[Book Review] Pain Slut

Title: Pain Slut (Subs’ Club #2)Pain Slut Rock
Author:
J.A. Rock
Rating:  
Yeah, No Thanks
Genre/Category: Contemporary, BDSM, Romance, Interracial, M/M
Release Date: February 1, 2016
Publisher:
Riptide Publishing

Note: I will not be linking to the author, their social media, or any links to purchase this book because the good parts do not begin to make up for the horrible racism that peppers the text.


I picked up Pain Slut on a lark when I saw that the fourth and final book in J. A. Rock’s Sub Club series was coming out so I’m a bit behind on the series since this book came out in February.

The series seemed interesting enough (it’s about four friends who band together to change their local BDSM community after one of their friends and a fellow sub is killed at the hands of a neglectful Dom) but I decided to get the second book since I felt that the stress might be a little lessened as we’re one book past their friend’s death.

Here’s the thing about Pain Slut: despite its cute moments and some kink that I really found sexy, it had some incredibly problematic attitudes about race/racism, respectability politics, and how it portrayed the Black main character.

Look, I get that when you’re diving into a series on the second book out of four the way I am, some things aren’t made apparent there because they were made clear the first book.

The protagonist’s race shouldn’t be one of them. I probably wouldn’t have known that he was Black that early on not for the fact that 12% into Pain Slut, the protagonist (Miles) has a conversation with his adoptive sister Malina about how he can use the N-word (but doesn’t want to) where she essentially intimates that that word is a part of his culture:

“I am a bitch. I can say ‘bitch’.” She got up and went to the silverware drawer to get another spoon. “Just like you can use the N-word.”

“I don’t want to use the N-word.”

She shrugged and took a bite of yogurt, slurping it into her mouth. “Babi. It wouldn’t kill you to learn your culture, you know?”

[…]

“My culture is minivans and caramel macchiatos.” The last thing I needed today was a lecture from my sister on not being black enough.

When I use the search function on my Kindle, the word “brown” is not used at any point. Miles’ skin isn’t worth describing unless the author is describing how well it bruises. I still can’t tell if Miles is biracial or if he has two black parents because Rock doesn’t describe them.

I spoke a bit about this on twitter yesterday after I was finished reading Pain Slut: I’m not expecting to see stereotypes about Blackness when I crack open one of the rare M/M books with a Black main character. When it happens, it’s hurtful. What also is hurtful is when you read a book like this and the main character’s blackness is completely divorced from his identity.

There are so many different ways to be Black and few ways to be “bad” at your own identity, but Miles on some level is this perfect liberal fantasy of Black maleness. When he brings up his blackness, it’s neatly depoliticized and he kind of distances himself from Blackness.

Miles actively and entirely rejects the idea of the Black community as community while he’s all gung-ho about the kink community as community.

“My dad actually has a big thing about how it’s important for black men to be good role models and represent the community positively. I’ve never felt that way. Like, I don’t see black people as a ‘community’. Just a diverse group of humans who are under no obligation to like or support one another. However, my friend Dave thinks this is funny because technically the kink community is the same way. Yet I talk about that community like it’s a homogenous group in need of better representation and better leaders. So…” I shrugged.

If you can hear screaming coming from South Florida, that’s me. It’s me screaming because this is not how that works.

Yeah, not every Black person feels the same way and we’re not a monolithic entity of Blackness, but there’s a difference between communities built up on centuries of oppression and trying to keep culture alive and communities built because the participants like to have oh so freaky sex every once in a while.

The kink community can’t be compared to the “black community”. Straight up. For Rock to do so – no, for her to use a Black character to hold Blackness and Black people to one standard while giving (largely white) kinksters all the leeway – is disgusting.

Later, when Miles’ friend Dave mentions a Black Domme participating in a Ferguson-themed scene at a BDSM club called Cobalt, not only does Miles brush it off as “just role –play” but then he says the same thing about other kinksters dressed as Nazis at the same club earlier in the year.

