I’m working on “What Fandom Racism Looks Like: Slavefic” in between panicking about my graduation tomorrow (because ANXIETY) and I wanted to give y’all a heads up on some sources I’m using:

  • Thomas A. Foster’s “The Sexual Abuse of Black  Men under American Slavery”
  • Thelma Jennings’ “"Us Colored Women Had to Go Though A Plenty": Sexual Exploitation of African-American Slave Women”
  • Alison Landsberg’s Prosthetic Memory
  • Ariane Cruz’s The Color of Kink: Black Women, BDSM, and Pornography

I have PDFs of the first three things because we used them in my graduate program/I got them to write other papers and you can use the contact form on my website if you want copies.

Actually, nevermind that: Here’s a mediafire folder with the links.

I’m so tired of people in fandom flipping the fuck out over their “right” to write slavefic in fandom.

If “freedom of speech” is why you get to write slavefic (like in general, but like I saw that T’challa story and OP is going to get theirs for sure), then it’s also going to be why Black people cuss you out until you cry because #whitefragility.

You can’t call criticism censorship when you think you’re being silenced for writing fanfic that is ridiculously racist… Even as you actively go out of your way to silence people of color talking about how racist your shit is. Again, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Look, censorship is when your government stops you from doing a thing/creating content that it doesn’t agree with. It’s NOT when many Black people in fandom are like “hey, why the fuck would you write literal USian South slavefic? Fuck you and I hope bad things happen to you.”

Like… The lack of empathy fandom has for Black people never fails to astound me because like we totally try to be nice and explain why slavefic and other forms of fandom antiblackness are beyond awful, but literally the response to Black people writing about why x thing isn’t just problematic, but harmful to us is either:

  • Trolling responses where they do the thing and mock us for being upset
  • Crying because they’re being censored because they can’t make slavery erotica without getting yelled at
  • Those ridiculous pseudo academic “I’m x, y, and z and this is why writing slavefic is me using my first amendment rights and totally empowering to women” (usually from other poc, sexual assault survivors, or queer people – bless your heart but like… I didn’t ask for your traumatic backstory. Trauma vomit is so not my thing.)

Honestly, we’re all on the same internet (give or take a few countries) and fuckers still don’t seem to get that slavery was literally a horrific period in history that serves as metaphorical and painful scar tissue on the souls of black folk across the diaspora…

Because they just really can’t figure out another way to do bdsm-esque power exchange beyond literally writing stories where the transatlantic slave trade is sex…

Like… I’m really REALLY not looking forward to writing that piece about slavery and slavefic in fandom because I don’t have time for tears but I mean… Y’all… It has to happen in 2018

People keep defending writing porn backgrounded in the traumatic treatment of Black folks’ ancestors on the basis of empowerment and I swear im going to mcfricken lose it if I have to keep seeing people share those “ah, fandom is supposed to be for freedom of speech” posts that ignore the fact that hmm… Maybe writing slavery porn where

  1. White people experience the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade (because they’re alphas or omegas, because they’re mutants, because blah blah blah)
  2. Fucking black characters are enslaved (and assaulted) but then conveniently fall in love with a white savior or God forbid, one of the white people enslaving them

Is really fucking racist and only empowering if like part of what empowers you with these stories is Black suffering or Black anger (because fuck, none of y’all are new, y’all know y’all don’t have to write literal slavefic to get your bdsm power imbalance on… Y’all just do it anyway…)

Read some fucking Toni Morrison or the entire Black Atlantic, you fucks.

Some of the same people in fandom/authors that I’ve seen either champion slavefic or dismiss criticism of it, are people that I’ve also seen get upset about HBO’s alternate history show.

And I kind of want to know…

Why is HBO’s slavefic unacceptable to them when everyone else’s apparently is?

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?

I’m back to picking at that piece on how fandom and romance circles see “slavery AUs” as just this commonplace and harmless fact of fandom and I’m rewatching I Am Not Your Negro. I’m thinking of things. Painful things.

Slavery AUs just… A majority of the works in and out of fandom that center and sexualize slavery on alternate Earths or otherwise take everything that Black people’s ancestors have experienced (the rapes, the torture, the murders, the lynchings, the trauma) from slavery to the Civil Right’s Movement to now and just… divorce them from Blackness, from the bleakness of Black history, just so that they can write sexy sex with two of their white faves.

I’ve seen stories that literally take the plantation experience to use as the backdrop of their shitty stories. I’ve seen writers take the horrid, horrifying relationship that masters had with the people they claimed to own, and sexualize it. Slavery as something that gets you off rather than something that was (and that led to) some of the worst atrocities this country has seen and committed on its shows.

