Apr 18 2012 9:30am

Mastering the Classics: Spanking in Pride and Prejudice?

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. JamesYou would think that no one had ever written an erotic romance before.

All of a sudden, everyone’s buzzing about Fifty Shades of Grey, the ebook that started life as a fan fic of Twilight. (For anyone too busy monitoring Middle East affairs to have checked the entertainment news, the author, E.L. James, recast Twilight’s vampire hero as a dominant entrepreneur and made the heroine of legal age to consent to being tied up, punished, and pleasured. )

Despite the fact that the writing is as subtle as a Victoria’s Secret thong, with more eye-rolling than Al Jolson’s Jazz Singer, Fifty Shades of Grey has an undeniable appeal. First of all, it’s straightforward. In a time when so many romances seem to have wildly complex plots featuring mad scientists, Russian gangsters, evil cults, or terrorist networks, Fifty Shades keeps all the conflict focused in on hero and heroine. It’s like an old school Harlequin, the kind Violet Winspear used to write, with the shy but spunky innocent coed and the jaded, sophisticated, domineering boss who has to learn that women aren’t just playthings.

Second of all, Fifty Shades basically contains a beginner’s primer for BDSM (which stands for bondage, discipline, dominance and submission, and shouldn’t be confused with DBMS, which stands for database management systems, and has a much less exciting wardrobe.) Did you know you should have not one, but two safe words? How can you find a good contract template that spells out your hard and soft limits? What do you do if you like the idea of being disciplined for being a naughty, naughty girl but don’t enjoy even a lick of pain? Fifty Shades answers all these questions.

Bound by Honor by Colette GaleClearly, BDSM is the new vampire in town. For those of us not particularly obsessed with Twilight, there are countless other possibilities. In my heated obsession with the tortured, oh-so-dominant Guy of Gisborne as played by Richard Armitage, I discovered Colette Gale’s Bound by Honor: An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian, and then devoured Master: An Erotic Novel of the Count of Monte Cristo, and Unmasqued: An Erotic Novel of The Phantom of the Opera.

But what about BDSM versions of other classics? Jane Austen and spanking—a natural combination. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Jane had spanking scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and took them out in a burst of self-censorship right before sending the manuscript off to the publisher. Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew could have benefited from a contract spelling out hard and soft limits, and the BBC’s modern version (with a brilliant turn by Rufus Sewell as a charming, impoverished, slightly mad aristocrat) stopped short of the bedroom.

And that’s just the beginning. Lord of the Rings. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South. Lady Chatterley’s Lover…yes, I know it has sex already, but mostly of the transcendental variety. And how about Downton Abbey? I can just see Lady Mary, confessing to Matthew that they cannot be together, because she has certain…unspeakable desires. He could never understand.

Shadowheart by Laura KinsaleOn second thought, that might not work. Lady Mary strikes me more as a top than a bottom, and mainstream readers are probably not yet ready for a masculine, seductive hero who longs to be the one tied up and disciplined. (For those who are so inclined, there’s Laura Kinsale’s rule-breaking Shadowheart.)

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to go off and fantasize about a bow-wielding heroine trapped in a vast arena along with a hero who claims to love her, but might really be poised to kill her. Let the games begin!

Which classics would you like to see kinked up?

Alisa Kwitney is a former editor at Vertigo/DC comics. She writes romantic women’s fiction, YA and graphic novels, and (as Alisa Sheckley) writes sf/fantasy.  You can visit her at

E.L. James's Fifty Shades Trilogy: ‹ previous | index | next ›
Jane's World: ‹ previous | index | next ›
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Heather Waters
1. HeatherWaters
In fact, I’m pretty sure that Jane had spanking scenes in Pride and Prejudice, and took them out in a burst of self-censorship right before sending the manuscript off to the publisher.
I love this whole post, but especially this line. Ha!

Hmm, what other classics? Jane Eyre? Wuthering Heights? It doesn't seem like a huge leap to cast Mr. Rochester and Heathcliff as Doms...
Vanessa Ouadi
2. Lafka
My, my, my, funny to see that my mind is not the only one to turn downright wicked about literature once in a while ;-)
I must admit that I've more than once thought that Darcy and Elizabeth would definitely be into spanking-games behind close doors!
And Scarlet O'Hara is such an annoying wench, she could use a bit discipline from Rhett.
Shaw's Pygmalion could have been about teaching more than just diction and manners to Eliza.
Wouldn't have Anna Karenina been filled with even more angst if her affair with Vronsky had been about BDSM?
How would have Jane Eyre turned out if Rochester's secret was of a very different nature?
Other Bronte, other tortured hero I could definitely picture as a Dom : Wuthering Heights' Heathcliff.

BTW, I've really liked Colette Gale's books, though she does take huge liberties with the original stories _ I mean, liberties that go beyond the necessary kink-up rewritting.
Megan Frampton
3. MFrampton
Now I want to write something inspired by this post--I actually was always curious what might have happened to the studious, pedantic Bennet sister, Mary--maybe she found someone who really got her out of her shell? In intriguing ways?
Of course, that's another post, but I do have to admit (as a shy occasional pedant) that I feel bad for Mary, overshadowed by her sisters. Maybe all she really needed was a pair of black leather pants and some kohl.
Alisa Kwitney
5. AlisaKwitney
While a sexed up Wharton or James novel might be fun, the one I really want to read is North and South (Gaskell version) with arrogant, austere, self-made man John Thornton showing the socially superior Margaret Hale the unexpected pleasures of the nasty, brutish North.
Annabel Joseph
6. Annabel Joseph
I just had to post and say...sigh...Shadowheart. I am not even into male submission most of the time but Allegreto...ooohhhh.

I have to say as a BDSM freakazoid, I also got majorly turned on by Jervaulx in Kinsale's Flowers from the Storm. He could be very commanding...there was that nice scene when he cornered her, I think it was in the library.

As for what book I would love to be kinkified, I have to be a nerd and say Rand's We the Living. Leo was a natural dom. Gone with the Wind needs kinking up also. Someone could make a killing doing that.
Annabel Joseph
7. Coleen K.
Collette Gale has 2 new ebooks about Jane in the Jungle. I've downloaded them but not read them yet, if they are as good as her other 3 I will love them!
Annabel Joseph
8. alexanderdsoso
Jane Eyre already has some decent top bottom power issues, honestly. I could totally see some fun bondage with Jane and Mr. Rochester. Only, I see Mr. Rochester as subbing from the top, being the bottom, but ordering Jane what to do to her...

Ooo, delightful idea. I think the missus and I might write that!
Annabel Joseph
9. pamelia
I'm going to go meta and suggest Hardy's "Tess of the D'urvbervilles".
Annabel Joseph
10. AlisaKwitney
I didn't realize that Ms. Gale had new books out! There's not enough classic smut out there -- maybe we really should all go and write our Master-piece Theatre scenes.
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