Monday, April 16, 2012

Becoming, part I

As I get older, I find that I don't change so much as I become more myself. I shed layers of social conditioning that I never realized I could do without, and once I do, the result is far more "me" than what I was before.

My husband has played a large part in that, but he's not where it started.

The home I grew up in was loving, but extremely conservative. I was home schooled and my mom worked long hours. I spent a lot of time alone, but the time we spent as a family, my mom, her parents, and me, found a lot of talk about race and religion and choice and I was so often left with a bad taste in my mouth. In my young mind I thought that's just the way the world was, even though racism and fundamentalist Baptist teachings just made my mind boggle. I definitely developed my own opinions quite early, but I knew better than to sow dissent at home. I had to live there. My mom sympathized with me, and nurtured my having of opinions when we were alone, but she just wanted me to stay silent when we were in a family group. It made her life easier because her parents would light into her if they thought she was raising a liberal.

I discovered Star Trek at 13, and my jaw hung open. These folks. They supported each other, they believed in each other, they didn't care what color anyone was, and the Vulcans. IDIC, oh, yes, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations changed my life. The way it was in my house wasn't just The Way, it was A Way, and not a very good one. Oh, wow. First epiphany. Star Trek led me to every other kind of science fiction, TV and books and to the X-Men comics and the entire world opened up. The X-Men and their extreme diversity and sense of family despite all their differences wormed their way right into my little geek heart and my opinions got even stronger from this point. One layer of unnecessary junk away, and more "me" was left behind.

My grandmother was big on reading "little love stories," Harlequin romances, religious romance books, and chaste historical romances from Barbara Cartland. I read plenty of those too, but I always felt something was missing. I was about 13, yeah, around Star Trek discovery time, when I started wishing for more descriptive sex writing in those romances, and to please please please read a romance that my grandmother hadn't first verified as suitable for me. Any other book I could read! I read young adult novels and Elizabeth Goudge and Nancy Drew books by the armload from the library. So why not romance? What on earth could be so bad? I read Green Dolphin Street when I was 8; I was a clever girl. Books could only help me learn, right?

I spent a lot of time hanging out at a popular fast-food chain as a child, because my mom managed one in a bigger city an hour's drive away from our small town, and in order to spend a bit more time with me, she'd take me with her now and then. Once, her decision to take me with her was spur of the moment and I came with her unprepared. No book to read, no school work. She took me in to Wal-Mart to buy me a novel to read. I was still 13.

There it was, on the shelf. It called me, and even though it had been written 11 years earlier, it was sitting there for me.

Reviews for the book are mixed, but I am here to say it changed my life. Yes, the sex was written with flowery descriptions of manly members and womanly softness and so on, but there was sex. The sad sack lack of communication between the main characters doesn't recommend it, and Regan was a complete asshole.

And yet.

Sirena marries a horrible man while brokenhearted, and he does things to her. Perverted, sadistic things that were meant to solidify this man as the villain. And those things? Turned me on.

Turns out this book was the second of a series, and so I went and got the rest of them, one at a time, from bookstores.

Depravity abounded in the other books in the series as well. Evil smelly pirates, rape, a scene in which a young woman was forced to crawl around on the floor while the man she'd thought would be her loving husband kicked her and called her names and just generally left her an emotional wreck.

It was Very Bad Stuff, but it really aroused me. And here's the crux of the matter: I thought I was a Very Bad Person to be turned on by these things that were clearly meant to be Bad. I read them over and over. In my fantasies I'd stitch elements from different ones together and I'd be a happy, happy girl. I remember actually crawling around on my bedroom floor, playing that scene in my head.

It was okay to like that stuff, because in the fantasy I wasn't a party to it, it was forced on me. It was okay because it wasn't my idea. I wasn't a bad person, just an unfortunate victim of circumstances.

I started buying historical romances by the packing box full at library book sales. Tales of slavery and seduction and love and always, the dreadful communication between men and women which seems to be a staple of romance writing. The situations though, I found intoxicating, and the 'evil' parts especially so. The ones with actual slavery were especially fantastic for my needs.

These types of books had deals where you fill out a card, send it to start a subscription to the books, and you get a free box of four books and a glass. Yeah, I don't know why the glass. Then you pay for each monthly shipment of books after that. I would start the subscription with different publishers and cancel it after the second shipment, getting 8 books for the price of 4. I was young, I didn't have much money, you know. But one of those shipments contained this:

The book was interesting for me on a number of levels. The woman was married, and though the family had fallen into political disfavor, she had far more power than did the man, who was her slave. I learned a lot about history from historical romances, and this one definitely taught me a lot about ancient Rome.

Anyway, there's a scene in this book in which the lady and her slave-lover trade roles for the Saturnalia, and it. was. so. fucking. hot. That scene was my first indication that these things can be entered into by choice, and it can still be okay in the end. She gave him her power and for the duration of that scene, he dominated her, but didn't degrade her. He told her what to do and she did it and it was hot.

I had this indication, but I still had the niggling doubt that I was a Very Bad Person. I mean, slavery is BAD. Surely being turned on by someone having that kind of power over you is also BAD.

Anyone noticing that these first two stuck-in-my-mind books have the words "Captive" and "Bondage" right in their titles, amongst other books with names like The Raven and the Rose? I didn't at the time. I had just become a little more "me," though.