There is a difference between fiction that shows slavery in a BDSM context (where the submissibe chooses to give up power and control) and the slavery that entrapped the ancestors of Black people for centuries (where there was no consent to be seen). 

I don’t think many non-Black people get that it’s a really thin difference. 

People dismiss this as purity wank and you know what, maybe it is. To them. To people that see conversations about what the kinks we like in our lives and fiction really mean. I don’t think that sanitizing fiction is the way to go, but neither is writing content little better than Mandingo – and perhaps even worse for the fact that Black people are (thankfully??) afterthoughts in these pieces. 

How do you take a slave narrative and not only turn it into actual masturbatory wank fodder, but whitewash the realities about what enslaved Africans and their descendants went through? 

How do you miss the fact that what you find sexy, is literally something that remained a real nightmare for people well into the sixties? 

How do you say that all of this content, content that I’ve found in actual published novels (like C@ptive Pr!nce), doesn’t pull from and eroticize the actual suffering millions of people went through? 

How can you say that you believe #BlackLivesMatter when you take the suffering our ancestors went through, strip Blackeness from it, and then add it to your mediocre porn?

I keep picking, picking, picking at that damn post on slavery AUs but I don’t even think it’s going to get off the ground because I cannot (will not) handle non-Black people telling me that it’s just a kink or that fiction doesn’t in any way pull from reality. (Like I don’t agree that fiction affects reality like some of these weirdos in the voltron fandom say it does, but can we all agree that at the least, fiction and fandom aren’t formed in vacuums?)

I have had nonBlack people explain so many things about antiblackness to me, but if slavery winds up being one of those things… 

 I will hurt someone’s feelings badly.

Have you read the Bone Season by Samantha Shannon? The book involves a superior race of sorts enslaving clairvoyant humans. I wanted to ask if this is a romanticization of slavery? Especially since the main character ends up having feelings for her ‘master’.

I haven’t read the book, but I’d go with a “hell yes” on that. 

Any story of non-BDSM slavery where romance and consensual sex between a slave and the person that purports to own them exists is romanticizing slavery. Because it’s literally erasing and romanticizing the reality of slavery in that people who were actual slaves never had a real choice when faced with their “master’s” attention. 

Sex between a master and slave automatically comes with consent issues (because they are often forced to comply against their will and pretend to like it) and it’s just… well it’s rape. Because there’s no honest consent between a slave and someone that could and might punish them for saying no to sexual or romantic advances.

This is applicable even in fantasy or science fiction series where, supposedly, chattel slavery of Africans/their descendants (or an in-universe parallel never happened – because Black people in sci-fi/fantasy series are rare as hell) because the writing comes from our world and so it is informed by (and chooses to erase) real history and experiences.

Additionally, even some of the BDSM slavery stories can be extremely iffy and fly under the same uncomfortable flag:

  • BDSM AUs in fandom (and some original M/M fiction as fandom writers move to M/M romance and erotica) where BDSM slavery has submissive/dominant as designations encoded into or assigned to humanity and no one questions it and the author glosses over the history of Black oppression in America
  • BDSM romance where one of the people is a POC and is subject to racism as kink or shady Dom-ownership practices. 

And okay, the second that the slave starts having ~feelings~ for their master, trust me: it’s to make the reader forget that the love interest owned them. It’s supposed to make the love interest look like a nicer person despite owning people and sleeping with those people. 

There are ways to write about slavery and sexuality that don’t center on making the slave/master relationship sexy and on forcing the reader to like a character that willingly owns another one. No matter how “mild” the slavery is or how little it supposedly informs the relationship or how much the characters wind up lobing each other, it’s still an aspect that most authors never unpack properly and wind up erasing or ignoring in favor of romanticizing a relationship that can never and should never be framed as loving and romantic.

Because slavery is not and will never be romantic or sexy.

Note: If you’re interesting in reading books about slavery by Black authors (because really, if you’re going to read a book about slavery, it should be by a Black author) lots of people rec Octavia Butler’s Kindred including several of my fellow lit major friends. I’d also add Nalo Hopkinson’s The Salt Roads for the character of Mer who is a slave on a plantation in St. Doningue.

I hope that this was informative and that you get something out of either of the recs I’ve listed. 

