Thankfully, one of my darling social media buddies set me on the right path and showed me what pleasure activism was actually all about. Beyond what that moomoo up there said, the idea of pleasure activism actually does work for me. It’s more aligned with the theorists and thinkers I’ve been consumed by since college than anything else.
And it does not actually support focusing on the redemption of a white man as pleasure activism. That’s not how that works. (But then, that day was when someone compared not wanting a Kylo redemption arc to supporting the carceral state so… that fandom is NOT okay.)
This is not actually a review of K. M. Szpara’s Docile.
It’s a review of what the novel doesn’t deal with and what people are clearly getting out of it in publishing and fandom spaces.
Docile is a near-future dystopian work of erotic science fiction where people in debt sell themselves into something that’s in-between indentured servitude and the horrors of the historic slavery in the United States. The book revolves around Elisha – who sells himself into debt so that his younger sister won’t be subjected to the traumatizing effects of service – and Alex – the trillionaire who buys Elisha, tries to break him, and then… quelle suprise… falls in love with him.
The novel reminds me of Captive Prince and Ai no Kusabi, two series that deal with male/male relationships and sexual(ized) slavery in one capacity or another within the main story… and the fandom responses to both of those things absolutely reminds me of Docile’s intense early defenders who’ve already shown up to fret about “antis” coming for their slavefic.
(And when the antis in question include Black people and anti-racist allies simply annoyed at yet another white author going “look at this thing that happened to Black people, what if something similar happened to my white main characters”… Yikes.)
Note: before we get into this piece, note that I am coming from this position as a queer Black person who has, in the past, purposefully read and written stories of the kind I am talking about in this piece. I’ve also got experience in researching and writing about Blackness in history, media, and fandom.
Predominantly, the form of slavery I’m going to be talking about in this piece relates to the enslavement of Africans and their descendants because that’s the form of slavery that many of these stories build off of (and I’m Black), but I’m going to mention slavery in ancient cultures. Additionally, any links to my blog stitchmediamix on tumblr won’t work because I have the blog locked while I’m on hiatus.
Content Warning: This piece will talk in depth about slavery in romance work, fanfic, and in history in a way that highlights the violence of slavery. Many of the website links embedded in this piece will link to pages that contain images and/or descriptions of brutality related to slavery including lynching, rape, and whipping.
Right now, on the Archive of Our Own, there are currently 12,236 stories tagged with “Slavery”.
Almost half of the stories with that tag are rated “Explicit” – most likely for sexual content and/or violence – with “Rape/Non-Con” making up a third of the stories’ warnings. While the stories are too varied to stand out with one or more particular pairing having the lion’s share of stories, in the relationship tab for that tag, the top pairings (with under 400 stories each) are primarily M/M stories focusing on white characters.
This is just a small snapshot of what slavefic in fandom and how slavery is portrayed in fandom looks like.Read More »
So for this installment of Urban Fantasy 101, I’ll be tackling the way that Southern Pride plays out in the genre and how writers need to stop romanticizing a period of history that couldn’t have existed without enslaving Black people.
I’ll be talking about authors trying to showcase what they love about Southern culture and how that often goes hand in hand with failing at being respectful to the Black people who were brought to the United States against their will and whose subjugation was integral to the development of “Southern pride”.
— To market, to market, to buy a plum bun/ Home again, home again, market is done.
Maren walks two steps behind the governor’s wife on their way through the market near Fort Christensen, standing near enough to hear the older woman call her name, but not so near that anyone would assume them to be closer than they were. While she may only have been working for the new governor’s wife for a scattered handful of months, she already feels as if she understands the other woman.
When Regine pauses in front of a stall selling vegetables and fruits from local, small farms that used to be part of bigger plantations, Maren stops at her right elbow, head tilted as she raises the basket holding the woman’s coin purse in case there’s something there that the woman wants to purchase. Read More »
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