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I don't understand people

So, as many of you readers of this blog already know, one of the many things I do is write erotica. The most popular thing I've ever written by far is a BDSM/non-con story, the Training of Eileen series, which concerns a woman who's trained as a sex slave by her partner.

Now, of course, it gets a lot of emails. So many, in fact, that I detailed analysis of hundreds of emails I've received about the story, much of which were quite positive and some of which were, as could reasonably be expected with erotica in general and consent-play BDSM erotica in particular, negative.

None of that is terribly new.

However, what IS new is the email that landed in my inbox today.

The person who emailed me, who identified himself as male, wrote at great length about how the Training story shocked and terrified him. He relates, in the email, how the descriptions of the sex were so terrifying to him--more terrifying, he said, than anything else that he has ever experienced in his life--that the story now "haunts" him and has changed his life.

He seems, according to his email, to be so horrified by the story, and by the way the main character's experiences are described, that he feels traumatized, and he seems to feel I bear some responsibility for what the story has done to him.

Okay, so different folks have different expectations and desires about sex, and what some people find titillating might be disturbing to other folks. I get that. In fact, many's the time I've been quite shocked and horrified by graphic descriptions of unsatisfying, unfulfilling sex in the dark with the lights out between folks who are so ashamed of their sexual desires that they can't muster the courage to ask for anything else, even though they don't like the sex they're having. But, hey, as long as we're all adults, well, it takes all kinds, right?

But here's the bit that baffles me.

The email demonstrates a knowledge of the entire story, or at least near enough to it so as it makes no difference. The story, taken as a whole, weighs in well north of 200,000 words, if I recall correctly.

So this suggests that a person has found a story that terrifies, horrifies, and traumatizes him, one which in his words sounds plausible enough that it has changed his perception of sex (for the worse, presumably, though he doesn't quiiiiite say so directly)...and, once he realized what he was getting into, kept reading.

And reading. And then, read some more.

So: what am I missing? If this person really found the story to be that traumatizing, surely he could...stop reading it?

Is this why there are many folks who want to pass laws banning the things they see that offend them--because once their attention has been caught by something they don't like, they can't look away? I feel like I'm missing something here.



( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 27th, 2012 09:00 pm (UTC)
No insight to offer, but I have to know, does he want you to give him money or something because you did this to him? Why is he telling you all this?
Jun. 27th, 2012 09:04 pm (UTC)
He didn't ask for money, or even for a response. His email said he was sending me the message as a way for him to work through the terror he feels when he thinks about the story.
Jun. 27th, 2012 09:21 pm (UTC)
What a ballsack.

Which is to say: what a weak, soft thing that contains all sorts of squishiness.
Jun. 27th, 2012 09:26 pm (UTC)
Perhaps he's not comfortable with kink and was upset to find he was aroused? Like, he wants to be a dom, but he's scared to be a rapist, and he's having trouble telling the difference?

I know some people have this kind of reaction. They usually turn out okay within a year or two.
Jun. 28th, 2012 02:15 am (UTC)
This is close to something I was gonna say.

Many many many (umm, 23?) years ago I read a series of books by Jack L Chalker; the "Changewinds" series. My memory is that I quite enjoyed it. So now I'm re-reading it. And... umm.

In it is a character that has been brought low; she's been blinded, turned into a whore, turned into a slave, mind controlled, passed around as chattel, owned by an abuser... every time you think she's hit bottom, worse happens.

This time around I'm finding it harder to read.

Why the difference? Maybe 23 years ago I was kinked by having collars welded on, by being compelled to obey... but today I value "consent" a lot more. I wear steel collars, I'm chained to walls, I'm forced to do things... but they're with my consent. This character, however, is in a situation that isn't consentual.

So maybe your correspondent is identifying too closely with a character; as merovingian writes, "having trouble telling the difference". It could be identification either way (top or bottom) and the inability to determine his own boundaries is worrying him ("this could be me").
Jun. 28th, 2012 06:56 am (UTC)
Still, if someone is feeling that triggered by something he's reading, it seems to me he might...stop reading it, at least until it's less triggering. I mean, sure, I get the whole "this is arousing but I'm not sure I want it to be" thing, but it seems a bit odd to ride that train until one feels trauma.
Jun. 28th, 2012 07:17 am (UTC)
I was once out of reading material and found a copy of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris and found it both fascinating and horrible. By the time I realized the book was seriously disturbing me, I was hooked and couldn't put it down. I regret reading the book but I just couldn't stop. Perhaps your correspondent had a similar experience.
Jun. 28th, 2012 02:23 pm (UTC)
I don't know, I have a weird 'thing' where when I start reading a book or story I have to finish it. Maybe not the same day, but I have to go back to it and finish it. Even boring books. Drives me nuts sometimes. I've always been like that though. Book devourer :-)

There has been once or twice where I have forced myself through an erotica book because I'd started it, even though it had stuff that made me uncomfortable. I'd never blame the author though, well unless they handed me the copy, tied me to a chair and forced me to read it. Then it is their fault. Otherwise, I chose to read it. Good, bad or ugly.
Jun. 29th, 2012 09:59 pm (UTC)
Actually, it sounds to me like the closeted men who are really, really into the sex they're having with other guys... but the second after they come, they're so ashamed that they turn aggressive, insult the other guy, say they never want to see him again and he's immoral...
...and then contact him again when they're horny.

