Femdom Review: Safe Words by Drury Jamison

Safe words by Drury JamisonTitle: Safe Words
By: Drury Jamison

Tl;DR: Your standard thriller romance, with a jaded cop hero, but  bonus femdom self discovery.

There’s a handful of books with this title (and zip between the covers to do with it, other than an offhand romantic joke) but Jamison breathes some pleasant life into a by the numbers plot. A killer is stalking femdoms, and our heroine, Detective Eleanor Silver, ends up discovering a bit more about her own desires over the course of the investigation. Inevitably she has to become a femdom to catch a killer and the guy helping her out takes things in an equally real direction. Also she’s a troubled cop with a drinking problem and a great deal of dedication to her job to the point of burn out. This is policing written meaner and more dangerous than the statistical experience of the average police officer. Assume you are reading an erotic thriller novel, not getting an inside scoop into anything real. But, it’s ok. The skill of a genre fiction writer is in their ability to manage our expectations, much like a sex scene will always involve sex by some value of the term, but can be written well or poorly.

Safe Words, despite the generic title, is good.

Specifically, there’s a few things I think are worth calling out as being particularly well handled. The main one being that we see submissive men as a wide range of complicated people with lives outside the bedroom. There’s no cliches about high powered executives blowing off steam or docile meek folk- every single guy has the same range of human agency and can be a good person or a bad person.  The love interest, Anderson, shows both agency, preferences and a spine. He’s, dare I say, cute and not ruled exclusively by his kinks. He’s well adjusted and likes himself. I could see myself chasing him.

Silver is written with some of the standard romance heroine problems (dowdy wardrobe, just doesn’t connect with dudes), but she is a hundred percent turned on by sub guys, and unlike many books in the genre has a loving and adorably vulnerable attitude to femdom. She doesn’t think less of submissive men and crave a dom or a “real man”. He dowdy clothes are her desperately trying to gain the upper hand in a world where her femaleness is a vulnerability and as soon as she gets introduced to the idea of femdom we get to see her masturbating to the subject enough not to worry that she’s just doing it to keep her boy interested.

That private time is a sneaky way that Jamison manages to pack more erotic punch into a burgeoning romance. I liked this handling, as it helped illustrate what falling in love is like and avoid making the actual interactions between her and the guy she is falling in love with drag or feel gratuitous.

What about the hero?

Romance has a hard time with sub men. With the genre aimed at making men into sexual objects, a lot of novels fall flat by making the guy either a pushy weirdo or a non-entity. Anderson, Eleanor’s psychologist-guide to the kink scene, is a bit of a cipher as we don’t really get a direct window into his head, like a nuanced person with other stuff going on than his penis. That’s damning with faint praise, but in a writing genre where “he had an erection” is used as shorthand for “he is interested and interesting” it’s nice to see that Jamison tries to have him express himself through word and looks. As a person has his own agenda, reputation with other characters, and past relationships. He makes good and bad choices, expressing a lot of courage but also managing to convey a desperate attraction and vulnerability to the heroine that he keeps on a short leash to be polite.

Gender comes in here a lot. Our male protagonist is not a sissy, but several of the other male sub characters are (and one is actually trans), and some of the development of their relationship is Elanor realising she doesn’t so much mind being a woman as what she previous assumed was mandatory submission and passivity. Anderson’s version of a sub knows and enforces his limits with pleasant firmness (for example where explains he is not a sissy, and the Mistress he would obey would not want that) and we don’t fuck around with “no but your dick says you want this!” limit pushing.

What he provides is what most femdoms want, someone who affirms and loves who she is, and gives her space to express the vulnerability of command.

Okay, what about the book as a whole?

I think my favourite part of this is that there’s enough characters that you get a lot of examples of femdom relationships with real humans- and see a spectrum of sub guys from the killer (anyone who has gotten an unhinged inbox message knows how believable it is that there is a Buffalo Bill knock off out there); nice, really loving husbands; hot singles, etc… When male submission in fiction tends to be treated like a bizarre anomaly or some sort of inborn fetish reflex that turns off a person’s personality, seeing it sketched out in a broader sense is much needed room to breathe.

We need more femdom books in general. On the plus side, the fact that it won a Golden Flogger award at  BDSM Writers Con means I hope we’ll see more like it. I am looking forward to the sequel where our Heroine gets to solve more mysteries and hopefully we see a continuation of her relationship with Anderson.

Go on, say what you think!

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