momo: (Glee Lady Justice*)
[personal profile] momo
So. As I've mentioned before, I'm hugely into audio books. And I started listening to this series, called "Collars and Cuffs" which is (supposed to be) set in Manchester, UK. (The author actually did a better job with setting in the 2nd book, fyi.) It's about the members of a BDSM club and how they find love and happiness and BDSM bliss.

I've just finished the 3rd book and ... before I send of my scathing review on audible, I figured I should run this by other people.

I'm making this post public in case I need to link it to other people. Warnings for mention of abuse (emotional mostly) and referenced forced prostitution.



The protagonists are Ben, whose age is never outright mentioned but I'm assuming he's late twenties, barman at Collars & Cuffs (the BDSM club around which all the books are settled), and Scott, an 18 year old, homeschooled kid from a more rural area in the US. Scott is unhappy at home because his parents dictate his whole life, place their expectations on him, and basically emotionally abuse him all his life, to the point where they tell him what girl to take to a dance, and where and when to "lose his virginity".

(I'm putting that in quotes because virginity is a social concept with no real meaning, AND the author of these books places undue value on virginity. Plus, you can only stop being a virgin when someone penetrates your body or you penetrate theirs. Mouths don't count. That's why you don't need condoms for blowjobs.)

So, Scott is a naive kid who honestly doesn't know anything about the world except what his parents allow him to know but he finds his way into a gay chatroom where he meets a guy called Jeff, who becomes his whole world, who tells Scott that he loves him, and who even sends him a plane ticket, first class, to come to Manchester and be with him. Scott actually believes Jeff and runs away from home, flies to the UK, and then gets stood up at the airport in Manchester.

In comes Ben, who immediately singles Scott out as someone who needs help. He buys him food, then makes a call to his boss and arranges a luxurious hotel room for the night so Scott can get some decent sleep. Scott, because he's still super naive, goes along with all of this.

The next day, Ben takes Scott to the club to meet the bosses who'll sort out what to do with Scott.

There, Scott a) finds out that a thing like BDSM exists and b) immediately latches onto the idea of being a sub because then someone would take care of him.

He's also kind of imprinted on Ben (that's almost a direct quote from the book), and so begs to be allowed to stay with Ben. He definitely doesn't want to be sent back to his parents, because they don't even allow him to have his own sexuality, let alone a career he enjoys.

Ben refuses (shattering Scott's self-esteem even though they've known each other less than 24h at this point. Scott's a teenager, so I can forgive his drama.) because, as he explains to his boss, Leo, he can't afford to host a teen with no income. That's a fair concern, Leo thinks so too. Luckily, Leo and his business partner Thomas founded a charity not too long ago to help men in precisely this kind of situation. (Because, you know, both their subs/boyfriends had a similar problem with their parents/circumstances......) So, Leo arranges for two ATM cards. One for Ben to help him pay rent/grocery bills, etc. for Scott, and one for Scott so he can buy things for himself, within reason. Like bus tickets, and a phone ... So, Ben, seeing no other argument he could make, agrees to take in Scott. And then refuses to take any of Leo's money. (Which isn't even Leo's money.)

Anyway, the point is that Ben is a big man who should be able to provide for people under his care, and he should be able to do it without help. Because that's what men do. *distant bear growls to emphasise manliness*

If that weren't enough, he also pushes and expects Scott to change his personality in a day, now that he's free from his parents' oppression. In the end he's not much better than him because he makes Scott do what he thinks Scott should want now that he's free.

In the middle of all that, the author pushes super hard so the readers won't forget they're reading a novel about BDSM. Ben keeps mentioning being a Dom even though that has nothing to do with what's happening in that scene.

Coming back to the money: Ben makes Scott dependent on him for money which BIG FUCKING WARNING SIGN for abuse. He doesn't even tell Scott about the charity and that he can have money of his own. He just gives Scott money when he thinks Scott needs it and Scott, who doesn't know any better because that's what his life has been like for eighteen years, accepts it.

I nearly stopped listening there, but I promised myself I'd go through the whole thing to find out if it got better, or at least to be sure I could properly rant about it.

They do sort of settle into things, and, fine, Scott wants to be a sub because he thinks that works for him. I won't judge him for that. Lots of people have their own varied reasons for wanting to be a sub. Wanting someone to take care of you certainly isn't the worst, even though it is worrying, in my opinion, that a supremely inexperienced 18 year old who's never had sexual contact with another person but is definitely hungry for approval and acknowledgement from literally anyone decides to go that way for their very first relationship.

Anyway, he asks Leo to find a Dom for him so Scott can start training to be a sub. Leo suggests someone, and after that, Scott realises he wants Ben. He then goes out of his way to be super nice to Ben. Keep the flat super clean, cook three meals a day, give him footrubs, and generally be just the best kind of housespouse. Ben doesn't even say thanks once, and that, at least, frustrates Scott to the point that he runs away (after yelling at Ben).

