Where the Happily Ever Afters Are Always In Color

Tag Archives: race

 Day 706

05.30.2012

Okay, so the other day I said I wasn’t going to blog at length about BDSM here. JUST KIDDING!

In working on Suzy & Pilar, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want their relationship to come across to a reader who knows nothing about the kinky lifestyle. I want to tell an honest story that balances the joys of expressing ones sexuality and the challenges one might face when that sexual life clashes with your real/professional life. I’m also tackling Suzy’s struggle to balance the joys of being with Pilar and keeping her own well-being at the forefront of her priorities.

But that’s only part of the reason I’m talking about it here and yes it has to do with writing about race. In a way. See, I love to read BDSM novels. I have nearly worn the covers of my Sleeping Beauty series, but a lot of the stories I’ve read leave me scratching my head. I find characters doing things that I honestly find unsafe and a little nuts. Not in a “oh I would never let someone hang me from the rafters by my nipples” sort of way, but in a “wait don’t you worry about your actual safety, your actual mental health?” kind of way.

I’ve read about a lot of Doms, male and female, who are just assholes. Not dominant lovers, but pure assholes that use intimidation and circumstance to get their partners to submit. Most of these pairings have involved white couples. A few have involved mixed races couples, but the Dom is always white. I don’t do assholes. These issues have been rolling around in my head for some time, in fiction and in real life as I’ve heard horror stories about such Doms, but yesterday writer Mikki Kendall, who you should follow really just cause, started a discussion on women of color (WOC) and BDSM kink. (women of color includes all non-white women). The discussion does appear to be centering around WOC as submissives at this point, though there are many non-white Dommes in the community as well. In Blacker Than Blue I write a black Mistress in control of a white submissive. It’s a very loving relationship, I promise. I try not to apply my own experiences and thoughts to others. Everyone’s sex life is different, but what Mikki and the others who responded to her post, had to say really struck a cord with me. Here is Mikki’s original post and my response.

karnythia:

I’ve been reading all of the talk around 50 Shades of Grey, & noting how often developing a BDSM relationshionship in romantica/erotica is written as though sex comes before trust & then running into convos on & offline that center around the idea that kink is something white women do. That being sex positive is a movement that requires you to discuss your sex life with all & sundry & be white to boot or you’re a problem & not a person.

Somehow the fact that WOC not only have kinky sex, but enjoy it is a hard concept for some folks to grasp. And things get more complicated when you factor in our high rates of sexual assault, violence, & cultural norms that mean our sexuality is often something we share with partners but not with the public for our own safety. WOC can figure as props in the sexual fantasies of others, but people seem to think that we don’t deserve any agency over ourselves for our own pleasure. And that makes conversations about sex in general & kink in specific really hard to have, especially when it comes to kink, how WOC may choose to engage in it & whether or not we utilize the same spaces for connections as white people.

Our voices are erased from so many media outlets (see the casual moments of racism in 50 Shades of Grey and how little has been said about that), and what we speak of when we do speak to each other is often not for public consumption. But not talking to or for outsiders isn’t the same as not talking at all.

So, let’s talk about what it means to stand at the corner of Madonna/Whore as Mammy/Jezebel & how that impacts our expressions of our sexuality. Let’s talk about why sites like Fetlife being underpopulated with WOC doesn’t mean WOC aren’t interested in kink. And let’s talk about what a cultural history of being unrapeable legally might do to the idea of sexual freedom. If we’re seen as whores from birth regardless, what do we do to own our sexuality? How do we navigate kink in our minds & with our bodies? How do we find partners & what do we disclose & when? For those of us in kinky relationships, what does it mean to play? Do we attend munches/classes/parties? Are those environments safe for us? And what about things like race play, how do we reconcile ourselves to that if it is or isn’t part of our kink?

 rebekahloves:

ive given this issue a lot of thought recently. my kink life started with a connection with one person, not through a munch, or a play party, or an online link up on a kink website. ive since attended play parties and munches and joined kink websites and i have to say not many of these places are spaces that make WOC feel safe and this is a problem. a KEY element of the BDSM lifestyle is trust. ive been approached by many white men because of their attraction to my picture. these are the same white men who chose to ignore that fact i am already taken. this information is right next to that picture. these are the same white men who collect black female submissives on fetlife and the same men who think that my fantasies involve being treated like the “black beast that i am”. its crazy. its backward, and for me, it’s not safe.

