Metapost: I'm Sorry

As of this morning, the SKA site owner has posted an "ask" soliciting comments and submissions from people who have met me in real life.

I don't feel like I can do this anymore.

I'm sorry.

I'm sorry to the friends I've been neglecting because I've been dealing with all this exacerbating my depression and because I can't work up the energy to respond to emails half the time and because I don't like being that person who only has depressing things to report and talk about and so I say nothing at all rather than bring everyone down.

I'm sorry to the readers who have been wanting more Twilight or Narnia or Ross or Xanth or whatever and I've not been scratching that itch. I've been in your seat before, watching a blogger go through stuff, and I know that feeling of helplessness when something you like or care about or read for self-care starts floundering and I know how awful it can be. One of my biggest sources of guilt these past few months is knowing that someone, statistically-speaking, has been using my posts as a source of depression-relief as I used to with the favorite blogs I used to read, and I feel genuinely awful for not being there for that reader.

I'm sorry also to the people who have been hurt by me or feel they have been hurt by me. I know that will come as a surprise to some of the people who have been following along, or that there will be claims that this apology is insincere (it's not) or insufficient (I hope that it's not, I don't know how to do more than this, but it's not my call to make). I am sorry that there are people who feel that I have bullied them or hurt them or attacked them or yelled at them; if it helps at all, it genuinely was never my intention to hurt anyone as a blogger or a moderator but intent is not a magical shield that prevents harm from happening and I know that and so I am sorry for any and all harm that I have caused.

I really am. I'm sorry. If I could go back and do everything differently, I would.

I have always known that I have made mistakes as a blogger and a moderator and a feminist and a person. I have hurt people with my privilege. I am deeply, heartily, thoroughly, completely sorry for those mistakes. I do not know how to address them at this point except to withdraw. I have asked Melissa to remove me as a contributor for Shakesville, and I am walking away from my site for a bit. I'm walking away from this blog for a while. I don't really know if or when I am coming back, and I don't want to promise to come back when I'm not sure if I can or will.

I'm sorry. I feel like I should say more than this, but I don't know what or how. So I'm just going to hit post and close the browser for awhile.

Open Thread: Yellow Grain

Yellow Grain by Petr Kratochvil

Xanth: Nothing Worth Gaining

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Whorephobia, Slavery, Violence]

Castle Roogna, Part 5

OK, before we go any further, one of you wonderful people sent me a link to this and it is wonderful: Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth. (I'd credit the sender, but I don't know if you want to be credited, so let me know if you'd like and I will!) Update: Sent by the wonderful mcbender, who is okay with being credited. Thank you! :)

Now. We're halfway through the book and I'm cranky and sleep-deprived so let's see how far we can ride this train before we have to stop for peanuts. Or however that metaphor goes. Chapter 7 (Siege) is about an army of barbarian Mundanes besieging the Zombie Master's (ZM's) castle because there's a sexy girl inside and maybe also treasure.

The siege was serious. The Mundanes were reasonably apt at this sort of thing, since they were an army. Motivated by vengeance and greed and the knowledge that at least one measurelessly pretty girl was inside the castle, they knew no decent limits. They closed in about the castle and readied their assault.

Metapost: Welp

[Content Note: Harassment]

The next time someone asks why I don't just ignore the existence of sites that are dedicated to harassing me, the answer is that I try but apparently the people who want to harass me don't like me ignoring them. Imagine that.


(The above screenshot is dedicated to That One Guy From The Pharyngula Comment Thread who valiantly argued with all the nice Pharyngula moderators that I must be lying, mistaken, or delusional about harassers coming to my board specifically trying to direct me to the harassment tumblr.) 

I do find it kinda amusing that in a post that is complaining that I banned someone after they kept emailing me after I asked them to STOP (and yes, posting about it a year later on a harassment site definitely makes me think that this person cared about my boundaries as much as they kept claiming they did), there are also complaints that I'm not posting enough content that THEY like (boo Xanth, more Twilight) and that I post too many metaposts.


