Kristina last guested for me when her last novel Undone was released. She’s been quiet for a while so I’m incredibly thrilled that she’s just published a collection of her short stories, On My Knees. The collection opens with one of my favourite of Kristina’s shorts, No Sleep, which features some super hot Sharpie action. As writing on the body is a relatively new kink of mine, and one that recurs in Kristina’s work, she kindly offered to write me a guest post on why it’s just so bloody hot…
Writing on the Body
Pete withdrew his hand from my breast – much too soon – and pressed it to the flat of my chest, telling me to keep still. It was difficult. Passion made my thighs tremble and my head spin.
Then I felt the cool tackiness of Ilya pressing the lipstick to my back.
‘What letter’s this, Beth?’ he asked as the lipstick snaked a winding path from a few inches below one shoulderblade and down almost to waist level.
‘S,’ I whispered.
‘Good girl,’ breathed Ilya. ‘And this?’
As he stroked a lipstick line down my back, the other guy gave my clit a series of tiny circular rubs, the pad of his thumb hard and abrasive.
‘Oh God,’ I cried, my body swaying with delirium. ‘I can’t take it. Please –’
‘Keep still, Beth,’ urged Ilya. ‘What letter was that?’
‘L,’ I gasped. ‘L.’
Pete carried on leering, giving my clitoris the odd teasing flick or two. Ilya continued drawing on my back.
‘And that one?’ said Ilya, quietly demanding.
‘U,’ I said, a hint of weary resignation in my voice.
‘Well done, Beth,’ said Ilya. ‘S-L-U – What’s the next letter?’
I could feel all my juices flooding from my pussy on to Pete’s hand. My arousal was more humiliating than being humiliated.
(from Asking for Trouble, Kristina Lloyd)
Erotic humiliation features heavily in my fiction, tending towards the psychological rather than the physical. For the most part, the humiliation arises from the woman’s failure to be sexually appropriate and decorous. She might be shamed by being ‘forced’ into acts which debase her, such as cocksucking (because nice girls don’t) or shamed for having sexual desire (because yup, nice girls don’t). In all cases, her worth and status are lowered. Writing on the body is, for me, a quick, powerful means of achieving degradation (that lowering) and eliciting those concomitant hot feelings of shame. In this piece I want to attempt to unpick why that might be; not to offer an insight into my twisted psyche, but because I think it’s super interesting, and often useful, to explore the underpinnings and dynamics of kink, both psychological and socio-cultural.
Humiliation is about falling from grace; about failing to meet or adhere to a social value system. It requires a public, even if it’s just a public of one, who brings that value system to bear on the wayward individual. Where it gets particularly interesting for me is when the humiliatee sets no store by the value system they are deemed to have failed. The public system, or representative of it, must then ramp up their activity so the failure is recognised and, ideally, felt in the gut by the individual who’s attempted to bypass the shared values. The rebel must be shown the error of their ways and brought back into line. They must be punished by being publicly shamed.
In our culture, women are not permitted to have a sexual appetite proportionate to men’s. When we overstep the mark, society has names for us – slut, whore, cumdumpster, skank, tramp, slag and so on – words which all have the same meaning: you are having a lot of sex. In this context, ‘ a lot’, of course, means ‘too much for our liking’.
If, as the accused woman, your response is ‘Hey, I am having a lot of sex, thanks, isn’t that awesome?’, it’s still hard to escape the pejorative sting of words intended to shame, of words which carry the values one has tried to ignore or evade.
Words such as slut, whore, tramp etc, are layered with meaning and inference. They equate to ‘lots of sex’ which, for many people, is cool because lots of sex is exciting. The words also, for me, carry the thrill of shame which taps right into my personal submissive desires. The process of being shamed means, for the duration, the humiliatee is exposed for being outside the value system, be it the value system of a society or a house of kink in the countryside. The disobedient person is made lesser by their outsider status and their failure to conform. They need to be taught a lesson so they’ll think twice before straying again. During the lesson, they have no right to reply. They are being shown their failure and are being taken deeper, lower, closer to a place that is beyond culture or rules in order to then be brought back. (The word ‘humiliate’ has its etymological roots in the Latin ‘humus’, meaning ground or earth.) As punishment, they are being reduced by being done to by a greater power.
