In the Afterword, I requested feedback from readers about what they liked and didn’t like in the story. The responses have been very useful and interesting. Here is a summary of what readers have said, along with some insights into the differences between some groups of readers in how they feel about the story.
The first two questions I asked are about the ending of the story and the emotional realism of the characters.
Male and female readers are about equally split on whether the end of the story came too quickly, but they have very different opinions about whether the emotional arc of the characters felt real. About 80% of women readers found the characters’ emotions very compelling, while men are split 50/50 on this question. It may be that women have a deeper emotional connection to the story.
Many readers have grown attached to the characters and want to know more about them. There are some interesting differences, however, in how different groups of readers feel about the characters. I asked which secondary characters were so compelling that readers would like to see them in their own story.
Serena and Mistress Amy are the favorite secondary characters, but there are some important differences in their fan bases. For instance, less than a quarter of female submissives want to see more of Mistress Amy, while 100% of female dominants, unsurprisingly, want to see more about her.
Kelley, from the tournament chapter, captured the hearts of nearly half of the male readers. When it comes to female readers, however, she doesn’t get much love. Kelley’s gleeful embrace of being a sex toy for others to use seems far more attractive to men than women, which probably shouldn’t be a surprise.
Deborah’s story seems to primarily appeal to submissive women who are active in BDSM. The challenges facing Deborah seem to resonate for these women. Other women readers are not as drawn to her. It may also be the case for many readers that Deborah’s love of urine-play makes her story less attractive.
When it comes to sexuality, readers have some clear likes and dislikes.
In general, readers love the wide variety of sexual activities in the story. There are only four activities with significantly more negative reactions than positive reactions: urine play, pony play, lactation play, and same sex between men. Of these four, urine-play clearly has the greatest “yuk” factor.
There are also some interesting differences between groups of readers in their enjoyment of some activities.
As might be expected, readers who participate in the BDSM lifestyle greatly enjoy some of the harsher scenes in Summer Hire, such as spanking, caning, and whipping. Other readers are a bit less enthusiastic about the joys of corporal punishment.
Even among readers with BDSM experience, there are differences of opinion about some activities. The most dramatic example is public sex, which women in BDSM seem to enjoy much more than men in BDSM. For men and women who are not in BDSM, those men prefer public sex slightly more than those women. Perhaps BDSM men are more self-conscious.
When it comes to same-sex activity, Summer Hire is very accepting and positive about same-sex activity for both men and women. The depiction and frequency of same-sex scenes between men is muted, however, compared to the scenes between women. This split follows the general inclinations of readers. About two thirds of readers love Summer Hire’s depiction of sexuality between women, which holds true for both female and male readers. Only one in five readers have the same enthusiasm for sexuality between men. Interestingly, the one group that really enjoys reading about two men together are women who are not part of the BDSM lifestyle.
Another fascinating difference between groups is with lactation play. Almost a third of the male readers love the scene of Mistress Amy milking Yvette, who is the serving woman in the chapter “On Display”. It may not come as a complete surprise that the vast majority of women reading this scene do not share the same level of enthusiasm.
Women readers, however, are more enthusiastic than men about several activities that are usually assumed to have greater appeal to men. About three quarters of women readers profess to loving: ‘deep throat’ oral sex, anal sex, oral/anal sex, and double penetration. Women in BDSM generally like those activities about 10% to 15% more than women who are not in BDSM, but well over 60% of women readers who are not in BDSM still say they love ‘deep throat’ oral sex, anal sex, oral/anal sex, and double penetration.
There are some areas, however, where BDSM and non-BDSM women disagree:
The most extreme difference in viewpoints is how women feel about face slapping. Over half of non-BDSM women readers hate face slapping, but more than half of women submissives say they love having their face slapped. All of the women dominates love face slapping. These sorts of differences in opinion exist across most BDSM activities, but the societal baggage associated with face slapping seems to drive these differences to their polar extremes.
The final question I asked is whether readers want me to write more stories and whether they are willing to pay for those stories. The answer is that everyone wants to read more of my stories, but only men who are not part of BDSM are actually willing to pay for them. Two-thirds of these men would pay Amazon’s $2.99 minimum price for an e-book. Everyone else says that even though they would like me to write another story, they wouldn’t pay to read it [grumble, grumble; followed by small violin playing sad song]. I suppose I’ll have to keep my day job.