Erotic fiction is hot right now, with recent novel Fifty Shades of Grey
crossing over to the mainstream via Twitter
and the New York Times
. Characterized as Romance with explicit sex scenes meant to titillate a mostly female audience, fiction erotica
has eased its way into public places like Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mart, and the park.
I admit it; I had never read erotic fiction before, unless you count those times as a kid I’d sneak my dad’s Harold Robbins
novels and flip to all the sex scenes. In my teens I bypassed Harlequin romances in favor ofV.C. Andrews
, and later, preferred works like Lolita
over Jackie Collins
or Danielle Steele
. So perhaps it was appropriate that I felt like a fish out of water when reading Finless
, an erotic romance written by Dallas-based writer, Davee Jones
, that promised to “connect fish, BDSM play, spirituality and sexuality...to meld one story of tremendous revelations.”
I imagine Finless
is to S&M what Pretty Woman
was to street prostitution: a bubble-gummed-up look at the actual subculture, or whatKatie Roiphe when discussing the genre
called a "watered-down, skinny-vanilla-latte version of sado-machosism." In other words, erotica is meant to arouse women just enough to make them want to get it on, but not go so far as to offend them, make them nauseous, or send them shopping for ball gags.
The plot in a nut
shell: Girl meets Boy. Boy dominates Girl; they engage in kinky dungeon sex. Meanwhile Boy dominates Girl II; dungeon sex ensues. Not to be one-upped, Girl I meets Boy II; more dungeon sex. The Lord (as in J.C.) makes a few cameos. In the end, the principal characters pair off and live happily ever after while, we're led to believe, continuing (monogamous) kinky dungeon sex and staying intimate with Jesus, though presumably not at the same time.
While told through multiple points of view, the novel mostly focuses on Sarah (Girl I), who has “long flowing hair the color of warm caramel, liquid sage green eyes, full natural breasts with black cherry colored nipples, athletic legs, and a taut shapely derriere that captured every eye as she walked by.” For about ten pages we see her suffer through growing up Baptist on a farm before finally going off to college, only to indulge in the seedier side of campus life: three paragraphs wherein Sarah gets date-raped, suffers alcoholic black-outs, and has an abortion.
Luckily, in the fourth paragraph, Sarah pulls it together in time to graduate with a 3.9 and a degree in architectural design and, by paragraph five, lands a cushy job at a fledgling architecture firm. Enter Nathaniel, the steely calculated boss who, two days later, upon texting Sarah with a frank I will own you
, becomes the first Dom in Sarah’s life and the one who introduces her to The Lifestyle.
If it all sounds a bit trite or two-dimensional, that’s because the central metaphor has not yet been explored and it’s Nathaniel who, from a dream, gives us a glimpse of the deeper meaning of the book:
"…the fish was floating helplessly on the top of the water, blood droplets sinking in small circles away from it. .. More shocking, the fish had no fins and was slowly, helplessly descending to the rocks at the bottom of the tank… As Nathaniel approached, his curiosity turned to horror as he saw the boy holding the fins of the fish. The boy had ripped the fins from the fish and was now staring at them in his cruel grasp… Nathaniel drew in a sharp breath when he realized the face he was staring into was his own boyhood self… ‘Is this what I have done to Lily [Girl 2]—she is now essentially finless?’"
Besides several more moments of introspection like these, the sex scenes (i.e. what we’re here for) are also handled with literary finesse, lines like, “Without hesitation, he took her from behind, driving his pulsing cock into her waiting center. Over and over he continued his welcomed assault into her tight feminine cave,” and “He was wearing nothing underneath and his rock hard endowment pushed free of the trouser fabric, almost smacking Sarah in the face.”
As for the Jesus angle, an incongruous Christian message is woven throughout the narrative that gains momentum toward the end when Sarah realizes, “The Lord is real, He resided in that very room, for two of the worst sinners imaginable…He spilled His blood for me….for you, for us
.” [author’s emphasis].
Unfortunately, in the end, I was left wondering how the hell we went from bondage and rhythmic caning to the Crucifixion, but I suppose such metaphysical questions aren’t meant to be answered, and certainly not in 193 pages of erotica. That said, Finless
is probably best read with one hand and little thought.