Tea Time with Alexis J Hall and Friends ~ Special Guests Santino Hassell, Allan Jay and Karen Wellsbury

TeaTime with AJH

Hello Tea-Timers!

Welcome back to Part 2 of the sexual violence in m/m discussion.

Because we like our can of worms open with the worms everywhere.

This is obviously a massively complicated and, err, sensitive topic so trigger warnings ahoy.

Just like last time I am joined by Santino Hassell, Allan Jay and Karen Wellsbury.

AJH: So, thank you all for joining me. I feel slightly bad about the composition of this group–not in the sense that I don’t think think you’re all awesome–but because I think we’re not necessarily a balanced or unbiased group for this particular topic. I did think of reaching out to someone who wrote non-con but then I thought that might be even worse, in case it came across as if we’d invited them in for a stoning. So just as a starting point, if you do write or read non-con and you’d like to offer us an alternative perspective, then do get in touch. I’d super happy to expand on this discussion in a non-stoning sort of way.

I guess I should also that whatever our perspectives or personal preferences or experiences … I don’t want this to become a writer/reader shaming space.

So, uh, let’s tread carefully.

So. Well. Cards on the table. I don’t personally get much out of non-con. But I don’t think I have a moral standpoint on it.I very much believe readers and writers should have the freedom to read and write whatever they like. But I guess where it does become sticky for me is that there’s no getting away from the fact that noncon exists in a very complicated space and discussions of it either blow up or get closed down very quickly. People who are pro-noncon tend to see people who are concerned with noncon as trying to censor their writing. And people who are anti-noncon tend to want to condemn people who are pro-concon for writing stuff they find offensive/hurtful. Which means there’s not really much opportunity to consider non-con as you would other genre tropes.

Allan: Just so we’re clear, my preference is not to read purely non-con stories. I don’t mind an element of non-consent in a broader story, I don’t mind a bit of dithering either. And I’ve yet to read a good story about someone who says yes, then regrets it. But that’s a whole other point.

SH: I’m somewhere on the fence about it. It really depends on the book. If a rape scene is relevant to the text then I don’t have an issue with it even if I may gloss over or skim it. I do have issue with noncon for titillation and it’s a personal thing. But one of my issues with noncon is the way it’s packaged. I think using the term “noncon” is kind of contributing to rape culture by softening the discussion of sexual violence. So sometimes when I see “noncon” instead of rape, I get just as frustrated as I do when I see the terms “child sex scandal”, “forced marriage”, or “forced seduction”. I’d rather have transparency/honesty in the way we discuss these things.

AJH: I think the reason for the distinction is not necessarily about transparency so much as narrative function? I mean, yes, in the Real World any non-consensual sexual act is rape. But while fiction obviously reflects and intersects with reality, it also operates within a different context and to (somewhat) different rules. To my understanding, in romance and fandom rape tends to denote … acts of sexual violation portrayed, uh, realistically and expected to be perceived in real world terms. Whereas noncon covers acts of sexual violation that may be portrayed realistically but are offered to the reader in a way that … um … gives them permission to respond to them as fantasy. (In het forced seduction tends to cover “she wants it really” type dynamics where the hero is aggressive and the heroine is like “no no” but secretly into it).

SH: Like Pamela vs Tess of d’Urbervilles?

AJH: That’s a fucking awesome example.

K: For me it’s quite hard to separate my emotions from this subject, i get that there are those who find it titillating, and also that from the perspective of writing it can be used effectively, I just find it decidedly uncomfortable.

Allan: I’m with you. As a story for the sake of it I’m not a fan. As an element in a broader story I can probably accept it. But it’s not the type of tale that I will hunt down to read. Although it’s quite clear (and well researched) that there are those who seek out particularly extreme fantasy reading to experience things in writing that they have absolutely no desire to do in real life. I’m fine with that, I’m just not one of those people.

