So I’ve finally read Story of O, one of the most famous erotic novels and described as better than 50 Shades of Grey – any book is better than 50 Shades in my opinion. Story of O follows the character O (that’s it, that’s her name) who agrees to be a sub for many men and even women in order to prove her love/loyalty to her lover Rene.
I have mixed feelings about the book. It lives up to its genre. It’s arousing and the writing is beautiful (and the name of O reflects how submissive and shadowy the character is) but at the same time I felt horrified over the treatment of women, the passiveness of these characters. It’s BDSM…or is it? It isn’t clear since the dom-sub relationship also takes place outside of the bedroom or scheduled time. The relationship seeps into O’s personal life and eventually overtakes all of her. The way she is treated by these doms is…not to BDSM standards. That is safe and consensual. There’s no mention of safe words. No playfulness. It’s bloody dead serious, edging on abuse at times. There’s consent but O’s love for Rene blinds her, forcing her to consent.
I can’t help but see misogyny, not BDSM, especially with O treating other women and seeing them as objects of pleasure like the male characters do. She also blames women instead of the men, wanting to humiliate or punish them for being better than her – that’s what she thinks. Internalised misogyny really gets on my nerves. On the positive side, O is sort of a strong and complex character (it’s mentioned that she was in a high position occupation-wise and had a dominating personality before she became a sub) and throughout the book, she struggles to recover her self-respect/esteem and being torn because of Rene. Every now and then, she objects to being submissive and this is later mixed with her pleasure of being dominated. Furthermore, she isn’t afraid/ashamed of being “provocative” (she’s not the typical virgin/innocent protagonist – seriously this trope needs to die off) and attracted to women, though the women are portrayed as being only attracted to each other bodily rather than on a much deeper level.
I’m glad that Story of O isn’t called a romance (unlike a certain book series). Because clearly it isn’t and O knows it. Despite my criticisms and cringey scenes, Story of O is a good erotic book but not a good guide for aspiring BDSM practitioners. Obviously.