Painful pleasures: Sacrifice, consent, and the resignification of BDSM symbolism in The Story of O and The Story of Obi


  • Anne Kustritz Macalester College



BDSM, Bondage, Chivalry, Erotic domination, Fan fiction, Informed consent, Masochism, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Qui-Gon Jinn, Sadism, Sexual binaries, Sexual coercion, Sexual consent, Sexual difference, Sexual slavery, Slash, Star Wars, The Story of O, Submission


This paper examines slash fan fiction's contributions to BDSM discourses and symbolism. BDSM is culturally delegitimated as a sexual pathology, and protest against it highlights broad concerns about sexual consent within patriarchy while also misdirecting unease about sexual coercion onto the ritualized and eroticized exchange of power rather than social systems of domination. Contrasting the BDSM classic The Story of O with The Story of Obi, a Star Wars–based slash rewrite, facilitates a conceptual separation between erotic domination and the historical and cultural contexts that give shape to individual enunciations of sexualized power exchange, particularly by shifting from a psychoanalytic paradigm to consideration of chivalric "suffering for love." By calling upon the extensive shared knowledge of fan readers and the symbolism attached to the sexual conjunction of two same-sexed bodies, authors of slash fan fiction produce a constantly proliferating array of BDSM representations that challenge the speciation of erotic domination as an inherently destructive, unidirectional deadlock. They thus create unique narrative and semiotic tools for rethinking erotic uses of power.

Author Biography

Anne Kustritz, Macalester College

Anne Kustritz recently completed a PhD at the University of Michigan, American Culture Department, and she received her BA in Cultural Studies and Psychology from the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation combined post-structuralist, public sphere, queer, and other cultural studies theory with cyberethnographic study of slash fan fiction communities. Her research interests include creative fan practices, copyright, sexuality, representation, and constructions of deviance and desire.