Positive Kink: J.R. Gray Talks the Evolution of Erotica

SAY YES by J.R. GrayThe evolution of a genre is always fascinating to parse, and today J.R. Gray is here to talk to us about his own experiences with kink, and how it's played out in publishing. J.R.'s latest, Say Yes, will be out next week!

I can still remember tying up my first serious boyfriend. I’d dated other men and women before him, and we’d played a little, but it wasn’t until Alex* (Name changed to protect his identity) asked me if I would be interested in tying him up and hurting him, I realized we were starting something more. He and I had had long discussions, half drunk, late at night about enjoying pain. I’d been a masochist as long as I could remember. I’d talked about kink with my other male friends, although we didn’t have a word for it. It was always hushed conversations that started with “Have you ever thought about…?” Maybe everyone was trying it behind closed doors, or maybe I’ve always attracted and collected people like me. Fifty Shades would clearly show us many years later it wasn’t as out there as we all thought it was at the time, but in early 2000 no one was yet talking about it. The internet was still new and myspace was still a thing. So when Alex asked me after half a bottle of UV Blue if I would, I got excited.

Our first scene was a disaster. No one got hurt, but my roommate who I barely saw more than once a month walked in on Alex tied naked to my bed, covered in scratch marks and welts. We laughed about it, and went to grab a late dinner, but she lingered before closing the door, taking in the entire scene. She was curious, and would bring it up later. Alex and I figured things out by trial and error. He was a great sub and I was lucky to have a first partner who I trusted to figure things out together with.

It’s a different world now. Kink is everywhere. I was sitting at a panel at the RT Booklovers Convention called something like ‘Where is BDSM headed’ and Tiffany Reisz said something that really stuck with me. She said, “Kink doesn’t shock anyone anymore. It needs to be the least interesting thing in your book.” Which is true in the current market. Kink has become mainstream. Most people don’t bat an eye at it. It may not be shocking but books are still a model and readers project themselves into these situations. I’m a romantic at heart, and I think a lot of romance readers and writers are too. We understand there is no perfect book boyfriend waiting out there [in the real world], but we take cues from romance about how we want our lives to be. I think the same is true for BDSM in romance, so when some of these depicted relationships fall so far from reality, or even on the abusive side, it skews not only how outsiders see us, but how those dipping their toe into the scene expect things to be.

So when the only representation shown is negative or abusive, it sets up expectations. I’ve read too many books where the ‘kinky’ hero was cured from his ‘needs’ when he found true love. BDSM isn’t something we need to be rescued or cured of. It’s not something we do to keep ourselves out of relationships, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all thing. Every kinky relationship I’ve been in has been different. No two humans are the same, and no relationship is either. People experience kink differently and just like the variety and diversity of people on earth there is a variety and diversity of kink.

This is why positive examples of kink are so important, especially in the queer community. Kink comes from a loving place and both parties should be fully satisfied and taken care of. The more positive ‘own voice’ kinky representation we have visible in the queer community, the more mainstream and understood it will be. 

Thanks for visiting, J.R.! You can grab your copy of Say Yes next week, and we have some handy preorder links for you right here: Amazon. For more erotic love stories of all types, visit our Everything Erotica page! 

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