Is kinky the new black?

In the last few years there seems to be a shifting perspective as far as sex scenes in books. What was once taboo and not talked about has gained mainstream (ish) acceptance. Within the m/m genre, sex scenes are often explicit and of late – increasingly kinky. While I enjoy the kink factor as much as the next person – perhaps more so even – I’m noticing that things that were once taboo or “too kinky” are now become more commonplace.

For example various BDSM elements are becoming almost normal in the context of man on man sex. The first is the D/s component. This theme was once only very vaguely referenced or if the book got daring they added a little in but nothing too overt. Usually this was left for the BDSM themed books specifically but more and more you find the D/s dynamic (dominance/submission) being worked in an otherwise contemporary, every day romance. This could be that it’s perhaps the easiest and most mundane toe into the scary pool of BDSM and it also adds a little spice to the sexin’. I’m good with it but I have noticed more and more of it appearing in sex scenes. Same with spanking.

What really prompted this commentary is the abundance of fisting references. Since when did fisting become as common as the 1-2-3 finger stretch? Suddenly it’s 1-2-3-hello forearm. I’m seeing it talked about and actually done between otherwise totally non kinky couples. I mean here you have a normal, everyday couple with no appreciable kink. Or maybe at best some D/s flavored sex and all of a sudden there’s fisting going on during an otherwise unremarkable sex scene. When did that start happening?! Honestly, when did fisting step out of the BDSM realm and into everyday dialogue?

Not that I’m against fisting mind you but more and more there seems to be light BDSM flavoring stories that have nothing to do with it. This seems like I’m against the mixing and not so, except that you see reviews littered with “not hardcore BDSM won’t turn you off.” It doesn’t turn me off but I can’t help but wonder about those readers that don’t like any flavor of BDSM in their sex. How do they feel about the slow, almost inevitable integration of kinky themes into otherwise hot but standard sex.


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26 thoughts on “Is kinky the new black?

  1. Tam says:

    Well, when fisting comes up among my gay friends, there is much clenching of butt cheeks and declaration of “hell to the no!” so I’m pretty sure it’s far more common in m/m than real life. LOL My friend John claims to be an ideal candidate to be a giver since he has small hands and wrists. 0_0

    I think there is a progression of kinkiness. Once you get “used” to something, it takes more to be kinky. Just reading about a blow job used to be kinky, now it’s like “yeah yeah, move on”. Or maybe that’s just me. LOL I do think however some things like fisting are going to bother a lot more readers than something like a little spanking or even using your tie to tie someone to the bed and have your way with them. But I think people in general are more open to sex, and willing to experiment in real life so that’s going to transfer into books. But what do I know?

    I do remember reading my first fisting scene with one eye closed and between my fingers over my other eye. Eeeek. Now? Eh. No biggie.

    • Well fisting is very likely to be one of those “in concept” ideas that appear in fiction more than real life. After all fiction is the perfect format to indulge.

      You definitely hit the nail that the more exposure to something, the less shock factor or impact it has. I can remember when even a single slap on the ass was labeled BDSM and now it’s just considered adding some spice to the bedroom. So you’re absolutely right that the concept of “kinky” will evolve. It’s that exact thing that kind of makes me go hmmm when reading some of the stories lately. The one that really came to mind was the fisting mention in the middle of a contemporary story. Like.. where did THAT come from? What random couple with no obvious kink decides to do fisting? Which led me to wonder at the kink appearing more and more in fiction.

      I think it’s inevitable and not a bad thing, I personally like it but sometimes I step back and wonder at how far sex has come, fictionally speaking :D.

  2. Heidi Cullinan says:

    Since no author I know of goes around in collusion organizing a standard of kinkiness and most of us are too relieved to get to the end to bother wondering if readers want more or less kink or of what kind, I think you can chalk this up to a weird and subconscious kind of progression. I think Tam hit it on the nose, that there’s a degree of it that’s just more, more, more. The last super-kink I wrote was Nowhere Ranch, which I never meant to be kinky at all. In fact, starting with Double Blind and ending at NR, I went on this long bender of kinkier, kinkier, KINKY KINKY KINKY! until then I hit Dance With Me, which is out this summer, and it’s almost sweet. And now the one I have now is about a whore and they’re barely having sex. Sometimes I wonder if I just had to get it out of my system.