Lots of metaposts in the last 6 months of 2012, you say? Would those be the six months that directly followed major back surgery and even more major depression? And I nearly got laid off? And my medication--the medication that I'm still daily on--was severely fucking with my head? Those six months?

Yeah, that's fair. I definitely deserve to be harassed for letting people know about that stuff. And I definitely deserve to be harassed for not posting more Twilight even after your site harasses me for talking about Twilight.

Xanth: Inflatable Breasts and Manipulated Cocks

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Hatred of Sex Work and Sex Workers, Slut-Shaming]

Castle Roogna, Part 4

Chapter 5 (Castle) lands us at the construction site of Castle Roogna, which is where Trent and Iris hang out in the main timeline and where Dor will live when he is king, so he's understandably curious about its construction. In this chapter we will also get to meet our protagonist and antagonist in the backdrop of war that occurs throughout this book.

Our protagonist is Roogna, whose Magician talent is that he can "adapt" magic into other forms of magic. So, for example, he can turn magic fruit trees into other magic fruit trees. Not a bad talent all things considered, but criminally underused in this book, in my opinion, presumably so that Dor can shine with his talent of talking to walls in the middle of a live war. (Uh-oh, I'm being uncharitable already. MOAR SPYMASTER FIXFIC, STAT.) Roogna is described as old and grandfatherly-looking and much like a working-class gardener. You are supposed to like him.

Our antagonist is Murphy, whose Magician talent is basically Murphy's Law, i.e., anything that can go wrong, will. His talent is entirely contrived for the plot of this book and I'm tempted to use it as a thwacking stick from here on out for every time a woman's talent is deemed non-Magician, because it is the most useless talent ever. Murphy can't control the outcome of what will go wrong or how it will go wrong, and the curse can be easily thwarted by non-Magicians like Jumper as long as they plan meticulously for failure. Murphy is more urbane and attractive than Roogna, and you can basically apply the Trent Template to him: he's "evil" but noble and attractive and good and possessed of understandable motives that he follows nobly, etc. You are supposed to like him.

Open Thread: May Bells

May Bells by Bobby Mikul

Xanth: Practical Jokes and Magical Warfare

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 3

Chapter 3 (Jumper) flings us into the action: Dor has time-leaped into the tapestry and is now occupying the body of an adult barbarian warrior from Mundania. (We never get an age for this body, but I get the impression that he's 30-ish.) Dor's child body has remained behind in Xanth and is being animated by the Brain Coral from the last book, as it was curious about humanity.

You will please note that all this is happening in parallel "real time", i.e., that the time Dor spends in the tapestry is the same amount of time that the Brain Coral animates his body. And you will also please note that everything Dor does in the past is really being done; later Millie will almost-not-quite remember him. This will be important later, in the sense that Millie and Irene will be blatantly lied to in order to cover up what Dor and the Brain Coral have been doing.

Xanth: The Lot of Women

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 2

Chapter 2 (Tapestry) continues to hammer home how very awful Dor's life is, what with being the heir to the throne and expected to marry the princess (though only if he wants to, which is a level of choice which isn't really being extended to Irene in any real practical sense) and having the bestest talent for miles, etc. IT IS HARD BEING SPECIAL, YA'LL. And while I would normally be on board with that, I'm kinda being unforgiving here because this is all being used as a vehicle to dehumanize Millie and Irene into objects that Dor does and doesn't have access to, what a shame.

It was his general isolation from others that weighed on him, and his new awareness of Millie the ghost. What a difference there was between a brat like Irene and a woman like Millie! Yet Irene was the one Dor was expected to get along with. It wasn’t fair.

Please note that there is never any suggestion that Millie might not want to become romantically involved with the 12-year-old boy that she has raised since he was born--the book continues to insist that the only real obstacle in the way of Dor having Millie is his rival Jonathan plus some lip-service given to all those pesky adults who want him to hook up with Irene instead because of their political conveniences. The final chapter in this novel will be Dor convincing Millie that she's in love with him before backing away at the last second and throwing Jonathan at her as a distraction and it comes off as just being really really clear that he could have her if he wanted.

