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Sunday, 26 January 2014

A Spanking Good Read - The Prejudice Against Fetish Fiction

Spanking fiction. What is it, and why does it engender such acrimony amongst some folks? I was inspired to this blog post by questions and incidents relating to spanking fiction which recently have come up in two different Facebook reader/writer groups, one of which is a relatively small lesfic group and the other a fairly large general fiction group. What struck me was that despite the differences in the sexuality of the members of each group, their reactions to posts raised on spanking fiction were very similar. First of all, the strongest objections to it came largely from females even in the hetero group, and used much the same language of protest i.e. abuse, disrespect, violence etc. Two things, in fact, struck me: one, how two groups of people - straight females and gay females - who often will display prejudices otherwise toward one another, can be united on some subjects; and two, how misunderstood spanking fiction - and indeed most kinds of fetish fiction - is by both groups.

So, first of all, let’s clear up what this kind of fiction is and is not. Spanking and other fetish fiction, whether it be BDSM or toe-licking, is not about one-sided humiliation or disrespect or violence or rape coming from the dominant partner and directed toward some terrified and unwilling, helpless submissive victim. Fetish fiction is about exactly the same as any other erotic - or even romantic - fiction, it is about the mutual sexual pleasure of two consenting adult individuals. If the fiction glorifies the hurt and humiliation of one person without their consent and pleasure, or above the other, then it’s being done wrong ( And don't even try to use Fifty Shades as a justification for your dislike because the only thing it managed to be was an example of how to write truly bad fetish erotica ). Fetishes, as all sexual relationships, should and mostly do involve exactly that - two consenting adults and mutual pleasure. Most fetishists are just as horrified as non-fetishists by things like rape, pedophilia, bestiality ( the latter of which an unfortunate amount of urban legend has sprung up around ), and anything that involves the unwilling degradation of another sentient being. Yes, it may be difficult for some people to wrap their heads around why anyone would get off on being hog-tied and paddled with something that involves hard rubber and spikes. Or equally why someone would derive pleasure from being the Sub in a Sub-Dom relationship. This seems to be especially difficult for women to understand when it is the woman who is the Sub to a man’s Dom. It’s hard too for lesbians to understand why one woman would want to be a Sub to another woman’s Dom and a lot of the butch-daddy erotic fiction causes such ripples of horror and revulsion to pulsate through the faintly trembling hearts of many lesbians that it’s almost amusing to see. Well, it would be if it wasn’t that they can make people who are in such a relationship feel about two inches high and somehow ‘dirty’ and that makes their disgust not funny but both irritating and abusive. Yes. Abusive. Because it’s not a femme’s butch daddy who is making her feel small and grubby, but you, dear stranger, with all your moral superiority and rush to judgment of another person’s chosen sexual lifestyle.

Within the lesfic community, there is much sneering and ado about what is termed F/F or Female/Female fiction. This and all the other variants - M/M, M/F/M etc - apparently started out as an industry shorthand for helping readers to know what they could expect in their erotic fiction. For example, M/F/F would mean a threesome involving a male-female couple who invite another female to join them in sex. F/F fiction largely involves two women who are not necessarily lesbians, or who don’t necessarily identify their lives as lesbian, but who enjoy sexual and even romantic relationships with other women. It can be a good deal more complicated than that - because human relationships are nothing if not complicated - and this is just a very generalized outline. Lesfic, or lesbian fiction, is supposed to be about women who identify in all ways as lesbians, having relationships with others of the same mindset. Of course, these lines have been blurred just like the rest. That causes more of those ripples of horror and revulsion especially amongst a certain faction of the community who make a practice of noisily self-righteous protest in groups whenever they see something that offends their high moral sensibilities by being something that they are ‘not into’ and therefore do not understand ( and refuse to even find out the facts about or engage in sensible discussion of ). This results usually in either getting the perpetrators banned from the group or making them so uncomfortable that they leave. Apparently the irony at work here of the oppressed becoming the oppressors quite escapes them. Part of the horror is rooted in the fact that fetishism comes up more often in F/F fiction than it does in lesfic. Fetishism is a no-no in lesifc where the average storyline goes something like this:

Girl meets girl, and girls initially don’t like each other. Girls face some kind of ‘adversity’ together ( getting snowed in at some remote mountain cabin is very popular ) and during the course of this trial girls fall so totally in love that they go from all the crying and arguing of Chapter 1 to talking marriage and babies in Chapter 4. Girls then have some ‘misunderstanding’ such as Girl A overhearing Girl B’s telephone conversation with another woman and, instead of just asking her about it which would be the sensible fucking thing to do after all, Girl A jumps to all sort of way-out conclusions and runs off in high dudgeon. After some angst and confusion, Girl B eventually finds out - through some third-party best buddy - what got Girl A’s goat like that, and she then charges off to explain everything and win Girl A back, never once stopping to ask herself why she would even want to win back some ditzy bitch who‘s going to freak out every Girl B has a conversation with another woman. Anyway, they get back together amidst much declaring of everlasting love and you-are-the-only-one-baby ( There must be a lot of calling each other 'baby', it seems to be a prerequisite for lesbian romance to be True Romance - don't ask me why. Anyone calls me 'baby' the only true thing they can rely on is to be truly losing some teeth ). And they live Happily Ever After. Presumably with their matching wedding rings and perfect little babies in a wonderfully supportive lesbian community.

Nary a spikey paddle nor a whip or chain in sight. Hell, it’s considered ‘racy’ ( and sometimes too racy ) if a dildo gets involved, and the mere mention of leather underwear would probably cause many to faint dead away ( That I’m pretty certain there’s more fetish sexuality going on in the world than these laced-up soccer moms on both sides of the sexuality fence want to admit, well, that’d be a Part B to this post, I think ). What they say in public amounts to: the lesbians want the F/F fetishists to go and join the hetero community where they think these women belong; and the heteros want the F/F fetishists to stay in the lesbian community where they think those women belong. Both sides like to put on their best Puritan sneers when regarding fetishists in general. Both sides also like to demonstrate unpleasant prejudice against the other from time to time ( “I just don’t understand how lesbians can like that - ugh!” “I just don’t understand how a straight woman can like that - ugh!” ) Neither side sees the irony also at work here. How contrary we all are, and how prejudice is ugly, no matter what form in which it rears it head. For one person to be unable to comprehend the pleasure derived by another person from a consensual, mutually-pleasing act is understandable and, acceptable if expressed in a reasonable, non-judgmental way. What is unacceptable is for anyone to claim some kind of automatic moral high ground and to use it as a platform from which decry the other’s sexual choices. Emphasis on the word choices. People's emotions do have an effect on their moral judgments, so if a person is afraid of or disgusted by something they are more likely to make a harsh moral judgment of it. But this emotional knee-jerk reacting can be easily un-learned. All that's needed is to pause for a moment before hitting that CAPS LOCK button, put aside your personal feelings, and look at it from an objective view-point.

As a final word, there is also a prejudice that all fetish fiction is poorly written. This is so obviously not true that it doesn't even bear too much arguing against. I've read - as I'm sure we all have - plenty of non-fetish poorly written fiction. If someone writes a poor cop thriller it doesn't create a widespread and prejudicial notion that all cop thrillers are poorly written. Because that would be silly, right? Right. So the idea that all fetish fiction is poorly written is frankly nothing more than a bollocks excuse for all that noisy, uptight Puritan sexual prejudice. Bad enough that you are prejudiced, but do you have to make it worse by using intellectual snobbery to try to justify it? Get over yourselves with that.