Thursday, April 19, 2018

Understanding Risks, Context, and Power ( #Appropriation #BDSM #HawaiianCulture #Writing )

By Annabeth Leong

This conversation has been going for almost two weeks now, so I’m going to try to add things I don’t think we’ve fully addressed yet. One key part of the discussion around appropriation, in my opinion, is an awareness of the power dynamics involved.

When we write and read BDSM, we become aware of how delicate and explosive power dynamics can be. Loving BDSM can produce a sense of ecstatic trust, of giving to each other, of deep connection, of power manipulated for ultimate arousal. BDSM performed carelessly and harmfully can break as much as the first kind can heal, push buttons, reopen old wounds, and cause lasting damage, both physical and emotional.

I would argue that writers have a similar sort of power, and that it’s our reponsibility to use it well. With BDSM, I’ve heard two competing accounts of how to behave responsibly--SSC, or safe, sane, and consensual, and RACK, risk-aware consensual kink. I sympathize more with the second description of BDSM, so I’m going to use that to talk about how writers use the power we have.

Those who object to SSC say that many of the activities BDSM practitioners engage in are not properly described as safe--they are too explosive, and there is undeniable potential for injury. That said, there are ways to be aware of the risks, to mitigate them, and to be responsible about how one is engaging with them.

Writing about other cultures has some similarities, I think. It isn’t “safe,” in that there is potential for misunderstanding and injury, both to the writer and the reader. But it may be important to do anyway, and in that case, risk-aware consensual kink provides a model. The writer should make the effort to educate themself on the potential pitfalls of writing about the culture. Are there harmful stereotypes flying around? All too often, it’s easy to engage with those unthinkingly, and I think this is one of the greatest potential harms of appropriation.

Stereotypes are like earworms--they get stuck in the head, and they present themselves easily, especially to the lazy imagination. It is all too easy to write a story full of Hispanic gang members, flamboyant, fashion-forward gay men, and tricky, duplicitous trans people. The reason is that these (twisted) ideas are floating around culture, distorting people’s views of each other, reinforcing themselves through repetition.

The same principle applies to a person writing about, say, Hawaiian culture. It’s all too easy to write a vapid piece about thick-thighed, sexually free women on an island paradise, blundering right into longstanding wounds that come from the complex realities of the situation. Growing up on Hawaii, as a part-native woman, I felt the pressures and condemnation associated with that image of sexual freedom. I experienced men who felt it was there for them for the taking. I lived in “paradise,” which was undeniably beautiful, but also full of poverty, injustice, and domestic violence.

I don’t think anyone serious is saying that white people should never write about, say, Native Hawaiians. I think the objections are that it’s easy for dominant cultures (in this case, white people) to have the louder voices, so they get to tell the stories that define people, even if those stories are twisted or incomplete. So, for example, when the United States illegally annexed Hawaii, there were many stories (told by white people) about savages and paradise--which distorts the details of what really happened. It’s amazing how many people I’ve met who have no idea of the way the United States took Hawaii, and I think that has something to do with the way that stories about Hawaii, at least the ones that have gotten the most distribution, are usually not told by Hawaiians themselves.

In talking about appropriation, I believe people are mostly asking for a seat at the table. Hey, when we’re talking about Hawaii, could you let Hawaiians talk, please? Could you cast us in movies that purport to be about us? Instead of having a supposedly native woman played by the likes of Emma Stone? (This really happened.) When we’re talking about LGBT people, maybe let LGBT people have some say in how we’re seen and defined.

So to me, the idea is not to silence but to ask for room to be made. Don’t go to an old Hawaiian lady, listen to her story, and then retell and resell it for your own profit without sharing with her. Is there a way to lift her up? To help her voice be louder?

To me, this is about being aware of the risk--that when a member of a dominant culture tells a story, that’s easily seen as more definitive, even if it’s less authentic and less correct.

At the same time, I believe there’s a request for due diligence. Please don’t read three travel brochures and try to write about Native Hawaiians. Don’t make one trip to the Polynesian Cultural Center and decide you’re all set. Read Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Do your research. Have some respect.

Part of the reason that this is necessary is because, while we may be able to get away with cursory research in the case of things that are common in the dominant culture, there are a lot of risks of cursory research when it comes to minority cultures. In particular, stereotypes and distortions present themselves quite easily.

So when people talk about cultural appropriation and writing, I don’t think most people are telling writers not to use their imaginations or not to write about other cultures. In the same way I wouldn’t tell you not to try knife play if that’s what you want to do. But before you try knife play, I’d certainly strongly suggest that you make yourself aware of the risks and context. And cultural appropriation is no different.

(And I’ll take a moment here to apologize for my absence the last 2 cycles. I’ve had a lot of chaos in my life lately, but am working through it. I miss you all and am going to stick with you. I hope you stick with me! <3 )

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Appropriation with a purpose

By Tim Smith


I must admit that this blog topic confused me at first. I know that appropriation means “to set aside for a specific purpose,” and is most often used in reference to a budget (i.e., an appropriation bill to fund the military). I was perplexed by how appropriation would apply to romance topics until I looked up the verb tense, appropriate. Meaning: to take by force, or to take control of.