Let me reiterate: The narrative does not, for a moment, consider that Millie might have feelings about NOT sexing up her surrogate son that is less than half her age.

Xanth: Where Manhood Equals Adulthood

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]

Castle Roogna, Part 1

So, haha, I was feeling so bad during all the Source of Magic stuff because every so often someone would mention that Castle Roogna isn't that bad and I was, like, lolsobbing and rocking myself because haha I TOO THOUGHT THE SAME THING but it turns out my memories were lies made out of candyfloss and unwillingness to remember really awful things.

Like, just for instance? The cover to the left of this text? The one that has the barbarian and the spider meeting the nice centaur? An adorable little subplot in this book is about the centaur deciding (with the help of our protagonist) to rape his wife. HAHA!

So now that I've tantalized you with that little fact (omg one of the three people on the cover of this book is a rapist and we're supposed to find that hilarious and sympathetic) let me back up and give you a plot summary: Heir-Apparent Dor is the 12-year-old son of Bink and Chameleon and his magician-level talent is making inanimate objects talk. He's sad because his mom and dad have spent basically his entire life avoiding him, only it turns out that they've really been avoiding Millie because Bink doesn't trust himself around her sex appeal talent.

Open Thread: Dill

Dill by Vera Kratochvil

Xanth: White Male Tears

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Love Springs]

Source of Magic, Part 5

Okay! When we last left our heroes, they had basically forced Jewel into coming with them on their quest to find their missing friends because, uhhmm, they might find a potion to fix Bink after or during that quest, and Jewel needs to be with him so that he can fall out of love with her, and this is definitely Jewel's problem to help solve because, uhhmm.

Anyway! It's all okay, because Jewel is well on the way to falling deeply in love with the guy she's known for two days.

Then the worm lurched, striking a different type of rock, and Bink was thrown forward against the nymph. “Uh, sorry,” he said, righting himself, though indeed he was not very sorry. “I, uh—”

“Yes, I know,” Jewel said. “Maybe you’d better put your arms about my waist, to steady yourself. It does get bumpy on occasion.”

“I … think I’d better not” Bink said.

“You’re sort of noble, in your fashion,” she observed. “A girl could get to like you.”

“I—I’m married,” Bink said miserably. “I—I need that antidote.”

“Yes, of course,” she agreed.

MANPAIN! And, you know, I kinda feel for Bink just a tiny, tiny bit because it is difficult falling out of love with a spouse and trying to work out what to do about that. But Bink either hasn't fallen out of love with Chameleon or (if he has) won't own it because it would hurt his self-image so there goes all my pity right off the bat because I'm not a fan of him being a disingenuous ass.

Xanth: Love Springs and Doing Harm

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny]
[Extra Content Note: Ableism, conflation of illogical/unreasonable with mental illness, Sexual Assault]

Source of Magic, Part 4

Alrighty then. We finished Chapter 7 in the last post and there are 14 chapters total, so we're halfway to the end. Maybe we can actually finish out on this one and I can stop being distracted by the awful.

Chapter 8 (Mad Constellations) is about Bink and Co. being overwhelmed by the region of heavy magic because it messes with their powers of perception and their ability to act reasonably. They end up scaling a tree (yes, including the centaur) in an attempt to reach some living constellations and pick a fight with them and/or sex them up. I'll zip through most of this chapter as simply low-level awful rather than really-interesting awful, but will note a couple of Binkisms on his wife:

There were people too—men, children, and several fetching young women. That reminded Bink again of Chameleon. The longer he was away from her, the more he missed her. So what if she had her ugly phase? She also had her lovely phase

More evidence that Bink doesn't really love variety or smart-Chameleon, since her smart phase is something to be endured and suffered through.

