Commentary on “Voodoo Doll”

Stories begin with a seed – a character, a situation, an idea, an image, something. “Voodoo Doll” began with the thought that, instead of an external brace to restrict a limb’s movement, a device could be surgically implanted around the joint.

From there, it quickly became all of a woman’s major joints – elbows, knees, hips, shoulders – and the device became a radio-controlled brake. The technical details (at least a sufficient number for a fictional story) fell into place. The device would not force movement, but merely restrict it by engaging a pair of miniature ratchet disks. The minimal power required would come from a rechargeable battery. The battery would be recharged by voluntary muscle movements. And so forth.

I enjoy inventing this kind of thing, especially when I don’t have to actually make it work. Technically, this story is science fiction because it requires technology that is not yet available. But it’s more Michael Creighton near-term, just-about-here technology rather than Arthur Clark’s so-advanced-that-it’s-magic technology.

It would not surprise me if a team of world-class experts could make it work today.

Once the technology was clear in my mind, the use of a doll as a controlling interface was obvious. And it was equally obvious that the doll would act as sympathetic magic, as voodoo dolls are purported to do.

In my mind, the title, “Voodoo Doll”, does not refer to the doll itself, but to Lori. She has made herself her husband’s living doll.

Originally, I had expected the story to end with the honeymoon. But extending the voodoo premise to Voodoo Island was too enticing to ignore. The short story quickly became a novella. I wrote the entire 30,000 words in a week. That’s about 120 paperback book pages. I have written 25,000 words in a week several times before but 30,000 is a new personal best. Another couple of days to edit it and it was ready to be posted.

Readers have commented that they were disappointed that most of the action on the island used physical bondage – chains, ropes, and leather straps – rather than the implanted governors.

I can understand their reaction. I, too, liked the cool technology better than bog-standard bondage.

But, sadly, the story demanded visible bondage as soon as an audience was included. If the invisible technology were used exclusively, then Lori would have appeared to be an actor, her actions voluntary, and her ordeal less severe than it was. In particular, it would have made her look like an exhibitionist who did not suffer from her public humiliation.

I went to some pains to ensure that the audience understood that Lori was suffering as much as it appeared. That they were being given an authentic experience. That was required by the “cursed woman as victim” premise.

Authors often comment that they cannot always control where their characters will take them. This is a perfect example of that phenomenon.

This story incorporated three themes.

First, it discusses the nature of masochism more explicitly than my previous stories. Lori’s therapist is given an opportunity to explain that masochism is not a mental illness and is, in fact, a successful evolutionary strategy for Lori and others like her.

I know that this part of the story is rather too didactic for porn, but I indulged myself anyway.

Second, this story gave me an opportunity to discuss the induction of a normal segment of the population into sadism. I have long believed that the rise of Nazism as a popular movement under Hitler was not an aberration. Any people, Americans included, are only a couple of steps away from engaging in exactly the same behavior at any time.

In this story, the guests were given the necessary circumstances to cross the line. The guests were transported to an unfamiliar environment. A new group norm was created. The behavior was sexualized to provide motivation. Authorities were present to relieve the guests of personal responsibility. The victim was separated from the guests and dehumanized. The guests were presented with a series of carefully designed stages in which they were made more active participants at each stage.

I believe that those circumstances would be sufficient to make almost any American a sadist. In fact, the majority would require far less than that.

Until now, all of my stories have been about masochism. I have used various tricks to avoid discussing sadism. It was interesting to finally write about the flip side of the S&M coin.

A third theme is slavery. It might appear ironic that the story explicitly decries historical slavery at the same time that Lori has voluntarily and happily enslaved herself to her husband but I don’t see it that way. Historical slavery and BDSM games are entirely different things, even when the BDSM game is a lifestyle commitment.

Rather than detailing all the differences here, I will content myself by pointing out that Lori is not truly oppressed. In the brief moment when she thought that her husband might try to force her to perform for guests every week for economic gain, she was appalled. And would have ended her marriage. A real slave never has the luxury of saying “no”.

What is ironic is that, at the same time that the guests on the island are being told about the evils of slavery, they are being encouraged to act as the worst kind of slave masters. And they embrace the role with enthusiasm.