Aha! We’ve drifted into “Fifty Shades” territory! Unfortunately, that didn’t do me much good because my erotic romances don’t bend that way. If I did undertake the domination theme, I could never write it as well as our own Lisabet, or many other erotica writers. I’ve read a few of these, and some of the goings-on actually turned me away. Inflicting or receiving pain for the purposes of sexual gratification has never appealed to me.


I’ve only used this character quirk a couple of times in my romantic spy thrillers. Each time it was applied to one of the villains. My two lead characters in that series are former CIA spooks named Nick Seven and Felicia Hagens. Both have left the spy game to settle in the laidback anonymity of the Florida Keys, where Nick owns a waterfront club in Key Largo. Installment number two in that popular series, “Never Look Back,” featured an unusual nemesis, a female former CIA co-worker named Terri Halloway. She and Nick had a fling once upon a time, but he didn’t stick around for an encore because, as he explains it to Felicia, “Terri likes to play rough and I don’t.”


I made this character a sexual sadist for a reason – to show that a female villain can be just as deadly as a male. Perhaps deadlier, given the right circumstances. Terri Halloway actually experiences a sexual climax when killing someone with a gun and gets off by making her bedmates suffer. I included a scene to highlight this trait. It starts out innocently enough, when she picks up a young stud by the hotel pool and lets him think he’s seduced her. They go to her room, and the guy quickly figures out that he got more than a casual pick-up on a hot afternoon. It was probably the leather belt tethering his hands to the bedframe and the hot candle wax dripping onto his chest that gave it away. Or possibly Terri giving his scrotum a painful squeeze so she can achieve orgasm by hearing him scream.


In another Nick Seven thriller, “The Vendetta Factor,” I reversed things. This installment had Nick taking on the Miami mafia, and there’s a bodyguard/enforcer working for one of the Dons, with a rather quirky character trait. He beats up and kills people for a living, and he thoroughly enjoys his work. So much so that it has crept into his sex life. After several graphic beatings, the pressure mounts and he must do something about it. I showed him going to a hotel room to meet an escort, who proceeds to physically degrade him. He reaches the point of no return and ravages her on the bed. Afterwards, he contemptuously throws $1000.00 at her then leaves, his needs having been fulfilled. All of this is done without a single word of dialogue or internal thought.


Appropriate THAT!

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Coming Out Against Appropriation

I don’t have cable TV, so I’m often behind on knowing about TV shows and what the latest buzz is about them. It didn’t escape my attention, thanks to Twitter, that Roseanne re-launched with a new season and got really high viewership numbers. (So high that President Trump called her to congratulate her. *eye roll*)

From clicking around on Twitter, I’ve learned that Roseanne Barr is Republican and super conservative. That’s fine, I mean, everyone has the right to their own political beliefs and values. I do have trouble, however, with how she uses her platform as a tool to spread animosity and hatred, including denigrating the Parkland shooting survivors and spreading unfounded conspiracy theories about them.

But what really gets me is that on Twitter (did I tell you I spend too much time there?), a newspaper (can’t remember which one) tweeted their article about how Roseanne is helping conservative women “come out of the closet”. I came across this because another user on Twitter was complaining about the appropriation of the phrase “come out of the closet”.

I don’t think it’s unfair or wrong to use the phrase “closeted” or “come out of the closet” in a non-queer context. After all, I use it myself. I regularly accuse my sister of being a closeted Star Trek fan. (While she hates the show, she knows all of the names of the ships and captains, as well as a bunch of the alien species.) When my husband tells new friends that I’m a writer, I usually make a quip that he’s outed me and my career when I wanted to keep it on the down low.

In a non-queer context, “closeted” and “coming out of the closet” can be an apt description of someone’s interest in something. However, I do see the point of that Twitter user’s complaint.

Here’s the difference created by different contexts:

If a conservative woman comes out of the closet about her conservative political stance, the world doesn’t end. There isn’t some big to-do. There isn’t a risk of being kicked out of the family. There isn’t a risk of murder. And it’s really a “once and done” thing.

In a queer context, coming out can have serious consequences. We often hear of and celebrate the instances where coming out goes well — the movie Love, Simon was about that — but we often don’t hear of where it has negative consequences. Young people are sometimes kicked out of the house and forced to live with a friend or live on the street. There are organizations that pray for us to die horribly (from extremist factions in the Mid-East to the Westboro Baptist Church in the USA to evangelical Christians who "love the sinner, but hate the sin" who might not want us to die horribly but still hate our existence). We’re often labelled as deviant and wicked. We can lose our friends, our communities, our families, our churches, and our support networks. A close friend of mine has had multiple attempts on his life before leaving his home country.

And coming out as queer is never a once-and-done thing.

I’ve been out to my friends and family for seven years. Though I knew it would go well with everyone I felt I needed to tell, it was still a terrifying experience, one I would never wish on anyone, but one that all queer folks have to go through at some point. I was an adult and in a relationship with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, so I had stability and support if I needed it.

