Sophie Morgan's ideal man must like children and animals, care about his job, get past her "Marmite-y breath," and be thoughtful, loving and clever.
"Oh, and have a penchant for hurting, controlling and humiliating me in as many imaginable, degrading ways he could come up with," writes Morgan, the author of Diary of a Submissive, which recently made The Sunday Times bestseller list.
Morgan's is the latest tract to fetishize the slavish woman post-Fifty Shades of Grey – but this one's a memoir. Writing under a pseudonym, the 33-year-old British reporter offers an inside track to the dominance and submission (D/s) lifestyle. Forget "attractive, very attractive" Christian Grey: Most doms and subs aren't "even remarkable in their unremarkableness," writes Morgan. Even so, there's no end in sight to flushed faces, erect nipples, leather paddles and diabolically chuckling men, not to mention one hell of a use for the chopsticks and rubber bands kicking around in your kitchen drawer.
For all the whimpering – and problematic feminist ramifications – Morgan argues that submission serves as a restorative mental vacation from her work week. Morgan spoke with The Globe and Mail from the safe confines of her car during a lunch break.
Watching Robin Hood as a child, your 'heart raced' every time you saw Maid Marian locked away in a dungeon. Is that how this all started?
I started watching it around 8, so it wasn't sexual. There was something just very intriguing about her being defiant and having all these things happen to her. Interestingly, my boyfriend had a similar thing for Penelope Pitstop, a Hanna-Barbera cartoon character who spends a lot of time tied to train tracks.
As an adult, you want gender parity with the guys who dominate you – you want to debate politics with them, but also complete submission sexually. How does that work?
I would say that I'm a feminist: I want to be paid the same salary that my male contemporaries would be paid, I want my reproductive rights and my rights to do want I want socially. It seems incongruous but once in a while, with someone I trust and in a context I'm comfortable with, I'd like to give those rights up for a while.
Are you a feminist's worst nightmare?
There are schools of feminist thought that are really antagonistic about the rise of Fifty Shades of Grey eroticism. They see it as either a failure or a betrayal of feminism. I don't think it is, as long as it's done fundamentally as a choice. I'm uncomfortable with anybody telling me what is acceptable for me to do or not do sexually.
How do you blur the lines between sex and 'normal life'?
It can be very intense and then afterward my boyfriend will make a cup of tea and we'll have a chocolate biscuit on the sofa watching TiVo. That's what's nice about it, you have the normality that comes back afterward.
Let's turn to some of the curiosities of the 'D/s' community. What is with the upper/lowercase stuff?
If I was writing as a submissive woman, then 'i' should be lowercase, and if I was writing to a dominant, then I should capitalize the "Y" on "you," no matter where it is in the sentence. Stuff like that bugs me amazingly.
What about 'munches' – meet and greets for dominants and submissives hosted in nondescript pubs?
I find those very awkward. I really like Marmite, however I'm not sure that I could go and meet a bunch of people who all happen to like Marmite, as if that was enough of a connection to have a happy time together.
We were just a friendly, tacky bunch of people – no one was in leather trousers or chains.
What are 'switches'?
Switches are people who can be dominant or submissive, depending on who they're with and where the mood takes them. Both genders are as likely to be switches. But as with elements of the lesbian community who are a bit suspicious of bisexual women, sometimes it's the same thing with switches: "You should make a choice, one way or the other."
People also use safe words.
A safe word you'd use to either slow things down or stop them altogether. The nature of the power dynamic is that sometimes people enjoy saying "no" but they're not necessarily meaning "no," so this is a safety net for everyone concerned. Safe words are like pin numbers. A lot of people use the traffic-light system: Red is your safe word, but if you're having trouble with something you might say "amber." I have very random words. My current one is flugelhorn.
One stipulation you have is that you don't want day-to-day arguments with boyfriends to later re-emerge in bed. Why?
It's important to separate the two, in that this is a sexual dynamic and fun play – it's not about him caning me because I forgot to do the washing up. You should be having frank discussions when you're angry. If you're having that conversation in a dominant/submissive mindset, then instantly there's a power imbalance.
Do you ever have sex without getting roughed up?
Absolutely. There are days when you get home from work and you're both knackered. Sometimes we don't have sex at all, or if we have sex, it's cuddly, lazy sex. If you existed on brownies with chocolate ice cream every day, it would get boring.
Erotica and BDSM have certainly been around. Why did Fifty Shades catch like wildfire?
Fifty Shades is very much about being looked after. It's about the bajillionaire in his penthouse sending her Macbooks and BlackBerries. It's not even about BDSM for a great lot of the book: It's about this impossibly handsome rich man.
The trilogy's been dubbed mommy porn and sadism for soccer moms. How is yours being received?
In the U.K., there's definitely been crossover. I'm on Twitter so I get to talk to people who read it and it really makes me laugh, people who tell me, "That chopstick thing was disgusting" or, "Ah! The foot thing!"
Wives routinely tout Fifty Shades as a kickstarter in their stagnant sex lives. What happens if she's fired up on grey ties and hubby's not into it?
BDSM can be pretty much anything you want it to be, from being tied up to being hurt to the full-on humiliation that I write about. It doesn't have to be massively intense; it can be something as simple as a blindfold or gently scratching with your fingernails. It can be very sensual. You just have to try it and see what works for both of you.
What do you make of the oft-repeated suggestion that Fifty Shades and submission in general appeals to women – especially working women – because they're tired and don't want to do the work in bed, that they just want to lie around?
There's a misconception that submission means being passive and I don't think that's true. Sometimes, submission is a lot more pro-active. You're doing things to your dominant.
Sounds like you did plenty of work yourself.
I find it very cathartic. It really keeps my brain ticking, it's very challenging and interesting. Every time we have sex it has a different dynamic to it. Afterward, I'm pleasantly exhausted in a really nice way, I always sleep very well. But, you know, to each their own.
This interview has been condensed and edited.