I think he kept reading because while he was horny, he enjoyed it. After the fact though, he is horified that he enjoyed it. He probably was in between the times he read, too, but kept going back to it because he was horny.

He's upset about his kink and can't accept it as part of him, so he wants to blame someone. He doesn't have a partner in this case... but there is an author. If he can convince himself that you're the one who is sick or whatever, it might make him feel better about it. Until he re-reads it because he wants some more, of course.

That's my interpretation, at least. The only other explanation I can think of is that he's one of these people who refuses to judge a book before finishing it, or that he's cheap and once he had paid, he wanted to "get his money worth". But neither of them seems as likely to me as the first option.
Jul. 1st, 2012 02:20 am (UTC)
Maybe he gets off on being terrified. A repetition compulsion could be part of this, too.
Jun. 28th, 2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
that sounds perfectly likely to me

Jun. 27th, 2012 09:37 pm (UTC)
Most people just seem to have this weird internal war between what they actually want and what they're told they're supposed to want. When they're in an id-heavy mental state, they'll binge on what they really want, and then when the superego mental state reasserts itself, they'll feel guilty and horrified at what they were just doing.
Jun. 27th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
"because once their attention has been caught by something they don't like, they can't look away?"

I believe the same reasoning could be part of the reason the quality of TV programming is where it's at.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 27th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
I have read of cases of people who 'suffer through' something they find disgusting/horrible/you-pick so that they can explain in detail to others what is 'bad' about it. eg, people who read the whole book to ascertain that there is 'no redeeming social value' to the book... Not that this guy is necessarily headed that direction, but I do think some people feel they really have to thoroughly KNOW something to justify to themselves that they reject it....

It is sort of like public nudity perhaps.... you have to look really closely to be sure that IS what it is so you are sure it is ok for you to be offended....

Jun. 28th, 2012 06:52 am (UTC)
In all honesty, I've done this to myself. I'll be reading or watching something and it'll get a bit triggery and I'll think to myself "I'm fine."

Sometimes it stops there, sometimes it builds up to "I'mfineI'mfineI'mfineI'mfineI'mfine."

And sometimes it resolves into "I wasn't fine then, and I'm not now."

I have not, however, ever felt the need to contact the author/creator about my failure to correctly manage my own triggers.
Jun. 28th, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
I think it is dodging traffic. People who read torture porn or...Anne Rule, or Flowers in the Attic, or whatever. They seek out that kind of...emotionally grated raw feeling. And sometimes...it's too much. Dysfunctional behavior, in other words. A psychological form of self-harm/cutting.

Jun. 28th, 2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
Doesn't look like anyone else has said it, but as long as we've been online seems like 'troll' might jump out first?
No troll? Narcissist?

I am pretty jaded where the dirty pipe is concerned. Once had a guy hound me online for a month or so begging me to stick needles in his feet so he could wet the bed.... on purpose. He said similar things, the thought scared him soundly, so he wanted me to 'cure' him of his phobia. Yeah, right... story didn't jive. Just a creepy troll looking for action.

After 20 years on the Internet, *nothing* and I really mean nothing a human can dream up shocks me anymore. Sounds like he enjoyed your work... srsly.
Jun. 30th, 2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
So, um, tacit? Have you thought to ask *him* why he continued to read, once he'd realized how uncomfortable the story was making him?
Jul. 1st, 2012 06:59 am (UTC)
I have thought about that...but, quite honestly, I'm stopped from doing so because I am not sure I want to engage or interact with this person. It appears he is already offloading responsibility for the feelings he had on encountering the story onto me; I am not at all convinced that engaging him will cause him to do anything but more of the same.
Jul. 5th, 2012 12:07 am (UTC)
Most of the urge to censor is due to censors realizing that they can't be exposed to things that challenges their beliefs (or those of their well-controlled followers) because they won't be able to look away & because their beliefs can't withstand challenge. So they have to simply stop anything that contradicts them.
Dusty Hu
May. 31st, 2013 02:18 pm (UTC)
Gee Franklin, maybe you post the email, I seem to remember a similar story, when some asshole had hacked into a woman's onboard camera and had been able to view and listen to her through adobe player, what story was it again? As I remember it she was a little freaked out because the story had been about incidents that were recorded and she wasn't the brightest woman in the world, maybe even slightly naive, I don't know if traumatized is the right word, but it freaked her out bad enough to where she moved half way across the country.

Do you still have the email franklin?
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )