BDSM Interviews: Laura Antoniou

                   

Laura Antoniou, deservedly named a pioneer on the field of contemporary erotic fiction, is here to tell you about the ways to find like-minded kinky people, the importance of lube in fiction, and the reason why her BDSM series The Marketplace can be compared to Star Trek 🙂

Why did you start writing BDSM books – and what do you find most appealing about them?

Well, I was both a precocious reader and rather kink-minded early in life. I know that sounds like it’s more about reading than writing, but people who don’t write often think reading and writing original work are two different activities. In actuality, they are closely tied together. Creative writing is informed by all the experiences and media a writer consumes. Which is a long way to say I started reading what my kinky brain interpreted as… let’s say exciting and interesting …stories very early in life. (And also realized my reactions to children’s books like Greek Slave Boy and similar childhood novels were not what others felt.)

I started writing my own private BDSM stories as a kid. They were framed as vampire hunting stories, or high fantasy with swords and elves and such. I read tons of fantasy and science fiction, too – which of course led me to the Gor books. (This is not an endorsement of them. I often credit my beginning to write more explicit kinky stories to the Gor novels because I reasoned if that terrible writing can get published, surely I could be!) But that was about the time when I realized there WERE other readers like me – LOTS of them – and I started looking for deliberately enticing books and stories.

I read everything from bodice ripper Sweet Savage Love type books my mom had to historical accounts. And then I found kinky porn. Even as a teenager, NYC had no shortage of places where I could buy the worst books magazines, and tabloidesque “newspapers” containing improbably stories and worse art. And in between that were some better written works, which led me to much better erotica. Yay, right?

Except even the “better” erotica lacked a certain something for me. By the time I was out – out of college, out of the closet, out finding other kinky people, even the best written stuff at the time was so segregated. Gay male, lesbian or heterosexual. “Bisexual” was women only. And of course, being porn, there was just so much emphasis on how beautiful everyone was. Young, or older “but” still fit and acrobatic. People of color was a fetish, not part of the character list.

And so much kinky porn contained activities that were… let’s say questionable? Or downright stupidly unrealistic. Or betrayed a writer who didn’t know that clamps hurt more when they come OFF.

So I had to write my own books. And when Masquerade put out a call for writers, I sent in some proposals.

How does your own involvement with the leather/kink community influence your writing? It must be helpful to be an insider, but are there any downsides of it? Or some unexpected consequences?

My involvement informs my work at every level. Whether it’s from personal experience, witnessed or informed stories and acts and all the people I have met over decades with their own kinks, pleasures and relationship issues, all of it goes to fuel a mental library of writing options. I believe it’s not merely helpful, but extremely important to at least have some experiential references when writing something as tricky as kinky sex and power-dynamic relationships. Although of course, being inside and experienced doesn’t mean you will be a good writer. As the reams of bad fiction written by (supposedly) kinky people will attest.

The downside? Well, it makes it hard to sell work in other genres, I can tell you that! Especially since I have no interest in writing under a pseudonym.

Is there much difference in writing M/F, F/F and M/M BDSM?

Not in writing the kink per se. The difference in writing the characters is pretty stark, though, just as it’s different to write women versus NGB versus genderqueer versus men. Who a person is and how they identify and what their culture expects of them are vital aspects of character creation. Gay men negotiate sex differently in a culture that allows them free association as opposed to an oppressive one. Straight people get heterosexual privilege and the weight of social programming into certain roles. So even there, a couple who have authority based in a female partner are very different than the reverse because male = dominant is impressed over heterosexuality like a cheap iron-on logo on a shirt. Even when the concept fades and cracks, it persists as an echo of the original pattern. Just look at the shit professional dominant women get if they happen to like to be penetrated. So the differences start way before the action in the scene or even the flirtation, let alone the relationship style. They are imprinted, so to speak, in the base character creation before they ever hook up with anyone.

Your series The Marketplace is focused on master/slave relationships, slave training, and slave contracts. How is it different from the D/s dynamic?

I don’t draw a difference between terms we made up meanings for. I find that a complete waste of time and energy. I like to joke that the first time I went to a meeting at Eulenspiegel (these days mostly known as TES) in NY in the… uh – 80’s… the topic of the meeting was “What’s the Difference Between a Slave and a Sub.” It’s now 2020. Have we settled on definitions yet? Then I say let it fucking go. Who cares? Call yourself whatever you want, don’t label other people in a way they don’t like and carry on kinking.

However!