To be continued...


  1. Conina,

    Many of my spanking friends have told me about spankings in movies that turned them on at an early age. I also found bondage to be exciting.

    Great post.


    1. There's a scene in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (the novel) which turned me on at a far far younger age as well, but I didn't understand why.

  2. >>>As I get older, I find that I don't change so much as I become more myself. I shed layers of social conditioning that I never realized I could do without, and once I do, the result is far more "me" than what I was before.<<<<

    This is SUCH a brilliant way of putting it. I've been going through much of the same process lately.

    Also, I love that my parents are liberals, but one thing that sucked about having a feminist mother was that there were no romance novels in the house, so I totally missed out on all that good Fern Michaels stuff!

    1. Thank you! :)

      My mom was raised conservative but she'd developed an open mind, and was more on the same page with me than not, but she has a temper and she hated her parents to think badly of her. So if I said anything that would upset them, I'd often get more than my fair share of raised voice from her.

      I purchased Captive Embraces again just this year, to read it again.

  3. I found myself starting to smile through the whole part of being A. Very. Bad. Person. Who would we be if we weren't raised with all these rules and restrictions, I sometimes wonder? I think the process of breaking away from them is part of what makes someone interesting. For example, I know that H still suffers from crushing Catholic guilt and strange puritan knowledge at weird times, but then he is perfectly happy other times. No telling when the guilt will come.

    I look forward to Part 2!

    1. You ask very good questions. I'm over thinking I'm a very bad person, but it was crushing for years, until I discovered it wasn't just me. (that's for part 2 though)

  4. You're younger than me, but somehow the world you grew up in was so different, which surprises me, considering things have supposedly become so much more open-minded the last few decades.

    There were shelves of books in my parents bedroom, and I could pick up and read, or try to, anything I wanted, when I was six. Never heard one word from either parent telling me what I should or shouldn't read. There were also shelves of books in my grandparents den, and not one word about what I should or shouldn't read there either. My grandparents were very religious and traditional, but my grandfather was an avid reader, and so is my mom, and so was my dad. When I was a kid we went to church every Sunday. After my parents divorced we didn't go anymore as a family, but I still went alone if I felt like it. But I always read whatever I wanted.

    By the time I was a teen I was very aware there were people who were kinky or into bondage or whips and chains as they used to say. No biggie. If you were into it you were into it. If you weren't you weren't. Live and let live was the motto back then.

    I've always been turned on by rape scenes. I never thought I was a bad person for it. I'm very aware of the difference between fantasy and reality. I definitely do not want to be raped. I would fight to the death. I don't even want to play pretend rape with Master, since it's pretty much impossible with a condom and withdrawal and almost no natural lubrication.

    1. That's the Bible belt for you, I suppose.

      There were always tons of books in my house too, and I could read any of them - my grandmother was a big big reader, but her tastes ran toward things with no sex, and so that's what was in the house. She didn't like sex herself, which was part of the issue in her not wanting me exposed to it.

      I had the run of the children's/ YA section of the library too, but.. no sex there either. I was still very young, but I longed for sex writing. My mom got me very frank and open books about the body and we talked about sex quite often, but I wanted to read about other people having it.

      It wasn't the rape specifically that I felt bad about enjoying, it was the more sinister parts - the part where the horrible man draped his naked wife in chains and then hit her over and over until he had an erection, and she just endured it, the part where the young wife crawled around on the floor while her husband kicked her and called her names, the part where the crazed religious nut tortured his wife sexually and made her pray for forgiveness DURING because she enjoyed it... the more subtle psychological aspects of it, that made me feel like a bad person.

      As for being aware of the existence of others who had these feelings - I wasn't until much later. That's another post.

  5. My mother was an avid romance novel reader, I have always loved to read too. Learned most everything I know about history from historical romance novels, lol. There were always tons of books at the house to read, my mother used to read them and then decide if they were appropriate or not for me.

    I had a lot of older friends, and I babysat quite a bit, I quickly learned to borrow books from them with the steamy scenes in them.

    I'm terrible at remembering titles, wish I wasn't cause there was a book about being kidnapped and forced to become a part of a harem that I still remember effecting me big time. It has to have been close to 40 years ago I read that book. If I could remember the title I would get it and read it again.

    1. Me too on the history! Such a wealth of research those writers do to place their characters in the proper backdrop!

      That sounds familiar to me, were there heavy descriptions of sex or just vague ones? Was there a male companion who was also kidnapped and turned into a eunuch?

  6. It was long time ago, but that does sound alot like it. I hadn't remebered the eunuch until you mentioned it. The sex descriptions as I remember were not vague. Do you know the title? I have never forgotten that book, other than the title and would love to read it again.

    1. I don't think the one I'm thinking of is it, since the main character never actually has sex, and the sex is referred to vaguely by the other people in the harem, and the book was new in 1989 so probably too new. Victoria Holt's "Captive" is what I was thinking of. It created many a fantasy construct for me, though.

  7. Very interesting post, Conina! I love origin stories for folks in our community--it's always interesting to learn how they came to realize their desires. I'm definitely looking forward to the next installment!

    1. Thank you, Jake!

      The next one is coming but it's slow and I've got visitors, so it may be a bit. :)


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