Is It Hypnosis? – Part Twenty-One

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Having heard a compliment about this series recently, I decided it was time to go back and look at another chunk of stories that feature “real” hypnosis to see how real it really is, and to offer advice on the ethicality of any that seem potentially doable because the last thing I want to do is to say, “Oh, yeah, you could probably achieve some real results by locking someone in your cedar closet for a year with nothing to do but watch the brainwashing spirals” without mentioning OH GOD NO. So let’s get started, shall we?

Miles Away: I’d like to say that this is at least mildly plausible, because it’s a personal favorite of mine and I think that it’s very well-written and very sexy. I’d like to pretend that sure, if Debbie really had a thing for Kurt all this time the way she said she did and her subconscious understood that this was going to get that need met, it might override her conscious objections to hypnosis. I’d love to say that hey, sure, maybe we don’t see it, but these two have had a long-term hypnkinky relationship going and she’s responding to a number of consensual post-hypnotic suggestions that make her think she’s never been hypnotized and that Kurt is a master hypnotist who can put her under and give her sexual suggestions that she’ll be irresistibly compelled to obey.

But nah. It’s total bullshit. Makes a great fantasy, but you couldn’t do this and that is absolutely a good thing.

Turn the Page: And yet, despite being about 90% the same idea, this one feels a lot more plausible. It’s probably because the sexual context is far more open and transparent; Kelly is in a situation where she is openly staring at naked pictures of her friend, pictures in which her friend is acting in the role of a dominant lesbian hypnotist, and Olivia’s seduction is really pretty much just, “Hey, if you want this, you can have it right now,” albeit more classily presented. It’s not unreasonable at all to suspect that Kelly is going to be very receptive both to hypnosis and to sexual suggestions. That’s not to say that this is a model for consent practices or anything – Olivia clearly oversteps a bunch of boundaries, not the least of which is her decision to start groping Kelly’s breasts without asking, and if I were to be writing a version of this that was intended to be realistic and consensual, this would end with a conversation and a playdate for the next day. But it’s believable, at least.

(And again, hot. It’s okay to fantasize about someone knowing that you’re turned on and not needing to ask, even if the real world requires a lot more communication.)

Back and Forth: I hedge my bets a lot here by implying that there’s a history between Philip and Caitlyn that makes him more susceptible to her hypnotic inductions and suggestions, and certainly it’s true that if you’ve spent a while working with the same hypnotist and you have a good, trusting rapport together, they won’t need to work particularly hard to put you under. Especially if you’re getting a secondary reward for following instructions, which Philip very clearly is in this case.

That said, the key there is “good, trusting rapport”, and it’s pretty clear in the story as presented that Caitlyn has a habit of steamrolling over his objections and putting him under whether he wants to or not. That’s generally the sort of thing that the subconscious notices and remembers, and it’s going to make it harder, not easier, to put someone under in future. Absent the usual special pleading that this is a consensual scenario involving hypnotic amnesia (and I’ve considered writing an identical prologue for every single one of my stories where the characters all make it clear that they’re acting out a consensual hypnotic fantasy, for the specific benefits of any bluenoses who might be reading) this is clearly unethical and almost certainly impossible.

Naturally: Wow, I am certainly hitting a lot of my personal favorites today! This is another very hot and very common hypnokink fantasy, the idea of having a trigger that makes you sexually available on demand and wipes your memory clean after each use. Kind of like the ‘sleeper agent’ trope in spy stories, only with less suddenly becoming a badass martial artist and more blowjobs.

But in the real world, a) you couldn’t do the kind of initial deep programming on an unwilling or unsuspecting subject, which Aaron implies that Leah was, b) triggers fade over time without reinforcement, unless the subject strongly wants them to remain and it certainly doesn’t sound like Leah has that kind of feelings for a command she doesn’t remember, and c) you really can’t hypnotize a total stranger into being sexually submissive to you, and that’s a good thing for all of us so please don’t try. Not because it will work, but because it won’t work and you’ll be that creep who pastes a 5000 word wall of text into the FetLife chat that your putative sex slave isn’t even going to read.

One Thing Leads to Another: Okay, look. If you were to ask me whether this was an official Hypnotic Induction, as performed by a Hypnotist in their duly designated role of performing Hypnosis in either a therapeutic or recreational fashion, I’d have to say ‘no’. If you were to ask me whether this is realistic mind control, I’d honestly have to tell you that it’s probably one of the more realistic mind control stories I’ve ever written. Because while hypnosis does work, and it does have the ability to effect real change in the human mind, there’s no mind control technique so powerful as using authority and certainty to gaslight someone into entering an agentic state.

“Agentic state” is one of those cool psych terms that I love to throw around in stories to sound all authentic, but all it really means is the feeling that you’re not in charge. Someone in an agentic state is usually acting under the orders of an authority figure, and they’re likely to feel powerless to dispute or disregard instructions because the authority figure is making it clear (through tone, body language, et cetera) that disobedience simply isn’t an option. This brings us back to the infamous Milgram experiments (which we’ll revisit in a future installment) where it was found that you could get people to do some pretty horrifying things simply by presenting it in the form of an authority figure giving firm, irrefutable commands.

So in this case, Sophie is… well, she’s the kind of young woman who attends a religious university because her parents told her to. She’s deferential to authority, she’s spent her whole life as part of a hierarchy, and she’s clearly not confident about her own beliefs and opinions. Carol is using that, along with a firm and unwavering control of the conversation and yes, a few persuasive techniques not dissimilar to those taught in hypnosis courses, to make her feel powerless and disassociated, and then reinforces them with a lot of pleasure. And at the end, there’s some forced teaming with the “this is going to be our secret” thing, along with a subtle implication that if Sophie tells anyone, she’ll be blamed for seducing Carol.

Sadly, this is something that plays out a lot in institutions like this. And in real life, it’s not very sexy at all.

But again, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it as a fantasy. It’s okay to use this to work out your own feelings about being powerless, or about being in a position of power and wanting things you’re too ethical to have. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, probably in every installment of this series if nowhere else – imaginary people can’t be hurt, and it’s good to use fantasies as a way of learning things about your own emotions that wouldn’t be safe or humane in the real world. That’s why I will continue to write smut, why I will continue to defend it as a decent thing, and why you’ll see me again with this series!

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