Tuesday, August 3, 2010

As She's Told by Anneke Jacob


As She's Told is the story of how far you can take a 24/7 relationship. One where there are no negotiations, no safewords. We start out with the basic power exchange conundrum: If there are negotiations, then it's just a game. The submissive isn't really giving up true uncontested power, he or she is just negotiating to get what they want. A true power exchange would not have negotiations. Actual slaves don't get to negotiate.

In real life, most of us need to negotiate our hard limits, though the fantasy of not being able to do that is occasionally there. I realize there are some people who eventually get to the place where they give up all of their hard limits, but that generally happens as a process, and takes a dozen or more years. As She's Told takes place over a less than two year period of time, and by the end she is pretty much totally objectified. I don't think I'm giving spoilers by saying that, as the blurb pretty much says the same thing:

Take two caring, thoughtful individuals with some highly unusual sexuality, let their paths cross, and watch how far their obsession takes them. That's the essence of this story about an intense bdsm relationship: extreme, loving, creative, steeped in imagination, embedded in the real world. What emerges is a passionate, private sexual reality, in which the balance of power tips only one way.

Maia and Anders want nothing less than total power exchange, without games, negotiations or safewords. Any pretence is out of the question; for both of them the power relationship has to be as genuine as it is absolute, but Anders is more than aware of the risks to inexperienced Maia if she should be wrong about what she can handle. Early on, he steers a careful line between games and gobbling her up. His ownership is established step by step through conditioning, painful consequences, humiliation and constant bondage, and before long, Maia finds walking away has become inconceivable.

Anders keeps his slave increasingly 'like an animal on a very short tether' something to which she struggles to adjust, in a continuous state of terror and joy His love of technology takes some interesting turns, particularly around orgasm control, teasing and denial. The intensification of Maia's enslavement is balanced by the pair's affection, sense of humour and intelligent conversation, and by the real world of work and friends. Some of these friends become integrated into the meage one way and another, and help Anders create the setting in which Maia's uttermost submission can flower. Graphic BDSM content.

I appreciate the levels of consent that Anders keeps in place, even when Maia does not want those layers in place. While I would not want this for my life, the fantasy of it is still hot, as well as interesting on an intellectual level. And I really enjoyed hearing, feeling, and exploring the psychology of what happens to Maia as she gets farther and farther away from being a human, with the basic rights and expectations that humans have.

I also appreciated the character building that shows us that this is truly Maia's choice to be an actual slave, and that if her opinion about what happens to her were to be inquired about then it would not work for her. The whole point is that she not have a say in anything. At all. We see her struggling to accept the things done to her, see some anger at some of what is done to her, see her punished when she doesn't immediately obey. It's a very believable set up.

BDSM elements:
  • Bondage and Discipline: Oh, yes. A 3 of 3. Much bondage, both the leather and metal variety as well as the technology kind. (Think electric butt plug at a crowded music festival, so you can't get more than a foot and a half away from your master without being shocked. In public, where you can't react like you've just been shocked. That is technological bondage.) Maia is in constant bondage of one sort or another for at least a year and a half of the book. Even when she is at work she is in a corset type harness under her clothes, and, later, much more.
  • Dominance and Submission: Yes, taken farther than most books take it - As She's Told is in the same ballpark as Carrie's Story, and Mr. Benson, and Story of O. Possibly even the Beauty series, though As She's Told is reality and Beauty was fantasy, as much of what was done in the Beauty series would kill someone. Still, it's the same basic emotional intensity.  D/s is 3 of 3
  • Sadism and Masochism: Yes, also taken to the extreme. 3 of 3

As for the writing elements, the plot is an excellent plot - the story of how far you can take a 24/7 power exchange that, by design, allows for no negotiations or limits. This is a very long book, and there are some pacing issues, but not so much that I'm going to take any points off. The prose and dialogue are excellent, as is the character development.

As She's Told is one of those books that I will eventually need to read again. It's even one that I may pull out and read through parts of when my wonderful husband is out of town and I need... assistance.

There is one thing that bothered me, made the believability tough on me, and that revolves around female orgasm denial. Our Maia must have clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm, so her Master locks her clit up with no access to it in order to keep her from orgasming. Most women I know (who I talk to about these things) can orgasm in at least two of the three main ways we woman orgasm: clitoral, vaginal, anal. And I know someone who has been trained to orgasm when the side of her throat is stroked a few times and then her Master orders her to come. The body adapts, nerve endings re-route themselves. Just as your hearing gets better when you lose your sight for an extended period of time - if you shut down access to the nerves in the clitoris then the body will move those resources elsewhere. So while the orgasm denial worked for me at first, eventually it no longer worked for me because my body would have long since found another way. Especially since  by that point she wasn't being punished for orgasms, if she could have one she was welcome to it, Anders made it his responsibility to keep them at bay, not hers. (Select the spoiler text to view it.)

Even with that though, I'm not going to knock any points off. I'm going to give As She's Told a 10 of 10. Easily a 10 of 10.

Book Rating: As She's Told: 10 of 10
Heat Level: 5 of 5
BDSM Intensity Level: 10 of 10

Would you enjoy As She's Told?
  • If objectification bothers you, then no. You would likely not. The objectification is extreme. And we see it from the Tops' point of view as well as Maia's point of view. It worked for me, but I realize there are some people who will have a serious problem with it.
  • If not having a safeword bothers you, even if it is the submissive's choice to not have a safeword, then... maybe, maybe not. There are opportunities for safewords - nightly, then weekly, then monthly, then every six months, and eventually they are working towards yearly -- if you want out, here's your chance, if not then there is no chance until the next scheduled chance.
  • If true punishments bother you, the kind that leaves marks that stay for weeks, or that involve putting the submissive in the cold basement in a small metal box for the better part of a day, then you probably wouldn't enjoy As She's Told.
  • If you hated Carrie's Story and Safe Word or just couldn't deal with Story of Othen you won't enjoy As She's Told.
If, on the other hand, you enjoyed those books, enjoy the psychology behind objectification, enjoy punishments that are true punishments, and have a thing for pretty much constant bondage that there is absolutely no way to get out of, then by all means get As She's Told and devour it. It's a very well written, brain candy sort of book as well as... ummm, other kind of candy...  sort of book. Not one you want to read in public, unless you want to embarrass yourself.

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