Xan West @ Kink Praxis wrote last month about Independent Body Parts in Erotic Fiction.
In writing, an independent body part, or “IBP”, is “when your hand or cock or mouth, etc. move on their own.”
The distinction, then, between writing, “My foot twitched,” as opposed to, “I twitched my foot.” The first is an independent body part, the second is me using my body part.
Xan discusses the use of IBP in Xan’s own writing, and comes up with the idea that it is useful when volition is in question: Xan’s IBP represents either instinctive reactions, or a dichotomy of the will (wanting one thing but doing another, or following an emotional impulse that is at odds with what the rational mind says to do).
Xan presents several examples that roughly fit into another type of IBP, which is the “focus of awareness” use:
At one of the early peaks of this scene, she is struggling and not sure she can take it. (It being rough sex.) His hand anchors her, connects her to him, helps her stay with it. So, in this passage, it acts on it’s own:
Of course, this prompted me to go back to the sex scenes from my WiP, and the erotic short stories I’ve written. How have I tended to use IBP?
From a 10k word story I wrote about three years ago, a Master trains his slave to give him a caning:
It was almost unconscious, her reaction. The training with the spankings, with the techniques, with the aim: it all sprang into action immediately. Her wrist flicked back and forth swiftly, the cane whistled briefly in the air before – crack! – it landed across his bare bottom.
This time, she was ready for it, the action was deliberate and chosen – but not markedly different from before as again she flicked her wrist to smack the cane against her Master’s behind.
These two events happen just four lines of dialogue apart, but the first is IBP (“her wrist flicked back and forth”) while the second is not (“she flicked her wrist”). I don’t need to provide much analysis. The explanation for the difference is in the quoted text (and if I were to edit it to submit somewhere, I would probably delete a lot of the extra explanations that I found when I reread it for this post). The first time, she instinctively obeys a command. The second time, she thinks about what she is doing. As Xan says, it raises questions of volition when IBP is used. Much of the story focusses on the slave’s conflict between her perceived role and her obedience to her Master’s command to cane him.
The caning concludes:
“Hit -” he paused, but June’s hand didn’t. Her wrist had flicked again and she only just stopped herself from landing the blow as she realised he hadn’t finished the command.
A simple example of how IBP represents the conflict between the rational and the instinctive.
My main usage, though, is about focus of attention. In my WiP, most of the novel is written from the 3rd person perspective of the submissive character. For example, in the first sex scene, she is blindfolded. Almost the entire scene has her relating not to her partner, but to the ways in which she becomes aware of his presence and his actions. Thus, his body parts appear independently. She can’t see him, only feel where he touches her.
In a moment, Thomas filled the doorway. He showed her a blindfold. She blinked and nodded. The world turned black as he tied the band securely over her eyes.
Satisfied that she really was helpless, she composed herself again. She took a deep breath when his warm hands rested on her shoulders. He was close enough that when she wiggled her fingers in the cuffs, she imagined she could feel the hard tip of his cock just out of reach. He pressed downwards.
“Open wide!” His cheerful tone broke Jo’s reverie. She grinned and opened her mouth for him. His hand gripped her hair and guided her head to meet his cock. She took a deep breath to prepare herself as she sensed its head about to enter.
Her Master’s hand pushed on her back between her shoulder blades to keep her still. Master kicked her shins and knees apart and she spread her legs willingly. He knelt behind her, his legs between hers, forcing them wider still. His fingers stroked her labia and teased them apart. She moaned. He brushed the tip of his cock against her cunt.
As more of her Master touches her, she feels more connected to him, and I use less IBP to describe what’s going on, as shown by the last snippet. The fingers are independent here because they give a new and unexpected sensation that receives her full attention. But once her awareness is focussed there, she ascribes motive to her partner (he does the brushing, rather than his cock doing it by itself).
I believe I will rework the scene in my third draft to reduce the IBP references, but the purpose here is to illustrate the point.
