Review: Sex in C Major by Matthew J. Metzger

Stefan has ... fantasies.

He knows chasing those fantasies is only going to end in disaster, but he can't seem to stop his self-destructive spiral. He’s a transgender man struggling to come to terms with the intersection of his identity and his sexual fantasies as a submissive. He needs someone to take control before he loses it completely.

Daz can take control. He can teach Stefan everything there is to know about sex and submission, but for some reason, he can't get inside Stefan's head. Daz can stop Stefan’s self-destruction but not the fear that fuels it.

Stefan needs to know who he is before he can accept what he is. And it's Yannis -- Daz's aromantic, asexual, stern, and sarcastic partner -- who has the answer.

I'm not going to rate this mostly because I don't know how to as it defies the rating scale. It's not particularly "likable" nor is it a romance in the traditional sense. Were there a disturbing rating scale this would blow the lid off that, because Sex in C Major is truly disturbing on multiple levels. I'm guessing that lingering feeling of unease was the objective, though.

Stefan narrates this story and gives us an inside look at his struggles with gender dysphoria, depression and coming to terms with his desires. Shunned by his family when he came out as trans, he's now living off the government in a shithole apartment, has no friends, no job and spends a lot of time drunk or high futilely searching the interwebs for someone to fulfill his fantasies.

One drunken night he comes across Daz, word vomits his darkest secrets, one thing leads to another and he winds up Daz's slave. The BDSM content is extreme (humiliation, breath play, force play, bondage, sensory deprivation, biting, face fucking, chastity, orgasm denial, sharing and some blood play) and for the most part I had no issues with it. Sure, some scenes squicked me but it was mostly in regards to hygiene. That alley scene... *shudders* GAWDDAMN! Suffice to say, most of the kink fell outside of what appeals to me. However this was my most successful experience with objectification which is saying a lot because that is a hard limit for me.

In many ways Daz is his savior and their power exchange brings with it dependency which was difficult for me for two reasons: (a) there's no romantic connection between them, and (b) there's an uncomfortable level of BDSM being used as a cure for mental illness.

Sex in C Major is heavy on the sex, especially in the beginning. The sex is typically painful, leaving Stefan bleeding usually and always bareback. I don't have a problem with barebacking but when you're sharing your toy I would've thought a conversation to be a prudent idea. Make no mistake, Stefan delights in all of this. Until it's over. This is where things started to get sticky for me.

As I said, the kink wasn't problematic so much as the person engaging in the kink. Stefan's relationship to kink is toxic. His relationship with himself is toxic. His relationship with his own body is toxic. He's got impulse control issues, engages in self-harm and oftentimes feels suicidal, thereby making it impossible to have a "healthy" relationship with a master/dom. As troubling as I found this there is an authenticity and genuineness that Metzger brings to Stefan that makes him credible and sympathetic. Even though I didn't particularly like reading this book that doesn't negate the phenomenal job Metzger did showing the underbelly of a character who is in the muck, lost and on the razor's edge of winding up six feet under. However, there was something I found hard to swallow and borderline offensive and that was his fixation on "men" not being submissive, not wanting to be used, etc. For argument's sake let's say I believe that he only watches straight porn. If you're inclinations are kinky chances are you're going to watch kinky porn, right? Kinky straight porn is still going to net you domme/slave/sub porn which is rife with humiliation and pain, so this plot device rang as dramatic and contrived.

Regardless, Stefan's relationship to sex and kink made him very one note. If he's not engaged in some sex act or thinking about sex or masturbating then he's hating himself for his "sick" desires which made him... dull. Once he hits rock bottom and spirals into prostitution he mostly makes peace with the fact that he needs to be owned/used and then he becomes the vapid pet sitting naked on the rug. In a nutshell, he's not a well rounded person and he depressed the fuck out of me. So there's that. What's more, he never really endeavors to get to know Daz or Yan, so I never really get to know them on more than a superficial level. I think I like Yan and I was dogged by sympathetic feelings towards Daz, because he seems to have oodles of love to give and no one to take it, but I could be wrong. Who knows? They do seemingly forge a bond over the course of the story so... *shrugs*

Lastly, I think an editor or a mouthy beta could've done wonders to balance this story out. I found it overlong with some points beaten into the ground while others I'm still wondering how they were resolved like the pregnancy and sharing things. I've no idea whether or not this is indicative of Metzger's style or if it was engineering as part of Stefan's characterization, but at a certain point the repeating thing became less of a dramatic emphasis on certain points and more a bromide.

But I did like the creative uses of music.

I've no idea who to recommend this to but if any of the above appeals I can assure you that Sex in C Major is not a book easily forgotten.

A review copy was provided.

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