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Kasi Alexander on BDSM, polyamory, and why mainstream readers are ready for her book

Kasi Alexander on BDSM, polyamory, and why mainstream readers are ready for her book

Local author Kasi Alexander's first book, Becoming sage, is an emotive and realistic peek into both the BDSM and polyamorous lifestyles. It takes readers by the hand--gently places a leather cuff on the hand--and leads them through a raw, sensual world of power exchange and many loves that mainstream readers may not have ever been exposed to. BDSM and polyamory have been peeking out of small cracks in the closet door for a while now, but is it time for them to thrust open the door and come out into the light?

Kasi Alexander says yes -- and she answers questions about BDSM, polyamory, why she decided to write the book -- and why people into alternative lifestyles and those who are not -- should read it.

Westword: Is this book based on real-life events? Is it autobiographical? Kasi Alexander: It is autobiographical to an extent. The emotions and feelings are real but most of the events are fictional. I relate most closely with sage's character and I do live in a 24/7 Master/slave poly household with my master and our partner. She is not a slave or into M/s but does do the BDSM things with us. I have experienced most of the types of play described in the book. I love bondage, thuddy play and knife play but have never had to go through the emotionally challenging things sage and sunni do toward the end of the book. I don't want to give away too much and will stop with that.

BDSM and polyamory can be controversial subjects, and risky ones to write a book about. Were you nervous at all about how Becoming sage would be received by readers? Book critics?

Of course I was nervous and, as it turned out, with good reason as I was laid off from my job of eleven years less than six months after sage was released. Now, I won't say that was why I was laid off, but it probably didn't help. I believe in looking on the bright side of things and saw it as an opportunity to follow my dream and spend more time writing and developing our family business of making chainmail jewelry, which we sell around the county under the name Poly's Pleasures.

I am always nervous about reviews and usually let my very own "Sir Rune" read them first. We have been very lucky and have, knock on wood here, only had one bad review and that was just last week. There were a few other cool reviews but the majority so far have been very positive and filled with comments that let us know our message has been well received.

Why did you decide to write this book?

I wrote this book because my Sir told me to (laughs out loud). But seriously, it has been a lifelong goal of mine to write and get published. Shortly after my partners and I started down the path of BDSM, polyamory and power exchange, it came out in a conversation that this was a dream of mine. (For those of you not familiar with polyamory, there is a saying that goes "swingers have sex, polys have conversations... lots and lots of conversations.") Anyway, one of the elements of power exchange that is very important to us is the fact that it can be used as a tool of growth and improvement for all the parties involved.

So my Sir decided that one of the goals for our M/s (Master/slave) relationship would be to meet this lifelong goal. He helped me plot and brainstorm the book along with our third and then I was required to write every day. We would go over it each evening and brainstorm out the next few scenes. Before we knew it Becoming sage was a reality.

When you wrote Becoming sage, did you intend it to be for BDSM/polyamory-friendly readers, or did you want it to appeal to a broader audience?

Both. How is that for a definite answer for you? Seriously, we want people in the lifestyle to enjoy the book and, possibly gain some perspective, advice, help or comfort from it as needed. Sometimes just knowing others have had the same thoughts and feelings that you are going through helps you see that light at the end of the tunnel. Even more importantly to us, however, was to appeal to a broader audience and hopefully dispel some of the horrible myths, misunderstandings and utter falsehoods out there about alternative lifestyles. Just because they aren't the traditional relationship models of one man and one woman, living the same lives our parents lived, doesn't mean it is wrong or harmful.

Would you explain to readers who are not familiar with M/s or D/s why you intentionally did not capitalize "sage," or the other slaves' names in the book?

In the leather and kink world there are many traditions and rituals used to establish a hierarchical structure. Much of the leather traditions are based on military protocols and were adopted and fostered by the "Old Guard" gay leathermen. One of those protocols commonly used by the people who practice power exchange relationships is to not capitalize the names of slaves or submissives -- yes, there is a difference between the two but not a commonly held definition.

What word a person uses to identify themselves is based on who the individual in question feels in their heart that they are. This is not done to demean or belittle the slave; it is to recognize and validate their chosen identity, just as dominants or masters often go by a title depending on their personality or standing in the community. Their name is capitalized and often preceded with the title "Master" or "Sir." Another common practice in alternative lifestyles is to adopt a "scene name" which is generally not their real name. We tried to show and explain both of these conventions in the book so people can better understand some of the intent behind these practices. This is a sad byproduct of the negative consequences that can befall someone who chooses to live in such a way that is true to their nature instead of in a traditionally accepted relationship model.