SH: Describing it as extreme fantasy is kind of fitting, because that’s what it is I guess. I mean it’s not hurting anyone really unless it’s not tagged up with trigger warnings and there are tons of people who enjoy it whether it’s in M/M, M/F fiction or the gigantic scope of fantasy rape porn things you can find online. I started thinking about how widespread it is when we decided to do this post, and I asked a friend of mine what was behind her decision to write M/F noncon in some of her books (er not in a judgy way. more like what was the motivation behind X plot), and she said it’s not always about writing it for titillation and in her case, she thinks of it as exorcising demons and taking control of this awful thing that she experienced in her past. (she also gave me the okay to share that)

Allan: I can understand that. For both readers and writers the searching out of particular stories, tropes and characters is a form of catharsis as much as anything. I have a friend who almost exclusively reads YA and particularly gay YA because he is recreating, in fictional terms, what was for him a terrible youth. Now as an adult he can experience other people’s better times. So the existence of this writing and that it is widely read doesn’t surprise me.

AJH: Both of those things make a lot of sense to me. But I guess this is where it’s hard to entangle the political and personal because, as Karen said above, while I can rationally accept that some people are exorcising demons my own demons are kind of stirred up, rather than exorcised, by rape-as-titillation. And then you get into this tug o’war of demons: how to do you deal with someone else’s right to exorcise their demons by creating something that feels personally harmful to your own. (Obviously, the short answer is “don’t read it dude” but when get into group intersectionalties, rather than personal ones, the whole thing becomes an order of magnitude more complex).

K: I did some research, amongst readers, on why they read this, and generally Allan’s comment about it not happening in real life seems to make sense. Most readers are well balanced people, who haven’t experienced rape/ non con. And, I have to say that all the people I spoke to were women, so that it was happening to men seemed to be more acceptable, because it was removed from their own experiences.

AJH: I guess that’s where a lot of the concern lies for me: when it’s one group of people writing about a different group of people. And, again, I should emphasise I’m not trying to get into the Women Writing M/M Debate (I am 1000000% happy for women to write m/m) – but, for example, I would feel hugely uncomfortable writing about the rape of a female character and offering that up for titillation. For fairly obvious reasons, that would be Just Plain Wrong both personally and politically.

SH: It’s partially the power dynamics, I guess? It’s possible that some people feel that since females are consistently threatened by males in multiple contexts, a male including M/F noncon for titillation would be more alarming/aggressive (for example, the outcry against this past week’s episode of GoT where people were rightly wondering what the hell is wrong with the showrunners that they have a burning need to include so much rape) while a female author writing M/M noncon may be upsetting and offensive but is seen as less threatening because of the change in dynamics.

K: I’m not sure that I agree with this, especially as the sex of a lot of authors isn’t always obvious, but I do think that the issue of power dynamics is relevant. I was raised reading old school bodice rippers where the dynamic was clear, man trumps woman (at least sexually) . In m/m that trump card is less clear, so that non con isn’t always seen in such a dominating way ? But I am coming from a different perspective that you guys.

Allan: I reckon that we’re at a fairly distinct place in time where both gender and sexuality are now no long considered binary but are spectrums. So the power dynamics mentioned are all very personal and distinct to the character. Which, for me, makes reading of the non-con much more difficult.

SH: Agreed. I had difficulty even framing that hypothesis. (Also, I am against the notion that a M/M rape scene is less disconcerting because of supposed equality in power between two cis males. To me that smacks of “he could fight back if he wanted”.)

K: I think that the sex of the author is a bit of a .. red herring ? For me anyway, the issue is really the reasons for the act, as in does it actually add to the book ?

AJH: Hmm, I’m not sure if that isn’t a red herring as well. Because what ‘adds’ to a book is subjective and if your book is a piece of noncon erotica then … obviously the answer to the question of “does the non con add anything to this book” is yes … because it’s the point of the book. I guess for me the issue comes down to those very power dynamics we’re having trouble articulating: not necessarily about the sex of the authors but about the axes along which authors are marginalised compared to the axes along which characters are marginalised.  I think a comfortable rule of thumb is whatever a marginalised group does for itself is (and should be) sacrosanct. But when you’re impinging on a group who are socially vulnerable, even if they’re socially vulnerable in a different way to you, then I think demonstrating an understanding of that, rather than downplaying or dismissing it, goes a long way to, uh, reassuring me at any rate. I mean there’s a shit tonne of rapey gay porn aimed at gays and while I don’t enjoy it, I understand it’s providing something that some queer men apparently need/want.