as i read more erotic fiction, fiction that starts with intense bondage scenes after a two second conversation between strangers im left thinking, who the hell is conducting their sex life like this. i know its fantasy. i know its fiction, but what message is it sending to people outside of the lifestyle. there’s a different between getting off on pain and putting your life in danger. if you met a guy in a bar would you really just go home with him and let him tie you up? no? then would you do it just because he says he’s a Dom? or because he’s rich? or because he seems to know what’s best for you? that’s crazy. that’s not BDSM. that’s abuse.

here’s the thing about submission, if im going to give my mind AND my body to you, i have to know that you are interested in me as a person. i have to know that you are looking for the signs that i am being pushed too far and not because you don’t want to be accused of rape or that you might literally break me. i need to know what you are respecting me, loving me and doing everything you can to help us both express our sexual needs. and you need to know that simply saying “you look so sexy dear” wont make my legs fall open.

this is nearly impossible if you make it known before i have even given you that trust that your only desire is procuring a WOC for your stock. that shit is not gonna fly. i live my life
with my safety at the forefront of my day to day. i don’t trust strangers. i face enough danger as is. do you know how afraid i am to get pulled over by LAPD? i don’t need to be bound and naked when that danger makes itself evident.

i’ve been pretty open about my kink life online, but the details aren’t for anyone but me and my partner. does that mean im not a legit member of the community? no. its just means i don’t want to talk to strangers about what exactly i do in my private time. you know why? because strangers like to take the little bits of information they do know about you, like the size of your cleavage or the color your skin, and use it to make judgements and further assumptions. they use that information to create their own fantasy with your image at the center (or most likely at the periphery) and that’s the wrong foot to start on.

so for me it’s definitely relationship first, kink second. i can put the kink on hold if my partner isn’t into it, but i can’t put my well-being on hold just to get off. i say this because there are people in the lifestyle and people interested in the lifestyle who take the approach the other way around.

 – 

There was further discussion by other readers about the politics of being a WOC and being whipped by a white Dom in public forum, being paraded around as black chattel, etc, things that would test me far beyond my mental comfort zone. I must note that I have been in interracial relationships my whole romantic life and I guess technically I’m in one now. I don’t think that all non-POC are looking to degrade WOC like it’s their job. I’m saying it the actions of few that are ruining it for many.

Obviously my life is something I take seriously, but when I write I take my characters and their experiences seriously too. If other WOC don’t approach BDSM in a way that the larger collection of BDSM fiction is portraying then there is a disconnect, one that I can’t ignore. I’m still thinking this through. I’m wondering how and if the community will evolve, but I’m sharing this as food thought, for characters, and audience, and the people around you. 

You can read more replies below in the notes. Click Here.
Mikki’s Twitter

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 Race and Fiction

03.22.2012

Day 632: Today, I’m talking about race. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable, but that’s just what I do around here.

Here is my disclaimer: I am about to address the INCLUSION of People of Color. NOT, I REPEAT, NOT the exclusion of white people. INCLUSION!

So you might be wondering why I’m talking about race. This isn’t about Trayvon Martin, though I’ll get back to him. I’ve been wanting to talk about this for a while now, but yesterday I was pushed to it. I was in a chat on twitter and there was talk about writing characters of color/non-white characters. I did not start this discussion. And the general response was “I, as an author, do not write characters of color because I am afraid of presenting a racial stereotypes that people will find offensive.” This is not the first time I have heard this response.

Okay. Valid argument. No one wants to offend people, most of the time. And yes there are portrayal of people of color out there, but I am terrified to think that Tyler Perry speaks for me and it makes me sick to my stomach to think that Kathryn Stockett speaks for my grandmothers. So what are we left with if not the stereotypes? Omission. Here’s the problem with complete omission, when you leave characters of color out (the same can be said of gay and lesbian characters, characters of varying gender identities, etc.), they no longer exist in your world. When they don’t exist in your world, they don’t exist in the reader’s world. This is dangerous, especially for people who are only exposed to diversity through books, film and television. Just as dangerous as the stereotypes and in cases, more harmful.

Now when the reader sees themselves on the page, there is an instant connection to that character. Other people see me. Other people acknowledge that I exist, that I have thoughts and feelings and value. I loved She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb because he wrote about an overweight girl in an honest, real way. BTW Wally Lamb has never been an overweight girl. He took the time to write how difficult it is to be overweight and how one may find themselves overweight in the first place. He nailed it.

The current standard is the brunette, doe eyed, young white female between the ages of 15 and 26 who seems to be the focus of EVERY book, movie and television show. I have nothing against this, but I am against every other girl being left out. I am against the only portrayal of African American youth in the last five years being the drug dealing kids of The Wire, the kind of portrayal that leads to deaths like Trayvon’s. I’m against Amber Riley having to play the teenage version of the fat, sassy black woman.