This story does not discuss good and evil explicitly, but I expect that any reader who wants to read it as a morality tale would not have difficulty doing so.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “The Joy of Contrition”

“The Joy of Contrition” is a rather self-indulgent little story. I spend almost six thousand words describing six strokes of a cane. Seldom does a pornographer use so many words to describe so little action. I doubt that many readers get off on this story, even if they really like caning scenes. Sorry.

I wanted to experiment with a technique that another author, Lee Scarlet, used in a story posted on Literorica.com. He passed the point of view from one character to another in a continuous narrative rather than inserting section breaks.

In “The Joy of Contrition”, I have two characters, Caroline and Rory, who pass the point of view back and forth during a caning. The point of view passes from Caroline to Rory when she asks for a stroke and passes back to her when he strikes her.

When she has the point of view, she thinks about why she needs to be severely punished. She uses it to justify her unethical behavior. She is a university professor who has seduced a student. Because the punishment causes severe pain, she feels properly contrite. But, paradoxically, this frees her to continue her unethical behavior. Not only continue, but escalate both the affair and the punishment in a vicious cycle.

When punishment absolves guilt, it can fail to correct behavior, not only for a masochist like Caroline, but in general. This story can be taken as a cautionary tale for anyone who thinks that punishment is a universal solution to social problems.

When Rory has the point of view, the reader sees that he has an entirely different understanding of Caroline’s need to be caned. He knows nothing of her affair with the student. He has the simplistic and incorrect idea that Caroline, as a masochist, likes pain and feels pleasure when he strikes her. He is not an innate sadist and needs this rationale to justify hurting her. But the rationale works too well. He takes her at her word that he should strike her as hard as he can. Harder than a woman should be struck with a cane. Hard enough to cause permanent scarring. Yet, she cannot tell him to moderate his strokes because that would deprive her of what she needs.

Both partners believe, not only that they understand each other, but that they share the same understanding. The reader, having been given both points of view, should see that they completely misunderstand each other.

But, their mutual misunderstanding makes them compatible. Each serves the other’s needs perfectly. One can ask if Rory and Caroline have an emotional understanding that overrides their rational misunderstanding.

Despite their mutual need, I believe that their relationship is doomed. It cannot last much longer because they are caught in a vicious circle that is already spiralling out of control. Eventually they will be pushed to the point that their emotional bond will break. We can only hope that their relationship ends with a whimper and not an explosion of unrestrained violence.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “Chivalry’s Reward”

I was invited by Shaina Richmond to provide an excerpt from a book to promote it on her blog: http://indiebookslist.wordpress.com/

Having little appetite for sorting through old stories when I could more profitably spend my time writing a new one, I wrote and sent “Chivalry’s Reward” to her. (http://indiebookslist.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/chivalrys-reward-by-ashley-zacharias-bdsm-erotica/). She was kind enough to publish it.

This story is a deviation from my usual fare in that it does not include any recognizable BDSM and is not about a masochistic woman. It is a single dialog between two women about their obligation to satisfy their husbands’ sexual fantasies. In particular, their husbands’ desire to have pornographic photographs of their wives.

These women are not exhibitionists and are appalled at the prospect of posing nude. Doing so would be a major sacrifice for them. Their impulse is to refuse their husbands’ explicit and implicit requests. Until they force each other to consider what sacrifices their husbands have made for them.

Posing for pornographic pictures would be degrading to them. This is the only aspect of the story that touches on my usual theme of erotic submission. But this is a clear and concise statement of a theme that runs through many of my stories – that wives owe a certain duty to satisfy their husband’s sexual needs. But this duty is not absolute. A wife is not required to accede to her husband’s every whim. She has a right to set limits. Negotiating those limits is a necessary part of every marriage. Most often it is done implicitly. My stories are often shocking because I often have husbands and wives setting those limits explicitly and typically broadly enough to include far more activities than occur in most marriages.

But always, the wife has the final word about what she is willing to do.

So it is in this story.

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Commentary on “Private Performance”

Up to this point, most of my stories have set in the context of science and technology. I decided to venture to the far side of human achievement and set this one in the world of art.

A few years ago, after attending a workshop at the New Media Institute at the Banff Centre, I was inspired to start writing a stage play about a performance artist who is commissioned to perform a private piece for a wealthy entrepreneur. It was going to be an allegory. The four characters in the play would represent the artist, the patron, the critic, and the public, each holding dramatically different expectations about the art. The play was not working and I abandoned it after hacking around with the first act for a while.

