Renaissance Ebooks Sizzler Editions, 2011
Eroticism is in the eye of the beholder. Reading Charlotte Gatto’s novella Party Games reminded me once again of this truth. The stimuli and scenarios one individual finds arousing might have no effect on someone else. Indeed, acts or situations that turn one person on may squick another.
I celebrate the diversity of erotic impulse. If everyone had the same sexual tastes, both life and literature would be boring indeed. As for me, there are a lot of things that push my buttons, including some topics or behaviors that are generally considered extreme or taboo.
Party Games goes somewhat further out on the edge than I’d normally venture. It falls into the category of non-consensual erotica, stories in which a character is forced to engage in or submit to sexual acts explicitly against his or her will. In Ms. Gatto’s book, the heroine Stephanie is lured into attending a party by Chris, a charming and handsome man who has befriended her at a coffee shop. They’ve spent several weeks getting to know one another, so it’s not unreasonable for him to invite her out on what she thinks is a date.
She arrives at the party excited by Chris’s presence, hoping this new experience together will move their relationship to the next level. Flattered by his attention, and that of the host Simon, she agrees to participate in unexplained “games”. She soon discovers what this means: she must obey the orders of anyone at the party, or be severely punished. The party guests make increasingly lewd demands upon her. Though she enjoys herself initially, she’s soon made to suffer very real pain, over which she has no control.
Stephanie’s situation becomes increasingly desperate as Chris, Simon and their female co-conspirator induce paralysis via a surreptitiously administered drug, then abuse her in a variety of degrading and uncomfortable ways. Her problems escalate further when she’s turned into human prey, running for her life and safety, while the guests stalk her, free to rape her if she falls into their clutches.
And is all this arousing? Well, it depends on your tastes. I suspect the author finds it so. I’ve certainly had non-consensual fantasies, so parts of the book turned me on. The notion of being drugged without my knowledge or consent, though, is something I find terrifying and disturbing. Likewise, I can’t stand the notion that someone I trust would deliberately lie to me, the way Chris does. These two aspects of the book killed a lot of the excitement for me.
I also found the heroine’s blithe lack of suspicion a bit annoying. She’s not exactly TSTL (Too Stupid To Live), but she seems far too ready to believe anything that Chris tells her, especially after she has seen some of the results of her credulity. On the other hand, her pain, terror and exhaustion are highly convincing.
It was surprising (to me, at least) that the novella had a happy ending. Given the darkness in some parts of the book, this struck me as incongruous, though it will probably be a relief to many readers. I guess even someone who loves non-con scenarios can only endure so much without a bit of voluntary pleasure.
All in all, my reactions to Party Games were mixed. I applaud Ms. Gatto’s courage, however, in bravely exploring fantasies which many women have, but relatively few will admit.