Allan: Very true. It’s never clearer to me just how much gay men can fetishize everything than when I stumble onto XTube. I mean have you seen the stuff they put up there.? Some people have very, very healthy sexual imaginations.

AJH: Yes, but it’s … god. Well you can’t really draw a line between what’s institionalised (I want to be gangraped by jocks because society hates me) and what’s empowering (I want to be gangraped by jokes because FUCK YOU SOCIETY).  And obviously this bleeds into m/m noncon erotica: the people writing it tend to be marginalised along various axes, either by gender or sexuality, potentially by race, so I can see why it feels powerful as a mode of resistance against de-valued or silenced sexual desires. Unfortunately,it never feels empowering to me as reader (and again, this is personal): it feels like it feeds into and reflects lots of icky rape culture stuff. Like the idea that men can’t be raped. Or only weak men get raped. Or that it’s less problematic if a man gets raped because it’s not institutionalised the way it is for women. Or whatever. Which is not to say that is inherently disempowering to all queer men all the time. Or that writing is inherently oppressive. It’s just I find to find the dialogues around it quite problematic — more problematic, actually, than the noncon itself.

K: This is such a complex point, that it feels…superficial ? To answer it, I can totally see what you mean about the resistance aspect; and this is very subjective, but I believe that there are more effective ways of challenging than actually continuing to use familiar plot devices. But I also recognise that people should be free to read and write whatever they want. As adults we apply our own filters, that’s the theory, but the practise is actually a lot more challenging. The other point is about rape culture and gender, and I do think that this is such an important and valid point . While 1 in 5 women in the UK experience some kind of sexual violence, the figure is 1 in 8 for gay men and yet the myth that the raped are weak and victims seems to have stuck, despite all the evidence to the opposite. No matter how I rationalise all the freedom of speech arguments, this does not sit comfortably with me.

SH: It’s the primary reason for my discomfort as well. I mean, there are stats that show queer people experience much higher rates of sexual violence than their heterosexual counterparts (and the rates go up drastically for bisexual and especially transgender people), so it’s not as though sexual violence in the LGBT community is an invisible issue. It’s a huuuge issue, and it’s hard for me to shut off my awareness of that when I see novels about queer people being brutally raped and the intent is to entertain.

AJH: I’m wary of argument ad statistics, although like you I’m also very aware that violence and sexual violence is a huge issue for the LGBTQ+ community and that impacts my reading — I suspect in the same way that some women readers potentially respond to m/f rape erotica. But if you get too deep into the statistics you essentially you turn this issue into a… strange quest to find a group of people who are sufficiently socially privileged that you’re “allowed” to write rape porn about them without having to feel bad about yourself. And that troubles me because I don’t think that’s the answer and I don’t think people feeling bad about what they like is the answer either.

SH: That’s true and I definitely DON’T want to shame anyone… BUT I also sometimes feel that conversations about M/M noncon can take on a tone of “cis males are more privileged so it’s not as big of an issue”, which contributes to my general feeling of meh-ness about noncon erotica. I feel like I’m not allowed to say “this doesn’t make me feel okay”.

AJH: I think there’s a tendency to approach issues of marginalization and privilege with a kind of almost numerical mentality based around allocating degrees of privilege and minority. And while I feel this is, to a degree, necessary because otherwise the privilege would always and inevitably shout down the marginalised (and this tends to be what happens outside of social justice circles anyway), it’s also unhelpful. Because, yes, the sexual abuse of women is the “bigger” issue – more women are raped/harassed and rape culture–broadly–affects women significantly more than men. But that doesn’t mean the rape of men, and the rape of LGBTQ+ people, isn’t ALSO an issue. It’s not either/or here. And I think it sort of comes down, most basically, to empathy: I think a lot of women write noncon in m/m because it gives them a place of refuge from their own experiences with rape culture. And that’s fine. But I think when you do that, it’s only fair to recognise that what is a place of refuge for you, is potentially a very threatening reality to someone else. And that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do. Or feel bad about doing it.

SH: Agreed on that point. And I will say that the inclusion of trigger warnings help me avoid accidentally stumbling upon things that I’ll find upsetting. M/M publishers are really good about tagging them up.