When I achieved more success as a pornographer than a playwright, I decided to dig out the idea and rework it. I could make it smutty by having the artist present a much racier performance.

In the story, a performance artist, Catherine, meets an entrepreneur in a gallery. He commissions her to perform a series of three performances at private parties in his home.

Her pieces are intended to separate reality from television by presenting one aspect of herself on screens in one room while another aspect is presented in person in another room.

In the first performance, her head is available to talk to people in the front room while images of herself stripping her clothes off are shown on television screens in the back room. For the most part, men watch her strip on TV while their wives chat with her in person.

In the second performance, the roles are reversed. Her head is shown on screens in the back room, telling the most intimate details of her personal life – psychologically stripping herself – while people are permitted to caress her body through holes in a box in the front room. This time it is the women who watch the television screens while the men go for the real thing.

In the third performance, while the artist is bound in a cage, the audience is exposed. Individual faces were recorded as people leered, groped, or looked offended during the first two performances. After seeing themselves, they are asked to vote on whether the artist who has enticed and humiliated them should be allowed her artistic freedom and released untouched, be punished for humiliating them by being flogged, or be considered a whore who panders to men’s base instincts and fucked by one of the men in the audience, chosen at random.

The audience votes in favor of punishment and the artist is brutally flogged. The flogging has been designed to cause considerable pain but no permanent injury.

In this story, the audience is personified by a single man and his wife, chosen because the man is the only member who abstains from voting and his wife because she is chosen to administer the flogging.

This is a story about how art and artists should be judged.

I justified this story as appropriate for BDSMLibrary because of the flogging, along with some mild voyeurism and frottage. If anyone cares to count, I spent more than 600 words describing the first stroke of the cat. That is pure self-indulgence.

Though I know less about performance art than other visual art forms, I believe that the performance that I described is artistically meaningful. An artist would not allow her nude body to be touched and later allow herself to be flogged in real life. But performance artists like Laurie Anderson and Marina Abramovic have performed some fairly masochistic pieces.

I immodestly think of my description of Catherine’s piece as conceptual performance art, meant to be considered but not actually performed.

I included a brief discussion of the distinction between art, illustration, and decoration in this story, based on the kind of impact that the piece has on the viewer. This was another bit of self indulgence but I believe what I said in that section.

Another point that I made in the same section is that great art is often something that you would not want hanging on your living room wall because it can be too disturbing. If people accept that truism, they may realize that they should judge fine art by different criteria than decoration or illustration.

I leave it to the readers to decide if they would want Catherine’s performances to take place in their own living rooms.

The audience member in this story who abstains from voting on the artist’s fate represents everyone in the general public who sees art but, for whatever reason, is afraid to pass judgment on it. It is appropriate that his vote, if cast, would not have affected the artist’s fate. People who abstain from judgment have little impact on the world.

When I posted this story, I labeled it with the tag line, “Is it art or is it porn?” This was intended to work on a number of levels.

Obviously it is a reference to the performance art featured in the story. The performance is explicitly called pornography by some of the wives whose husbands are looking at and touching the artist’s naked body.

It is a reference to the obscenity trials that keep popping up every few years when the government tries to legislate against pornography and artists start creating pieces that are intended to get swept up in the net.

It is also a reference to the story itself. I am inviting readers to judge for themselves if my story has any literary value. Like the artist in the story, I am willing to stand in judgment before my audience. But I won’t let them flog me, only say cruel things about my writing.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “The Middle Manager”

“The Middle Manager” is a standard office blackmail story following about the same storyline as many other BDSM stories.

A young man, a computer geek, works for a slightly older woman who disrespects him and plagiarizes his work for her own advancement. He exacts his revenge on her by witholding critical reports unless she performs an escalating series of sexual humiliations for him. His power over her is enhanced by his claim that he can help her get a promotion to a senior management position.

She does not know if he can fulfil his promise of a promotion but does know that he can scuttle her career by witholding the reports that the senior managers want and only he knows how to generate.

The humiliations begin simply enough, showing him her breasts for a few minutes, and escalate slowly through a paddling and nipple clamping to allowing herself to be offered as stakes in a poker game and having sexual intercourse with two strangers.

Throughout, she makes it clear that she has limits and that she will abandon her career before she will allow herself to be raped or injured.

To her surprise, the geek does ensure her promotion to a vice presidency. To his surprise, she has secretly had his software reverse engineered so that she is no longer dependent on him and fires him.

