Archive for the ‘trigger warning’ Category

Body Language

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Note: The following post contains graphic language. About bodies. And their parts. Also there’s some random swearing. Well maybe a lot of swearing. A metric ton of swearing, really.

Also metaphors.

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I had a conversation with a female friend of mine last week, which reminded me of a conversation with another female friend of mine a few weeks before that, which reminded me of an attitude I used to have a few years back, which brings us back to a here-and-now that’s a little bit clearer for me.

So let’s start with the thing I thought a few years ago:

I was active on a lot of writer loops, reader loops, M/M loops (ah, energy. I miss you so). There was a conversation that popped up fairly often (and I imagine still pops up fairly often) on why women write M/M. It turns out women write M/M for a variety of reasons, how wild is that? From “if one man is great, two is better,” to “I cut my writing teeth on slash and now I’m here” to “I wanted to explore relationships that featured couples who carried a different sort of gender baggage” to “I like love stories in whatever form” and on and on. All of it was interesting because it’s interesting to find out why writers write (interesting to other writers, anyway). But there was one that never failed to piss me off.

“Girl parts are icky and gross in erotic romance. I’d rather not have to describe them.”

What. The. Fuck.

I was judgmental as shit. You’re talking about your own bodies! I thought. Girl parts are fucking awesome! I thought. If the only reason you’re not writing M/F or F/F is that you don’t like the way women’s bodies are portrayed, then write a fucking book that portrays them differently! I thought. You’re fucking writers! That’s our fucking job!

I swear a lot internally.

Fast forward to around a month ago. I was talking to a friend on the phone, and we ended up talking about body parts.

 

“I’m thinking of writing an M/F,” I said, “so I’m picking up a lot of newer ero-romance to see if there are any new words in circulation to describe female parts.”

“I can tell you right now that they’re all the same ones. There is no good word for vagina. Or vulva. None.”

“Oh, come on. I’ve been out of the loop for like seven years. There’ve gotta be–”

“Nope.”

“Huh,” I said.

“Yep,” she said. “I hate them *all.*” And then she brightened. “You know what? We should make up a new euphemism. One that has no baggage tied to it whatsoever and has nothing to do with anything. Like… Like… Oh! Like ‘shoe’!”

“Haha. What?”

“Or stereo!”

I laughed. “Or checkbook! That way your body could actually write checks it couldn’t cash!”

She groaned. “Or… Or…” Several moments of silence. “Or leaf.”

We both went “Ohhh.”

“That actually sounds kinda nice,” I said.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think I’m gonna go with it,” she said.

“And it totally works. Because a leaf is what’s left when someone takes your flower.”

She groans again, this time with real pain. “Aaaaand now you’ve ruined it for me.”

“What? Why?”

The next few minutes were her explaining to me why the whole concept of “taking someone’s flower” is kinda gross. Then I felt bad.

“Okay, okay. I take it back.”

“You can’t take it back! It’s in my head! Now we’re going to have to use stick or bark or twig or something.”

I chuckled. “I really am sorry.”

 

She grumbled for a while longer and then we talked about other things. After the call ended, I decided I still kinda like the word “leaf.” Dunno if I’m the type of writer who can pull off coining a term like that, though.

Which brings us to last week, and a txt convo I had with another friend of mine. I’d read a review where the reviewer had called one of my characters a cunt. I’ve been writing for a while, so I’m used to harsh reviews. They’re part of the baggage that comes with writing for public consumption. But that statement had really jarred me, and I was ranting about it with her.

 

Me: Saying sorry for using the word “cunt” as an insult does not excuse him from using it. Good lord. I know a lot of women in M/M who write M/M because the words they’re required to use for female body parts give them anxiety. And that shit right there is why. (Epiphany Achievement: Unlocked! Angels sang on high, heavenly light streamed onto my phone. Aaaaaand, it only took me seven years to level up. O.O)

Her: Female body parts are the reason I read a lot of M/M.

Me: It’s hard. All the words you have to use are also terrible terrible insults. There are no sex-positive words for that area. Except clit. I’m quite fond of clit. Probably because I’ve never heard some random douche yelling it out in anger.

 

So today I was thinking about how hard it is to be a female reader/writer of erotic romance. You literally have to split your psyche in two in order to enjoy it. You have to pretend that the part of you who knows that “cunt” is considered one of the worst insults you can hurl at a person does not exist. Otherwise you associate that word in your book with violence and then it becomes an unsafe space. You have to pretend that you don’t know men often refer to “pussy” as a completely separate and inanimate thing (Comedians talking about “old pussy” and “new pussy” and the lengths they have go to in order to “get pussy,” for example), as if there’s no living, breathing person attached. Otherwise you start thinking about objectification and rape culture and the book ceases to become a safe space.

