Jill has recently divorced. She’s depressed and tired of relationship dynamics in which both partners fight for dominance, neither knowing how to deliver what the other wants. Enter Jill’s friend Jessica, who is a submissive slave named sunni. sunni’s master, Rune, wants to invite Jill to be part of their threesome power dynamic. It’s a big risk for Jill to try out this novel experience, but then again she's been disappointed by traditional relationships. She joins the couple as Rune’s slave, learning a lot about herself in the process of becoming sage.
This was one of the first BDSM/polyamory stories I’ve read, and I thought Kasi Alexander did an incredible job of laying out the alternative lifestyle in such concrete, understandable terms. The writing was so easy and honest that I had trouble putting the book down. It felt like peeking into sage’s journal (or peeking through the apartment door keyhole), with all of the appropriate self-doubt and angst.
Because I’m not an experienced reader of this lifestyle, I have many questions. The page numbers I reference for each quote are for the epub version.
1. It struck me for the first time how there’s a similarity between BDSM and homosexuality. Both can be considered an orientation that’s feared and misunderstood. “…the orientation made a lot of sense: some people enjoyed the stimulation of pain and were able to convert pain into endorphins and sometimes into an altered state of consciousness.” (p. 30). How do people in the BDSM community compare themselves to people in the LGBT community? Do folks in the BDSM community view their orientation as largely genetic or biological, like many in the gay community do? And another question based on the quote: How does “knife play” differ from self-injury like cutting?
2. “It’s the people who are afraid that they have no control of their lives who cannot allow themselves to submit to other people.” (p. 38). Hmm. I don’t really agree with this judgment. Is sunni saying that those who don’t want to be part of this lifestyle are afraid they have no control of their lives?
3. “The difference between submission and slavery was starting to become very clear to me.” (p. 105). Unfortunately the differences between the two are still a bit fuzzy for me. What are the differences?
4. “Before I came here, I had spent a lot of time by myself, and I had thought I missed it, but now it just felt lonely. I missed having Sir and sunni to point out interesting or funny things to. I just wasn’t used to being alone anymore.” (p. 111). This made me feel a little uncomfortable, like sage is becoming dependent on her partners. As a psychologist I’m constantly trying to help women speak their voice and take care of their own needs—-to like themselves more and learn to cope with the human condition (including loneliness) effectively. I guess if sage is choosing to be with her new family all the time then there’s nothing wrong with that, but something about it makes me uneasy. What’s the risk of dependency in BDSM compared to vanilla relationships? When BDSM partners split up, how well does the submissive or slave land on his/her feet?
5. “I had never gotten along that well with my mother and two brothers, and never felt like I belonged…but now I actually felt like I had a family.” (p. 115). I felt sad for sage that she didn’t get along with her biological family, but happy for her that she created her own family. I wonder if some of sage’s insecurity emanates from her unsatisfactory family relationships. They say psychologists often come from troubled backgrounds and we get into the field to try to heal ourselves (and it sounds like sage might be entering the counseling field—-maybe that’s why I identified so well with her.) Are BDSM partners more likely to come from troubled backgrounds as well?
5. “The reason I liked our relationship style was simply because I didn’t have to argue, or worry about getting my way to prove that I was a strong person; the fact that I could allow him to be in charge actually made me feel stronger than if I was making all the decisions and all the plans. It was very freeing. It was like we were combining our strength rather than trying to overpower each other.” (p. 122). I thought this was an excellent summary of sage’s attraction to this lifestyle, and I find the idea rather fascinating. Does Sir tend to find the relationship freeing as well? It seems like it would be a lot of pressure on the Dom.
I really enjoyed sage’s astute questions, as well as the relationship drama. I thought sage was inordinately patient with sunni, who is so immature and annoying she actually made me cheer for Sir getting out the paddle to use on her. But how cool that this story is not only about sage’s character development, but also sunni’s. (Sir Rune’s too?) It was a fun, satisfying ending and I definitely want to read the next installment in The Keyhole Series. Great job, Kasi!