AJH: Yes, the ideal answer to writer freedom (which I believe in) is repricrocal reader freedom.

SH:  Yep. And this is from someone who was considerably less aware of how problematic the lack of specific trigger warnings were nearly a decade ago when I first started writing original fiction.

Allan: Now that’s got me pondering. How informed by current social norms are our reading choices and habits? In our current ‘no means no’ society the genre of non-con gets a tough time. Would it have been the same at another point in time?

AJH: I guess it’s complicated (heh, that’ll be on my gravestone). I’m not sure how much a greater awareness of rape culture does impact m/m noncon. I think it affects het in that people are more comfortable with the position “this is problematic but I still have the right to do it / be into it” (which, for me, is the most defensible pro non-con position). But, for m/m, I’ve seen people argue that because men are essentially not affected by rape culture, m/m noncon just isn’t problematic. Like it’s the guilt-free, low calorie non con. And that is … troubling to me.

SH: Same here. But I don’t believe most people go into writing/reading noncon with that specific thought in mind. I think most people recognize that it’s an issue for others but also know they have the freedom to read and write what they wish and they have more freedom to do that now more than ever before. Which brings us back to Allan’s point about noncon today versus in the past. A couple of decades ago, the purpose of noncon seemed to be tied into these really ridiculous ideas around gender roles. For example, in the past a sexually aggressive male was sometimes symbolic of him being Full of Testosterone. It reaffirmed that the male lead was Super Heterosexual. But now, I think it seems more common for people to use noncon and especially dubcon to illustrate this ultimate form of desperate passion? It’s less political and more about the fantasy of sex and especially rough sex and uncontrollable passion. I’m not sure if that makes sense.

AJH: No, it does. I mean, I think that’s a strong theme in a lot of the forced seduction I’ve read in het. But, then, there’s lots of hero behaviour in het that would make me (and presumably most other people) go “Uh, no” if it happened in The Real World. And ultimately I’m fine with that. We’re all grown ups, we’re all capable of engaging with our own fantasies, a lot of the power of the erotic comes from taboos and transgressions, and so on. So I guess for me noncon makes sense both in a genre and a literary context and I can definitely see its value to the people who read it and write it. But I wish there was more acknowledgement of the way it intersects with queer identity and rape culture. And I wish there was more discussion of its problematic elements and implications that didn’t automatically imply hostility.

As ever we let the worms out with no idea how to get them back in. We hope you’ll join us in the comments for discussion – though please do remember, it’s a sensitive topic so be nice to each other 🙂


Alexis HallAlexis Hall is alive and on social media

Website: quicunquevult.com
Twitter: @quicunquevult

 

 

 

santino

Santino Hassell was raised by a conservative family, but he was anything but traditional. He grew up to be a smart-mouthed, school cutting grunge kid, then a transient twenty-something, and eventually transformed into a romance writing and sarcasm loving guy that is most well known for co-writing a free, dystopian series that has spawned an online cult following.

Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former anime-watcher and fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of LGBT fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences.

Twitter: @santinohassell
Website: santinohassell.com

Allan Jay writes M/M roAllan-Jmance. He’s had a couple of short stories published and is currently working on his first novel. You can follow him on Twitter – he’s always got it switched on – @allanjaywrites for the writerly things or @allanj69 for the everyday things. He’s also, reluctantly, on Facebook. He needs a kick up the backside to get writing from time to time, so go prompt him

 

Karen does not have an icon and is a construction worker by day, and a book blogger by night and a reader all the time. Her blog is May Contain Dragons

 

 

 

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

Brandilyn
This post may contain affiliate links.
Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews.  The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.

19 thoughts on “Tea Time with Alexis J Hall and Friends ~ Special Guests Santino Hassell, Allan Jay and Karen Wellsbury

  1. “And I think it sort of comes down, most basically, to empathy: I think a lot of women write noncon in m/m because it gives them a place of refuge from their own experiences with rape culture. And that’s fine. But I think when you do that, it’s only fair to recognise that what is a place of refuge for you, is potentially a very threatening reality to someone else.”

    Being secure in the control of your own body is a basic human right and the concept shouldn’t be limited by gender. It’s appalling that we women, who have fought many years for this right, would be insensitive to this fact.

