If you have any interest in BDSM, you may have heard of the book Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism by Philip Miller and Molly Devon. Having heard so many good things about this book, I’ve wanted to read it for some time, and thanks to FunWares I’ve finally had the opportunity.
I’m happy to say it lives up to the hype. This book is an in-depth exploration, discussion, and how to guide of sadomasochism and what many of us refer to as BDSM. BDSM stands for Bondage & Discipline, Dominance & submission (D/s), and Sadism & Masochism. These four little letters encompass a wide range of practices and this book discusses some of them in great detail. Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns is written by Philip Miller, a well-practiced dominant, and Molly Devon, a masochistic submissive. Having a great deal of experience in these roles, Philip and Molly are as experts in their own form of sadomasochism, which they share with all of us through this book.
Like many of those who participate in sadomasochistic practices, Philip and Molly subscribe to the motto, “safe, sane, and consensual”. To this end, they are committed to providing information on what to do as well as what not to do. In Chapter 10 there is a very thorough discussion of where and where not to hit, with detailed explanations and diagrams. For example, “The inside of the thighs are very sensitive. They are safe to hit, but be aware that the pain potential is quite high here.” and “Avoid hitting the lower back. The kidneys are attached directly to the muscle wall there and can be easily bruised or damaged.”
Throughout Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns, Philip and Molly emphasize the important of communication between partners. Communication defines everything in BDSM relationship, where misunderstandings can lead to more than just a little spat.
Though they tend refer to dominants and “he” and submissives as “she”, mirroring their own perspective and for the sake of ease, Philip and Molly clearly state their acceptance of all people into BDSM regardless of gender or sexual persuasion.
This book is much longer and more detailed than I expected. Coming in at a whopping 277 pages, this book measures 8 1/2″ by 11″ and contains mountains of information, drawings, and photographs. With 13 chapters and six appendices, Philip and Molly have created a massive treatise on their way practice of sadomasochism. From the chapter list you can see the discussions range from the practical how to’s to the esoteric why’s of it all, and everything in between.
1. Gee, Toto, I Don’t Think We Are In Kansas Anymore
2. Sexual Magic- Why We DO DO That Voodoo
3. The Politics of Very Strange Bedfellows- Sensible SM Relationships and Dangerous Liaisons
4. “You Want To Worship My What???”- Negotiation and Relationships
5. Straight Facts and Bent Phalluses- Sexual Attitudes
6. Non-Government Sanctioned Sex and Torture
7. Get Them By the Balls: Their Hearts and Minds Will Follow- Bondage Theory
8. Of Human Bondage- Bondage Techniques
9. Philip’s Philosophy of Phlogging Phun- The Corporal Dimension
10. When the Inner Child Deserves a Spanking- Philip’s (and Phriend’s) Phurther Pheelings on Phlogging
11. It’s Only Pain, Dear, and It’s Only Yours- Why Take A Long Road To Enlightenment, When You Can Haul Ass On A Super Highway?
12. Making the Upper Cheeks Red- Embarrassment, Humiliation, and the Mind Fuck
13. Furnishing Your Dungeon
Chapters 1 & 2 discuss the basics of Dominance/submission, providing definitions of the different terms and explaining through examples what D/s is, discussing communication and respect, and beginning to explore the idea mental flying.
Chapter 3 focuses on the different types of people one may run across while navigating the BDSM world in search for potential partners. It provides helpful hints on meeting people online and face to face and remaining safe in one’s search.
Chapter 4 explores compatibility in D/s relationships and different levels of power exchange, as well as activity questionnaires, and service agreements. It also addresses a false statement I’ve heard over and over in my own exploration, “real submissives don’t have limits”, and discusses abusive relationships.
In Chapter 5, Philip and Molly discuss the differences between men and women, abandoning traditional sex roles, and focusing on what you really want with and from your partner.
Chapter 6 begins an exploration of sex toys and BDSM practices, such as nipple clamps, anal training and play, and fisting.
In Chapter 7, we learn the basics of bondage from safety to making a plan, to the very important ten rules of bondage, example: #7 “Never cross pulse points with direct pressure from rope.” Philip and Molly even provide a Dominant’s how-to for the first session with his submissive.
Chapter 8 has great images and explanations on how to tie bondage knots and even demonstrates how to make a rope dress. We also delve into plastic wrap bondage, cuffs, gags, blindfolds, and sensory deprivation.
In Chapters 9 & 10, we begin an in depth exploration of flogging and spanking, including how-to’s, discussions of implements, positioning, and preparing. We are also introduced to Phiip’s Ten Commandments of Flagellation.
Chapter 11 is one of my favorites because it discusses the dichotomy of pleasure and pain and the concept of “flying”, or what some people call “subspace”.
Chapter 12, also one of my faves, focuses on the mental aspect of BDSM, creating physical and emotional reactions to mental stimuli. We explore humiliation through an incident from Philip and Molly’s lives and Dominant and submissive. It is clearly told and then masterfully analyzed.
The final chapter, Chapter 13, introduces us briefly to public and professional play spaces and instructs us on how to create our own play space. It discusses everything from suspension cuffs, to different types of sex toys, to where to get your goodies, and has diagrams on making your own cuffs, whips, spreader bars, and even a sex sling. Philip and Molly even discuss how to travel with your toys advise caution when traveling overseas due to laws regulating the importation of sexually related articles. That probably wouldn’t have even occurred to me!
Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns has a thorough glossary as well as multiple appendices that provide lists of support groups, stores, and recommended reading. The recommended reading is helpful, but the stores and groups list haven’t been updated since 1999, so much of the information is not current, especially the information on computer bulletin boards.
Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns Pros:
• Excellent information
• Real life examples
• Easy to read
Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns Cons:
• Appendices are dated
To my mind, this book covers more than just sadomasochism. It really does hit on all the aspects of BDSM. Not being a BDSM newbie, I’ve learned much more than expected from Forget the Roses, Send Me the Thorns. It’s interesting, insightful, applicable, and accepting. It teaches dominants safe and respectable practices, while teaching submissives how to protect themselves along their journey. It is well put together and easy to navigate. The chapters are organized such that they build upon each other, but at the same time you can easily skip around to read bits and pieces with feeling lost.
This book is an excellent primer for those who are just starting out, as well helping more experienced players expand their abilities. I think everyone can learn from this book and it definitely belongs on the shelf of anyone who has an interest or invests their time in BDSM play or the lifestyle. Fortunately, it’s available for a great price at FunWares!