In honor of Black History/Futures Month, Here are some books about kink, BDSM, and power dynamics written by Black authors.
I’m listing links to Bookshop.org and to Amazon, but please do order them from your local independent (feminist, queer) bookstore, if you can. They’re happy to special order for you, and it helps them stay in business. Might take a little longer than Prime, but to me, it’s worth it to support the special places that are indie bookstores.
These are primarily nonfiction books, and definitely NOT a complete list of all books with kink content by Black authors — just some of my personal favorites. I’d love to hear more recommendations in the comments, if you have any.
Sensational Flesh: Race, Power, and Masochism by Amber Jamilla Musser
This one is academic and intense, quite dense, but an incredible read. There are so few books written about kink from an academic context at all, and this adds the lens of so many different types of theory over it. I’m still working my way through it, to be honest, but it has been worth reading.
In everyday language, masochism is usually understood as the desire to abdicate control in exchange for sensation pleasure, pain, or a combination thereof. Yet at its core, masochism is a site where power, bodies, and society come together. Sensational Flesh uses masochism as a lens to examine how power structures race, gender, and embodiment in different contexts. Drawing on rich and varied sources from 19th century sexology, psychoanalysis, and critical theory to literary texts and performance art Amber Jamilla Musser employs masochism as a powerful diagnostic tool for probing relationships between power and subjectivity. Engaging with a range of debates about lesbian S&M, racialization, femininity, and disability, as well as key texts such as Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs, Pauline Reage’s The Story of O, and Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality, Musser renders legible the complex ways that masochism has been taken up by queer, feminist, and critical race theories. Furthering queer theory’s investment in affect and materiality, she proposes ‘sensation’ as an analytical tool for illustrating what it feels like to be embedded in structures of domination such as patriarchy, colonialism, and racism and what it means to embody femininity, blackness, and pain. Sensational Flesh is ultimately about the ways in which difference is made material through race, gender, and sexuality and how that materiality is experienced.
The Color of Kink by Ariane Cruz
Though Cruz’s work primarily focuses on pornography and BDSM, this book still has a lot of interesting things to share about Black women, sexuality, and kink. Fairly academic, so I found it rather challenging to read, but I appreciated how she is writing from a very kink-positive perspective.
Winner of the MLA’s 2016 Alan Bray Prize for Best Book in GLBTQ Studies. How BDSM can be used as a metaphor for black female sexuality. The Color of Kink explores black women’s representations and performances within American pornography and BDSM (bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadism and masochism) from the 1930s to the present, revealing the ways in which they illustrate a complex and contradictory negotiation of pain, pleasure, and power for black women. … Based on personal interviews conducted with pornography performers, producers, and professional dominatrices, visual and textual analysis, and extensive archival research, Ariane Cruz reveals BDSM and pornography as critical sites from which to rethink the formative links between Black female sexuality and violence. She explores how violence becomes not just a vehicle of pleasure but also a mode of accessing and contesting power. Drawing on feminist and queer theory, critical race theory, and media studies, Cruz argues that BDSM is a productive space from which to consider the complexity and diverseness of black women’s sexual practice and the mutability of black female sexuality. Illuminating the cross-pollination of black sexuality and BDSM, The Color of Kink makes a unique contribution to the growing scholarship on racialized sexuality.
The Toybag Guide to Playing With Taboo by Mollena Williams
Intense little book, all about roleplaying and taboo kink. I have attended her workshop on playing with the taboo multiple times, so I often think of this as her workshop in a tiny, accessible book (though I’m not sure if she thinks of it this way). Excellent resource for pushing psychological limits and diving into your own taboo, safety, and psyche.