    The rest of this issue is just too…can of worms for me. On the one hand, I’m against any limit on artistic expression. If there are consenting writers and readers who want to engage in this fantasy, okay. On the other hand, the line between empowerment and desensitization of violence seems very thin here. Yes, there should at least be acknowledgement of that fact.

    I sat in a jury selection pool once next to a man who, I’m firmly convinced, only realized during the selection process that he had been raped. (Trial was sexual abuse of a minor, and I’m very grateful I didn’t have to serve.) So, I feel there are potential unintended consequences in terms of rape culture and what is perceived as “okay” or “acceptable.”

    • “On the other hand, the line between empowerment and desensitization of violence seems very thin here. Yes, there should at least be acknowledgement of that fact.”

      Yes, this.

      “So, I feel there are potential unintended consequences in terms of rape culture and what is perceived as “okay” or “acceptable.””

      And very much this.

  2. I felt this discussion was pretty fantastic. I appreciate all of your opinions and would like to thank you for being honest, open, and respectful. Not sure how it started, but I read a lot of noncon and this has given me a lot to think about. I will probably continue to read these types of books, but I will be looking more closely… Cheers!

    • I’m glad you didn’t find the conversation judgmental or attacking of people who read/write noncon because that definitely wasn’t our intention at all. Ultimately, I (and I think everyone else) thinks people have the right and freedom to read/write whatever they want but also I’d like there to be more awareness of the potential outcomes/effects?

  3. Thank you for this in-depth and very thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion of a very sensitive topic. I avoid non-con books in general and like Allan said, I probably would be OK if it’s just a (necessary) element of the story and not the main focus of the book. It’s personal preference rather than condemnation of the whole subgenre. I’m sure it works for some people, just not for me. I have to admit I find trigger warnings especially useful in this context.
    I see a lot of times in the discussion all of you say that we (the readers) are adults and know our personal tastes/prerefences. This got me thinking of younger people, 18-25 years of age and how they might react to these type of stories. As with the more general issue of violence you discussed in the previous Tea Time, I think there is a need for careful and considerate treatment of it in fiction.

    • “This got me thinking of younger people, 18-25 years of age and how they might react to these type of stories.”

      I started reading yaoi/slash fanfic when I was around that age, and back then rape was a huuuge part of the fanfic world in my experience. I can’t speak for M/f as I almost always read M/M, but I can’t remember a discussion of “why is rape such a common tool/device in fanfic?”. I think part of it is that fanfic is super divorced from reality but I ALWAYS felt that the constant use of it normalized it in the fanfic romance narrative. I don’t necessarily think this will lead to people in that age group being confused about what’s acceptable in real life, but I do think it sets a cavalier tone about sexual violence and sexual victims that contributes to the way these things are talked about in general.

      • I had to google yaoi, that’s how out of my depth I’m in this 🙂
        Cavalier tone and desensitized is just right and that is why I feel it’s important to have such discussions. I agree that people are aware of what is fiction/fanfiction and what is real life.

  4. I absolutely agree that there’s a tangle of the political and the personal here, which is very difficult. Part of my problem with noncon, however, is when you add the financial. It’s one thing to write noncon because it’s cathartic; I could never argue with that. But we all know that a lot of people also write noncon because it’s *profitable*.

    I’m bang alongside publishing for money, obviously, that’s been my job all my life. And I really don’t want to police anyone’s fantasies, I think everyone’s agreed on that. But at the same time, I can’t help feeling that this looks awfully like monetising rape. There was an author on Twitter during the GoT discussions saying that her publisher had specifically asked her to add noncon into her erotica because it would sell well. And, while it may sell well because it meets the needs and fantasies of readers, still, there’s something there that leaves a very, very bad taste in my mouth.

  5. I agree with KJ Charles – putting non-con, or rape in a book for the purposes of selling more books would not sit well with me. It’s the same as adding another sex scene, or making it more explicit for sales… comes under the headings of gratuitous and salacious and just no, no.

    I thought I would say I will never put non-con in my stories, but I can see how it could be used to highlight the awful nature of rape, the fact it is about power and abuse not love, or even sex. We write about many inherently bad things and hopefully show the consequences.