I was raised in a very warm, two parent home in Southern New Hampshire. Both of my parents are well educated, community minded people. My father, in particular raised me, not to be color blind, but to be kind and respectful of all people. As a kid I watched as he spoke with strangers and neighbors, and you know what, my father treated everyone the same. Teenagers, children, the elderly, his peers, even people who annoyed the hell out of him (I know his “I’m pissed off” face though others don’t) with the same respect. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people love my father. The things I’ve heard said about him would bring most people to movie of the week tears. As a father to four black children in a white town he NEVER made race an issue. He taught us to behave as any parent should. He taught us the importance of studying hard and in a timely fashion, even though this message didn’t really sink in for me until I hit college. He took us to James Taylor concerts.

Here’s the thing, my father could have made race an issue. He grew up during the 50′s and 60′s. He lived through segregation. His parents and his grandmother who had a hand in raising him, lived through worse. But not once did I ever see any sort of angry black man chip on my father’s shoulder. He’s the same way to this day and I think, even better because age has just made him wiser and even more understanding of the world around him and yes, people continue to love him.

This was my spring board. When I hit elementary school, I went out into the world with this mentality: treat people the same. And I did. I bounced between different social groups right up to college and in that time, I dealt with racism from another kid exactly once. He dropped the N bomb and I let him know about himself, but that’s another story. I had a friend ask me some silly things about my hair, but it was innocent ignorance and I love her dearly.

I did, however, face racism from adults. I’ve had adults and, yes they were white, pull my hair as they asked me what it felt like. And yes this is racist. Treating little black girl the way you would treat dog is racist. I have had a girl tell me her mother didn’t think she should use our toilet because she would get AIDS. I’ll let you marinate on that for a moment. There were countless other instances that don’t need to be rehashed, but it was the adults in my life who exhibited the most ignorant, racist behavior. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen that racism is taught. It trickles down. I have seen it with my own eyes. How do we change this? We work from the bottom up. Now I’m not stupid enough to think that racism will ever disappear completely. It’s a global issue. People thrive of superiority and separation. But things can be made better and we start with the images we show our children.

When I was a kid I was most often compared to Missy Elliot. She was big and black. I was big and black. Beyond that, I have no clue if I have anything in common with Missy Elliot. I don’t know her, but at the time she was the only woman of color my friends could identify with and that’s a shame, but the entertainment community wasn’t thinking about me. They didn’t think I needed to see my image reflected in the media. I’m sure Missy Elliot wasn’t thinking about me either. These days the defaults are Oprah and Beyonce, again two woman that I’m not sure I share all that much in common with. I would kill to be compared to Octavia Butler. Oh man. But let me get back to my main point.

I gave up expecting to see myself anywhere after The Cosby Show went off the air and that sucks. It sucks that I’m a little shocked to see an Asian/White couple in a VW commercial. It sucks that I know that commercial is not being played in parts of the country.

The main praise I have received for Better Off Red is that I have included a diverse cast of characters. As it stands, I have women who are Japanese, African-American, Puerto Rican, Bajan, Native American, Russian, British, and Scots-Mexican. I touch on their history, but I’m writing about vampires. I need to focus on them being vampires and what issues that presents. Moving forward, that I see, all of my romances will feature interracial couples. I had another author ask, with some shock (and a little disgust maybe, she seemed to be against this idea, like I was trying too hard) why I would do this. I think she was wondering why I wouldn’t just write black couple or white couples. Why? Because people ask me all the time to recommend romances with people of color or for romances with mixed couples. All the time. Because I don’t live in an all white world. I live in Koreatown. If anything I should be writing about Korean couples. I’m not in an all black relationship. Because my best friends here in LA are Latina and Korean. When we walk into a room, INSTANT DIVERSITY! Why? Because I am afrai
d to leave it up to other authors to do it for me.When people take to screen and page the default is white. Tell me I’m wrong and I will laugh in your face.

see, bestie and i being diverse.

When you say, and by you I mean the fifty or so writers I have heard say this since I’ve entered the game, when you say you are afraid to write stereotypes, you are saying that stereotypes would be your approach. I have stopped reading authors who latch on to the stereotypes. Native Americans being the most recent and horrifying portrayal. Here’s the thing about stereotypes in fiction, no matter how true you feel they are in real life, they actually don’t translate well to the page or the screen at all. If your main characters is a dumb blonde with no personality, your reader will not be interested. That’s a stereotype right? But why the hell would you write it? Exactly. Here’s a tip: don’t write them. If you want to write about an Asian character, give them an interesting journey. If you base the journey around a math competition, well… If you are writing about D

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