This is a surprise ending for the genre. In the typical office blackmail story, the geek would have used videos that he has taken to blackmail her forever, forcing her to abandon her career and become his full-time sex slave.

For the most part, readers liked my ending, though some were bothered because the unethical, and largely unlikeable, middle manager successfully defeated the geek through her unethical practices. Worse, she attributed winning to her own cunning, discounting everything that the geek had done for her.

I liked the ending because that is analogous to what I have seen happening in real organizations over and over.

I also liked my characterization of the geek. The manager makes the mistake of stereotyping him as sexually unsuccessful. Towards the end, he reveals that her assumption is wrong – he is married with a child and has another on the way – and that, by making the assumption that his personal life was a failure, she insulted him deeply. That insult was his primary motivation for seeking revenge on her.

I expect that most of my readers accepted the manager’s assumption at the beginning of the story and are as surprised as her when the geek reveals that he has a normal personal life at the end of the story.

While no sexual blackmail story in a corporate environment can be completely realistic, I tried to make this one more believable than most by making the blackmail fairly mild and giving the manager a strong motivation for submitting to his demands. She agrees, not so much because she is helpless, but to buy time because she knows that she will be screwing the geek over as soon as she has reverse-engineered his software.

As well, the manager is involved in an unsatisfying romantic relationship that she is about to terminate. There is irony in the fact that the geek has a more successful personal life than she does. Her failing romance leaves her free to enjoy some sexual satisfaction from her illicit behavior.

There are a couple of new sadomasochistic activities in this story that I like. One is when the geek pours a box of thumbtacks into the manager’s panties and demands that she keep them there for several hours. This sounds like it would be a terrible torture, but, as explained in the story, it shouldn’t be as painful as it sounds. They are fairly blunt, aren’t pressed hard against her, and are not specifically positioned to penetrate her flesh. But I’m not certain because I didn’t bother trying this on myself.

The other activity is a solitaire game that uses a shuffled deck of cards to determine how often and how long a person’s nipples will be clamped by wooden clothespins. Again, I have not tried this personally, so I cannot guarantee that it will feel as I have described. But I have received letters from readers suggesting that they have played the game and did not find any inaccuracies in my account.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “The Baby Machine”

“The Baby Machine” is one seriously strange story. I admit it. I like to follow an idea to the end and see what weird place it takes me. This one definitely went off the beaten track.

Since learning about evolution in high school biology class many (many) years ago, I’ve thought it fascinating that evolution suggests that we should each strive to outcompete everyone else in having as many babies as possible. I’ve since learned that this is a serious oversimplification. Passing on our own genes doesn’t necessarily mean having our own babies (see Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene for a detailed explanation).

But in the modern urban environment, many women are rendered infertile by STDs. In that environment, a new niche may have emerged for a fertile woman to have as many babies as possible, adopting them out for other women to raise.

This is the story of a brilliant teenaged girl who decides to spend her life exploiting that niche. She pursues that end with single-minded, neurotic determination.

She blackmails her gay high school biology teacher into marrying her and arranging for a continuous stream of healthy young men to have sex with her until she is pregnant. The resultant babies are sold to well-to-do women who cannot have their own children.

I was intrigued by the likely outcome of that strategy. With a little thought, three aspects of her situation were obvious.

First, she wouldn’t have as much sex with as many partners as one might expect. For a couple of months every year, she has constant sex with a few young men. But as soon as she becomes pregnant, she stops for nine months. Most of the time, she’s only having sex with three or four different men a year. Over a lifetime, it adds up, but not to as high a number as a promiscuous women might attain.

Second, she could earn a lot of money. Not only can she sell her babies for a considerable sum, she can also demand that the adoptive parents support her during her pregnancy and pay her medical expenses. If that money is invested wisely over her lifetime, she can become wealthy.

Third, she would have a lot of spare time. Even when she’s having frequent sex, most of her day is free. And when she’s pregnant, she has almost all her time to spend as she wishes.

In my story, the protagonist, Mindy, is a genius and is surrounded by people who support her. This ensures that she becomes both wealthy and famous.

But in the end, she is faithful to her goal. She uses her wealth and fame to ensure that her genes are passed along to further generations.

This premise didn’t require any BDSM. I included a leather blindfold and, for one pregnancy, bondage, but that was completely gratuitous. I think it would have been a stronger story without the blindfold and bondage.