Xanth: Sirens, Gorgons, Trolls, and Griffins

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Nasty Stereotypes about Wives/Marriage]

Source of Magic, Part 3

Okay! *cracks knuckles* Let's power through some more Source of Magic, if only because I am more than halfway through Castle Roogna and it is so much worse than I remembered. When we left our intrepid adventurers, they were crashing at an Ogre's house before continuing on for their search for the source of magic in the morning. Ta-da! The next day they find the source of magic... kinda.

What they actually find is a village where all the inhabitants are dedicated to shoveling magic dust from the place where it wells up naturally from the ground into the air currents to be scattered across Xanth. It's difficult and dangerous work, partly because they can't use magic in their village (because it basically goes supernova) and do please note that life without magic conveniences is considered, in Xanth, to be the lowest depths of barbarism.

Open Thread: Rain in the Forest

Rain in the Forest by Larisa Koshkina

Xanth: Ogres, Demons, and Cheating Girlfriends

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Nasty Stereotypes about Wives/Marriage, "Love Springs"]

Source of Magic, Part 2

Let's continue with Source of Magic. First post here. And you're gonna want to check that first post out, because I don't want to waste everyone's time recapping the plot again here. Instead I'll let the narrative summarize the plot so far as we head cheerfully into Chapter 3:

In the morning they commenced the mission: three males with woman-problems. All professed to be glad to get away from their situations and into adventure.

Just to clarify, their "woman-problems" is that Bink knocked up Chameleon against her consent and she's still a little pissed about that; Cherie had a foal and Chester is annoyed at not being the center of her world anymore; and Crombie hates Sabrina but doesn't know how to break up with a woman.

Xanth: We're Having So Much Fun, So Let's Keep Going

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Nasty Stereotypes about Wives/Marriage]

Source of Magic, Part 1

We had so much fun with A Spell for Chameleon that I thought I'd continue with the next book, The Source of Magic. But I want to talk about why for a moment.

Talking about sexism in Xanth is like shooting fish in a barrel. As an example, I had 74 highlighted passages in my Kindle version of Chameleon, most of which I shared in my blog post. In contrast, I have 186 highlighted passages for Source of Magic. That doesn't mean the second book is twice as bad as the first (I'll leave that to you to decide), but it is pretty awful. So why talk about it?

For one, Will is right in that a lot of people still don't talk about the misogyny in the series. For whatever reason, we tend to focus on the egregious puns. To a certain extent, I think the rape culture in Xanth is worth talking about for that reason alone: because it's there and it needs to be talked about and I don't know of a source that has covered it thoroughly already. I like filling holes like that, because I like to imagine someone like my past self finding my blog post and being saved a lot of bother, ha.

For two, I think Xanth is worth talking about because it's so easy for the rape culture to fade into the background of the silly pun-fun. These are books that are marketed to young adults, even children, precisely because they are (on the surface) fun and light-hearted. Most people don't think of Xanth as hardcore rapey grimdark because for most people these books aren't hardcore rapey grimdark. And I find it really fascinating (and I think it is worth exploring) why it's so easy to forget a male protagonist who wants to rape his true love when written by a male author, and yet we tend not to forget it when a male protagonist wants to rape his true love when written by a female author. That seems like it would be sobering in any context, even a childish punny one, and yet for many of us, we forgot entirely! Or our brains purged it. I find that fascinating.

For three, these books are still being recommended. If someone objects to the rape in later books, people tell them to go read the original trilogy because that was back before the books got rapey. If someone objects to rape in the early books, people tell them to go read the later books because they got better. I like writing posts that people can link to and say This is why I'm not reading the series, now quit saying I can't criticize an author just because I didn't read the entire series. Because, full disclosure, that's a pet peeve of mine, ha.

So! Let's dive into The Source of Magic and determine whether it's twice as bad as the book before it or not. (No, I'm not going to share all 186 notes.)