    I am now tripping over ‘worms’ and wanting to argue with myself, so I’ll stop.

    Really interesting post as always. See you next month.

  6. OK, I will jump in 🙂 This is an area I’ve had tons of thoughts about for a very long time. And still thinking them. And as I happen to be a person who does enjoy at least some types of dub-con, & occasionally reads non-con, I volunteer my perspective. Which, unsurprisingly, considering it’s me, is extremely long-winded & probably weird. But, um, please don’t throw any stones at me 😉

    I’m acutely aware how hurtful these tropes can be for others. To the point that I increasingly shy away from reading them, but occasionally indulge as a somewhat guilty pleasure. Guilty, yes, despite agreeing, we should be able to read & write whatever we want to read & write. Because when you’re supporting with your dollars, something that hurts someone else, especially, selfishly, when the someone elses include people you know & care about, how do you not worry about that & feel at least somewhat complicit in . . . hurting them?

    The obvious course might seem to be: So don’t do that thing. But, when “not doing that thing” means some sort of self-suppression, it gets quite . . . OK, I won’t use your trademark phrase AJH 😉 But, it’s not so simple 🙂

    I think there may be aspects of what makes dub-con & non-con attractive for those who like to read it, which may be poorly understood or misinterpreted by those who don’t. So, I thought I’d talk about that.

    I have a theory I’ve never seen anyone put forward. So, it’s probably completely cockeyed, but here it is:

    I think that rape fantasy/non-con &/dub-con is to readers what BDSM is to people in real life. A safe way to experience domination/submission fantasies. And while readers could just *read* BDSM, there are reasons reading non-con/dub-con is more powerful.

    This is difficult to put into words, so I hope this will make sense:

    All fantasy involves suspension of disbelief. My perspective on BDSM, though I’m certainly no expert, is that whether it’s for “fun” or a lifestyle, there’s an element of fantasy. As long as one person is willing to stop when another utters an agreed upon word, there is only an *illusion* of control, an *illusion* of surrender. But the more believable the experience can be made to feel, the more *real* the domination/submission feels. People jack up the illusion by adding props like cuffs or rope, blindfolds, using safe-words instead of just the word “stop”. Sometimes they jack it up even more with elaborate role-play.

    I read a BDSM gang-rape fantasy thing, wherein a couple plan abduction role-play fantasy, but the “victim” (intentionally) doesn’t know the exact time/date of the “abduction”. So when suddenly attacked by masked men, the “victim” actually briefly believes it’s real & even once he realizes, the line between belief/disbelief is razor thin. Which was what he wanted.

    Personally, this isn’t my thing, & I found this story kind of horrifying, but I read it as a challenge. Sometimes trigger warnings are like a dare for me. Seeing comments that a story might be “too intense & disturbing” kind of makes me want to read it. Kinda like having to try to hottest pepper sauce. Which, incidentally, I would *never* do. But for some reason, when it comes to reading, I can get a bit “macho” & want to think there’s nothing I can’t handle 😉

    Anyway, though it’s not my thing, I see the appeal: The closer to reality, the more powerful the experience.

    Which is where non-con & dub-con come in.

    The thing is, no matter how realistic they are, BDSM & abduction role-play, in real life, are already a fantasy requiring suspension of disbelief; there is already one pane of glass between the participant & the actual experience.

    Then, when someone only *reads* about that experience, rather than actually participating, it adds an additional pane of glass, further distancing the person from the experience.

    In other words, not only is it not happening to the *reader*, but it’s not *really* even happening to the people in the story.

    However, when you read non-con or dub-con, there’s only one glass pane. It’s not *really* happening to you, the reader. But it is *really* happening to the person in the story. It removes one layer of distance. Making the vicarious experience of the reader more direct & thus more intense.

    So, my theory is that, for readers, reading non-con or dub-con comes much closer to a vicarious experience of domination/submission than reading BDSM does, because, one less pane of glass.