If any space should be safe, it’s a love story. But there aren’t a lot of words that describe your body and are not simultaneously derogatory. So you split yourself in two, or you switch over to books that don’t feature women having sex at all, or you drop the ero from your romance and read books that don’t use graphic language, even if you like graphic language.

And that whole situation fucking sucks.

Realizing that, I apologize for my foul attitude back in the day. I don’t think anyone noticed it, because I make a point of being polite (note: polite does not mean nice and in NO WAY equals kind), but I am sorry for raging at my screen without trying to understand. I know it seems like I’ve been apologizing a lot lately, but eff it. People should apologize more often because genuine apologies clear the air enough to let honest discussion take place. And honest discussion is good.

Plus it might lead to words for female body parts that aren’t triggering, and that would be fantastic because both the parts and the whole are fucking awesome.

So if you’d like to continue the discussion, please do so in the comments below. Trolls and disrespectful comments will be deleted, however, because this is my safe space and I can totally do that.

Words

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Note: The following is a brief post about slurs, and hence might contain triggers.

Some time in late high school or early college, I started to correct my friends whenever they used the word “gypped.” In most cases it wasn’t a confrontational correction, because–like with so many other casual slurs–they had no idea what it really meant. I’d say something like, “Did you know that word comes from the word ‘gypsy’?” Usually that was more than enough. They’d be horrified, they’d tell their friends, and within a couple of years I stopped hearing the word in any of our circles.

Generally speaking, I have good taste in friends. They’re good people. They just didn’t know.

Here’s something I didn’t know until last year.

“Gypsy” itself, is a slur. It’s been used for centuries to run Romani people out of villages, towns, cities, countries. It’s been used to deny employment or to justify slavery. The Romani have been victims of lynching and concentration camps, of hatred and erasure.

You might be tempted to tell yourself, “But that’s overseas. Here in America ‘Gypsy’ has a completely different connotation.”

No. Not really. In part because many Romani who survived the Holocaust moved here, and many survive to this day. They have children and those children feel the pain of their parents and grandparents acutely, so that connotation hasn’t disappeared, nor should it. Remembering that something happened is the first step in making sure it doesn’t happen again. Plus America has its own set of stereotypes, as well as its own history of enslaving Romani people.

A short, but by no means encompassing, list below:

  • Gypsies are thieves/charlatans who will rip you off if you let them.
  • Gypsies are fortune tellers.
  • Gypsy women are whores.
  • Gypsy men are killers.
  • They have the power to curse people.
  • They all love to dance and play tambourines and wear bandanas.
  • They’re hypersexual and hot tempered.
  • They’re all homeless and at best travel in roaming caravans criss-crossing the country.

But… But… I have Romani friends and they *self-identity* as Gypsy!

And that’s their choice. The people within a marginalized group can choose to reclaim a word used to shame and hurt them in an effort to turn it into a positive. However, it’s almost never okay for people outside that group to use the word to identify said group.

But the DICTIONARY says–

Stop. Just stop. Many dictionaries still list a definition of “nigger” as a snag or hindrance.* I dare you to use that term around me and try to use that definition to defend yourself. Pro-tip: You won’t have a chance, because I’ll already have blocked you.

So, yeah. “Gypsy” is not a good word. And I used it a lot.

I used it in the first edition of Want Me. Joel often calls Walker a “gypsy” because Walker is a wanderer (see dictionary excuse above). I didn’t think anything of it because I have American-Romani friends who self-identify as Gypsy (see friends excuse above). But since then, I’ve come across several articles** and firsthand accounts written by people who were pained by the term. They were emotional, and true, and hard to read. And if they were hard to read, I knew I had no concept of how painful it was to live that reality.

Honestly speaking, I don’t care about offending people. I do, however, care very much about hurting them.

When it came time to edit the second edition of Want Me, I took it as a second chance and made some changes. The story still starts with Joel using that word, but as his world gets bigger and deeper he–as he does with so many other things–matures out of it in a way that I think is believable and organic. I was glad to have the opportunity to make those changes, to have a chance to mature with him.

To anyone who was hurt reading the way the word was used in the first edition, I apologize. Full stop.

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* A few of those articles:

** To be fair, Dictionary.com (from which I paraphrased this particular definition) tries fairly hard to explain that it is a slur, is offensive, and should not be used. And although I disagree with some of the things in its usage note, “Gypsy” doesn’t even get that treatment.


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