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Playing With Dolls Paperback – April 3, 2012
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover," illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Learn more
From the Author
Our society insists on equating "feminine male" with "gay."
About the Author
As a FemDom, I.G. Frederick knows first hand the beauty of symbiotic D/s relationships filled with love. As an observer she sees the many ways BDSM turns ugly. She writes about abusive and tragic interactions as Korin I. Dushayl. I.G. Frederick trades words for cash, specializing in erotic and transgressive fiction and poetry since 2001. Her erotic short stories appeared in Hustler Fantasies, Forum, Foreplay, and Desire Presents, as well as electronic, audio, and print anthologies. Her novels receive high praise from readers, critics, and other authors. Ms. Frederick, owns the man she adores who although dominant in the rest of his life, demonstrates his love by serving as her submissive. http://transgressivewriter.com
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Top customer reviews
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This is as much a story about gender as it is about sexuality. Jesse (never just Jess, if you please) is an effeminate young man who can best be described as genderqueer. He likes to do his own makeup, style his hair, wear skirts and blouses, and sport some very cute high heels. It's not because he feels he should have been born a woman, or because he dreams of the hormones and surgery that would change his gender, but because that is the gender expression with which he is most comfortable. There's no conflict here between his emotional/physical self, no regrets regarding his birth gender, and no burning desire to correct or alter something about himself. I so loved that he just prefers to express himself in a feminine manner, without attaching any emotional baggage to that expression.
Where there is a conflict, however, is in his sexuality. His parents have always assumed that such an effeminate boy must be gay, and the counsellor they see every week agrees. In fact, so do his friends, his classmates, and society in general. Since everybody assumes it, and continually assures him it must be the case, Jesse assumes that he must be gay. He dates cute boys, holds their hands, snuggles, kisses, and (when absolutely necessary) performs a little oral sex in the back seat to keep their minds off anything further. The problem is, he doesn't enjoy it. Figuring there must be something wrong with him, he finally agrees to give up his virginity on his eighteenth birthday, but suffering through the ordeal provides him no more pleasure than the obligatory oral sex.
Meanwhile, lesbian porn, along with the very public sexual escapades of his best friends, Ashleigh and Rachel, gives him the erection no man has ever managed to coax to life. The problem is, he's been so conditioned to accept that he's gay, he doesn't recognize what all this suggests about his own sexuality. Things begin to change when the girls press him into joining them with the local BDSM scene, but it's a slow process of discovery. He finds that the endorphin high of being whipped and flogged provides the comfort, the pleasure, and the emotional escape that sex has never achieved, but he can only achieve that bliss (and become hard) at the hands of a woman.
While being pushed into the BDSM scene is just another example of other people making assumptions and pressing him to do what they feel is best, it does provide Jesse with the opportunity to explore his gender and to discover his sexuality. It's not an easy process, and it introduces him to the confusion most of us struggle with during our adolescent years, but Frederick does a masterful job of slowly and carefully taking us through it. There's no single WOW moment that changes everything, just a few encounters that raise some questions, and some discussions that begin to erase the assumptions he's been saddled with. As Snakeman tells him at one point, "Allowing other people to identify and label you just disempowers you. You're the only one who can determine your orientation, sexual or top/dominant/bottom/submissive." That begins the process, but it's a long drive home with Lady Nell that finally opens his eyes once and for all, with the revelation, "What you wear, how you act, your speech -- none of that determines your sexuality."
There's so much going on beneath the surface of the story, that I'm reluctant to spoil more that I already have. Suffice to say, I see a lot of myself in Jesse, and a lot of my parents in his - particularly the way his mother rejects the expression of his gender at every turn, and the way his father bravely struggles to love and understand him no matter what. It's their final conversation that struck me so hard, with Dad coming to grips with the fact that his son isn't an effeminate gay man, but a straight submissive sissy with masochistic tendencies. As apologies go, I'm not sure there are any so sweet as, "I'm so sorry I made assumptions instead of letting you grow up and figure things out for yourself."
Over time Jesse explores his sexuality starting in a lackluster relationship with David, where he loses his virginity on his 18th birthday in a scene that is written in a way that easily conveys his disappointment with the encounter. He is then introduced to BDSM by a lesbian couple (Ashleigh and Rachel) that more or less accepts him unquestioningly, but thinks that they know what is best for him much like his parents believed. He does enjoy the experiences of "flying" that they provide. Ashleigh and Rachel pass him off to Tony, a leatherman who further brings him into a Dominant and submissive relationship. Jesse is unsure of this arrangement, but goes along with it and continues to let others decide for him. It's entertaining to watch his attempts to make the best of some scenes that he finds to be not quite the right experience for him.
In general I found the progression of encounters to be appropriately more exciting and sensual as Jesse discovers what he enjoys. The book is oddly insightful in regards to the main character's slow revelation of finding himself through gender expression and sexual exploration. He begins to assert himself by choosing a career and life path that he wants rather than appeasing his parents. I enjoyed the varying degrees of information on the BDSM community, and even the fact that some of the characters didn't quite know the proper guidelines that go along with BDSM, but that's also an aspect of Jesse's education. This book is a delightfully sexy read that effectively evolves into Jesse pursuing possibilities for himself rather than just accepting what others have planned out for him.