Exploring Bondage in Romance?

Why would anyone want to be tied to a bed? Why would anyone want to surrender control over an aspect of her life as important as sex?

For some of us, bondage and submission are regular parts of our sex lives. Others of us use this kind of play only occasionally, as the variety that makes up the spice of life. Still others don't actually engage in bondage but like to read and fantasize about submitting to an irresistible lover. I find that there are a couple of reasons gentle bondage can make for an enticing and sensual read.

Women of my generation – and I suspect of today’s generation as well – were taught that wanting and enjoying sex were unladylike. We were expected to be demure and coy, pretending to resist no matter how much we secretly desired contact. By surrendering responsibility for lovemaking, we can free ourselves from the restrictive myths of female asexuality. We can protest our dismay – even struggle against our bonds – while allowing ourselves to be pleasured by a lover who knows all our secret desires.

In general, women are expected to display competence and responsibility 24/7. Professional/business woman/worker, wife, mother, committee chair/volunteer, most of us fill several roles and expect ourselves to do them well. We’re always “on.” What better vacation from all that competence than to relax and let a trusted lover take control for a while?

I asked three authors who use bondage in their work – Alexandra Adams of Renaissance Books, Ann Jacobs of Red Sage Publishing, and Vicki Lewis Thompson of Harlequin Temptation and Blaze – for a few thoughts on the appeal of bondage and submission in sensual romance. All three emphasized trust, relinquishing control, and love.

Alexandra Adams – “For such a consensual relationship to occur, the partners must participate in a voluntary exchange of power. The submissive partner gets turned on by abdicating all power over herself or himself to another. The dominant partner gets turned on by accepting the gift of submission in a worthy (emotionally safe) manner. The prime ingredient that makes the power exchange work is trust. When love underlies the trust, the two partners can achieve a height of sensual satisfaction bordering on the sublime.

“In my novel, GABRIELLE’S AWAKENING, the man is the dominant partner, the woman a natural submissive discovering her fundamental sexual nature rather late in life. Christine Spindler wrote of that book, 'GABRIELLE’S AWAKENING is the literary equivalent of a multiple orgasm, but it is also an incredibly sweet love story.’ More women than men buy it, so they must find that even if it does not reflect their own experience, it fuels their fantasies. That, to my mind, is the most fundamental challenge facing an author of sensual romances: enrich the fantasy life of readers. Readers daring enough to venture where they have not gone before, into the realm of d/s, might discover a new and intriguing aspect of romantic love.”

Ann Jacobs – “Bondage? To me it’s silken bonds that exert more figurative than literal control in a luxurious setting, preferably exotic as well as erotic. Bondage is plied by a to-die-for gorgeous lover skilled in the erotic arts. My kind of bondage feeds the captive fantasy, fulfills the secret desire of many women to relinquish control of themselves to a strong man – at least in bed.

“This is the sort of fantasy I fed in “The Barbarian,” although I used the bonds as symbols of the hero’s total domination of his bride in bed, just as he had already mastered her castle and her people with another kind of sword. And I turned the tables on my hero as the story progressed. ‘The Barbarian’ was about control: his over her, hers over his, and love’s over both of them.”

Vicki Lewis Thompson – “Writing for Harlequin Blaze gives me a whole new range of options for love scenes. I've had a great time including bondage in both my novella ‘Mystery Lover’ and my August Blaze NOTORIOUS. But in each case, we're talking about safe and fun, not dangerous and scary.

“For my characters, bondage is all about velvet restraints and exploring the concept of giving a lover complete control. There's never a hint of intimidation, never anything rough. Taking control or relinquishing it to a lover is exciting enough all by itself, in my opinion.”

To which, I can only add, “Hear, hear!”

Alice Chambers

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