When I first began thinking about doing a guest blog post here at Romance Junkies, I knew exactly what I wanted to talk about—BDSM romance—and I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to say. I have Very Firm Opinions™ on many things kink related, and I was ready to talk about all of them. Misunderstood kinks? No shortage of topics there. Can BDSM romance be lighthearted and funny? Yes – there’s a reason we call it ‘play’! What about the writer’s responsibility to include discussion of safety and consent? VERY FIRM OPINIONS.
As it turns out, I had too much to say. I had to narrow the field a bit, or this post would be 47 pages and the fine people at Romance Junkies would be all, “We asked for a blog post, Hannah, not a research paper”. And while I’m sure you’d all be thrilled to read a dissertation-length diatribe on how most BDSM clubs in major US cities function in real life (hint: most are unfortunately not owned and funded by billionaire Doms who look like underwear models and can bring a woman to orgasm with a stern look), I’ll save that for another time. But hey, if you want to talk about that, feel free to hit me up on Twitter.
Anyway, after several days of muttering at a blank Word document and thoroughly annoying my family (“Dad, Mom’s doing it again”, voiced by an exasperated first grader, may have been heard once or twice), I finally hit on a thesis statement:
Taboo kinks: do they still exist?
Short answer? Yes, of course. But not quite like they used to. Let’s talk about publishing, and how the landscape looked, say, twenty years ago compared to now. Because boy, has it changed.
I was at a writer’s conference in the early 2000s (God, I feel old), listening to a well-known romance author speak. I had found her books because while she wrote mostly paranormal romances (not my personal fav), they were next level kinky and filthy (totally my fav). At the time she had just signed her first big NY deal, and was talking about how different it was from the small presses she’d been publishing with to that point. To illustrate this difference, she told the audience that her new editor had begged her “not to write butt stuff”.
Now, I have not had any personal conversations with NY editors from which to draw (any NY editors reading this who would like to rectify that can also reach me on Twitter, my DMs are open), but considering all the traditionally published books I’ve read that included such shenanigans, I just can’t imagine that conversation happening now.
Butt Stuff is, for the majority of the folks publishing or reading romance, no longer taboo. Which means most publishers are no longer opposed to printing it, and readers generally aren’t surprised or shocked to see it. Of course, like almost anything else you’ll find in a book, some people hate it, some people are like “meh, butt stuff”, and some people get highly irritated when a blurb and excerpt gave the distinct impression that butt-based shenanigans were a GO only to discover upon reading that the book had no butt related stuff AT ALL HOW RUDE.
Where was I? Oh, right. Butt stuff, no longer taboo.
Another example of a once-but-no-longer-taboo-kink in publishing? Daddy kink.
Back in the early 2000s again (so old), I was having this conversation with my then boyfriend. He was totally, completely, one hundred percent a Daddy, and he was annoyed and a bit baffled at the tendency of some people to conflate Daddy kink with an incest fetish (let me clarify for those unaware, it is very much not). “Your boys get it,” he complained to me, referring to my gay roommates. “Why doesn’t anyone else?”
I’m not going to get into why gay male culture has historically been more accepting of and open to these types of relationships, because that’s a much different post that I am not qualified to write. But he wasn’t wrong about most people not getting it. And back then, I don’t think there was any Daddy kink in romance at all (due in no small part, I’m sure, to the fact that the only romance being published was cis/het, which is another blog post I am not qualified to write). Now? I can’t swing a virtual flogger on Twitter without hitting an author who wrote one, or a reader recommending one, or a picture of a silver fox someone posted with “yes, Daddy!” in the caption. It is generally accepted to be A Thing.
Which is dead awesome, and I will follow anyone on Twitter posting such things. Feed it right into my eyeballs.
Taboos are fascinating to me. Which is why when I was sketching out an idea for a series of BDSM romances that needed a common theme, ‘taboos’ is what I latched onto. The first book in that series is Santa Daddy, and as you may have surmised from the title, it’s a Daddy kink tale with a Christmas setting. “Wait a second, Hannah,” you might be saying. “You wrote a Daddy kink book in a series about taboos when you JUST GOT DONE SAYING that it’s no longer taboo?” Well, yes. Because while it’s no longer taboo in publishing, that is not the only place taboos exist. They also exist in society (something anyone who’s slipped up and called their boyfriend ‘Daddy’ in the checkout line at Target can tell you, ahem), and they exist in our minds. Which is what makes them so marvelously delicious to read about.
