I’ve made no secret of my love for the middle section of Story of O, the chapter entitled “Anne-Marie and the Rings.” In this section, O is delivered by Sir Stephen, her master and owner, to a château called Samois where a femdom named Anne-Marie rules over an establishment comprising only women–all of them except Anne-Marie herself submissives who have been sent to Samois for training by their owners.
I have been absolutely captivated by this fantasy-constellation since the first time I read it, and recognized in it, as in so many other parts of Story of O, the perfection of various permutations I had been through in my own feverish imaginings and in the BDSM books I had managed to find and hide away to be consulted, and re-consulted, over and over until I could practically recite the naughtiest scenes word-for-word. So perfect do I find Samois as an embodiment of what might be called the “feminine training for masculine dominance” dynamic that the whole constellation simply goes by the name “Samois” for me.
Thus, when in my Victorian pastiche I created an establishment called “Smith’s” for the training of submissive brides, and put in charge of it one of my favorite characters of all those I’ve ever created, a widow named Mrs. Smith (her Christian name is revealed for the very first time in the excerpt below, from the forthcoming Emily’s Return to Smith’s), I was consciously creating a Samois of my own.
In this excerpt, Emily Orn Wilkes, who’s my fictional great-great-grandmother, has returned to Smith’s after her wedding-night with her husband Edmund, to be fitted for an additional “instrument of discipline” of which she as yet only knows the name: petit-maître (little master).
I was completely naked. When Mrs. Smith had said, “Everything off, if you please, Mrs. Wilkes,” I had paid far more attention to her use of my married name than I had to the command to disrobe that would have so horrified me only two days before. Being naked at Smith’s was as natural as donning one’s petticoats at home, or saying “please” and “thank you.” Polly had been there to help me off with my gown, and my corset, and my crinolines. I had removed my stockings and lowered my drawers almost without thinking about it, and Polly had drawn the shift over my head, and I was as bare as I had been when Mrs. Smith had first helped me undress in her parlor–more naked, in fact, for on that occasion I had still had my private curls.
“There, Mrs. Wilkes!” Mrs. Smith had said, still clothed herself, of course. “Now you are a proper bride, are you not?”
I had blushed a bit, but I had not lowered my eyes. “I suppose I am, Mrs. Smith. What new trial awaits me?” I had meant to be severe, but I had been unable to stop my mouth from twisting up at the corner.
Mrs. Smith had smiled in response, and said, “Nothing so hard as what I’m sure you have undergone these last twenty-four hours, Mrs. Wilkes!” She had laid her hand against my cheek, then, for a moment. It would have been a shocking freedom for anyone but a family-member, in any other situation, I suppose, but as you know Mrs. Smith was already becoming a second mother to me, and, really, more of a mother than she who bore me. “Was it so bad, Emily?” she had asked, softly.
Tears had welled up in my eyes, but they had not been not tears of sadness. “No,” I murmured. “Truly. . .” my voice had trailed off. Had I been ready, at that moment, to confess all to her? To tell her how terribly even now I longed to be over my new husband’s lap, feeling his powerful hand exploding against my bottom? over his saddle, feeling his yard impaling me shamefully? “Truly, no, Mrs. Smith.” I was not ready, yet, I had decided.
She had looked into my eyes, for a long moment. “Emily,” she had said, using my Christian name for the first time since the morning two days before, after she had taken me over her lap to spank me, “I should like to bring you to my bed tonight. I have power to command your attendance upon me there, but I should like you to come of your own free will.”
I had looked back into her grey eyes, and imagined. I had thought of seducing Sarah Garrison on that mossy bank, of how she had tasted, and how it had felt to taste her. Attending Mrs. Smith would be very different, I had known, but the memory of the tenderness of Sarah’s caress had drawn me back to that sunny day, and I had known I wanted to be brought to Mrs. Smith’s bed. I wanted it more than anything.
“Oh, Mrs. Smith.”
She had been able to tell my answer from my tone. “In my bed, you will call me Anne.” She had patted my bottom. “Now it is time for your ‘new trial’, as you call it, Miss Pert.” Just as Edmund had, when pushing me towards my saddle the night before, Mrs. Smith had applied pressure to my bare posterior, and I had complied, laying myself over the fitting stool, where it sat upon the divan.
The essential elements of the Samois dynamic, for me, are the following.
- The establishment is all female.
- The head of the establishment is a femdom.
- The head of the establishment nevertheless trains submissives for men.
- The head of the establishment knows much more about BDSM than the men ever will.
I hope you’ll agree with me that the dynamic is a fascinating one, even if you wish to debate some of the elements. (I should mention that I’m also aware of the importance of Samois in a very different realm: some of the leading female lights of the early BDSM scene in San Francisco organized themselves under the name, and I hope you won’t take my treatment of the theme here as either attempting to discuss or to undercut their contribution to BDSM culture.)
