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Lisa Henry

I'm a writer. I write m/m erotica. Kind of dark stuff, even though in real life I like rainbows and puppies and kittens. Not all at once though. That would be overwhelming.

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The Difficulties of Consent: A rambling blog post

So today I got to thinking about non-con and dub-con, which I love to read and to write. And guess what? I'm not going to apologise for that. I like exploring the blurry lines and the grey areas and all the nasty dark little corners in the human psyche. Just because. 

But if you don't like to read non-con or dub-con, I have no desire to change your mind. Each to their own. 
The problem I'm having lately with non-con and dub-con is one that I've sort of touched on before. You write a story, and then it is edited, and changed, and sometimes it's different to what you intended. 
My first draft of Tribute was way harsher than the final draft. Some nasty shit went down. And I was advised by my editor and publisher, who obviously know more about this sort of thing, that I needed to strengthen the romance side of things. Stockholm syndrome is apparently not a happy ending. Who knew? 
Disclaimer: I am in no way complaining about my editor and publisher, because guess what? They know what sells, and I wanted to sell this book. 
But the issue I had, I think, in the end, was that you have this bastard of a character who basically imprisons the young prince, has his evil way with him in lots of varied and interesting ways, and then you have redeem him sufficiently that not only will readers buy the fact that the prince falls in love with him, but also that he's worthy of that love. I think we'll all agree that the HEA in Tributewas on shaky ground. 
Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to the next issue: that of non-con and dub-con and the Amazon crackdown on books featuring them. 
The recent publicity surrounding the pulling of self-published erotica with non-con and dub-con was a vast overreaction to the issue, but it's been coming for a while. Those of us who aren't self-published knew, because whenever we wrote non-con or dub-con our editors would tell us that it would be difficult to get the third party vendors (aka Amazon) to put it up for sale. 
In The Good Boy, J.A. Rock and I culled the absolute shit out of a scene between Lane and Acton, because our editor felt it would be too graphic for third party vendors. 
In Tribute, Kynon, despite being in chains, verbally consents to being made Brasius's. That was put in because my editor felt it was important. Surely the fact he's in chains and has his kingdom to save negated whatever choice he ever had in the matter? It wasn't true consent, and I think we all knew it. And I was totally okay with that. 
Because there is a place for the rape fantasy. It is a healthy and normal part of human sexuality, and, I think, allows people -- although the rape fantasy seems to be more popular in women -- to indulge in the fantasy of being "forced" to engage in sexual acts without taking responsibility for initiating them. At it's most base level, I think the rape fantasy is all about "Well, you can't do anything about it, so you might as well enjoy it." 
And I can't emphasise enough that there is a world of difference between the fantasy of rape and a real rape. 
The main issue I have with the guidelines from Amazon is that there is no acknowledgement of this difference. As though somehow the rape depicted in Maya Angelou's I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and the rape depicted inThe Virginal Nun meets the Rampaging Viking (not a real title, I hope) are in any way comparable. 
Rape is rape. And rape fantasy is rape fantasy. 
So this is where writers get creative. We dilute our non-con into dub-con, and then we soften the blow of that dub-con by making it all okay in the end. Is this disingenuous? Hell, yes. But we do it because these are the rules we have to play by. In an attempt not to have their books pulled, authors are writing what any court of law would consider non-con, and twisting it ever so slightly into dub-con. Because that way your book has a better chance of escaping the cull. And to me, disguising non-con as dub-con seems a lot less honest than saying, "Yep, it's total non-con. Enjoy." 
Which is why, BTW, I never even tried to put The Last Rebellion up on Amazon. 
They don't like that sort of story over there. Meanwhile, go and order a copy of GTA V. There's this awesome part where this woman is getting raped on the side of the road and you can see the guy's dick and everything...
Nah, it's okay. It's not written in a book, so it's totally fine.