Despite the explicit descriptions of sex and the bondage elements, I doubt that many readers find this story particularly erotic. For that reason, I included a warning about the lack of sexual content to the blurb when I posted it. Many people read the story anyway. Thanks.

My biggest concern in this story is that Mindy is barely sixteen when she first has sex. She is, by far, the youngest sexually active girl that I’ve developed. I have no interest in pedophilia and do not want to write about it. But I had to make her no more than sixteen at the beginning of this story because the plot demanded it. I can only emphasize that Mindy is no Lolita. Sixteen is well beyond puberty. Mindy does not have sex until she is married. She has sex with boys who are no more than two years older than her. And she has sex solely to get pregnant. As well, the story follows her to menopause. This is clearly about a woman’s complete sexual history, not about sex with a child.

Partly, I wrote this story to give a bit of counterbalance to my stories that poked a bit of fun at Christian evangelism, “Betting on God”, and the Catholic church, “Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned”. Although I am an atheist and am certain that the Law of Evolution holds, I happily acknowledge the folly of turning any scientific law into dogma.

This is an idea-driven tale but I like Mindy as a character. If she were a real person, I would want to be friends with her. I like her dedication to her cause. She’s my kind of girl.

Yours, Ashley

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Commentary on “Bless Me Father, For I Have Sinned”

In the confessional, Mary asks her priest for a harsher penance than a few Hail Marys, even though she has not committed any serious sins. She has some difficulty convincing him to flagellate her but succeeds.

Three weeks later, having committed the sin of lust, she locks herself into a chastity belt and convinces the priest to hold the key for two weeks. As she is hiding the chastity belt from her husband, she will have no choice but to keep her husband satisfied with daily blowjobs for the duration of her penance. She demonstrates her technique by performing fellatio on the horny priest.

The priest is a man beneath his robes. Seeing Mary in his congregation, administering chastisements, and remembering receiving oral sex from her keeps him constantly aroused.

A week later, a second woman, Maria, asks him to lock her into a spiked leotard for a day as a penance for her minor sins. He is awarded with another blowjob. He finds that he enjoys a bit of sadism and subjects her to more pain than she anticipated by requiring that she lie on a concrete floor for an hour.

A third sinner, a glutton named Marilyn demands that the priest punish her by making her fast. And Mary returns, demanding that she spend eight hours locking into a brank – a device that holds her tongue immobile – for the sin of gossipping.

The priest’s questions are answered when all three women meet him and explain that they call themselves “Magdalenes”. They promise to endure as much abuse and sodomy as he desires in exchange for a guarantee that he’ll never abuse children or others in his congregation.

It works. Since the first confession, the priest has fantasized only about having sex with those three middle-aged women.

I had fun writing this story and hope that you read it as the farce that it was intended to be. For me, the most interesting part was imagining modern re-inventions of medieval practices that would be suitable for venial sins. Though I didn’t spend as much effort on that as I could have. There’s potential for a lot more of the same. If I had wanted to, I could have systematically worked my way through every venial sin within the frame of this story. It would have been a kind of pornographic lampoon of the movie, 7. But, I fear that if I had done that, my story might have bogged down before it got to the end.

It should be clear to the reader that this story is more of a parable condemning the Catholic Church’s tolerance of abusive priests than a realistic slice of life. I cannot imagine a real priest so easily being convinced to beat, torture, and starve women in his congregation. Nor accepting oral and anal sex from them. Nor can I imagine real women offering themselves as living sacrifices to appease a priest who has given no indication whatsoever that he is a sexual predator.

On the other hand, I have never been able to imagine real priests abusing alter boys, bishops knowingly reassigning then to other parishes to continue their predations, or parents sending their pubescent daughters into confessionals, expecting them to suffer the humiliation of describing their discovery of masturbation to middle-aged men. What do I know about what people will do in real life?

When I read the newspapers, I realize that someone, somewhere is doing more in real life than I can or would want to imagine.

My confession to you is that I am not a Catholic, have never been to mass or confession, and have only once spoken to a priest. That single priest was a relative of the mother of a friend of a friend at a party. He had no interest whatsoever in having a conversation with me beyond saying, “Nice to meet you” and moving on to talk to people that he knew better.

Thus, my story is based on profound ignorance. But ignorance frees me to be completely creative.

When you’re writing pornography, it is good to let your imagination roam free.

Yours, Ashley

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