A note to my regular readers: As you can tell, this is not a story. In fact, not only is this an essay, it's an essay about the most perverted subject of all: Politics! So you might want to steer clear if that's not your thing. Evergreen Forest #13 is on the way, along with several other story updates! :)
I am pro-social justice.
I feel I should make that fact clear now, before we get into the real meat of this issue. I'm sure this fact will color many people's reading of my essay, and ironically enough, a lot of people tend to get very offended when they hear that I'm a part of the movement best-known for finding things offensive. This is a political affiliation I initially held in a great deal of contempt myself, in fact.
But over the years, I've found myself leaning more and more in its direction. I'm a social justice activist. I think diversity is awesome. I think women are pushed towards lower-paying professions like art and teaching. I think that even when you take into account the different professions, women still get paid a bit less on average. I think monsters like racism and misogyny are still alive and well. I think the media shapes perceptions, I think Hollywood gives older actresses too few options, I think there's way too much sexualization and objectification in our media today, and I think wow wait WHAT.
Goblin, what are you high on? Is it the heady drug of self-righteousness? Do you see the site logo at the top? You shouldn't write essays while high, you know, it's unsafe. Seriously, you write porn! Don't be a hypocrite!
...yeah. That's the paradox in my views. And it's something I actually legitimately worry about. Because sometimes I wonder: Am I doing the right thing in writing and posting these stories?
Mind you, it's not the sexualization that worries me. I have nothing against porn (though I personally prefer the written kind), and porn kinda goes hand in hand with sexualization. I don't ever claim to write erotica, by the way. I call what I write "classy porn"—it's not quite erotica, since it still focuses heavily on sex and doesn't try to be ambiguous or flowery about it, but I try to have stories and characters and personalities and, well, stuff that makes readers give a shit. My characters are supposed to grow and change and all that shebang.
But I still write porn, in my mind.
No, the sexualization? That's okay with me. Porn shouldn't be that shameful. It's harmless fantasy at the core, after all. As long as the industry is being handled ethically (and some of you might have heard of recent incidents indicating that the video sector, at least, still has work to do there), the medium is not a real problem.
So what has this goblin uneasy?
Well, I write stories fetishizing rape.
Yeah. No ifs/ands/buts about it. Rape. Horrible, dehumanizing rape. Sure, it's about mind control, a fictional premise, but there are certainly ways of controlling people in real life that come close. And even if it's just made-up mind control, there's still a definite culture in the world that talks about how people are "asking for it", or "secretly want it", that one gender is supposed to be in charge of the other, that mind control-based porn clearly feeds on some basic level. Some people like the idea. And I'm pretty sure at least a couple of those people read my stories. It's not unlikely.
Mind you, I'm sure the vast majority of my readers are crazy cool people who fully understand that no means no and rape is horrible and traumatic and all that stuff and there's never any excuse. But it's still something that weighs on me. Like I said before, I believe media has power to influence perceptions. And what I do is a form of media. I ain't exactly a household Literotica name, but I have people who read my stories. I'm not totally voiceless. I mean, you're reading me right now, aren't you?
Even just on a personal "is this good for me" level, what I am doing is glorifying and sexualizing something that is very often sexualized in our world already. I have a whole series of stories about a country overrun by a few mysoginistic extremists who brainwashed the populace into accepting a culture where woman are turned into virtually mindless sex slaves. And sure, it ends with the men getting offed, but not before the rapes are sexualized for all they're worth.
Nonconsent is, obviously, something I'm interested in writing about. But should it not be? Should I stop? Am I helping to reinforce the hideous side of our online culture? You know, the side that posts explicit photos and videos of "bitchy ex-girlfriends" to "teach them a lesson"?
I hope you can understand now why I feel...uncomfortable.
All this said, there are reasons I have to not hate what I do. Ultimately, what I do is absurd fantasy. I write that, and I'm sure most of my readers know that. It's literally in the Fantasy section. These obscene crimes are perpetrated through made-up mind control, and it is never shown to ultimately be a good thing—always mind control rape is depicted as a heinous act, and while I don't exactly tackle post-traumatic stress disorder, the victims always leave it badly affected.
To some level, I also try to deconstruct the rape fantasy. Take "Shifty Characters", where the hypnotist who's constantly claiming his victims secretly want it is plainly called out as being full of self-serving shit. Or, of course, my main work, Evergreen Forest, in which the survivors tend to plainly refer to their rape and the fey perpetrating it are almost entirely depicted as outright evil. I haven't been perfect about that in the past, admittedly (my older work simply isn't as good in general, after all), but it's something I'm paying more attention to now. In an upcoming chapter, in fact, the fey catgirl Nipper will have a clear line drawn between herself and those fey that force mortals to serve their whims.
I don't want my stories to be taken that seriously. The sex scenes are generally depictions of awful, awful events, but they're meant as plain porn. You read them, you enjoy them, maybe you take some interest in the stories happening through it all, and then you move on.
