Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Review Tuesday: Bending by Greta Christina

Bending: Dirty, Kinky Stories about Pain, Power, Religion and More
By Greta Christina
Dirty Heathen Publishing, 2013

These are not nice stories,begins Greta Christina's introduction to her collection Bending. She warns the reader to expect borderline and even total lack of consent, sexual manipulation, degradation, violation, humiliation,a lot of fucked up shit. Of course, one isn't completely surprised by this, given the book's deliberately provocative sub-title. Furthermore, I agree with the author's assessment.  

Some of the activities chronicled here are extreme even for a kink connoisseur like me. Perhaps the most notable example is a scene in the novella which gives the collection its title, where a woman is fucked in the ass while her Domme repeatedly forces her head into the toilet water. Then there'sChristian Domestic Discipline, in which playful mutual exploration of spanking as punishment for a wife'ssinsturns into fanatic cruelty. OrCraig's List, where a woman advertises for a man to literally abuse her, and finds someone who more than meets her specifications. Or the more subtly disturbingWhat She's Not Telling Him:

Their arrangement is, in theory, completely consensual. Safewords, and limits, and all the usual stuff.

What she's not telling him is that, the moment he orders her in for a punishment, all of that disappears. The moment he tells her that she must be punished – no, even before that, the moment he gets the gleam in his eye that prophecies a punishment – her submission takes over her mind, and her safeword and limits and understanding that she has consented to this are obliterated. What she's not telling him is that, for her, the game of sadistic master and obedient slavegirl is real, and is becoming more real with every passing week.

The thing is, her partner begins to change. He starts as the model dominant, asking for feedback, checking her status, remaining aware of her as a person and a partner in kink. The harder he finds he can push without her resorting to her safeword, though, the more sadistic he becomes. As he administers ever more painful punishments and demands more degrading and disgusting indignities, she becomes her own fantasy: an object with no will, no rights, no recourse. As is characteristic of many of these tales, Ms. Christina allows the reader to decide what happens next.

This book overflows with physical perversity: a woman who gets her kicks opening her pussy for audiences to admire (“Open”); an ex-nun who pays to be chastised in order to expiate her guilt, only to find she feels even more culpable than before (“Penitence as a Perpetual Motion Machine”); a couple of escapees from a religious cult who recreate the savage beatings they received for “purification” (“Deprogramming”); intense breast torture (“Breasts”); being forced into porn (“Dixie's Girl-Toy Gets Spanked for the First Time”; brutal and anonymous butt-fucking in a filthy men's bathroom (“The Rest Stop”). However, the true action in these stories happens in the mind. These stories aren't really about physical sex – they're about obsession, fetishes, psychological games, terrible fantasies, all the secret and shameful notions that run through our minds no matter how safe and sane, rational and independent and centered and mature and careful we pretend to be.

These are wank tales - Greta Christina comes right out and says so – and her attention is on the psychological impact, because that's what turns her on. It's obvious, given their recurring themes, that many of these stories represent personal fantasies. Indeed, this author is a good deal more honest than most in proudly admitting this.

Consider the opening of “This Week”:

Here's what it is this week. A girl, a college student, is being spanked by her college professor. She's young, nineteen or twenty, young enough to be in college, but old enough to have some sexual knowledge. He's older, of course, probably in his forties, dressed casually but with dignity, a trim beard with a hint of gray. She is dress, not in the schoolgirl outfit of porn cliché, but in regular modern clothing that merely implies the schoolgirl look: a short skirt with a flare, a simple blouse, white panties. The white panties are important. She is bent over his lap with her skirt pulled up and her panties pulled down, and he is spanking her with his hand.

We have the setup here for this week's masturbatory scenario. Not particularly creative or unusual, but then, fantasies often are not. From here, though,the story takes a different track than the standard, because interspersed with the spankings and the scoldings, the red ass cheeks and the tears, Ms. Christina shows us what both the girl and her professor are thinking and feeling, and that's where the main erotic charge lies.

