Dark Secret Love by Alison Tyler
Pretty Things Press, 2013
“Some men just know.”
Thus begins Alison Tyler's scorchingly honest memoir, appropriately titled “A Story of Submission”. Her prologue continues: “I've been lucky enough to find those men several times in my life.”
Dark Secret Love chronicles Ms. Tyler's journey through relationships with several dominants, as she struggles to accept her own needs for punishment and for pain. She was only eighteen when she met her first Dom – no virgin, but well aware already that “normal” sex didn't really satisfy her. “I didn't need to tell him anything,” she writes. “He saw me and gave me his number scrawled on a paper napkin. Call me, was all it said.”
To be so transparent to a Master – to be recognized for what you are and what you crave – in fact, not only recognized but approved and valued – is a heady experience for a submissive. (I can testify from personal experience.) No ordinary person would have guessed the author harbored the dark and deviant fantasies that consumed her. In her teens and twenties, Ms. Tyler (or maybe I can call her Alison, after the intimate confessions in this book) was smart, witty, self-confident, petite and pretty, responsible and hard working, a good girl in every way. Nobody would have guessed that she wanted to be beaten, used, humiliated, punished – that all her fantasies involved pain, that (in the words forced from her by one of her Doms) “It has to hurt.”
Nobody, that is, except those few men who in fact could give her what she needed. First there was Brock, the motorcycle-riding petty crook ten years her senior:
“I have a photo of him following a night of no sleep. He's wearing black jeans and no shirt under an open blazer and he's smoking a cigarette, but barely, the butt dangling from his lower lip. He has that insolent fuck you look that has always made me wet in a minute.”
Then, after she moved in with her rich, narcissistic, hopelessly vanilla fiancé Byron, there was Connor, young, brash and California blond. Ultimately, her raw, stolen moments with Connor are the reason Byron throws her out on the street, not even allowing her access to her clothing.
Once she's free (or perhaps “set adrift” would be more appropriate), Connor arrives at her door with flowers. And a crop.
Alison's account of her three years with Byron will be enough to convince you that the skeleton of this tale is true. No one would fabricate such a stupid decision as to move in with a guy like him. Still, you can understand her motivations to some extent as a desperate attempt to be normal and socially acceptable. Externally Byron was everything a woman should want. Furthermore, as one of her Doms points out later, she did submit to him, for three years, wearing the clothing he chose, decorating his house the way he liked, suppressing her real self in a (hopeless) attempt to please him.
However, to paraphrase Shakespeare, kink will tell.
Connor leaves for Georgia, to pursue his own dreams. Alison stays behind in LA. (“We didn't have love. We had lust.”) Sleeping on a couch in the group apartment of a friend of a friend, the author gets involved with her two male roommates, Garrett and Nate. Both turn out to be well-practiced dominants, though Alison goes far deeper with Nate. This is one episode that felt fictional to me. Perhaps the ratio of dominants to the general population is significantly higher in Los Angeles than the rest of the world, but honestly, what are the chances both guys you're living with are hot, kinky, and skilled in the dominant arts? As well as kind and supportive?
Of course, maybe the author was more fortunate than most of us.
Finally, Alison encounters Jack, a steel-willed, frightfully powerful, intermittently cruel older man who not only sees what she needs, but forces her to admit it.
“Say it. I want to hear you say it.”A deep, shaking breath. “This isn't punishment.”“What isn't?”Eyes shut tight now. “The fact that you're going to use your belt on me.”“I'm going to whip you.”Oh, Jesus, please.“You're going to whip me,” I repeat obediently. “But it's not a punishment. It's a reward.”“Why?”“Because I need it.” I choked on the statement, so difficult to admit, so hard to confess.Jack brought his mouth close to my cheek then, kissed me fiercely, and when he spoke, his words were so soft I could barely hear them. “Don't worry so much, Sam. I need it, too.”
Jack strips away whatever shreds of normality the author has left. He insists that she be absolutely faithful and obey him without question. He punishes her when she's resistant or disobedient – and when she's not. He's more extreme and more manipulative than I would ever want in a Dom, but somehow he's exactly the Master the author has always dreamed of. Dark Secret Love has a happily ever after (apparently, at least), of a peculiarly difficult sort that only BDSM aficionados will appreciate.
I believe this book. I've read many of Alison's short stories, and I recognized the scenarios from some of my favorites. We erotica authors all mine our pasts for fictional material. Now I understand why those brief tales felt so intense. They're slices of life, in the truest sense.
In addition to relating Alison's voyage of sexual discovery, Dark Secret Love also documents the history of her distinguished career as an author. She has written “forever” but only under Nate's benevolent dictatorship does she manage to actually finish a novel and submit her work. Writing has always been easy for her. She's merely capturing the events and revelations as they occur:
And when we were done, if I wasn't too drained (or if he had decided to undo the straps holding me to his bed), I'd head back to my notebook and write it all down. You want to know how I can still remember different nuances, subtle lighting, scents, changes in the weather, the way the cool metal of his cuffs felt on my skin, the way I felt when I heard other girls' voices on the answering machine? That's simple. I recorded it all. Every important moment.
Later, Jack gives her rare permission to travel to New York on her own, to meet with publishers and editors, a thrilling experience that marks her transition from amateur to professional. Indeed, all her dominants support her literary aspirations. I'm very grateful.
If you're tired of the dozens of stories that whitewash BDSM – tales where the sub has more orgasms than stripes, where the first Master who recognizes her as a “natural submissive” turns out be her soul mate, where her fear disappears with the first mild slap on her bare ass – check out this book. Ms. Tyler makes it clear that being a submissive isn't necessarily easy. It's a process of growth. It may take years to unequivocally accept your own dark fantasies and be willing to live them without embarrassment or regret.