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Everything Is New Again: Is Dubious Consent the new Bodice Ripper?

Dub con erotica...with tentacles!

Dub con erotica...with tentacles!

Not that long ago in the world of romance we could barely get a peep inside the bedroom door. Today not only is the door wide open, we’re blatantly watching. Things have come a long way (no pun intended!).

This ninja clapped her hands with glee when publishers introduced lines catering for those of us who prefer their romance with a liberal dash of wasabi, and erotic romance—with its myriad of sub-genres like ménage, BDSM and fetish—flourished. These days, there’s pretty much something published for whatever puts a kink in your tail.

But just when the reading public has become comfortable with (and, indeed, wholeheartedly embraced) how far the boundaries have been pushed, another sub-genre is emerging—dubious consent (or ‘dub-con’) and non-consensual (non-con). In these stories the heroine is usually in some form of captive situation where sex is demanded and she isn’t a willing participant.

Shades of ye olde bodice rippers? Pretty much. The difference today, however, is that there is more awareness of forced sex as an unacceptable concept. There’s no denying that it’s very ‘un-PC’ and there are those who believe there is no place for consent issues in the romance genre (or anywhere).

But we are talking romance here. Fiction. Fantasy. And while this may be unpalatable or incomprehensible to some, not all women want to read about ‘nice’ sex or ‘gentlemen’. They don’t want gentle. They don’t want vanilla. They want bad boys and rough sex. But they do want it to ultimately be about a relationship. Dub-con and non-con may be stories about men taking what they want but they are also about women who discover that the man in question has redeeming qualities and is exactly who they want.

The heroines here may not initially have a choice about having sex with the hero, but they do have a choice about how they feel about the situation, how they react, and how they come to see the experience and the hero.

As for the suggestion that fiction about forced sex advocates rape culture, that’s as spurious as saying thrillers and action novels advocate murder and violence. Fantasy is just that. Something we’re intrigued about, enjoy reading about, but not necessarily something we want to experience firsthand (but if we do then that’s also our prerogative to explore without being judged).

So adults who know the difference between reality and fiction, and who enjoy non-con and dub-con, would ask that the wowsers butt out of our TBR pile (or our WIPs) and leave us to our respective kinks.