He's not an idiot. He's an adult, a middle-aged man of the world, and he can see what she wants. He wants it too; she's a lovely girl, she makes him feel powerful and wise, and the thought of bending her over his lap makes his dick twitch. At the same time, he's not an idiot. He knows how much trouble he could get into if he's guessing wrong, or for that matter if he's guessing right.

The tension between lust and responsibility – the awareness of one's own depravity and the fact that this doesn't diminish the fascinated desire – this is the payoff, not the spanking or the fucking or the abuse by itself.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the wonderful story “The Shame Photos”. There's no sex in this tale at all, just a conversation between a porn photographer and a businesswoman at a bar, during which he encourages her to elaborate on her fantasies of sexual shame. That's the key element that excites her, the element she says is lacking in the photos of his that she's seen online. Gradually it becomes clear that she will become his model, that she will let him create the shame photos she describes, that she can't help doing this because this is the essence of who she is and what turns her on. The story ends with him ordering her to go get a hotel room. The fact that she's about to obey him is the most shameful thing of all, and yet, it's just the beginning.

Ms. Christina leaves us to imagine the rest on our own.

Bending is organized into several sections, grouping together tales that the author felt were similar, under the following headings: Bad Ideas; Force, Power and Messed-Up Consent; Unicorns and Rainbows (which contains a single bizarre, hilarious story about a jilted unicorn fucking a rainbow); Religion; Sweet Stuff; and the novellaBending. I feel that the book would have been improved by mixing things up and providing more contrast. Some of the tales are seriously dark (as you are warned at the start). It would have provided some relief to alternate these with lighter or more emotionally fulfilling stories (like the deliciousA Live One, about a surprisingly real encounter between a peep show performer and a customer). Also, some of the categorizations seemed strained.The Rest Stop, for example, the only gay story in the collection, is thrown into the religion section, simply because the characters know each other from church.

The novella, though, is in a category by itself.

Dallas, the main character, has a very specific fetish. She dreams of being bent over. What happens next can vary: punishment, fucking, simply being forced to immobility in this vulnerable position. All she really cares about is the sensation of bending,the knowledge of accessibility, the uncertainty about what will come next. She acts this out on her own; she struggles to find sexual partners who will indulge her; she has insatiable craving to be nothing but an ass in the air.

Enter Betsy, an imaginative and horny dominant who fulfills her needs as no one has ever done, and gets a huge kick out of the process. They're perfect together, until Betsy notices Dallas is still restless, and asks her what she wants.

Unfinished. That was it. It dawned on her on the bus ride home. She felt unfinished. Hungry still. Like she'd had a huge meal, with chicken and potatoes and two slices of pie, and was still staring at the pie thinking that a third slice might be nice. And for all her sex-positive, slut-positive, I-am-woman-watch-me-fuck attitude, she still thought her hosts would think she was greedy if she asked for that third piece of pie. And not without reason. Some of her hosts had thought she was greedy for wanting the first one.

Unfazed, Betsy arranges for them to take two weeks off from their jobs, and promises to bring Dallas to the point where even she has had enough. Betsy fulfills her promise, but the psychological results are not what either of them expect.

Bending is just amazing, a brilliant exploration of the inexplicable, irresistible, labile nature of sexual obsession. The earlier stories in this collection impressed me, but this final offering dazzled me with its insight even as it made me squirm (yes, me!) with its filthiness. I wanted to applaud.

The book concludes with an extensive kink resource guide: websites, hotlines and books. This useful material, along with the cautionary introduction, frame the fiction in between, emphasizing the distinction between what happens between your ears and what happens in the real world.

Bending will not please everyone. It might shock some readers, and even if you're not shocked, you might not find the stories arousing. Indeed, my kink buttons are a bit different from Greta Christina's. I've never found shame to be a turn-on. Nevertheless, I highly recommend this book for its clever language and deep understanding of what makes us perverts tick. Bravo.


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