The Marketplace is a fantasy world where characters are capable of a level of immersion into the roles of owner/owned that are completely unrealistic for the purposes of setting up the ability to write escapist literature. In that way, the world is created to support the characters doing things that can’t be done in real life. And the biggest difference for me as a writer is that the unreal aspect is the stability of the system and number of people necessary to keep it functional and secret. The “realness” in the Marketplace is in how the characters relate to each other, what they feel and think, and of course, I strive for authenticity in play and sex scenes.

I often compare the Marketplace to Star Trek. There is no such thing as warp drive or transporters. Those things exist in science fiction so a writer can get their characters off into space. Watching science fiction, though, doesn’t teach you about astrophysics or give you a working understanding of how to fly a starship. Neither does the MP world teach about power and authority based relationships between real people in our real world.

In The Killer Wore Leather, you describe the world of BDSM conventions. What would you recommend to those who are planning to take part in an event of this kind for the first time (hopefully, without being involved in a murder mystery)?

I’d recommend they make some friends first, with the exception of one event, the New England Fetish Flea Market.

Today, it’s easier than ever to find other kinky people – real kinky people with real names, operating in social media and accessible with a message. (I hesitate mentioning Fetlife because really, it’s got so many screen-name experts and porn-hunters and emotional grifters… I can’t. I did that on computer BBS’s and early internet communities back in the 80s and 90s. I paid my dues.)

But with good non-fiction books and access to real people who are kinky, it’s a matter of just making some friends, getting comfortable and then asking if an event might be a good match for your interests. It’s not that someone needs “protection” at one of our event. It’s just for the company and someone to talk to about the experience.

COVID restrictions aside, if we are ever allowed to go out again, there are many local clubs and businesses that host classes, casual meet-ups, special interest clubs and other, smaller scape events that also make a better introduction to kinky events than plunging into a weekend at a hotel with 300 other pervs.

So why do I recommend the one with 3 THOUSAND pervs? Because 1) it’s inexpensive, compared to other events (travel costs adjust the expense) and 2) it is designed, from the ground up, to be a base level event. Everyone knows how to shop. Well, this is a shopping event. There is such an amazing array of vendors from all sorts of fields of interest. And they are eager to talk about their gear and clothing and toys and other inventory. There ARE classes – lots of them – but also newbie meetups and orientations and a lot of spaces to gather casually and meet people and show off what you got or just socialize and get to know each other. Which is always the very best way to find your way in any community.

In your opinion, what are the most common misconceptions about BDSM and most frequent mistakes in BDSM-themed books?

I don’t know that there are many mainstream misconceptions any more. (Thanks 50 shades of holy crap…) Generally, I think most Americans are aware it’s a style of kinky sex, and there are some fashions connected to it and sometimes it’s a plot point on a TV show. The Christian fundamentalists try to aim their ire and outrage at some event or other from time to time – the man who infiltrates the contest in The Killer Wore Leather is based on a real person, who got into IML once or twice. But it doesn’t get the same level of donations that abortion and gays do.

However, in the fantasy world of fiction, sure, there are plenty of misconceptions. My God, people should NOT write about anal sex without having good anal sex a few times. I cannot tell you how many writers seem to think it hurts every time and it’s supposed to! Some even write things like “I can tell you are in a relationship because you walk funny now…” JFC, I want to find them and scream LUBE is a THING! (And I actually have, in a class about this very topic for writers.)

And I don’t care about what other fantasy elements are involved. Werewolves “knot” like dogs? OK! Use more lube. Please.

Another – and major – misconception is that identity is locked in for life. One simply is a “natural” top, bottom, dominant person, submissive, whatever. Again – if that is the fantasy basis for a world, as it is in Omegaverse stories then rock with it. But in the real world, fluidity is a thing. Spectrums are a thing. Change is constant, not role or tastes or even identity. Anyone who is the same person with exactly the same tastes and identity at 50 that they had at 15 is a fantasy by itself. Also boring. Change and discovery are what drives a story. If your main characters are static, then you are forced to create disruption in the story with outside forces all the time. Which leads to endless stories about one or the other being kidnapped or otherwise endangered and separated by various romance novel tropes.

Which I suppose is also a fantasy universe right there, and one many readers adore. But the constrictions of the romance tropes should still allow even pair (or however many) bonded partners to change within their relationship as well. Otherwise, what is their story? And for me, always, I want to see the story evolve and expand. Which is also why I write. Because my stories never have a single ending. There is always room for the next adventure.


		

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