(Because apparently, erotic fantasy and desire is somehow above critique. I kept waiting for Miles to be all about that race play because this book just kept rubbing me the wrong way throughout…)

Look, this is peak whiteness.

There is no way that doing a freaking FERGUSON-THEMED BDSM SCENE is appropriate. It’s fucked up that this author (who is probably not black, let’s be real here) There’s no way that any Black person wouldn’t have a visceral reaction to someone (even another Black person) participating in a scene that sexualizes one of the most intense times of recent Black history where a bright spotlight was shined on the realities of being Black in America. There is nothing sexy about protesting because a cop murdered an unarmed Black young man and got rewarded for it.

Seriously, J A Rock: what the actual fuck were you smoking when you wrote this?

Let’s also talk about how Rock follows that lovely tidbit up by having Miles then say, “If kink had to look PC, there’d be no female subs with male doms, ever.”

Cut to me screaming inside of my head because are you fucking kidding me with this shit? Really? Politically correct? Not wanting people to dress up as the gleeful participants in genocide or to sexualize events that only occurred due to a Black boy being murdered and then left in the streets for HOURS is somehow politically correct?

REALLY?

This shit here is why I don’t deal with kinksters or the kink community anymore despite how much I wish I could. I don’t feel safe in kinky spaces as a Black person because I don’t know when someone’s going to assume I’m interested in raceplay because I’m Black and whip out a racist comment at me. (Mind you, I had to deactivate my FetLife account because almost all of the messages I was getting were from white couples who wanted a “jungle bunny” slave to be the third in their relationships.)

If being politically correct in kink means that people who get off on jacking off to memories of racism, genocide, and violence against marginalized people can’t do that without getting shouted down, I’m all the fuck for it.

And of course, his non-black friends are the voices of reasons pointing out how problematic he’s being… Because again, this book is peak whiteness.

I also hate how this book is full of racist micro and macro aggressions.

First, despite how much Miles hates how his sister Malina tries to police his racial identity, he keeps doing it to her. (The narrative of adoption in this book by the way is extremely worrisome and I don’t enjoy how adoptees of color or birth parents are framed at several points.)

Then, there’s a scene where Miles’ friends show up with a cake with a mustachioed Black man printed on it and they’re like “he sort of looks like you”. These are his friends and they’re making a “haha black people all look alike” joke at him.

How about how when Miles and his new love Drix (a white guy named after Jimmy Hendrix, by the way) sit down and are talking in chapter nine, there’s this incredibly awkward moment where Drix compares people walking away from him because he’s so freaking tall to people walking away from Miles because he’s black.

They have such a cute moment but it’s like… still a microagression. More so, it’s a moment framed around a racist microaggression that’s then played for laughs.

Geez.

Miles is the epitome of a brown paper doll. He’s a character who’s supposed to be Black but whose experiences, identity, and politics are so removed from  actual portrayals of Blackness that you’re kind of viewing him as a puppet parroting Rock’s own politics.

Yes, there were things I liked about this book. I liked Miles’ trials and worries about being a parent. I liked that he did have a realistic worry about how “normal” his kinks were and how they’d affect his parenting. I liked Drix, vampyrisim and all.

However, none of that makes up for the fact that this book was a hot ass racist mess in many ways. I got Pain Slut because the kink content seemed to dovetail neatly with my kinks. I finished it because I needed to know how the ending would go.

However, I won’t be reading the rest of the books in the series.

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About Zina

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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3 Responses to [Book Review] Pain Slut

  1. Yoshi says:

    “Brown Paper Doll” seems to be correct. I feel some typa way about yt ppl. who use PoC as passes for their own bullshit. Also, I remember reading another M/M snippet that had a Blackperson being a yt person’s “chocolate onkey” or w/e. I don’t havethe link to reference, but it was written by a yt person. :/

    Like

  2. Wyn says:

    I’m surprised this would fly with any editor. I’m sorry you had such a disappointing read.

    Like

  3. Pingback: The Great Big Anita Blake Reread – Guilty Pleasures | Stitch's Media Mix

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