Sigh. FYI the slave character in Captive Prince is not black or a man of colour. He’s an olive skinned southern european from a country like Greece. For context the author is an olive skinned Italian. She has never used the words POC to describe him and has said he is supposed to be Mediterranean European. His context is Greco Roman. Some fans on tumblr like to fancast him as black or brown but to be honest I wish people WOULDN’T for exactly this reason. It’s racist to fancast the slave as POC.

khiroshige:

lol.
1)  I never said he was black (the second someone calls out racism the first thing ppl wanna say is “but he’s nawt blaghck so why are you upset”).
2)Olive skin + Mediterranean =/= white even if the character lives in southern Europe 2b) and Ancient Greece and Rome weren’t the pasty white winter wonderlands history books try to make them into.
3) Show me an author that has written the words “this character in this fictional universe is an ambiguously brown person of color” to describe a character of color in a fictional universe. I know many readers see white as default but even the most clueless people can pick up on context clues.
4) Whiteness can operate in a relative way  so even if damen is “not a poc” the author made a point to describe how dark his skin and features were in comparison to his pale-skinned light-haired captors WHICH IS THE FUCKING PROBLEM AND HAS BEEN THE FUCKING PROBLEM ALL ALONG. 4b) Apparently the author herself has said she hates when people whitewash her characters which isn’t something she would say if she wrote all her characters to be white (how nice of her to look out for us swarthy ethnics *eyeroll*).
5) FYI even if damen was as pasty as laurent, or laurent was a bronze as damen, the premise of the book is fucked up! Slavery, sexual slavery, rape, and abuse are nothing to romanticize, which the author does, or gloss over, which the fandom does! The racial implications are salt on this nasty open wound of a book.
6) I need for white people and people in general to stop inserting the term “PoC” into conversations when actual PoC don’t use them. These nasty racial implications go beyond U.S. racial categorizations which is why I avoided using the term and stuck the descriptions of him being brown and darker skinned because darker people get treated like shit almost everywhere regardless of “race” or “nationality”.

Honestly if there was an actual dialogue about how messed up this book is on premise alone beyond “it’s a little graphic/problematic” or “the later books are better” I probably wouldn’t feel the need to say as much but I made one little post about this somehow largely uncriticized book and I’m getting hounded by losers who wanna pretend they’re “down with the cause” and “all for equality” and yet get huffy when one of those damn darkies PoC (or y’know decent people with sense) criticize the book where they have to see it and they bubble they made for themselves where brown people don’t exist or have histories is shattered for a little bit. You’ll live lol.

What a shitty ass anon. That kind of person is one of the worst to wake up to in your inbox ugh.

I had someone come and whitesplain Captive Prince to me earlier in the week after I spoke about how much the fandom skeeved me out and I am so fucking tired of how people are unwilling to even entertain the idea that the stuff they like go a bit beyond “problematic”. (They like to pull out the “your kink is my kink and that’s okay” bs as though desire can be a shield against criticism)

Also: Pacat didn’t come right out and say “Damen is a person of color” (which doesn’t mean that he’s not but there’s apparently some stuff there with race in Australia that keeps being touted as “more complicated” than race in America). He’s still explicitly coded as such even if she didn’t intend it. There is a huge and intense focus in the first 25% of the first book (all that I could read before I got physically ill due to the content) on how dark he is when compared to Laurant.

Add to that how not only did Pacat ask fans not to “whitewash” Damen as that’s an act of erasure and racism, but her fandom has ALWAYS been churning out art where Damen is darker than I am and well…

Even if Pacat never outright says “Damen is not” white" by Western standards,“ she and her fans still code and present him as a brown skinned character of color that is subject to sexualized slavery, humiliation, and violence. They still literally get off on the idea of a brown man’s sexual subjugation at the hands of a white one.

(And don’t come here with some “Laurant is a good master” shut because if you own people, you’re an awful person. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are or how you’d plan to take care of them. You still own people and you are still terrible.)

Even if the series ends with the absolute abolishment of slavery and everyone in the series learning a valuable lesson about personhood and agency, a) no Black person on earth has to enjoy it or even feel comfortable with its existence due to the history of enslavement our ancestors were forced to endure; b) the fandom is here writing kinky fic and drawing fan art set while Damen is still a slave and depicting him as brown skinned, They have not learned the lesson; and c) it’s still a series that centers on and sexualizes slavery and violence against slaves from its onset.

It’s still not actually okay.

Anyone who decides that the need to defend what gets them off is more important than not whitesplaining Captive Prince is a piece of shit and can go jump in a lake.

Slavery isn’t sexy. And if it must be one of your kinks or favorite “romance” tropes, understand that you are not entitled to acceptance from anyone in the world but SPECIFICALLY not from Black people who were raped, tortured, and brutalized for centuries as slaves in order to grease the wheels of Western civilization.

Your anon can go suck all of the eggs.