My recent research on the web and by emailing publishers suggests that the most popular sub genre of erotica is BDSM. This gave me pause for thought. My goal is to write stories that readers will want to read, and therefore the appeal of BDSM is interesting. Why, I asked, would that be the most popular?
Ignore, for the moment, that categorization of any kind is inherently misleading (Mark Twain famously said: “all generalisations are false, including this one”), and perhaps there is something instructive there.
In any fiction, readers tend to enjoy stories where characters struggle against a formidable foe, be it person or natural force. If the character is a good one, they root for him/her to overcome adversity, bad luck and everything thrown their way, and win the day. The drama comes from that struggle. The protagonist must draw on inner reserved of strength to obtain the desired outcome. And where is the concept of struggle more graphically portrayed that in bondage.
A good BDSM story holds the promise that the constraints and restraints the characters struggle with will be physical, tangible and tactile. The sweat of exertion and fear generated in the struggle will be real, not metaphorical. The price of failure will be even more painful than the current bit of masochism that follows the bondage.
To the extent that the story delivers on that promise, it can tantalize, entrance, and finally satisfy. Sounds yummy.
There is nothing new in these thoughts, just a bit of clarity, obtained by understanding that human desire to experience vicarious struggles. The pain of BDSM should provide clarity; the success of BDSM literature might as well.