To my understanding of BDSM, a key premise is that it's always "Safe, Sane and Legal"—fully consensual, to the extent that the Sub is often considered to be "in charge" when it comes to leading the relations. In fact, those relations are referred to as "scenes", keeping everything strictly within a fictional narrative. I have no interest in shaming practitioners of BDSM (technically, my work falls within its broad categories), and nothing to me seems wrong with the practice. So does that mean what I do is just as okay? I mean, both are fantasies, works of fiction revolving around a made-up unhealthy relationship. They're exactly the same, clearly!
Except they aren't. Because for one thing, my work isn't exactly private!
My work isn't private. That's the big difference I keep coming back to. And so I can excuse it for myself, telling myself I know all this stuff, I'm cool, I'm not like those other moms, I'm a cool mom—wait, sorry, that's from something else. The point is, despite that, I am still at some level responsible for the impact my work has on a culture I am already aware of.
I'll just say it, and I'm sure people are going to shoot me annoyed looks for it. But...well, am I encouraging rape culture? Is fetishizing rape and other atrocities just, well, wrong? I mean, we wouldn't be comfortable fetishizing other illegalities, like pedophilia. We'd worry we were encouraging the wrong element along! We know the situation at college frathouses and in dark alleyways these days (oh, how we wish these problems really did only happen in those mythical alleyways of yore...). Are there future rapists reading this essay right now?
Are they standing right behind you?
Okay, sorry, badly-timed joke. But the question is sincere, albeit ugly: Is my work what rapists are masturbating to? Is my work part of the media that encourages them on? To paraphrase a bit of spoken-word poetry I heard recently: "Sex can exist without porn / And love can exist without porn / And men can exist without porn / And women can exist without porn / And marriage can exist without porn / But rape / Rape cannot exist without porn."
The poet said that the last line wasn't necessarily meant literally to say that all porn is bad. It was just to get people talking. But we can't deny that the sort of person who thinks rape is a valid way for him or her to fulfill his or her "needs" doesn't live in a vacuum. He or she has to get that encouragement from somewhere, or somewheres.
And if it comes from anywhere in media, if it comes from anywhere in porn, maybe it comes from porn like mine. Sad, absurd, satirical porn about rape and murder and hypnosis and fairies and cranky thieves and druids/spies/witches/catgirls who really can't "keep their legs closed", who really are "asking for it", who really do "secretly love it". Like mine.
What do I do about that? How do I feel about that? Is my work part of the problem?
Can it be part of the solution?
Something I've been remembering as I've been writing this—and this really was only ever an attempt at self-therapy on the subject—is that just as media can shape perceptions for evil, so can it for good. And even porn is media! Even porn can change how people see things, albeit in very tiny, very little ways. But as porn itself really needs to remember, size doesn't really matter as long as you aren't standing still or going the wrong way.
I can't just view my stories as being nothing. They are something. They are within a realm of something, not a vacuum. They, alongside the k'b'jillions of other pornfics and erotica stories out there, have an effect, just like South Park or Glory or the writings of Ida B. Wells or To Kill A Mockingbird or Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and even this very essay, all have effects.
And if I'm going to be contributing to some sort of idea, maybe I can write my stories to reflect grains of sand of the world. The nonconsensual fantasy I have in my stories will stay—and just as before, not everyone will necessarily escape their captors—but I can take care to keep the culture my works exist within in mind.
And for fans of my stories who somehow have stuck it out this long, what does that mean for my stories? Not that much, honestly. I don't plan on flipping course and going all Jack Chick on anyone. Nobody likes preachiness, even for a good cause, and my stories will continue to have the same sex and absurdity they always have—but they will also continue to depict what happens on a realistic moral level.
To make it simple: No means no. Mind controlled yes also means no. Any sort of rape is a horrible experience, and victims of rape do not immediately shrug off the effects—not are they instantly broken. The Cloistered Lands are a dangerous world, even if the danger takes a seductive air, and the characters will continue to regard it as such. Bad things will still happen to good people, and the sexualization will continue—just with the usual hints of realistic reactions thrown in.
And at the end of this essay, I'm still not perfectly at-ease. I didn't expect to be. I may look at this again in a year or so and decide, you know what, it's still not okay. I'll have to see how the stories come out.
There will always be a bad element. I can't change that. One day soon, I hope a lot of the current culture will be changed, but that's up to forces much more significant than I. I'm just a drop in a current there, and which way we flow will not be my call.
All I can do is know where I stand. For now, I know exactly where that is. And I can only hope I know where I'm walking.
And trust me, there's going to be a whooooole other essay about how Literotica doesn't allow "rape" (and therefore "rape culture") as a tag, which I only just found out while trying to upload this essay. You're not fooling anyone, you know. Except maybe you are, which would be really bad. More research needed!