This interview was originally published by Legami, the main BDSM community in Italy.
Last month saw the publishing of your novel Original sins. What is it about?
It really depends on how you look at it. Plotwise it is a rather traditional investigation set in the BDSM scene. There are two protagonists coming from very different backgrounds who end up working together to find the culprit of a crime, and following them we discover that reality is very different from how we use to perceive it.
If you focus on content, it is a fun way to learn the dynamics and the culture of extreme eroticism “as seen from the inside”, without sensationalism yet with a novel look at the backstages too.
Or it is a social critique about the volatility of jobs and the moral dissolution of Italy. Or a puzzle for gossip lovers, who can enjoy trying to identify who the kinky celebrities mentioned in the novel are…
Original sins is a noir novel, initiated by someone’s death. Why did you choose this genre? If your intent was to offer a realistic view of BDSM, wouldn’t have been better to embed BDSM scenes in a more ordinary and less scandalous story?
Between you and me, writing about an investigation is just the excuse allowing me to describe the daily lives of BDSM enthusiasts. If I didn’t use a thrilling element to keep the tension up, it would have become an intimist story, and very few people would read it. Also, I already described the technical side of these games years ago in BDSM – A guide for explorers of extreme eroticism: to rehash it would have been boring.
I promise that in Original sins you will see the real lives, places and mindsets of those who practice BDSM.
The cover of your novel reads ‘No shades of grey’: it sounds like your intent was to counter E.L. James’ books with a realistic answer. The Italian BDSM communities widely discussed how and how much the Fifty shades could popularize BDSM and attract many newbies to this scene, for good or for bad. Do you think it actually happened? Are BDSM people more or different from what they were two years ago?
As I wrote in my reviews of that trilogy I find it wonderful that publishers the world over invested billions to promote books whose message basically amounts to «extreme eroticism is not scary». I also find it a little less fine that they chose some awfully written romance novels for this operation. As a result, 110 million women now really think that BDSM is that weird stuff enjoyed by the Grays – who are an exemplary psychopathic couple.
The proof lies in the shocking rise of accidents – some of them severe – caused by erotic games performed by clueless people: the news only report a small part of them, judging from the many scary stories I keep stumbling upon everywhere – including in my personal coaching practice. I fortunately also meet lots of sensible beginners, yet the phenomenon worried me enough to prompt me to write a free mini-ebook to give them a realistic newbies’ guide. It is actually titled No shades of grey and it is everywhere on the Web, in English too.
All the reviews agree about how Original sins isn’t just about BDSM, also offering a stark photograph of current Italian society. Why did you want to include a social critique subtext? Do you think this is a literary duty, or maybe a necessity in this historical moment? And which aspects of Italy was your critique focused on?
Social critique should probably be the province of journalism, but given its conditions in our country… I can’t say I began with an idea of leading a crusade, but since I had an occasion to, I thought it was appropriate to address this sort of issue too.
One of the themes in Original sins is how the dissolution of the social contract is forcing many people to invent crazy ways to survive, even selling out on those passions they hold most dear.
It looks like BDSM is absolved from this criticizing fury, as if “we” had in the end more ethics than “the others”. Is this really the message you wanted to give, or was it an unexpected consequence?
Right. This is in fact the second key theme. Of course we cannot generalize and Original sins is not a political manifesto… however the real tragedy is that in our current society I feel that real moral and civil values are mostly cultivated by outsiders, including those who are too easily defined “perverts”.
In any case, I would like to tackle the dark sides of BDSM in a second novel: we only have to wait and see whether the first will be successful enough to justify a sequel.
Did you write Original sins for a different readership than BDSM – A guide for explorers of extreme eroticism?
Indeed. BDSM is a manual almost 800 pages long written for committed enthusiasts and those seriously studying the topic. Original sins is a much lighter read, designed to trap innocent victims baited by the detective story, the transgression and the scandal… then sneakily teaching them something. Which doesn’t exempt the members of this specialized website from reading it, of course; I guarantee they will discover many interesting and useful things in it as well.
BDSM is your job. Was it a difficult choice to make? Which obstacles did you meet, and what motivated you to take this road?
Let me state that BDSM is “also” my job. First because it remains mostly a personal passion, then because I am still working as a translator, ghostwriter and – when forced – as a journalist. Choosing this path was natural, for after twenty (almost thirty now, god!) years studying one topic, giving something back to the world becomes a moral duty.
The obstacle is simply the deep hatred Italians display against a sane and vital sexuality. I can half-understand it when it comes from institutions – like when a politician famously lobbing to re-instate the Fascist party tried to have the Parliament stop me from holding my lectures at universities. What puzzles me is the steadfast resistance from the media: can you believe that out of almost 400 news about unusual sex I published last year, none of them were mentioned by mainstream journalists? Watching the news, you’d believe the only people possessing genitals in this country were a sociopathic mafioso and the “exotic dancers” of his entourage – and the latter only visited him for polite dinners anyway. Everything else just doesn’t exist, so it is pretty hard to make a living just out of my interests.
Do you believe there is, or should be, a “BDSM community”? And which are the advantages and disadvantages of a communal approach?
Well, everywhere else in the world BDSM communities are a well-established fact. Excluding the small groups gravitating around events like Sadistique, in Italy I see a resolute refusal to build anything concrete. My impression is that everybody’s wasting their time posturing on the various websites and social networks, but they’d never get their nose out of their little rooms – not even to turn their longstanding fantasies into reality!
That’s a real shame, for the quantity of meetings, seminars, initiatives, cultural, educational and support events you can find just out of the borders is immense, and proves how it really doesn’t take too much for everyone to benefit from such a wonderful energy. To make an example, how can you justify that the Spanish-speaking countries have already organized dozens of events for July 24th, while here in Italy people even ignore that “24/7” is a date for BDSM celebrations worldwide?
It is rather sad, but the very people who flaunt their “lifestyle” online are the ones who fear any sort of interaction. The Italian edition of Xplore, in example, was the only date worldwide to be cancelled due to lack of participants. In such a climate, how can you be surprised if Harlequin readers are the only ones who actually engage in BDSM play?