A Male Submissive Watches “The Duke of Burgundy”

An imperious, severely dressed lady instructs a young female servant to wash a pile of underwear, by hand. Unfortunately, the servant overlooks one pair, and in the lady’s judgement fails to clean the others “properly”. The lady hauls her into the bathroom for “a little punishment”, closing the door firmly once the two of them are inside. “Lie down,” the lady says coolly. “Open your mouth.” From behind the door, a gush of liquid is heard, followed by the servant girl’s hapless sputtering and gasping.

 ***

 That bit of apparent cruelty occurs near the beginning of writer-director Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy (2014), an intelligent and well-crafted film about a BDSM relationship involving two intriguing female characters. It’s a long way from being Hawt Lesbian Porn, and indeed the sex and kink between young Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) and the imposing Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) are kept offscreen to an extent that comes across as prudish and contrived. In most other ways, however, The Duke of Burgundy is pretty darn good, if a little pretentious and ponderously artistic in places. The writing and acting are excellent, and the women have been beautifully filmed going about their fictional lives in a strange, surreal milieu that looks in many ways like it might be some quiet European village in the early 20th century. However, the population in Evelyn and Cynthia’s world is entirely female, and the popular pastimes seem to be studying insects and, of course, indulging in the pleasures and torments of BDSM.

The best thing about The Duke of Burgundy is how cleverly Strickland first presents Evelyn as Cynthia’s obedient, downtrodden slave girl and then spends the rest of the movie using snippets of interaction between the women to show that their relationship is actually very different. The balance of this post is more like an extended rumination on that relationship than a conventional film review, and there are plenty of spoilers, so I suggest that you watch the movie – if it sounds interesting to you, and if you haven’t seen it already – before reading further.

***

Not long after Evelyn receives her “little punishment” behind the closed door of the bathroom, we see Cynthia preparing for another session. She dresses carefully, drinks plenty of water, and consults a handwritten index card that Evelyn has provided:

“My Dearest,

When I ring the door bell, please keep me waiting. A minimum of thirty seconds and a maximum of five minutes. Somewhere in the middle would be perfect. Perhaps around two minutes, thirty. But don’t do that every time, otherwise it becomes predictable. Please wear the dark red wig…”

The long-suffering Cynthia could be a case study in the distinction between dominance and service topping, as she pours physical and mental energy into playing the sadistic oppressor in endless little dramas of Evelyn’s devising. Evelyn’s appetite for the ostensibly subordinate role is seemingly insatiable, but so is her appetite for control over the parameters of each scenario and indeed over Cynthia herself. She doesn’t hesitate to snap her fingers next to the ear of a sleeping Cynthia when she wants to be caressed and threatened, or to hiss at Cynthia a couple of minutes later to “Improvise!” when the older woman’s inspiration falters and she briefly falls silent. “Try to have more conviction in your voice next time,” Evelyn says after she’s had her orgasm, though she admittedly says it hesitantly and even rather sweetly.

Even more amusing, from the viewpoint of a BDSMer who can’t help seeing Evelyn as a caricature of a certain type of greedy, self-centred bottom, is a plotline involving Evelyn’s desire to be confined overnight. She resourcefully finds a huge old wooden chest downstairs, empties it out, and gets Cynthia to help her lug it up to the bedroom. Unfortunately, Cynthia’s back gives out just as the task is being completed, and Evelyn proves to be a highly unsatisfactory nurse, massaging Cynthia for a while but eventually abandoning the task despite Cynthia’s pleas for her to continue. Evelyn does provide a pill and a glass of water, but no sooner has Cynthia sat up than Evelyn also provides one of her index cards, to Cynthia’s exasperation. We soon see Evelyn being tied up and locked in the chest, only for her to wake Cynthia in the dead of night by calling out urgently. At first it sounds almost like she’s coaching Cynthia to “be nasty”, but it turns out she’s actually saying “pinastri”, and Cynthia’s hurried, solicitous response indicates that this is Evelyn’s safeword. She releases Evelyn from the box and asks what’s wrong, only to be told the problem is a mosquito bite. “Maybe you can put me back in there, but just don’t tie me,” Evelyn suggests in her eager way, but Cynthia will have none of it. “Come to bed,” she insists – and Evelyn, though she protests ineffectually, ends up obeying a genuine instruction for a change. It perhaps bears pointing out that “pinastri” is actually an insect reference, though neither Sphinx pinastri (the pine-hawk moth) nor Hamearis lucina (the Duke of Burgundy, a kind of butterfly) is especially important to the plot of the movie.