Though many things once considered unpublishable in romance are much more acceptable now, some taboos do linger. For example, one mainstream publisher I know of is happy to look at BDSM romance submissions, but they won’t accept stories that include blood play, despite it being a very popular activity in kink circles (I have such a story on my hard drive all ready to go, and it is dreamily romantic and smokin’ hot, just in case any of you NY editors are still reading). And while I of course have not read every BDSM romance out there, I’d be willing to bet my beloved pink Kate Spade purse that watersports and its messier cousins are still on the traditional romance publishing no-no list.
Which brings me back to my thesis statement: do taboo kinks still exist? Absolutely. In publishing, in society, and in the dim, secret corners of our delightfully diverse minds. You’ll see some of my favorite taboos on display as my BDSM romance series unfolds, but I’m curious: what are yours?
SANTA DADDY Excerpt:
Nicholas Saint stared at his executive assistant, hoping he’d heard her wrong. Or, if he hadn’t, that she was joking. She’d never joked before, but there was a first time for everything.
He couldn’t tell by her face, which was set in its usual calm, serene expression. The building could be on fire and she’d be wearing that expression—big gray eyes calm, red lips unsmiling, black hair pulled back in a low, sleek tail that lay, ends gently curled, over one shoulder. Her face remained, in all circumstances, sedate, composed and subtly beautiful.
Unfortunately for his concentration, the rest of her wasn’t sedate or subtle in the slightest, as per fucking usual. She had curves for days, thighs and hips and breasts that had starred in more than one midnight fantasy in the three years she’d worked for him. Not to mention her ass, which he couldn’t see at the moment but could picture with perfect clarity.
It was a goddamned work of art, that ass, and if he hadn’t been a butt man before she’d come to work for him, he’d turned into one about five minutes after.
It didn’t help that she always dressed like she was going to a photoshoot for some kind of retro-themed secretarial porn. He would no doubt add the black pencil skirt, fuzzy white sweater and seamed stockings to the list of outfits he’d like to peel her out of, but that was for later. Right now, he was more concerned with what she’d just said, because if he’d heard her correctly, he had bigger problems than being able to see the lace edge of her bra above the deep neckline of the sweater. “What did you just say?”
Rebecca sucked in a breath, making her tits move. He gritted his teeth. Focus on words, not tits, he ordered himself, and shifted his gaze back to her face just in time to hear her say, “I said, I’m tendering my resignation.”
“That’s what I thought you said.” He laid his pen down on his desk and made an effort to unclench.
“I’ve already emailed human resources,” she went on, clearly oblivious to the fact that he was trying not to leap over the desk and strangle her. “I’m sure they’ll be able to find someone to replace me in no time.”
He couldn’t say what he thought of that, not without using a lot of office-inappropriate words, so he ignored it. “Why?”
She looked at him, her soft gray eyes steady. “Why what?”
“Why are you quitting?”
“Because I want a life,” she said baldly.
He was concentrating so hard on not revealing how aroused he was—also as per fucking usual—that he forgot his manners. “What the hell does that mean?” he blurted out, his voice sharp and aggressive, and her quiet gray gaze went flinty.
Which only turned him on more.
“It’s two o’clock in the afternoon on a Saturday, Mr. Saint,” she pointed out. “The day before Christmas Eve.”
He glanced at the clock on the wall. Shit, he’d lost track of time. “Work doesn’t stop for Christmas,” he said lamely, mainly because he couldn’t think of anything better, not with those tits heaving in his face.
Well, eight feet away from his face and on the other side of a desk, but still. They could’ve been fifty feet away and he still would’ve noticed.
They were just that good.
“It does if you have a life,” she shot back, thankfully unaware of the hypnotic power of her breasts. “Which I would like to have. Ergo, I quit.”
None of that was at all unreasonable, a realization that just made him scowl harder. “If it’s that big of a deal, go ahead and go home. I’ll see you on the twenty-sixth.”
Now her cheeks flushed, and her soft eyes took on a distinct glint of…was that anger? He’d never seen Rebecca angry, and it turned the quiet radiance he was used to into something much more dangerous.
It was fucking hot.
