Here we are with a different type of review, a BDSM anthology called She Who Must Be Obeyed, edited by D. L. King. The summary reads as follows:
Award-winning erotica editor D.L. King’s new lesbian anthology showcases dominant femmes and their submissive partners playing out vivid and unforgettable BDSM fantasies and trysts. Each of these eighteen stories is as beguiling as it is demanding.
What I Loved: Femme Dominants. Too often the idea of femininity and dominance are ignored, unless it’s a constructed femininity from the perspective of the male gaze. In this anthology, though some tropes are reminiscent of ingrained concepts, many transcend and allow for the femme to be viewed in all its variance.
I also loved the variety of stories and scene depictions. BLEED by Teresa Noelle Roberts, was a particularly sweet story of trust, reclaimed power, and the release of old pain through edge play.
Stories like Too Old For This and Demo Model are good glimpses into established relationships and wondering where one stands, or how to bring spice back into the bedroom.
Uncharted Territory has wonderful communication, exchange, build up, true affection and the aftercare one would want new readers to see if this is their first BDSM anthology.
Angel On Fire is a short play party scene, nicely negotiated with an indication of future encounters.
The Dame gives us an example of non-pain based submission, set against the backdrop of a murder mystery game and an impromptu cloak room romp.
These stories and more are everything one could want in a lesbian femme BDSM anthology.
What I Tolerated: The “domme who knows what you need before you do” trope. Fortunately, this is done most often in first person narrative, letting the reader know in no uncertain terms that the sub is ready, willing and able.
Specifically in a story like The Bullwhip and The Bull Rider, the trope works through clear consent, and beautiful communication between Toby and Miss Violet Montez. There is a great lesson on a man’s world accepting certain things from lovely young girls that it won’t take from fierce grown women.
What Made Me Cringe: Submissive = Masochist. Out of eighteen stories this concept dominates more than the lovely femmes of the anthology. It is an erroneous, outdated notion that everyone who wishes to kneel, also wishes to suffer for it.
Submission is a spectrum and such is not on display in this anthology. If this is a readers first foray into BDSM erotica, I’d be highly concerned that this old message is still the common theme, and those exploring submissive tendencies are still being convinced they must learn to like pain and humiliation even if that isn’t their natural inclination.
Another cringe-worthy element is that of the domme seizing control of the new sub. Even though the sub is clearly willing and aroused by what takes place, these scenes unfold less safe/sane/consensual and more like felony assault.
Yes, these are fantasies, but with all of the misinformation about BDSM already out there, the fantasies we project are just as open to criticism as the educational information the community strives to share.
Final Verdict: Worth the read! The gems in this anthology far outshine the pebbles it stumbles over from time to time.
Openly bisexual author of erotic, polyamorous, paranormal romance, focusing on bisexual and sexually fluid characters and cultures. Works include the Therian World series and PsiCorps Chronicles, out with Samhain Publishing and Liquid Silver Books.