I get off on scenarios of women being done to; of women being rendered so insignificant and worthless that her male adversaries needn’t behave decently out of respect for her personhood or her femaleness. And I like (the idea of) unrestrained (archetypal) masculinity because it trashes all those notions that say women aren’t really into sex; that they need to be approached at an oblique angle, seduced into ‘surrender’, then gently made love to on a bearskin rug by the fireside.
Submission and being shamed for having sexual hunger is often a way for me (or my characters) to say ‘Have at me, big boy! I like it just as bad as you.’
What does all this have to do with writing on the body? Language is a social phenomenon. Words require a reader. A person wearing signage intended to shame comes with a ready-made implied and disapproving audience. A few years ago in the States, a deeply unpleasant trend arose for parents disciplining their kids by forcing them to wear placards listing their domestic misdemeanors. Fortunately, the practice was short-lived but it spawned the internet meme we see now where pets are shamed by signs, the joke being that animals can’t read (so woof, no harm done).
Shaming someone with written words emphasises the viewing, reading public, making it a very efficient means of humiliation. With just a few strokes of ink, it states the crime and shames the criminal. Bring this practice into the erotic arena and skin becomes a canvas, the naked body the signboard. The implied audience doesn’t just read the words, they see the person stripped bare, exposed, powerless and vulnerable. Add text to a bare body and, thanks to that implied audience, the inscribed person becomes so much more naked; there’s potentially a whole bunch of ‘outside’ eyes on them, those metaphorically clothed representatives of the disregarded value system.
When it is written on, the body becomes an object. The living, breathing individual, with their protective ego and their dignity, is diminished. I don’t have space here to delve in to the liberating pleasure many submissive-identifying folk derive from being stripped of the attributes comprising our social selves, of becoming de-civilised. But if language and literacy are one of the hallmarks of an advanced society, it’s easy to see why being turned into a tool that facilitates an expression of that advancement highlights the power disparity between the writer and the written upon, between dom and sub, between being a person and being parchment.
Top all those factors off with the speed, convenience and spontaneity a writing implement affords, and you have a neat and nasty means of erotic humiliation at a dominant’s disposal. While many people kink for elaborate, ritualised forms of punishment, my own preference is for shabbier, less structured expressions of powerplay. When Ilya from my second book, Asking for Trouble, makes a cameo appearance in my fifth book, Undone, he asks Lana, ‘I assume you have a lipstick in your bag? May I?’
He doesn’t need any kit to humiliate and horrify Lana; just a tube of colour and her skin. He doesn’t need to be prepared and that lack of forethought again implies a de-valuing of the person to be punished. And yet speed also implies value: the feelings she stirs in him are so powerful and immediate, that he, the dominant or punisher, is going to act on them right now. (In RL, I don’t believe men are beasts with uncontrollable urges but that dubious stereotype is a hot line to pursue in the realm of consensual play, fantasy and fiction.) Similarly, in ‘No Sleep’, the opening story of my newly released short story collection, On My Knees, the dominant guy rejects an available bag of cuffs, gags, blindfolds etc in favour of a sudden idea inspired by a Sharpie he finds in his pocket. ‘It was a testament to his dark imagination he could reduce her to a sobbing wreck with so little equipment.’
Writing on the body of the shamed, submissive woman encapsulates and condenses so many facets of my own desire. I like a lot of kinky stuff but this small act carries a big erotic charge. In today’s popular culture, sexual submission is frequently represented by the external trappings of that red room of pain, by equipment and fancy stuff that costs time and money. And while all that gear can be awesome, when we look behind those easy media depictions, we can start to see a sexuality that’s often complex, paradoxical, slippery, unsettling, and is rooted in both the personal and the political. I’ve used an awful lot of words here to fumble my way towards some kind of point. As the saying goes, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’. And of course, each to her own, but for me the pen, the lipstick, the literate badges of shame, are far mightier than the tawse, paddle or fully equipped dungeon.
You can read the entirety of my short story ‘No Sleep’ via Amazon’s preview of On My Knees or by downloading a sample to your Kindle. And if you’re up for some lipstick-related fun, please check out my competition, Match the Writer to the Lipstick, and Charlie’s accompanying flash fiction lippy comp. One of the prizes on offer for each competition is a paperback of On My Knees. Charlie and I are both donating a pound per fiction-comp entrant to Refuge, the charity supporting victims of domestic violence. Closing dates are 11th October. Go!
PS: You can buy Kristina’s new anthology and her novels Asking for Trouble (my fave!) and Undone by clicking on the links below:
Asking for Trouble
On My Knees