There are other moments in the film when Cynthia appears to be in the driver’s seat, though they’re few and far between. The most significant takes place on Evelyn’s birthday, when Cynthia is angry at Evelyn for having polished another woman’s boots. Cynthia forces Evelyn to bake her own birthday cake and then, wearing comfortable clothes instead of one of the elaborate outfits Evelyn has purchased for her, digs in while Evelyn lies unhappily at her feet. “Pinastri,” Evelyn says almost immediately, only for a foot to descend gently but abruptly across her mouth. “Oh, if we could all just say pinastri to end our torments,” Cynthia intones, and for once she comes across as fully in control and determined to play her own game rather than Evelyn’s. Of course, it’s possible that Cynthia is just getting back at Evelyn for extracurricular boot-polishing here, rather than indulging a genuine dominant streak. Cynthia is a very interesting character, much more rounded and complex than the average fantasy dominatrix. Being Evelyn’s service top clearly doesn’t suit her, and she often gives the impression that she’d prefer a vanilla relationship, but her flashes of real authority make me wonder if her ideal partner would actually be a slave girl who was prepared to drop the silly choreography and concentrate on doing as she was bloody well told. Either way, if I lived next door I’d probably be asking My Lady’s permission to drop by Cynthia’s house and offer her a proper backrub.

Peter Strickland could perhaps be accused of suggesting that all BDSM is essentially contrived, that we submissives are just a caste of manipulative thrill-seekers pushing metaphorical if not literal index cards at the forbearing dominants who cater to our whims. Not having telepathic powers, though, I’m hesitant to read this much into his depiction of one particular relationship, and it seems equally possible that he simply conceived of Evelyn as a bad, bratty slave girl and Cynthia as a haplessly over-indulgent mistress. Be that as it may, you’ll have to excuse me – I’ve got some index cards to write up.

(No, not really. I shudder to think of how My Lady might react if I ever tried such a thing – and I wouldn’t want to anyway.)

Ebook sale: 35% off all titles at JMS Books

There’s a Halloween sale this weekend at JMS books — 35% off all ebooks, including pre-orders, October 28 – 31.

JMS Books main site

My novelette Make Mine to Go

Pulse charity anthology

Elust 86

(My Wheldrake’s recent post appears in this edition.)

Elust 86 Header
Photo courtesy of Modesty Ablaze

Welcome to Elust 86

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #86 Start with the rules, come back October 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

On Self-Objectification

Female Orgasms – Addressing Women’s Sexuality

Migraine – A Sexual Spiritual Explanation

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Can You Train a Sub to Orgasm on Command?

Rupert Campbell-Black and me…

 

~Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

Yes I’m a Sexblogger and No I don’t care about your dick

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

BUTTER FOR LUBE… Salted or Unsalted?
KOTW:Static on the line
Control Queen
Well, That Didn’t Go According to Plan

Writing about Writing

A BDSM Vignette from Two Viewpoints

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Sex Negative

Erotic Fiction

The Cure
sports

Erotic Non-Fiction

CORPORAL PUNISHMENT – with a twist
Iris
A Polyquad Squad Orgasm
Beautiful Birthday Fuck
Purpose of Tasks
Do You Trust Me
The meanings of “good girl”

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

How Long Is Enough
The Virgin. Unlocking Feminine Power.
The Other Day
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
addressing doubts one step at a time
How D/s has taught me to stick up for myself

Body Talk and Sexual Health

Against All Odds

Poetry

Where I’m From

 

 

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A BDSM Vignette from Two Viewpoints

Paul

By the time they’d finished washing down pieces of Marion’s birthday cake with good Indonesian coffee, Paul was feeling surprisingly happy and relaxed. He’d hoped that his wife and mistress would want to do something kinky to him on her special day, and he’d been more than a little disappointed when she’d told him to get ready to host a quiet dinner with Brian and Eleanor, two long-time friends of hers that he knew only slightly. They were a retired military couple, a good two decades older than he and Marion, and he privately considered them stuffy and tiresome. Eleanor seemed to have something on her mind tonight, and was joining only half-heartedly in the conversation, but Brian was as animated and talkative as Paul had ever seen him. A quiet dinner in decent company wasn’t really so bad, and maybe Marion would still sink her claws into him after their guests had left.

