t on my radar either – I’d never even heard of it until it was selected for Club Fantasci in November! I won’t be reading the sequels…

  2. December 7, 2012 7:32 pm

    I’m going to stick with the Disney version of Sleeping Beauty and the vampire versions of Anne Rice. The world will be perfect for me then. 🙂 Congrats on the anthology.

    • ciaraballintyne permalink
      December 8, 2012 11:11 am

      I think I like that world too, Erica 🙂

  3. December 7, 2012 8:17 pm

    I’ve read the books. I think what Rice was going for: pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable and creating a world where this type of behavior is the norm.

    Her late husband called it ‘nothing more than the musings of a Catholic school girl.’

    You’re absolutely right, in that she is underage and these would then be considered crimes. But that’s in OUR society. Not in the world she created. Not that I’m agreeing it’s a good thing.

    As you probably know, in a traditional BDSM relationship, the submissive sets the limits, which in Rice’s book, is not the case. So it therefore shouldn’t be classified as such.

    And congrats on your anthology! That’s awesome. Very proud of you. xo

    • ciaraballintyne permalink
      December 8, 2012 11:15 am

      I agree that IS probably what she was trying to set-up, but the world-building wasn’t sufficient. She didn’t give me any reason to believe that this world operated by different rules, didn’t create different rules (beyond the notion that self-gratification is the only rule) nor any reason for me to believe or accept that a society like that could ever exist. I read a lot of epic fantasy, and believable world-building is crucial to the suspense of disbelief. Anne Rice failed to do that here. In a fantasy world, it’s even more important to ensure the characters behave true to the way people actually DO behave, and to give them believable motivations for their behaviour, because so much suspension of disbelief is required for the world. She also failed to do that.

  4. juliabarrett permalink
    December 7, 2012 10:11 pm

    I’ve avoided reading Anne Rice’s book for the above reasons. I loved Kushiel’s Dart! Congrats on your short story!

    • ciaraballintyne permalink
      December 8, 2012 11:16 am

      You have chosen wisely! Kushiel’s Dart is a much more rewarding read.

  5. December 9, 2012 2:45 am

    How disappointing that Rice would go in this direction. In contrast to 50 Shades of Gray’s bad writing, overpriced titillation to the masses, one would have hoped there was something of more quality from her. Clearly she wasn’t in her “religious” phase when she wrote Beauty. One more for the No Thanks list. Rape of nonconsenting minors is a crime, period.

    • December 12, 2012 8:59 am

      Definitely not in her religious phase! I’ve read some shocking things, but this is the only one that has actually appalled and horrified me.

  6. December 15, 2012 10:07 pm

    Your pushing my buttons again…. 5 grand daughters all aged under ten and the thought of them .. well you know me well enough to know where my thought process is going now, sheesh…

    I really don’t think, even if she managed to outline a world as authors do – the problem was and is always going to be that we, in our so called civilised society can not accept, and rightly so for me at least – that it can ever be right to set up a ‘child’ to be sexually used whether it involves BDSM or not.

  7. Terr permalink
    December 15, 2012 10:15 pm

    I was just having this discussion with some writers on my work from home forum. I’m angered that certain writers are taking horrible topic matter and are ruining the erotica genre. I’m super shocked that Anne Rice would move in this direction. When did these types of acts become okay to think about, let alone write about or joke about?

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