In a short(ish) erotic story I’m playing with at the moment and will probably serialise on this blog once I’m happy with it (so these are just extracts from a first draft), I have another scene with a blindfolded POV character, and again, IBP is used to capture the lack of knowledge of surroundings. The character has been found guilty of betraying her community, and sentenced to banishment. Magic must be performed on her body before she is expelled, and she is not allowed to know the identities of those responsible for administering the punishment (thus, only “First Voice” and “Second Voice”):
She flinched when she felt a hand pat her head.
“There, there, creature. This will soon be done. Everything we meet is innocent, isn’t that right, beloved? But we’re just here to be the arm of the Sisterhood, to do what a Sister cannot. And gladly, we serve our nieces, don’t we?” First Voice finished with a cackle. Faline felt fingernails stroke her cheeks and despite the fire and her self-control, she shivered.
Faline swallowed hard, the words sticking in her mouth like the gag now soaked in her spit. She felt their fingers begin to daub designs on her body using some kind of cold, wet slime.
“Kneel,” Second Voice commanded. Faline struggled to obey with her arms bound behind her back, but managed to keep her balance well enough.
“Spread your legs,” the voice commanded. Faline turned her head towards the voice, but the blindfold gave no hints and the question in her gesture was ignored. Instead, a bare foot tapped the insides of her knees. Faline ignored the hollow sensation in her chest and eased her thighs apart. The foot continued to tap each knee in turn until Faline spread herself as wide as she could.
Faline felt someone’s body close behind her. The person moved closer and Faline felt her breasts against her upper arms, and her hands cupping her bottom. Someone else knelt between her knees. She turned her head from side to side, hoping her ears would pick up further clues.
Faline heard water splashing. Second Voice’s smooth hands “invaded” (that concept, again) Faline’s proud places, in which Magdala had rejoiced with her. But there was no rejoicing, or concern, here. This was altogether different. Cold, methodical, uncaring: every nightmare that Sisters told of the Esteemed Aunts.
Of course, by making the “Esteemed Aunts” be represented by IBP, I hope I also emphasised the menace that Faline associates with them. Initially, she isn’t even sure which action belongs with which voice (although later in the scene, she figures it out, as the final snippet shows). For clarity, because the sentence that explains is clipped, “Proud places” is, in the imagined culture, a synonym for crotch and/or genitalia (when the story is ready to share fully, I’ll explain the language choices).
In general, therefore, my use of IBP seems to be about what is happening in the mind of the POV character. It is either about volition versus instinct or reflex, or it’s about showing limited information and perspective. I noticed a recurring theme or phrase that, at first glance, doesn’t fit. From the novel scene quoted above, there’s:
His hips pushed. Her cunt stretched and accepted him.
And from Tucked Away, the scene I recently shared on this blog:
She leans over him, pushes his shoulders down with her hand. Her hips push. He moans.
I seem to like writing hips that push independently to start penetrative sex! In part, I think it’s just that “Zie pushed from hir hips” feels 66.7% longer than “Hir hips pushed”. I like the rhythm of the short sentence that briefly takes out volition and just describes what you would see/feel. In the novel, I can argue that once again, it’s talking about what she feels and her sensations rather than the will that’s causing them. Because “Tucked Away” comes from the top’s perspective and the person whose hips pushed is the POV character, it’s harder to make that justification for it.
But digging deeper, and thinking about what I felt when I was writing it, the sense in my mind I believe is echoed in how I experience (or at least, recall) those moments during sex. There really is a sense of being detached from my body, or entirely concentrated within the moving part, so using IBP expresses that feeling. Other instances and other scenes feel more like “I pushed from my hips”, so I would write it that way as well. So the IBP hip thrust is another form of expressing volition and consciousness, though this time it depicts something about an “altered state”.
My conclusion is much the same as Xan’s: “Like any tool, IBP can be used badly, overused, and grate when the entire genre is taken over by overuse. That doesn’t mean we throw it out though.” Although it seems to negate the mind, when used deliberately or mindfully, it can portray a mental state more clearly than other forms, and is part of that golden rule: “show, don’t tell”.