Metapost: To the SKA Site Owner

[Content Note: Online Harassment]

I want to thank everyone for the support they expressed in my post yesterday. Thank you all, so much. I hope to try to post more deconstruction content soon, and I am sorry (for myself and all of you) that all this has to be going on. I know I'd prefer to be writing fun content, and I'm sure you'd prefer to be reading it.

I have been monitoring the harassment site yesterday out of necessity since my post went up here, because I had hoped to see an acknowledgment that they'd received my message that their harassment of me hurts and (I'd hoped) that they would stop now that I have asked them to.

The site moderator has posted several posts in response to mine, so they are aware of my feelings. But they have also claimed that I haven't said anything to them, which I have taken as a desire that I do so. I have sent them the following message on their Tumblr contact form, which I am reposting here so that they can verify that the message did in fact come from me. I do not plan to contact them further. Also, that they might verify that the request to please stop has come from me, I have recorded the message in my own voice, though I apologize for the quality: I am not a public speaker.

Comments will not be enabled on this post, though I will leave them open on yesterday's post. This is simply being posted as a direct and clear message that yes, I am asking the site owner of SKA to please stop harassing me. I don't want there to be any claims of confusion on the grounds that I didn't ask directly.

Metapost: This Shit Hurts

[Content Note: Online Harassment]

Please note that all links in this post are courtesy of Do Not Link

A lot of you have no doubt noticed by now that despite rigidly sticking to a posting schedule for several years now, much of 2014 has seen a dramatic decline in my post numbers, as well as in regularly-scheduled posts. (Meaning that things go up when I manage to write them rather than on our Tuesday / Thursday schedule.) And a number of you have noticed that I rarely manage to return emails anymore, and that my Twitter activity has become almost non-existent.

I'm ready now to talk about why that has been happening.

Xanth: We Need To Talk About Piers Anthony

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, including statutory rape of a minor.]

A Spell for Chameleon

So after my FSoG post, I ended up in a conversation with a friend about the Xanth series, and I realized that we are long overdue for a Piers Anthony discussion. Xanth is one of those series that is difficult to explain to newcomers because its popularity is undeniable (I myself devoured the books readily when I was a youngster) and yet they are super-rapey.

And it's one of those things that a lot of us didn't really notice at the time (self included), I think because so much of male-suthored science fiction / fantasy is rapey already. Like, for all that Xanth was rapey, it was light-hearted rapey. As opposed to grimdark rapey, see also the Dragonlance books that were, for me, the main fantasy alternative to Xanth growing up.

So you'll see posts nowadays, since as far as I know Xanth is still going, talking about how Xanth has gotten all rapey these days (like this nice post from Jim Hines who seems to legitimately be the nicest guy, so this isn't a criticism of him in the slightest) except that we have many of us kinda forgotten that Xanth started rapey and any continued rapey is just so much furthering of that status quo.

In preparation for this post, I did two things. One was to dig through the 1977 copy I'd scanned and epubed for myself in order to copy-pasta the egregious stuff for my friend to gawp at. Two was to check Amazon to see if Xanth had finally become available on the Kindle store (it has!) and purchase a copy there.

Feminism: This Is Really All I Wanna Say About FSoG

[Content Note: Non-Consensual Fantasies, the usual Rape/Abuse CN for Twilight/FSoG, BDSM/kink]

Probably everyone is aware by now that the trailer for the new 50 Shades of Grey movie is out on the internets. (I recommend both Erika's deconstruction of the book and Cliff's deconstruction of the book. So highly recommended.) The following is a collection of tweet thoughts I made about Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey last night, but in longer format:

Twilight has toxic abusive relationships in it, yes. But I would really beg the world to remember that the success of Twilight could (and I would argue does) indicate that many of our girls and women feel safer with fiction where the things they desire are "forced" on them rather than the girls and women going out to get what they desire for themselves.

Is that a problem? Yes.

Is it a problem to be solved by berating lady-readers and lady-writers? No.

If our society has made girls and women feel unsafe--and I want to stress that word, unsafe--for WANTING and GETTING the things they desire through their own non-forced-upon-them-means, then the problem is with our society and not with the lady-readers and lady-writers trying to navigate that unsafety.