    I do think there’s a subconscious force, though, and I bet it’s there for readers and writers. I think everybody’s finding their edges and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

    • Oh I wasn’t even thinking or saying that or anything of the kind. I don’t think its any conscious or concerted effort to “kinkify” books or erotica at all.

      However you can’t really deny that it IS happening. No doubt it’s subconscious and a coincidence but it doesn’t negate that a trend is slowly shifting towards more kinky. If the characters work out that way, awesome and if they don’t that works too. Just I think more and more readers are noting (not just me) certain elements in books that could push the boundaries depending on the reader.

      I think there’s no question kink sells but I also don’t really think that is the driving force either. I personally think its almost the saturation of sex so very little is shocking. It’s this idea and feeling (even if subconscious) that we’re almost bored with a normal penetration scene. There has to be something to keep it fresh and interesting and more and more kink finds its way into that. Not to say kink is the only interesting thing – it’s obviously not – and again a good author can write and sell ANY kind of romance or sex regardless.

      • Heidi Cullinan says:

        No, I got you–but that’s what I mean, that we AREN’T doing that, and yet there it is. That sort of stuff is always interesting to me.

        I really do think it’s something people like to play with. And it’s interesting to see how it plays with readers, because I don’t know very many prolific writers who get to read as much m/m as readers do. Which is what boggles me, that we’re all doing it at once without being organized. It just…says something. I don’t know what the fuck what, though.

        • My cynical nature always wants to yell “foul” and copycat except I know that it’s not possible for the majority. Let’s leave out the obvious ones that are copying and bandwagoning. It’s a fascinating subtle shift that just seems to happen over numerous subjects. It’s not just kinky sex. There are themes that go around in batches and so on that no one is really colluding but it’s like a author hive mind lol.

          This time just happens to be kinky sex. Thankfully I’ve got no qualms with the good authors. Bring it on I say!

          • Heidi Cullinan says:

            Well, and it’s like how are there so many vampire, etc. novels out all at once as it STARTS. At this point that’s a trope, but the thing is, NYC has a very lengthy schedule for publication, plus it’s a bitch to get in, so unless there were a lot of tinfoil hats, each one of those started by serindipity too. It’s fascinating. How does this work? Why? Does it matter?

            Actually, I really want there to be a tinfoil hat version, some alien in a ship with mind control a-la Doctor Who. I mean, how fun would that be.

  3. Great post, Kassa, and your title really says it all. 🙂 I think it’s somewhat subconscious on the writers’ parts like Heidi and Tam are saying, but there is also this impression that it sells better. Nothing sells quite like contemporary romance with explicit sex that contains kink. There are calls for submission in which publishers specifically ask for sex scenes at the top of “heat” range that push the boundaries.

    Um, fisting? A scene like that is going to knock me right out of the story with the sheer theatricality of it all, unless there is a lot of context about the lovers already being into an extreme BDSM lifestyle. I’m probably going to be so disbelieving otherwise that I wouldn’t bother to finish the story unless the writing / plot is really compelling.

    • Hi Val and thanks! That’s the point I was trying to make. Sometimes I think my brain doesn’t quite translate to my fingers. I think there is a feeling – which could be supported by facts I dont know – that kink sex is somehow more exciting and thus permeates the books. I don’t think authors set out to incorporate such or at least the authors that are writing for the sake of the story and not for the hope of an easy cash cow. Of which none of the authors I read and love can be accused of that.

      Your comment about fisting is exactly why this topic came to mind. When it appeared in the story (which wasn’t working for me to begin with) I was jarred and shocked. This was a normal, everyday couple that I couldn’t imagine talking about fisting and watersports when no comments or even thoughts about BDSM had come up. To me those subjects are more extreme and not for the casual sex scene.

  4. There’s definitely information circulated among writers that sex sells, and the kinkier the better. I do think it’s odd when you have more extreme BDSM practice just thrown in, though. The best writers can make everyday, non-kinky sex scenes incredibly hot by their setting, the use of language and the character dynamics. Those are my favourite scenes of all.

    Which isn’t to say I don’t love a bit of kink, done well. I just prefer kinks to be a bit more imaginative and unusual… ;D

    • The best writers can make everyday, non-kinky sex scenes incredibly hot by their setting, the use of language and the character dynamics. Those are my favourite scenes of all.

      Yes, I totally agree with this. A great author can make anything really sexy whether or not it’s kinky.

