Sex in C Major by Matthew J. Metzger will not be an easy read for anyone. It is aptly labeled as “dark” and Metzger is speaking truth by doing so. It is extreme in its kink and BDSM elements complete with consensual rape fantasies, multiple sexual partners, and what is a fairly mind-boggling interpretation of the Master/slave relationship. No, this novel will definitely not be everyone’s cup of tea, but despite that it is an important piece of work—very important, as it is an amazing window into aromantic, asexual, and transgender people. It is also deeply disturbing to watch a person so steeped in self-hatred that they balance on the cusp of what many would call suicidal behavior when it comes to self-preservation. I am speaking of the lead character, Stefan, a pre-operative transgender man who is trapped inside a body he hates, yet one that brings him such incredible sexual release—a release he craves with every fiber of his being.
Stefan was thrown away by a mother who never really wanted him, but tolerated the fact that she had a child whose father was essentially non-existent. He has lived on his own since he was seventeen and is barely surviving. Due to a national health system that takes forever to help just about anyone who is not at death’s door, least of all a person needing hormone prescriptions to begin transitioning, Stefan has taken to the internet for a sketchy contraband version of the same and begun the process without a doctor’s care. Living on what is tantamount to welfare, he drinks and smokes weed to keep himself from going over the edge as the hormone injections send his sex drive into an insatiable need that must be fulfilled. Hence, Stefan tends to get drunk and go hunting for someone to make him feel the pain he so greatly desires—the pain that will scratch the itch and he lives oh so dangerously while doing so.
On one such excursion, Stefan meets Daz, who begins a relationship with him that will ultimately lead to Stefan finding his Master and becoming the sex toy he so desperately wishes to be—a slave to be used, filled, and tortured, but also made to feel safe. And oh how Stefan needs to feel safe, not loved—for he is aromantic, but definitely safe and he will go to any lengths to have that and trust me when I tell you that he does and this novel explains it all in highly graphic detail. Along the way we will meet Yannis, Daz’s lover, who is himself asexual and more than understanding of his boyfriend’s need to have a sexual partner. Theirs is a relationship that takes some time to grasp, but makes complete sense as this story unfolds. This trio of men will explore some of the darkest places imaginable all with absolute consent on Stefan’s part and the strictest of rules. It often feels as thought what ever Daz says goes and he is unrelenting unless Stefan safewords and then all play stops. Perhaps the word play is a misnomer in this case for there are times in this book when I literally stopped breathing wondering if Stefan would finally halt what often appears to be sheer madness on his part when it comes to rough and dangerous sex.
So why is this book so important and why was I unable to put it down despite my horror at the way in which Daz controlled and, yes, physically damaged his slave? Because this novel was a work in progress—it was the unraveling of years of self-loathing, self-destructive behavior, and a sense of utter despair that had haunted Stefan unmercifully. In many ways this story was the metamorphosis of a person shedding an identity that he was not born into and becoming the man he was meant to be all along. While you may shudder and be repelled by the way in which he makes this transition, it is an undeniable fact that this gritty, dark novel is one of the most brutally honest depictions of what one man needed to go through to begin to understand his body, his emotions, and to learn how to love himself.
There was only one time in this novel where I felt the author crossed the line and took the decision making process away from Stefan. You can argue that he was often so far into his own head and self-hating that his ability to monitor his life was beyond his grasp, but I would beg to differ. Daz very importantly made sure that Stefan’s safeword was always there—always a way out for Stefan and he did use it on rare occasion and when it was uttered it usually signaled yet another breakthrough for Stefan hard on it’s heels. However, at one point in the novel I felt that Daz held up the safeword as a punishment, fully knowing that if Stefan used it that all would end, that the Master he so desperately needed would turn him away and the sounding of the word meant the end to everything.
Given that Stefan needed Daz and Yannis like the air he breathed by that point, I felt Daz manipulated the situation for the very first time and it struck a wrong chord in an otherwise very precise and planned relationship. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific about this particular scene, especially since there is more than one moment in the novel where Stefan is presented with the idea that uttering his safeword will actually indicate he wants out of the Master/slave contract. Suffice it to say that I viewed the other times as valid and well thought out, but in this one particular instance it seemed to border on blackmail. In such a long novel with more than it’s fair share of stunningly brutal scenarios, I think it says much about this author’s extreme care for the subject matter that there was only this one occasion where I felt Stefan was emotionally mistreated.
Sex in C Major is a bit like that documentary one watches where you feel so engrossed in the story that you cannot look away even though you often feel heartsick at what is happening to the hero of the story. This is not an easy book. No, it definitely should be approached with an open mind and great care, but I will say that it is brilliantly written, brutally honest and, yes, again, very important.