Through different circumstances (one of them being Ben and his macho ego of "I can't provide for him without help so he can't stay here"), Scott moves out and in with Thomas and his sub until the day when Leo arranges a meeting between Scott and Joe, a Dom. Leo also invites Ben.

Ben reflects on how wrong Joe is for Scott because he knows what Joe likes and he doesn't think Scott will enjoy it. He finds it weird that Leo even picked him. Joe, true to form, asks Scott to strip naked in front of a bunch of people (although all of them friends of Scott at this point, so Scott's only embarrassed about Joe seeing him. Ben notices that Scott's started to cry as he began to undress and then he finally puts a stop to it.
When he confronts Leo about why he picked Joe, Leo admits that he did it to get a reaction out of Ben.

Ex-fucking-cuse me? You made Scott, a vulnerable, inexperienced kid uncomfortable so a macho dude would get all possessive and grabby-handsy???? Never mind that Scott then thinks that he's not good enough for Joe either, and now feels even more rejected than ever before.

(At this point the tally comes up to 5: His parents, the mysterious Jeff, Ben, and Joe.)

This whole farce ends with Ben accepting Scott as his sub, making a 3 month training contract with him, and then going through training. I don't think it's all that realistic to expect someone wholly unexperienced to expertly give blowjobs without help or guidance (but plenty of face-fucking and come-swallowing), let alone make them use an enema the second day of their training, but, again, people have different experiences so I won't rant about it too much.

Okay, so now Ben and Scott are in a relationship of master/sub and it works for them for the most part ... and then Scott spots Jeff. Scott wants to talk to Jeff, ask him why he didn't show up. At this point I have to mention that Scott is still entirely naive about the whole thing, and still believes that Jeff just lost interest. Everyone else in this cast, Leo, his sub Alex, Thomas, his sub Peter, and even Ben, all suspect that Jeff (if that's his real name) lured Scott to the UK to use in a human trafficking ring (which was a major plot point in the last book).

So, Scott wants to talk to Jeff, and even asks Ben if he'll come with him for moral/emotional support. What does Ben, though? He says no, because his poor ego wouldn't be able to handle a rejection if Scott didn't want him after all.

I'd like to repeat: EX-FUCKING-CUSE ME? You think Jeff is part of a forced prostitution scheme OR WORSE and you let the boy you pretend you cherish so much run off after him by himself????

It turns out that Jeff was involved in the ring, but as a victim. He gets put in someone else's care and will benefit from the charity Leo and Thomas set up. Ben is also really terrible at handling the situation because he yells at Jeff angrily, scaring him even worse.

(I find it a bit weird that Jeff was ready to divulge his tragic life story to Scott, whom he doesn't know, but at least he had cause to do it, in order to warn Scott. Why he then agreed to go to a stranger's house and do the whole thing again is beyond me. For all he knows, Scott could've been the bait to get him back into the ring. Plot holes are just enormous.)

You'd think the story ends here, but there's still the issue of Scott's parents. For them to have cause to come to the UK, Ben first needs to have a dramatic accident, complete with saving Scott's life in the process. He lands in the hospital, leg broken, properly banged up in several places, including a concussion. Scott yells at his parents about Ben being in the hospital, and bingo, they know where he is.

They come to fetch him and both Scott and Ben argue that no, Scott wants to stay in the UK, but then Scott's dad (Donald) talks to Ben and explains that with a broken leg he can't financially provide for Scott, not give him a good life and good opportunities. Ben ends up agreeing with Donald, and then tells Scott that Scott should go home with his parents (back to his abusers) to make Ben happy.

I nearly flipped the table at this point.

It takes Leo giving Ben a stern talking-to to make him go after Scott and bring him back.

And then, 10 months after they first got together, only 2 months after they got back together, and five months after Ben sent Scott away to the US, they go through a collaring ceremony (which, according to the first book in the series is something like being BDSM-married) AND ALSO GET ENGAGED FOR REAL.

May I remind you that Scott is only 19? That this is his first and so far only sexual relationship? That, before he got into it, he was so clueless, he didn't even know that in the UK they drive on the left side?

I know I'm painting a biased picture here, but please tell me I'm not overreacting?

The only redeeming quality, from what I can tell, to make this better than 50 Shades of Suck* is that the BDSM parts are actually safe. Ben explains all the terms in the contract, explains the contract, makes Scott stop and consider what his limits really are, makes him choose safewords, etc. This part is all great. Just the inbetween bits are terrible???

*I should note that I have not read 50 Shades, only followed some of the discourse.



I will, however, listen to the next book in this series as well because I want to know if the author is able to redeem herself, or if she keeps fucking up like this.
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I'm a feminist who loves TV & enjoys movies, adores her friends, occasionally writes fanfic (and rarely finishes them), almost always reads fanfics, nerds about Harry Potter, moons over Bradley James and others (esp. when blond/e), collects picture books and colouring books (but rarely colours the latter one), procrastinates, organises fan convention(s). I'm domestic, a librarian, going on 30, and anglophile. That's all you need to know to begin with XD