Switching Off by Amy Valenti
Totally Bound, 2013
Amy Valenti’s story Switching Off was originally published in the Totally Bound Switch anthology, along with my own story Mastering Maya, but it’s also available as a standalone short. The tale takes a somewhat different approach to the anthology theme.
In D/s parlance, a “switch” is a person who can assume either a dominant or a submissive role in a BDSM scene, depending on circumstances and the other people involved. In “Switching Off”, however, Ms. Valenti’s heroine Nina is not a Domme in the sexual sense. Instead, she’s a high-powered career woman, used to giving orders and getting her way—and that role is destroying her. She’s tense, irritable, driven and seriously unhappy.
Her good friend Jon is determined to help—by giving Nina the chance to surrender herself to his skilled and caring power. He begins by cutting her loose from her mobile, but soon he has severed the strands of worry and frustration that bind her to her work. He leads her into a new space where she can connect with her body, her needs, and with him, the man who has quietly loved her and sadly watched her work herself to near-collapse.
Nina is rebellious at first, then astonished at how she responds to Jon’s dominance. As he strips away the power she thought defined her identity, she finds much deeper satisfaction in following his orders and focusing on his pleasure. Not that Jon neglects her pleasure, but the essence of submission is service to the Dom, and Ms. Valenti captures this beautifully.
I loved this story. I’ve rarely encountered a BDSM romance that describes so accurately and effectively the paradoxical experience of submission—the simultaneous fear and need, the wonder at what you’re allowing even as you crave more, the mingled pride and shame. With all the erotica and romance I read and review, I’ve come across many portrayals of so-called “subspace”. I will tell you from personal experience that unlike many authors, Ms. Valenti gets it right.
Of course given my own submissive leanings, I found the entire story hugely arousing. Jon is exactly what I’d seek in a dominant. He’s strict with his sub-for-a-weekend, but ultimately focused more on her pleasure and well-being than on his own. He has a sense of humor plus an understanding of Nina’s shock at discovering she likes being topped. And of course (like all romance heroes...) he’s lusciously handsome and physically fit, with awesome sexual stamina.
Hey, we can dream, right?
All in all, this is wonderful introduction to the BDSM romance genre. There’s no abuse here, only respect and caring. The pain is so mingled with pleasure that you will not be able to separate them any more than Nina can.