This is where I thank my ignorance. Slavery AUs??? Wth. I read the book Kindred and it physically made me sick and sad for months. An important read but my God! Why would anyone want to incorporate any of that.

You are so lucky that this/my critical writing was your first experience to the worrying concept of slavefic. 

Seriously. 

I mean, my first experience with the fact that many non-Black writers straight up don’t see slavery as a horrifying experience and a scar on history was with Anne Rice’s Beauty series back when I was like… 13/14. (In that series, which also relies quite heavily on oriental themes, young royals are sent into sexual slavery in another kingdom in order to basically learn humility. It’s… quite gross and not remotely age appropriate.)

Slavefic (or, as @helelrising pointed out, the way many ABO fics adopt and romanticize ideas of slavery and ownership – and many do straight up co-opt the events of the Civil Rights Movement for their stories’ political backgrounds) is one of those things that’s just… been a part of fanfic and romance for as far back as I can remember.

And while I don’t want to throw around terms like “normalization”, there’s definitely an element of desensitization to the fact that a majority of non-Black people in fandom (and even some Black people – i speak from experience, unfortunately) simply do not register slavefic or the co-opting of slave experiences or slave narratives as a Big Deal or anything worth a second thought.

Even if they see it, they just… skim on over it. It doesn’t matter.

But I mean… I thiink it should. Slavery wasn’t sexy. No matter who was enslaved, slavery still revolves around the treatment of one group of human beings as property belonging to another group of humans. It’s just a nasty fact of humanity throughout history. 

And, contrary to comments I’ve seen around the internet, what I refer to as slavefic isn’t fandom/romance writers acknowledging a serious fact of history. It’s a backdrop for romance or erotica. It’s a vehicle for BDSM-esque power imbalance (without consent anywhere). It’s a way to provide legitimacy to their characters’ relationships with one another and frequently something used to shore up the politics of whatever world they’re writing in.

They’re rarely talking about/portraying slavery in a responsible way. 

They’re rarely talking about slavery. 

The stories aren’t willing to acknowledge or even address slavery beyond either “this is a thing that is happening while my white dudeslash pair get together but it will never change so it’s a non issue” or straight up “i’m co-opting the literal experiences of enslaved Africans right up to and including the Civil War and Emancipation for my white dudeslash ship to struggle through”.

They’re not writing Kindred-style explorations of what it means/meant to be a slave or coming to terms with a dark past. 

They’re writing porn with this thin glaze of plot that doesn’t actually confront slavery so much as it turns slavery into (sexualized) window dressing for a narrative that really doesn’t have that much to do with it.

And since they’re coming from a place where they don’t need to think about slavery and they’re not dealing with like the actual horrors of slavery, they’re not thinking about what they’re using in their story. 

Some things just aren’t sexy and things like slavery, natural disasters, and genocide straight up shouldn’t come within ten feet of your sexy story.

But apparently that’s a hard limit for writers?

Author: Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.