The thought made him glance in his wife’s direction, but her chair was empty. She must have slipped off to the bathroom, or out to the patio for a quick smoke, while he’d been caught up in Brian’s story about visiting Hong Kong as a young man.

“I think it’s time,” Marion said from somewhere behind him, “for us to move on with our evening.”

Paul had no idea what she meant, but Brian and Eleanor both rose immediately to their feet. Eleanor gave him an enigmatic smile.

“You stand up too, Paul,” Brian said, his tone suddenly that of a man used to giving orders. The note of authority was so compelling that Paul shot up from the table immediately. Brian grabbed his wrists, pulling them together behind his back, and Eleanor reached into the purse she’d slung casually over the back of her chair and withdrew a pair of wicked-looking nipple clamps.

“What’s going on here?” Paul asked nervously, too taken aback to struggle or protest in stronger terms. “Are you two both… I mean, are you going to…”

Marion grabbed his hair, from behind, in a way that he recognised. “Shut the fuck up,” she said directly into his ear, in the crisp, precise voice that he’d learned to associate with her most sadistic moods. “All you need to know about this situation is that you are going to be Brian and Eleanor’s slave, as well as mine, for the rest of the night. Do anything they say, and submit to anything they do to you.”

Eleanor’s smile widened, and she began to slowly unbutton his shirt.

***

Marion

Marion’s slave and husband Paul was so endearingly predictable. Before her birthday he’d been excited as a puppy, obviously hoping for a kinky adventure, and he’d been crestfallen when she’d ordered him to prepare to host a dinner with her old friends Brian and Eleanor. Paul apparently thought of them as a couple of white-haired bores, and so far she’d been careful not to do anything to dispel that impression. Now, however, it was almost time for Paul to discover that there was more to Brian and Eleanor than met the eye. Eleanor was doing a very bad job of containing her impatience, barely talking and glancing hungrily in Paul’s direction every few minutes, but Brian seemed to be revelling in the business of putting Paul at ease. As they finished their coffee, Brian had Paul caught up in some story about the Far East, and Marion decided it was time to make her move. When Paul wasn’t looking, she slipped out of her chair and stepped behind him.

“I think it’s time,” she declared, “for us to move on with our evening.”

At that prearranged signal, Brian and Eleanor rose smoothly to their feet, and Eleanor gave Paul a weird smile. Marion regretted not being able to see Paul’s face, which was probably a mask of confusion.

“You stand up too, Paul,” Brian said crisply, in the commanding voice that he’d once told her dated back to his career as a military police officer. Nowadays that voice was part of what made him a truly intimidating dominant, and Marion wasn’t surprised when Paul instantly obeyed. Heat rose between her legs as Brian pulled Paul’s hands behind his back, just like they’d planned, and Eleanor eagerly fished her favourite nipple clamps out of the purse she’d strategically hung on the back of her chair.

“What’s going on here?” Paul blurted. “Are you two both… I mean, are you going to…” Her boy was floundering, and Marion decided to step in. She moved closer and grabbed his hair in a way that she knew would get his attention.

“Shut the fuck up,” she said into his ear with what she thought was about the right amount of menace. “All you need to know about this situation is that you are going to be Brian and Eleanor’s slave, as well as mine, for the rest of the night. Do anything they say, and submit to anything they do to you.”

That clearly worked for Eleanor. Her smile widened, and she began to slowly unbutton Paul’s shirt.

***

Which version of this brief vignette did you like better? They describe the same action, convey about the same information, and contain an equal number of words (424 in each case). However, the first is written from the viewpoint of Paul the male submissive, and the second from that of Marion the female dominant. I didn’t recruit Paul and Marion as first-person narrators, but I did give the reader access to Paul’s thoughts, perceptions and knowledge in the first version and to Marion’s in the second.

Before embarking on this exercise, I assumed that Paul’s viewpoint would turn out to be the more interesting and compelling. Perhaps I was a little biased in that judgement by my own identity as a male submissive, but I also had in mind the advantages of making the protagonist of any story somewhat vulnerable and denying him or her the knowledge of certain crucial facts. Submissives don’t normally encounter real danger to life and limb, but they do have adventures that test their resolve and endurance, and they often don’t know what their dominants have planned for them on any given day. In the first version of the vignette, the reader can vicariously share in Paul’s confusion and consternation when Brian and Eleanor move in on him, and easily imagine his reaction – perhaps a mixture of relief and trepidation? – when Marion reveals her plans for the evening. Submissives are underdogs and victims of circumstance, and those qualities make for an exciting main character. There’s a reason Lord of the Rings concentrates on Frodo’s perspective, rather than Sauron’s.

