It’s no secret at this point that I enjoy the kinkier side of things. BDSM has always been something that has interested me because there is something especially enjoyable about the power dynamics. And I enjoy seeing those dynamics in the fanfiction that I read, even when the fanfiction itself isn’t strictly BDSM.
There can be issues with power dynamics, of course; for example, most romance novels have some kind of power dynamics between the couple. Usually, the male holds a good portion of the power. This doesn’t necessarily mean the female love interest is docile in any way, although it is often the case in some novels. It’s been my experience that fandom likes when the less physically and/or socially powerful person is strong willed and intelligent and doesn’t take any crap from their more powerful counterpart. However, they usually still ultimately need their more powerful love interest. Even classics like Pride and Prejudice share this dynamic. Elizabeth doesn’t take Darcy’s shit, but ultimately he has more power in society than her, and it’s only with his help that Elizabeth’s family is able to escape a scandal that would have ruined them forever. The problem with these dynamics is that in mainstream pop culture, we largely see women in the less powerful role. And even in fanfiction, which usually focuses on queer relationships, the power dynamics still come off as heteronormative at times.
I suppose that one of the things that drew me to BDSM is that those power dynamics are out in the open and negotiated before the relationship begins. Rather than deal with societal understandings of who should be the dominant partner (men) and who should be the submissive (women), BDSM allows people to discuss what frankly all couples, whether kinky or vanilla, should be doing anyway. Since BDSM isn’t considered a quote-unquote “normal” part of society, there are fewer preconceived notions of how a relationship should be. But what if BDSM was the norm? Fanfiction often has a lot of alternate universes that I enjoy, but none moreso than AUs where BDSM is the norm. However, they bring with them a lot of interesting and problematic issues.