And I would also like to point out that I could easily name a hundred male-authored scifi/fantasy books (a) that have worse relationship dynamics, (b) that do not end with a girl/woman getting what she wants (i.e., Winning At Patriarchy), and (c) which come under a fraction*** of the scrutiny and criticism that we give to works by women, for women, about women protagonists. And that avalanche of criticism, as well as what it is directed against and what it isn't directed against, doesn't occur in a vacuum.

So, yes, Twilight has bad things in it and no one is obliged to like it. But let us remember that it's not uniquely bad (looking at almost all the male-authored scifi/fantasy on my bookshelf, with a few key exceptions--and the fact that many of you reading along KNOW which scifi/fantasy male authors are feminist should kinda drive that point home, I think, because it's a short list and well-known precisely because they are wonderful rare unicorns). And let us also not fall into the trap of shaming women for liking Twilight because that just compounds the underlying issue that women aren't allowed to like the things they like.

What I will say about 50 Shades of Gray in specific is this: My feminism does not dictate how I like to fuck. My patriarchal upbringing did try to dictate that. I will not shame women for liking kink. I will not shame women for liking kink in the name of "protecting" them or offering them "better" kink they should read instead. I will not infantalize women. I will trust that they can tell the difference between real life rape/abuse versus fantasy rape/abuse. I will not pretend that the rape and abuse in 50 Shades of Grey is different or unique or worse than the rape and abuse I read in hundreds of male-authored books.

I will remember that rape victims can have rape fantasies. That purity culture can make noncon fantasies the only "valid" source of relief and pleasure for some women. That my feminism punches up at the purity culture and patriarchy that dictates how women are allowed to fuck rather than punching down at the many, many women who have read and enjoyed a goddamn novel for fuck's sake. I will remember that every time I sneer about 50 Shades and its readers, there are women in the room who hear me and hear loud-and-clear that their desires (in bed, in reading, in wherever) are mock-worthy and shameful and wrong and bad.

By all means, do not come away from this thinking you have to like Twilight or 50 Shades. Or thinking that you can't criticize these books. I've spent 5 years criticizing Twilight, which would seem to indicate that I think criticism of these books is both necessary and valid. But I seriously beg that criticism of these books be done in a thoughtful manner that doesn't infantilize women* or shame them** for liking these books.

So, yeah. All I'm gonna say about 50 Shades is that it's personally not my thing, but I have zero problem with women writing or reading or enjoying noncon fantasies, and I would say to people who do have a problem with that: maybe try getting rid of purity culture and sex-shaming of women first and see if that doesn't cause the popularity of noncon fiction to dip a little. I think that's a worthy experiment to try first, if only because then we'll be in a world without purity culture. (Yay!)



* Sexuality is complicated. If you wanna talk about books that fucked up my sexuality as a kid, L'Engle and Lewis fucked me way worse than Twilight or 50 Shades ever could have. If you're shocked by the knowledge that I would rec Twilight over L'Engle to a Hypothetical Impressionable Teenager, well. I will just point out that Bella gets sex and doesn't have to give up Heaven or Unicorns for it. (Yeah, that's gonna be a flamewar in the comments, I predict.)

** I am almost-but-not-quite certain that ebook sales for 50 Shades far outpaced paper sales. I just want to stop and think about what it means that a book about women only getting what they want by having it forced on them... was successful in part because women could get the book they wanted without the people around them knowing at-a-glance that they had gotten a thing they wanted. Wow, it's almost like the point is being proved right there.

*** (Yes, these footnotes are out of order.) I can almost guarantee that a FSoG movie about kink for adult women will be subjected to 1000% more hand-wringing than fucking Ender's Game which was, I remind you, a book about genocide and thinly-veiled sexual assault in showers. For children. Written by a guy who actively uses his platform to lob hatred at non-[straight cis white men]. Also, you need to read Will's posts on Ender's Game because they are everything.

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