Continue reading for more on Alexander's books.

 

Have you gotten positive feedback from readers so far? Any negative feedback?

Yes. Luckily, as far as my ego goes, it has been very positive for the most part. We have had one negative review by someone who didn't see eye to eye with us about the value of the book and thought it was boring. If a person is looking for a really steamy, sex-driven book then Becoming sage will be a disappointment. Don't get me wrong; it has what we think are some really good sex scenes, but they aren't the point of the book--the feelings and experiences of the characters and the relationship that they are defining and building for themselves is the point.

Kasi Alexander on BDSM, polyamory, and why mainstream readers are ready for her book

Do you think that mainstream readers are ready for subjects like BDSM/polyamory to be presented to them in a realistic way?

I think they are. The recent phenomenon of 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James proves that. Her book is billed as a BDSM story and it made it to the number one spot on the New York Times best seller paperback list, which is fantastic--congratulations, Ms. James! Add to that the popularity of the show Sister Wives (three seasons on the TLC channel), and the regular use of lifestyle-related terms like "safeword" on prime-time shows such as Hot in Cleveland and Family Guy, and we see that the general public is becoming more aware and tolerant of the concept of alternative lifestyles.

The rise in popularity of eBooks has really helped the mainstream public get ready for more realistic stories of alternative lifestyles as well. People can buy and read them with no embarrassment since a person can browse, purchase and read them in complete anonymity on their Kindles and Nooks. This freedom allows for a greater diversity and willingness to read controversial subjects.

Are there any particular BDSM/polyamory myths that you hope to dispel with the book?

Lots and lots of them, but for brevity I will focus on what we think of as the big three. The biggest fact about BDSM that we hope to educate the general public about is that BDSM is NOT abuse. Yes, participants in various types of BDSM play often experience intense sensations which may or may not include pain. In an abusive relationship one party has all of the power and uses non-consensual pain to manipulate and control another for no constructive purpose. In BDSM all actions are--or should be--well negotiated and agreed to by all participants.

For polyamory, those who have little or no experience with the lifestyle often think it is all about cheating on your partner or indicates an inability to commit to a relationship. This is far from the truth. It is a relationship dynamic which requires incredible communication skills and a willingness to discuss your and your partners' needs in detail. Most poly people don't have any more of a little black book than anyone else, but if you look at their calendars, they are probably much fuller than the average person's.

Polyamory can be set up in an infinite number of ways, none of which are right or wrong, as long as the arrangement meets the needs of those involved. It can be a network of relationships or a closed, committed arrangement like ours. We have been a polyfidelous triad--none of us has any outside romantic relationships--for over five years. We find this works well for us and that we avoid many of the pitfalls traditional two-person relationships encounter. It's much harder to blame all of the troubles of a relationship on the other person when there are two other people whose viewpoints you have to consider.

Finally, but far from least, is the idea that power exchange relationships are all about manipulation or loss of accountability. In a healthy power exchange relationship, both parties are responsible for making their needs known and for honoring the negotiated way those needs are to be met. Doormats who allow themselves to be walked all over figuratively make horrible slaves or submissives. It takes a very strong person with self-confidence and a sense of personal responsibility to thrive in the submissive role. They have chosen to transfer their personal power to their dominant or master because they find fulfillment in doing so. The dominant or master is responsible for making the decisions that are in everyone's best interests and to find opportunities for the submissive to grow and become more than they would be on their own. Both positions require trust, good communication skills and a willingness to work together to make the lives of all involved better than they were singularly.

Are you writing more books? Will readers get to know what happens next with the characters---especially sunni's transformation, sage's trust issues and Sir Rune's poly-household management?

Yes. The next book in the Keyhole Series will be Saving sunni, which will be available through Omnific Publishing this summer. We also write for Siren Bookstrand under the name Cassidy Browning, and the first book in that series is due out in eBook format this June. That series deals with a BDSM bed and breakfast on the California coast, and shows a different poly perspective than the keyhole series by having two male characters and one female instead of the two female, one male characters in Becoming sage.

Here's the old "why-should-people-read-your-book question"--what would you like Westword readers to know about the book?

We want people to understand that alternative relationship dynamics like BDSM and power exchange don't need to be non-consensual or even dangerous to be erotic. The sensationalized versions can be fun but it's important to know that it is also practiced by real people who lead normal lives, raise kids, pay their taxes, and go to church. We think there is a place for both fantasy-based and reality-based alternative romance. If a story is told well, then even if the reader has no experience or interest in the lifestyle portrayed, they will at least have a better understanding and tolerance of other viewpoints.

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