For those turned on to giving or receiving power, the hottest fantasies are often those that are the least acceptable — those that mirror historical oppression (Nazism, plantation slavery), crime (incest, ageplay, rape), and other “unacceptable” behaviors. Because these fantasies are deeply charged, they are among the riskiest and most challenging to enact. Yet it is possible, and often very rewarding, to do so. In this guide, Mollena Williams, a Black woman who enjoys roleplaying racism and slavery with the right person, explains ways to safeguard these difficult scenes to ensure the emotional and physical safety of all concerned. With sections on playing with sexual taboos like age and rape, cultural taboos like race and identity, and physical taboos like scat play, this is a thorough and responsible guide to BDSM’s furthest regions.
Playing Well With Others: Your Field Guide to Discovering, Navigating and Exploring the Kink, Leather and BDSM Communities by Mollena Williams and Lee Harrington
Co-written by Mollena and Lee Harrington, this book is such an excellent welcome to the kink communities. It’s a compilation of the best things someone could share with you at your very first kink event, all in a lovely book form. Wish I’d had it when I started out!
Whether you’re a trembling novice or a jaded expert, there’s always something new to be discovered in the endlessly changing, complex and titillating world of kink. While there are plenty of other books out there that explain how to give a spanking or tie a half-hitch, Playing Well With Others is the first book that explains kink *culture* — the munches, parties, leather bars, conferences, workshops, fetish nights, exploratoriums and all the other gatherings of kinksters that turn BDSM and leather from a bedroom predilection to a lifestyle and a community. You’ll learn to: • Examine your own motivations, needs, wants and desires • Ease your way into established communities • Understand etiquette in different adventurous sex communities • Familiarize yourself with the many types of events available to you • Care for your relationships as you explore new territory • Negotiate for play and aftercare • Go back to the “world at large” without ruffling feathers • …and, of course, answer the all-important question: What do you wear?! The team of Harrington and Williams offers 30-plus years of experience in diverse kink communities: top, bottom and switch; gay, bi and straight; female, male and trans; white and POC. Both former titleholders and international educators, they are an unbeatable pair of “sexual sherpas” with an inimitable voice and a great deal of wisdom. Playing Well With Others is an unprecedented and essential guidebook for anyone who wants to explore or understand the “community” aspect of the kink lifestyle.
Unequal Partnership: a dating guide for loving non-egalitarian relationships by Aisha-Sky Gates
This is a great text for folks new to consensual authority exchange and setting up relationships with different intentional hierarchies. Amazon claims it is one in a series, but as far as I know, this is the only one so far. Looking forward to more!
Do you want to create a long term and sustainable intimate relationship? Are you already dating or married and want to strengthen what you have? American society assumes that an egalitarian relationship is for everyone but the divorce rate is higher than fifty percent. The Unequal Partnership model has a deliberate consensual power imbalance as the main element of a strong foundation for the couple’s love. It’s an alternative option that might be a better fit for some. Unequal Partners set up a deliberate, consensual power imbalance in the relationship. Their agreements create mutual respect, relationship sustainability, and continuous support for individual growth. Their agreements create a strong foundation for their love and romance. Get your copy of Unequal Partnership now and see what a difference it can make in the pursuit of your and your partner’s personal happiness. Sometimes, an alternative lifestyle choice can be the key to creating a healthy, loving relationship.
To Love, to Obey, to Serve: Diary of an Old Guard Slave by V. M. Johnson
Buy it on Amazon (no actually please don’t, they’re listed at $900+)
Vi Johnson is quite well known and very well respected in leather communities, and this book is an incredible telling of her story. Unfortunately, it’s out of print! But I’ve heard rumors that they are going to re-release it, hopefully soon.
Within these pages are the real life experiences of an extraordinary woman as recorded in her journal. Vi Johnson is one of the most loved and respected women in the leather community. She entered the Leather s/m scene in the 1970’s as a slave. A slave’s duty was to Love, Honor, Please, and Obey, sometimes blindly, often at great personal cost. To own or life the life of a full time slave is, and has been, the stuff of s/m fantasies and erotic stories. The life recorded here reveals the realities, which are quite different from the fantasies. Most of all this is the journey of a woman following her dream.
Got any more recommendations for me? I’d love to hear them.
Have you read any of these books? Let us know your opinions on them in the comments.