What I didn’t fully appreciate when I started, though, was that the dominant’s perspective could be equally fun in a somewhat different way. There’s no rule that says the reader needs immediate access to all the thoughts of a character whose viewpoint is being considered, so Marion’s plans for Paul and her knowledge of Brian and Eleanor’s dominant side can emerge gradually as the action develops. Instead of vicariously sharing Paul’s uncertainty, the reader gets to share her anticipation, while possibly feeling some sympathy for Paul as it becomes increasingly clear that the other three characters are preparing to make him their plaything. I’m tempted to conclude that hot kinky action can be fun from any viewpoint, and also that Lord of the Rings from Sauron’s perspective might actually have been a pretty interesting book.

Postscript: After reading my first draft of this post, My Lady ordered me to link to the following pieces by Xan West, one of her favourite authors, that discuss the dominant’s perspective in both reality and fiction: Kinky erotica from the top’s point of view and I’m Not Just Doing It for You. They’re both pretty good, but I’d particularly recommend the first one, which makes the excellent point that dominants can be more interesting as characters when they have some vulnerabilities of their own.

A Thing Explainer word checker

From the creator of the xkcd webcomic (and not kinky unless you make it so):

Want to try writing using only simple words? Here’s a writing checker you can use: xkcd.com/simplewriter. To help me write the words in my Up Goer Five picture, I taught my computer to watch my writing and tell me when one of the words I used wasn’t in the top ten hundred.…

Source: A Thing Explainer word checker

 

Or, you could use it in reverse and try to maximize the uncommon words.

Smashwords July Sale

The Smashwords July Summer/Winter Sale starts today and runs all month, with selected books discounted 25, 50, or 75 percent off. You can search by percent, length, and other filters at the top, along with genre filters on the sidebar.

Start here for books included in this sale. Stock up on those books you’ve been thinking about buying, and try a few new releases. My Make Mine to Go is 50% off and one of many titles from JMS Books.

 

Elust #82

My Wheldrake’s recent post appears in this month’s Elust — read the complete issue here:

Elust 82 Header
Photo courtesy of Teachers Have Sex

Welcome to Elust #82

The only place where the smartest and hottest sex bloggers are featured under one roof every month. Whether you’re looking for sex journalism, erotic writing, relationship advice or kinky discussions it’ll be here at Elust. Want to be included in Elust #83 Start with the rules, come back June 1st to submit something and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates!

 

~ This Month’s Top Three Posts ~

Take Me

How Do I Love Thee:On Comparing Relationships

Asking all the questions…

 

 

~ Featured Post (Molly’s Picks) ~

Erotic Fiction: Fishnet Queen

I Manage My Expectations

~Readers Choice from Sexbytes ~

*You really should consider adding your popular posts here too*

Wanna Have Sex With Me? – Here’s how
All blogs that have a submission in this edition must re-post this digest from tip-to-toe on their blogs within 7 days. Re-posting the photo is optional and the use of the “read more…” tag is allowable after this point. Thank you, and enjoy!

 

Sex News, Opinion, Interviews, Politics & Humor

Maybe I’m not a pervert after all
Bad Excuses
Engaging with Sexuality: A Personal Perspecti
I wish there were more porn
Cock Size: Does it matter?
Blue is not a “boy color.”

Erotic Non-Fiction

Watching My Wife With Another Man Story
Afternoon Cunnilingus & Birthday Sofa Sex
Why You Should Shave Your Partner
Oct 2014 Session – Mistress Claire
Two Days Later
Roping a cougarling
Divining Rods
Dorabella’s pink-velvet spanner

Erotic Fiction

Puppy Love
Quick & Dirty
She Says My Voice Changes for Her
THE BLINDFOLD – fear of the unknown
U is for undress…
Stay Baby…Stay.
kink of the week–glasses

Thoughts & Advice on Sex & Relationships

Slutfest Reflection
Love and Fairness
Winnowing
V is for……..
My heart turns blacker: the new rules

 

Thoughts & Advice on Kink & Fetish

Blast from the Fetish Video Past
The whole person approach to Submission
Down on my knees
Dominant Doppelgangers, Dominant Opposites
Four eyes
BDSM and Depression: Therapy or Self-Harm?

Poetry

Eden, Revisited: A Lusty Limerick

Writing About Writing

Stepping Stones
Centering Disabled Characters in My Erotica

 

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