As She's Told
Molly Weatherfield, author of Carrie's Story and Safe Word
The toughest love and the deepest intimacy, rendered in language that's consistently surehanded and deeply alive. I read it in a fever of engagement, arousal, and continuing fertile dialogue. When it comes to BDSM for smart girls, put this fantasia of unrelenting surrender at the top of your list.
Reviewed by Zsander, Staff Book Critichttp://www.kink-e-zine.com/
Erotica, sex, BDSM, and relationships are all about compatibility, in one way or another emotionally, sexually, or otherwise. Without compatibility, there’s no spark, no passion, no reason for a connection of any sort. Anneke Jacob’s novel, As She’s Told, highlights that concept, showing us just how intense a relationship can be, when its constituents have just the right kind of compatibility and balance with each other.
Anders has been in and out of a few kinky relationships, but is dissatisfied with what he sees as vanilla with games thrown in. He has never found someone who can give him what he wants: total submission, all the time. Maia has dabbled here and there in kink but never been in the kind of relationship she wants: to be owned by someone, body and soul. When their paths cross, online and soon after in person, they both find almost exactly what they want in each other: a master and a slave. From there, the relationship progresses with surprising swiftness, as the story takes us through the entirety of a developing, twenty-four-hour-a-day D/s relationship, not just touching on the scenes themselves.
The characters are developed with plenty of background, not just directly relevant traits. Anders himself is not the one-hundred-percent confident Dom stereotype. In spite of his appearance as a “twenty-first century left-wing Viking slave raider,” he is certainly not one-dimensional. He’s not a high-powered executive or incredibly wealthy, just a confident carpenter and homebuilder with a family and hobbies, like his talent for playing the fiddle, or his enjoyment of folk music. When it comes to training Maia, he has his impatience, and his doubts:
“Was he controlling his woman because he felt ineffectual elsewhere? Taking his frustration out on her hide, as Val had snidely suggested? One of those assholes?”
Anders has selfish, realistic desires; he doesn’t want someone too old or unattractive, or to be deceived. He also uses his voice and tone to good effect: “Bake voice until low and firm,” as he explains how to speak (and listen) early on. All in all, he is certainly dominant but definitely not drifting into “LordSirDomlyDom” territory, and in spite of his adherence to his D/s relationship, he doesn’t obsess with excessive ceremony or protocolhe collars Maia simply and effectively after she moves in, with a minimum of fuss. As an aside, he even has a statement that combines humor and familiarity with something a lot of the kink community already knows: “Home Depot’s a killer, all that stuff usable in ways it wasn’t intended for.”
Maia herself, quiet, dark-haired and multiethnic, may be submissive, but is certainly not mindlessly so. Anneke Jacob’s writing portrays her as a fully rounded character just as much as Anders, with friends, a job, and more. An interesting, realistic touch to her is that she has had fantasies of slavery even as a child, as well as part of the development of her sexuality:
“A very small Maia lurked in a dark basement with two curved wooden blocks held around her wrist, secretly playing at being chained in a dungeon. I’d been four or five. By nine I’d spent each night in elaborate fantasies of slave civilizations. The stories by the age of twelve were darker and saturated in humiliating sex and fear. It was the one hidden, overpowering constant of my life.”
She wants to be devoted, owned, but she is tempted and hindered by her own doubts and occasional slips:
“Do you ever wonder...” said Maia.
“Why we’re like this.”
He looked down at her, amused. “Are you looking for secret trauma after all?”
The relationship isn’t solely for Anders’ pleasure; under his control Maia becomes more efficient, capable, and confident, even when she is left to await his arrival at home, naked but for cuffs and collar. His treatment of her is firm, sometimes even harsh (she is his slave, not just a submissive for playing with now and then), but never abusive, and definitely loving:
“Gradually every thought became coloured by the hope of pleasing him, and the growing fear of what he might do if I didn’t. ... I began to curl up within his boundaries, like a child in loving arms.”
The story is not a dramatic one with twists and turns, but a thoughtful, erotic exploration of a total power exchange relationship and a mostly realistic examination, at that. It is interesting to note that throughout the story, the point of view switches between Anders in third person, and Maia in first; in spite of her subjugation to him, she is the one who tells the story through “I” statements. As She’s Told takes a look at the differences in responsibilities between lighter playing relationships, and the all-the-time relationships that most people are usually comfortable just fantasizing about. There’s discussion about the apparent dichotomy between political correctness and the conditions that arise in BDSM relationships, and, before anything else, Anders and Maia talk about what they want, and what will be done, ensuring that their relationship goals are similar:
“Look, what if what I am is too extreme and you think I’m I’m sick?”
“I doubt it.”
I shook my head and looked down at the hands in my lap, plucking and folding my dress.
“Do you want to be damaged? Scarred? Dismembered?”
“Be used as a toilet? Have sex with animals?”
“Do you want to be sold off to white slavers?”
I gasped out of tension, blurted a laugh and shook my head. “No.”
“Then I doubt there’s anything you want that I don’t want more.”
As for the kink itself, As She’s Told has it in spades, and then some: sex in all its variations, serious D/s, spanking, whipping, cropping, bondage, kinky clothing and accessories (waist cinchers, kimono sash tying, corset training, gags and more), food play, nipple play, punishment scenes, animal play, posture training, orgasm control and denial, control of communication, control of financesno shortage of control on Anders’ part, but never in an abusive way, and only with the best and most arousing of intentions, as this selection can only hint at:
“I know what I’ll call you,” confided a deep voice in my ear. “‘Hunhund.’” The two syllables both sounded the same, like ‘who’ with an ‘n’ at the end. “That’s a nice Danish word for a she-dog,” he said. Not exactly a bitch, as I found out later, with all that the English word implied. Just a female dog. But at that moment I was already so deep in humiliation and arousal that I hardly took it in. He went off and I heard water running, and then he was back.
“Up on the bed, hands and knees. We’re going to find out just what makes you come, my little hunhund. And what doesn’t.” The deep voice had downshifted, was warm, hypnotic, in rhythm with the stroking of his fingers. Sensation was fed by the heat of spanked flesh: fed, amplified. His hand tickling, sliding through hot wet folds. He was touching, moving away, touching again ... tension building, building.... Then the fingers were gone. Sensation now at my nipples, circling and squeezing, on and on.... And a hand rubbing round circles on my ass, pressing the arousal deeper, deeper.... I crouched there for what seemed like ages, clutched the bedspread, moaning low in my throat.
As She’s Told is very well-written, combining development and exploration of characters and relationships, with an amazingly well-balanced, erotic tone that stays intense and arousing throughout. It is one of the best pieces of kinky erotica I have had the chance to read, and I very highly recommend it, whether the reader is vanilla-with-a-twist, or an all-the-time kinkster.