    I guess another way of putting it might be, both *actual* BDSM & *reading* non-con/dub-con are like, a man having sex wearing a condom. Whereas *reading* BDSM is like sex wearing two condoms 😉
    I also think that while reading non-con can be a way for people to process real life rape/sexual abuse, it can also be a way to work with control issues arising from other situations that invoke feelings of weakness or powerlessness, or subtler things like difficulty asking for or articulating what one wants, or difficulty making choices. And probably lots of other things I haven’t thought of 😉

    The common theme to dub-con, non-con & BDSM is that they’re all essentially built around a fantasy of yielding control without giving explicit consent. Because consent itself *implies* control, thus reducing the illusion of powerlessness. And it also requires articulation & choice.

    I kept mulling that over, thinking “yielding” might not be the right word. I mean, in non-con, control is just *taken*, isn’t it? But that’s where the fantasy comes in. That fantasy is about having control taken because the other party wants to yield it, but can’t or doesn’t want to ask for or agree to it, or in some cases, even consciously admit it’s what they want. I guess it’s basically a fantasy about, having someone be able to read your mind.

    I confess I have a kinda, er, thing for dub-con, which I equate to surrender achieved by “persuasion”, thru seduction or by more problematic means, like alcohol, drugs, hypnosis, magic spells, or the more troubling kind of “seduction” that basically starts as non-con. Most of which would be terrifying & horribly violating in real life, but can be appealing in fantasy because, safe.

    I don’t find aspects of non-con that involve threats, physical force, cruelty or violence titillating. But, at the same time, I do sometimes find those stories psychologically compelling. Like, I read a really cruel, violent, slave-fic thing once. And despite feeling so disturbed & discomforted that it made me cringe & squirm, I was hooked by sympathy for the victim & by a kind of vicarious Stockholm syndrome, an abuse cycle kind of hurt/comfort vibe that involves the person being cared for by the very person who hurt them.

    Thing is, Stockholm syndrome exists for a reason. There is a kind of irresistible lure to the idea of being comforted by the one who hurt you. It’s strong stuff.

    Anyway, based on that, I think there may be an emotional/psychological appeal for this type of non-con that goes beyond titillation, perhaps especially for people who’ve been victimized.

    Not that any of the above makes anything okay or changes the fact that this sort of thing can be very hurtful to some people. I just feel that sometimes people for whom this stuff does not appeal at all have difficulty seeing why it would appeal to anyone, & wanted to offer my perspective.

    I also wanted to respond to a few specific things:

    Santino said: “Also, I am against the notion that a M/M rape scene is less disconcerting because of supposed equality in power between two cis males. To me that smacks of “he could fight back if he wanted”.”

    I can’t speak for other readers, but I can say that for me, at least, “he could fight back” is not a part of it. Equalizing power by changing m/f to m/m isn’t really about the physical power dynamic. It’s mental/emotional. It’s about a kneejerk response to patriarchal brainwashing: Man/Masculine = Powerful, Female/Feminine =less powerful.

    Like, for me to “feel” a female character as powerful *in exactly the same way* I experience a male character as powerful, the closer she comes to the normative cultural ideal of “masculine”, or even “alpha”, the more powerful she comes across. This is annoying, but “programming” does what it does & while I can resist or challenge or suppress this reaction, reality is, it’s still there.

    Of course it’s problematic as it devalues “feminine”/yin kinds of power & elevates “masculine”/yang kinds of power, but I’m explaining how it *is*/*feels*, rather than how it should be.

    For me & I suspect for other women, the issue is that *no matter what I know to be true in my head*, it *feels* like, the woman is always standing in a hole in terms of power, as compared to the man.

    So, in reading a non-con scene with a man in power over a woman isn’t just random man, random woman, at some level its, patriarchy exerting force over womankind. But I don’t really think that’s really about Man trumps Woman. I think it’s about Power trumps Vulnerability. Because there’s something about it that feels weirdly personally threatening or triggery for me, yet I’ve never been so much as threatened by a man. So I think, again, I think it’s may be more reacting to what men & women “represent” than to actual men & women.

    Looking at it that way, maybe:
    m/m=Power/Power
    m/f=Power/vulnerable
    f/m=vulnerable/Power
    f/f=vulnerable/vulnerable
    ???