“I’m going home for the rest of my life,” she informed him, her voice sharp and so unlike the calm she usually displayed that he was caught off guard. She tossed the thick folder in her hand onto his desk. “That’s all my notes on the Overfield negotiations, and the last version of the contract, which I’ve already sent on to our lawyers and theirs. I’ll make sure HR knows to get someone in who can handle any more changes they need.”
He didn’t even look at the folder. “You can’t just quit, Rebecca.”
“Actually, I can.” She nodded to the computer on his desk. “I have three weeks of unused vacation time I’ll be taking in lieu of notice. There’s a formal letter of resignation in your email. I cc’d HR, and Nate.”
Nick’s temper started to spike, and he made an effort to tamp it down. She always called his brother by his first name, while he was ‘Mr. Saint’. It drove him crazy, but he couldn’t afford to let that get to him right now. If he lost his temper, he’d never get her to stay. And he needed her to stay. She was the best assistant he’d ever had, tits and ass notwithstanding.
“You’ve never complained about the long hours,” he began.
“Which is my fault,” she said agreeably, her face once again composed, though she couldn’t quite mask the irritation. Her voice stayed low and smooth with that hint of rasp that drove him crazy, her only outward reaction to his anger the glint in her eyes and the fading flush on her cheeks. “I should’ve said something a long time ago.”
“Well, then,” he said, as if the matter were settled.
“But the fact remains I’m unhappy with my position here, and I don’t see that changing.” Her lips twitched, whether in a grimace or a smile, he couldn’t tell. “I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity you gave me, and everything I’ve learned here.”
“Stop blowing sunshine up my ass, and tell me how much you want.”
“I beg your pardon,” she said icily, not begging at all.
God, what he’d give to hear her beg.
“Do you practice sounding like a tight-ass, or does it just come naturally?” he asked, knowing he was crossing a line and not really caring. In fact, he felt a spurt of satisfaction when her cheeks flamed red with anger once again. “How much?”
“It’s not about money, Mr. Saint,” she said, and he snorted in disbelief.
“Everything is about money, Ms. McBride,” he countered, the sneer in his voice fueled by the tightness in his pants. “Just tell me how much, so we can get back to work.”
She stood there, cheeks flushed, bosom heaving, and for a moment he thought he had her. She’d name a number, and he’d agree so they could go back to work and he’d save the rare image of Rebecca McBride flushed and heaving for his spank bank.
He’d add a few details, of course. Stockings torn, skirt rucked up to her waist, that waterfall of ink black hair in tangles. Her butt would be glowing red from his hand, her cheeks stained with tears and streaks of eye makeup. And she’d be begging. ‘Please Daddy,’ she’d say, that smooth voice ruined by tears and lust. ‘I’ll be good, please.’
His cock hardened at the thought, so he ruthlessly shoved the image away for later and concentrated on the problem at hand.
“So?” he prompted when she stayed silent. “An extra five thousand a year? Ten?”
“Mr. Saint,” she said after a moment, calm as ever, “go to hell.”
And when his jaw dropped in shock, she turned on her heel and walked out the door, not even bothering to slam it behind her.
“Dammit!” He surged to his feet, rounding the desk as quickly as he could with the world’s boniest boner in his pants—she was beautiful all the time, but she was a goddamned vision when she was pissed off—but by the time he reached the outer office, there was no sign of her. Her desk was clear, all her personal items gone. The Christmas cactus with its cheerful red blooms, the small glass dish she’d kept full of chocolates, the coffee mug that had read, Yeah, I run like a girl—try to keep up.
The day she’d brought the mug in, the image of her running—from him, panting and sweaty and happy to finally be caught—had kept him in the shower for forty-five minutes.
But it was gone now, along with any other sign the desk had ever belonged to her. The computer, the phone, and a page-a-day calendar still set to yesterday’s date were all that was left.
“Goddammit,” he growled again and slammed his fist on the empty desk.
Hannah has been reading romance novels since she was young enough to have to hide them from her mother. She specializes in funny, snarky, romance with enough heat to get your Kindle smoking. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband—former Special Forces and an OR nurse who writes sci-fi fantasy and acts as In-House Expert on matters pertaining to weapons, tactics, the military, medical conditions and How Dudes Think—and their daughter, who takes after her father.
The first book of her Perfect Taboo Series, Santa Daddy, is available now from Totally Bound Publishing, and book #2, The Shame Game, will be published in 2021. You’ll find information on all her books on her website, and you can connect with her via email, Facebook, and the afore mentioned Twitter.