Master of O: Surpassing the Classics

The story of how I found Master of O is the story of how I visited the BDSM capital of the world: San Francisco. Since the 1970s, the kink scene in the Bay Area has been known as the most active, out and vibrant in the world. And I got to visit it! Now, of course I stopped by Folsom Street (if you haven’t kept up with the Kinkstarter magazine I suggest you check out this article on the 2019 Folsom Street Fair); had coffee in the local BDSM coffee-shop; checked out the Armory (learn more about this BDSM Mekka in this earlier blogpost about the documentary); and visited some sex shops. I have the rather unusual habit of going straight for the book shelves whenever I visit sex shops. And I have never seen such an impressive collection of BDSM fiction as I did in San Francisco.

The story of Master of O

Master of O cover

One of the books I picked up is the impressive, 763 page kinky novel Master of O. And if you haven’t yet, I suggest you read it as soon as possible. As the title obviously gives away, this book is a retelling of the classic Story of O. Many of the original elements are still present in this story. O is a photographer with a soft-Dom “boyfriend.” This boyfriend feels beholden to, and has a rather unique relationship with his brother Steven.

Early on, Ray (Renée in the original) offers to share his O with his brother to settle a perceived debt. Steven, in turn, decides to pay Ray back by having O seduce and deliver another slave (Jacqui to the original’s Jacqueline) to Ray’s feet. In both books we find elements of slave training, objectification and some rather advanced sadomasochism. But this is where the comparison stops.

Though author Ernest Greene was obviously inspired by the original story, he chose to give it a significant update. His focus on the slaves’ own desires and consent is mostly absent from the original. In this version, Ray is the director of an elegant fetish magazine, for which O works as a photographer. They meet Jacqui here, as she is a model with an appetite for sadomasochistic experiences. O is presented as a strong-willed, stubborn woman who knows what she wants. And that is a strict Master-slave relationship with a focus on protocols and a lack of romance. Whereas she was getting bored with Ray’s softness, in the harsh Steven she finally finds the Master she has been looking for. Steven is a successful criminal defense lawyer who has everything he desires except a proper slave. When presented with O’s boundless masochism, everything seems to fall in to place.

Why you should read this

Master of O is one of the most well-written, insightful and detailed accounts of Master-slave relationships I have ever seen. The author’s eye for detail (in relation to cars, watches and fashion) is astounding. And so are the recurring instances of societal critique. Setting the story in Los Angeles allows Greene to reflect on the pitfalls of showbusiness, the unethical lifestyle of most of the rich and famous and the declining succes of the (erotic) art scene. What’s more: Steven and O’s elegant decorum is put in contrast with Ray and Jacqui’s casual artfulness to show different styles of Dominance can lead to equally steamy sex scenes. Of which there are a lot. And the exchanging of partners brings lots of Ff, MMf, MFf and FFf action into the mostly heterosexual M/s dynamics.

Whereas in the original most women appeared to be tricked and manipulated throughout the book, here, the story is quite different. Consent is explicitly required for every new step in the narrative. And even though Jacqui still is manipulated into engaging in a relationship with Ray, the responsible parties are explicitly told that this leven of manipulation is unacceptable. Interestingly, this relationship, in the novel compared to the arranged marriage of Ray’s Sicilian grandparents, turns out to be the most successful of all.

Critical Spankings

For this novel, it is hard to do my critical-spankings bit. Apart from some printing-faults in my copy, my paddle must remain unused. This author clearly knows what he’s talking about. He discusses the effects of different implements for impact play with the same ease and insight as he does the inner workings of kinky magazines. The detailed descriptions do not take away from the narrative. The length of the book does not make the story drag out. The BDSM scenes are hot and plenty. The characters believable. Indeed, the novel has surpassed its master. No matter how strong Story of O is, I would recommend this new book over the original.

So. Find a copy. Take a week off from work. Make sure you have some toys to get off with. And settle in for some steamy, insightful and unpredictable fan-fiction.

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