    The question becomes, well, if it’s about equalizing power dynamics, then why not two women instead of two men? Which is a fair question & sometimes there is no good reason. But, if titillation is the goal characters need to be the sex you’re attracted to, so for heterosexual women that means men. Also, Power/Power is not the same power dynamic as vulnerable/vulnerable, there are different psychological responses which can also impact the erotic factor.

    But there are potentially other reasons beyond titillation. For example, as mentioned in the article, for women who’ve experienced abuse men, it can be a way to re-experience that without triggering.

    And also, for women with a negative history involving power abuse by other women/girls (example, intense peer bullying by other girls, my personal childhood demon) power dynamics involving female characters in positions of non-consensual dominance of any kind over other female characters may also be uncomfortable.

    So, I think in many scenarios, maybe it’s not really about characters being “men”, but rather about them being “not women”. Or, about them being Power Personified.

    None of which necessarily makes anything okay or less hurtful, & there are obvious concerns about “othering” men. But, from my perspective, I think these things all have something to do with how it all works, psychologically speaking. If nothing else, it’s how I think a lot of it works for me..

    Then, Santino again: “conversations about M/M noncon can take on a tone of “cis males are more privileged so it’s not as big of an issue”

    This idea that because a class of people is more privileged, it makes the victimization of *individuals* within that class okay, is absolutely not okay. Never, ever, ever. This is just a disguised form of bigotry. To treat individuals within a devalued class worse than a more highly valued class. In this case, it happens to be a class being devalued for being privileged, but it really doesn’t matter the reason, it’s the idea of devaluing *any* person because of *any* group they are in that is dangerous.

    Then AJH said: “But, for m/m, I’ve seen people argue that because men are essentially not affected by rape culture, m/m noncon just isn’t problematic. Like it’s the guilt-free, low calorie non con. And that is … troubling to me.”

    Yes, I absolutely agree. This argument, to me, is more troubling than the trope itself. Assuming men are unaffected is offensively ignorant. Believing that hurting men is less problematic than hurting women because “men are privileged” is downright scary.

    There is lots more to say. But I should probably shut up now 🙂

    One last, extremely silly thing, I’m so sorry AJH, but I am perversely amused by your typo here: “I want to be gangraped by jokes” 😀

  7. Okay, first, I have to say that I have nearly no experience with non-con. I don’t search for it and I usually have a pretty good knowledge about the books that land on my to-read lists, so I don’t read it accidentally, either.

    There are two authors (Aleksandr Voinov, Todd Young) that I like very much because they write about people and situations that can not easily be judged, at least not for me.
    This fascinates me on a level that has nothing to do with sex in general, but because—to quote Alexis—it is complicated. I love it grey. That is my default way of thinking, I guess, and that is why it appeals to me so much.

    I have read several books that show dubious consent. It is, however, mainly dubious for me, the characters in the book don’t see it that way.
    The characters are in a situation or state of mind that doesn’t allow them to react or decide like a character usually would. There are already power dynamics at work that prevent a “normal” behaviour.

    So, I find this fascinating not because I get off on it—which would be just as okay, but it’s not the case for me.

    I searched out one book that has a rape scene in the beginning and the characters later on end up in some kind of relationship. The reason was again, the psychological aspect. I wanted to “see”, or better, get an example, how anything could be possible between a rapist and his victim. I found it very good, though, that the rape wasn’t excused, glamoured over or something similar.

    ***

    I have a not so good feeling about one aspect of the discussion. I feel that there is not enough proof or indication—at least in this discussion, on this page—that women use the M/M genre for their rape fantasies. That may be the case, but I felt that it was taking too much as a given.

    • Mel, I’d never say “women” use m/m for their rape fantasies; I’m not sure if the discussion implies that at any point, I’d have to go back & re-read the the whole thing, which I’ll probably do later (don’t have time right now). But I will say that I know of specific women who *do* use it for that purpose, writing it, at least, because they have so stated. So, with that being one possible reason for writing it, I think it’s fair to say it’s also one possible reason for reading it 🙂

  8. A little off topic but what Alexis said “not necessarily about the sex of the authors but about the axes along which authors are marginalised compared to the axes along which characters are marginalised.” Pretty much sums up my thoughts on author vs. character things including cis women writing m/m.

Leave a Reply