      I personally love kink but I also enjoy a hot shower scene or even a sweet lovemaking scene, it all depends on the author not the acts to make it hot.

      I realize publishers push sex and the fact that things have “heat” ratings is just one of many examples. I’ve read way too many publisher interviews where they push sex and talk about it more than anything sells the most. So ok it sells and sells well. There will always be authors who try to adhere to what is selling the most. Perhaps that’s where the most kink in normal behavior comes in because this commentary was prompted by the odd placement of kink in recent stories and not by any author I routinely read. Err I think I’m going off on a tangent so I’ll end there and hope you got what I meant (damn drugs!).

      • I’m sure I get what you meant – I think we’ve read some of the same books!

        It does seem a shame to equate kink and hotness purely with sex toys and BDSM practices, though. I like the odd fetishes – the people who get off on having cigar smoke blown in their faces, getting caught having sex in cupboards, squishing their toes through mud, sock suspenders, errr, just about anything to do with feet. Okay, maybe that’s just my foot fetish coming through there ;D

        • Your comment echos SL’s in that kink is almost always associated with BDSM. I’d LOVE to read a fabulous fetish book. Usually fetishes in books are mocked – gently or openly – and never really real. I’d love to read a story that truly commits to the fetish no matter what it is. Foot fetish? Go for it! I don’t think that has to be BDSM .. I think just that the recent kinks crossing over to more “mainstream” books (shall we say) tend to be the BDSM kinks. Kinks aren’t necessarily BDSM but BDSM practices tend to be kinky.

          It’s very rare (in my experience) to read about non-bdsm kinks in erotica. Or am I wrong?

          • I haven’t read as many non-BDSM kinks as I’d like, and every time I find a story that gets more creative it makes me happy. They are out there, but I’d love there to be more. I suppose it takes more of a degree of imagination (or experience) – with the more commonly found kinks it’s easy for writers to research by reading other writers. The more unusual fetishes might be a bit scary or just never enter most people’s minds.

            I have a great anthology of gay foot fetish porn on my bookshelf: Love Under Foot (ed. M. Christian)

          • Tam says:

            I enjoyed the shaving fetish book by Sean Michael, well, it’s a trio of shorts with Denny and Cain. The first one I read was “ewww, weird” but I read the second and was in love with them by the third. It was definitely not BDSM although Cain was meek and mild. So there are some, but feet? Nooooooooooo.

            • I agree on the shaving fetish one. I liked that trio and it was fun. I enjoy kinky fetishes (which arent necessarily BDSM fetishes) and wish there were more. *ponders titles*

              Might need to check out Love Under Foot.

  5. Everyone’s made really good points – books that I read two years ago, that made my eyes all O.O are probably not going to have the same effect today.

    I’m not a fan of authors who know nothing about kink trying to add it to stories just because it’s the new black – their ignorance about the subject tends to really show and damage what might otherwise have been a perfectly fine story.

    • Oh definitely. I remember when reading about explicit anal sex had me putting the book down and going OMG! Then came the BDSM stuff which I had to ease into and now of course I devour it all and say “bring me more seymour!”

      And yea that’s exactly the kind of thing that turns me off and makes me think kink being so popular has a bit of a backlash. It’s great if it’s done well but added just to add it is always jarring.

  6. Jason says:

    I think the fact that what was considered taboo a few years ago has been found to have quite a reader base, has helped writers to feel more comfortable with writing things they might have worried over before, or editors/publishers might have nixed. Although the majority of people do not consider themselves as ‘kinky’ (or admit to it), they do have a curiosity about it and many find that things they thought as gross might excite them when reading. The safety of simply reading out the act can still hold the naughty appeal. Its the thrill of the taboo. 🙂

    With ereaders, we are allowing people to buy books that most people would not be seen reading otherwise. It’s freeing and allows people to comfortably involve themselves in a kink they might not even admit to their spouse. The internet has also allowed those people to learn that they are not alone in their enjoyment.

    • Oooo so very true! Omg so true. There are so many practices and concepts people love to indulge in with their fiction that they avoid, abhor and even put down in the light of day. Or reality anyway :D. I do think you hit it right in that people look for more kink in their fiction and the more they find it, the more there seems to be available all around. It’s not so shocking so instead readers resonate and lean towards books with it more.

      Oh and you’re right – never underestimate the online community. Knowing you’re not the only dirty perv out there has spawned more discussion and in turn, more kink. Ahh technology.