In particular, the element that gives me pause is the third one. I’m glad to say that I abandoned traditional understandings of sexual orientation a while ago: I’m happily cis, and happily straight, and happily queer, and even a bit happily trans from time to time. Really, I suppose I’m just totally BDSM. Nevertheless, it makes me feel guilty to assert that part of the hotness of Samois is that the girls are being trained for men, and I’m not sure why it should be necessary.
The guess I want to hazard, to get discussion going, is that a kind of paradox finds expression in the Anne-Marie/Mrs. Smith figure: in order for her to attain to the height of BDSM power, she must be the mistress of both traditional sexes–in the terms of old-fashioned masculinist psychoanalysis, she can’t have the phallus unless she’s taking possession of it from the men who send their submissives to her, and transfer to her their authority over their subs. Feminine dominance, in the Samois construction, has to be borrowed from men–in order that it be displayed as superior to masculine dominance.
Why do Anne-Marie and Mrs. Smith need to borrow that phallic dominance? (Remember that we’re talking about a fantasy, and the way it gets me unbearably hot, and not about anybody’s real domestic arrangements.) From my perspective, as a relatively straight sub, Anne-Marie has to be in charge of O and the other girls (including, frankly, in my imagination, fantasy-me) as an embodiment of their owners’ authority–that is, as a wielder of the phallus–because, I blush to disclose, the phallus really is the object of my desire.Thanks to the wonders of feminist theory, I know that my husband isn’t actually in possession of the phallus any more than I am; it’s just that the reasonable facsimile that dangles and rises between his thighs works really, really well for me as something I want to have doing various things that make me feel fulfilled, erotically speaking.
I’m sure your mileage varies! How much, and in what ways?
I, Emily Tilton, if I exist, am a human rights lawyer who resides in Greenwich, CT. It’s more likely that I’m actually someone else, who wishes she were as free to play out her real fantasies as Emily Tilton is.
EXPLORATIONS is a narrative version of my nearly lifelong quest to reconcile my submissive erotic orientation with my ethics. See this post on my blog for a frequently updated guide to the series: http://etiltonexplorations.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-explorations-series-so-far.html
Over the many years since I became aware of my sometimes unbearable craving for ravishment, spanking, and above all anal domination, I have tried to come to terms with that craving in more ways than I can count. The first of the ways was by reading, voraciously, every piece of good BDSM erotica (and of course also a ton of bad BDSM erotica) I could find.
Eventually, I read Story of O. As is reflected throughout EXPLORATIONS, it changed my life, though the change has been gradual, and continues to this day. The idea that other women might share the lusts I have by turns been ashamed of and defiantly proud of, that a woman like the real Pauline Réage might write so beautifully of those lusts, and work them out so thoroughly and even pitilessly on a character, put Réage’s famous pencil in my right hand. Or, to put it in the terms of EXPLORATIONS, it put my left hand on the keyboard of my laptop and my right hand in my lap, if you know what I mean. I started to write spanking stories.
Buy EXPLORATIONS: Books 21-24 (the first Victorian collection, with lots of Mrs. Smith)
Buy Emily’s Victorian Bridal Chamber at Amazon.
Emily Tilton’s blog
“Emily, I do not think that I am capable of ruining you, but that fact does not mean that I will not try. John told me the story as a schoolboy might, unheeding of its real significance—or at least of its significance to me. But I knew what it really meant—that you were born for me, because you were born for the sort of life to which I invite you. I will admit that I do not fathom as deeply as some the desires at work in the ‘great drama’, but my deep feeling of them makes up, not only in my eyes, but in the eyes of many others, for my less refined understanding. That is why I was allowed to establish credit at Smith’s. There are some doors that new money could never open on its own.”
In the 27th book of Explorations, as the story of fantasy-Emily’s connection with Prophettown gathers a frightening sort of momentum, the story of Victorian Emily’s wedding-night also comes to its crisis point.
This book of EXPLORATIONS contains fiction elaborating the following sorts of fantasy that you may wish to avoid: Ff, Mf, ageplay, spanking. It’s intended for over-18 audiences who, like me, are interested in exploring the lines between pleasure and pain, dominance and submission, and fantasy and reality. All characters depicted are consenting adults.
The Explorations series is a unique take on BDSM above all because of the strong individual voice of Emily Tilton herself, manifestly shaping the fantasy-elaborations of the series. Because Emily is interested in helping herself and others understand how BDSM can be lived within a mostly vanilla existence, the way most of us have to live it, Explorations has a unique element that Emily hopes will set it apart and make it useful: Emily has created a fantasy-version of herself (keeping to the tropes of the genre she knows so well, fantasy-Emily is an eighteen-year-old virginal bride with a self-abuse “problem”), whose fantasies and “realities” are the central subject of the stories of Explorations–but the real Emily also keeps her authorial, real voice in the margins, explaining and analyzing, and revealing from time to time the much more mundane, real version of the things Emily has transformed in the story of her fantasy-self. This doubling of the “I” in the first-person narrative of Explorations makes the series worth exploring all on its own. Come for the hot D/s, spanking, anal action. Stay for the exploration.