  7. I’m a little thrown by the description of fisting as “extreme BDSM”. While I agree that it has become more commonplace in fiction (and I also attribute it to the same growing sexual liberation and desensitization that brought us from “a woman showing her ankle is scandalous” to “live nude girls”), I disagree that it is necessarily an expression of BDSM. With books like A Hand in the Bush around, it’s clear that the practice of fisting is in the process of becoming more mainstreamed, much like the progression that oral sex and anal sex have gone through.

    It is a kink, to be sure, but as a BDSM practitioner, I take exception to the conflation of kink and BDSM, because the two are not the same. I cannot express the frustration at picking up a book labeled BDSM and finding, at one extreme, gentle kink and maybe light bondage, or at the other extreme, violent abuse, torture, and rape. Books that portray BDSM in a realistic and positive light are rare, though I’ll admit they are starting to be eked out of e-presses now that the overhead to taking a chance on such things is dropping.

    I think what you’re seeing are kinks that used to be considered extreme and confined to BDSM books breaking out to be “acceptable” in mainstream fiction. I think once that happens, it stops really being part of BDSM and starts just being part of spicy, kinky sex. 🙂

    • Hi SL and thanks for replying!! Your comment is so very interesting on a lot of levels.

      I don’t necessarily think of fisting as extreme BDSM per se but you tend to find it in fiction ASSOCIATED with more hardcore BDSM practices. Thus I tend to use the terms closely and you’re right that there is a wide range of area between the two. The problem with fiction (well one) is that it tends to be a pretty narrow BDSM world thus fisting plays a predominate role. Again fictionally so it gives an erroneous perception that unfortunately I perpetuated in not choosing my words more carefully. I apologize for that.

      I can see where you’re coming from with the concept of fisting becoming more mainstream but that’s in the same breath as say watersports become more mainstream. It all depends who you talk to or what you read. I’d argue it’s still well away from being put with oral/anal sex designations but I can see perhaps down the road it not being so taboo and “fringe.”

      BDSM and kink are not the same but I would still put fisting within the realm of BDSM. I can see where you’re coming from with the separate designations of kink and BDSM, which I completely and totally agree on. My post was definitely too broad and I tend to find that most kinks you find in books are BDSM so again I generalized (ugh seriously bad post – sorry!). This is also why I love it when someone knowledgable whaps me on the head and says get it right.

      In some ways I think you’re right. It goes to the same argument that spanking was once considered BDSM but now more just a part of a healthy and (even routine) sex life. I think kinks are generally viewed as being birthed in BDSM whether or not that’s true but they gradually move out of that label and into the bigger umbrella of just fun sex. Which yanno isn’t bad.

  8. Merwan says:

    Well, I’m one of those readers who don’t read kink at all and I’m am a little worried by how commonplace it is becoming in the m-m genre. I’m especially worried sbout my favorite authors going “kink” or the majority of me releases including those elements… That would certainly narrow down my pool of reading materials. 🙂

    At the end of the day though to each his or her own- as long as I can avoid it and there are appropriate warnings. I would be pissed off to have it pop up randomly in a book.

    • Oh yes! Finally a non-kinkster (there are so many of us). Do you find that random kink shows up in your books? Do you specifically look to avoid it?

      I can think of a book (Morning Report by Sue Brown) where the fisting comment comes up in an otherwise mundane contemporary. I’ve no clue how you could avoid it. It’s just kink… there.. in the middle of the story.

      But perhaps it’s not that widespread. Do you find it a problem in the books you choose to read?

      • Merwan says:

        Sorry for the late reply. I have seen kink randomly creep up in a couple of books. If it goes past some light bondage, these are usually did-not-finish for me. That’s how specifically I look to avoid kink. 😉

        I read the blurbs and warnings and particularly reviews before buying, and this helps avoid most of those heavily kinky books. Theres this series I’ve been reading by this author I really like and the latest instalment is said to have gone ‘kink’–not in the blurb mind you. The blurb said nothing at all about that. I don’t think I’ll be able to get past my do-not-want to read it and that sucks.

        Its hard to explain but kink (other than light bondage) is one of those things my mind has a knee jerk reaction to and I don’t ever see myself sitting down and reading about it. I wish authors and publishers got that and gave appropriate warnings. Oh well, for now reviews will do, especially your blog and jesse wave. 🙂

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