I’ve been out for seven years. Yet, it’s only last year that I told my doctor I’m gay and married to a man; that took years of building up the courage to tell my doctor, the one person who should absolutely know. Several months ago I ran into an old school classmate and he asked what was new, I nervously told him I was married to a man. And just last week I came out to a few women I know at the local grocery store — and even then, an instance where there’s no relationship at risk of ending, it was intimidating to come out.

It never stops.

Super supportive straight people are wonderful and amazing, but even they sometimes lack the understanding of how vulnerable it makes a queer person feel to have to come out on a regular basis. My mom talks about me and my partner just as enthusiastically as she talks about my sister and her opposite-sex partner — and, really, that’s a great thing — but it sometimes means my sexuality is put in front of people when I might not want that aspect of myself to be out in the open. One day, same-sex relationships will be entirely normalized, but we are still a very long way from it.

I generally don’t take offence very easily. If I come across an insensitive comment, I usually do a mental “meh”, shrug my shoulders, and move on. But that tweet about the appropriation of the phrase “come out of the closet” has sunk in. While I’m still not offended by the general use of the phrase, I’m finding it harder and harder to do the mental “meh” and shrug my shoulders and move on.

In that particular newspaper tweet describing how Roseanne has helped conservative women “come out of the closet”, I do now take offence at that one. Conservatives (not all conservatives, of course) don’t want people like me to exist, succeed, or be happy — and so for conservatives to be the ones to appropriate the phrase is really starting to get to me.

But my mental shift has gone further than that. With the whole President Trump fiasco — his unfolding legal issues and the divisive nature of American politics — I’ve come across tweet after tweet after Facebook comment after Facebook comment where people attack Trump’s supporters with gay sex references. With Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, in particular, I’ve seen so many comments about how he’s sucking Trump’s dick or licking his flabby taint.

These social media commentators, who are both straight and gay, are appropriating gay sex acts to insult or humiliate the people they dislike. And that bothers me.

Over and over throughout my life, I’ve heard gay sex terms used as insults — cocksucker, felcher, bottom, etc. — which implies that gay sex is something that is disgusting, perverted, and shameful.

If you’ve never had gay sex, let me tell you that it’s the complete opposite of those things. Gay sex is wonderful, intimate, passionate, and deeply connective. It doesn’t matter if you’re the top or the bottom of if you’re covered in cum or if you come out of it squeaky clean — all aspects and roles are part of the whole amazing experience.

It’s all the things that (I assume) straight sex is. Yet if someone is using a sex term to insult someone, nine times out of ten it’s a gay sex term. Our sex is being appropriated and mis-used to hurt and harm others.

We like to think we're getting better or more inclusive as a society — I mean, how many times have I heard "You've got gay marriage, what else do you want?" Equal marriage was a big accomplishment, yes, but it's not the end.

With my first novel, Autumn Fire, the main character has a crush but doesn't want to act on it because he's not out and isn't sure he believes in gay love. One critical review I received said that the reader felt the book wasn't realistic — she said that gay marriage is legal in Canada, so why wouldn't the character be out already and just follow his heart. To make a statement like that means there's an obvious lack of understanding of how complex and terrifying and still-possibly-dangerous the act of coming out is.

The ongoing fight for equal rights is far from over.

Just last week, I was told by someone that they'd been watching the news about the serial killer in Toronto that's taken the lives of several gay men over the last couple decades — and then this person said that someone needs to do the same thing in our city and take out all the gays. Yes. They said that. To me. Knowing I'm gay.

As long as being queer is looked upon by so many people as shameful, disgusting, and sinful — and as long as people wish we'd go back in the closet or wish we'd stop flaunting our sexuality at Pride or wish a serial killer would take down every last gay person — then there is still more work to do.

Is Roseanne Barr helping conservative women come out of the closet? No. She might be helping conservative women be more open about their political views — I can totally accept that — but she's not helping anyone come out of the closet about anything.

Coming out, for most people, is painful, awkward, and never-ending.

Don't appropriate our experience for stupid things like that.





Cameron D. James is a writer of gay erotica and M/M erotic romance; his latest release is Autumn Fire. He is publisher at and co-founder of Deep Desires Press, member of the Indie Erotica Collective, and hosts two podcasts, Deep Desires Podcast and Sex For Money. He lives in Canada, is always crushing on Starbucks baristas, and has two rescue cats. To learn more about Cameron, visit http://www.camerondjames.com.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Damned if You Do, Damned If You Don’t, So Just Carry On

Sacchi Green


There is no one final, all-encompassing view of appropriation as it applies to “borrowing” aspects of another culture. For that matter, these days the lines of demarcation between what we think of as separate cultures are permeable and so blurred that they’re often hard to find.

I have my share of kneejerk objections to criticisms of appropriation, but I can get over some of them. I’m willing to go along with the stance that appropriation is bad when it involves a dominant culture plucking out the shiny bits they like from other cultures that they otherwise despise and oppress. I trip up when it comes to defining all members of any culture along lines of who’s dominant and who’s oppressed, but from an historical perspective I have to agree that “white” western European culture as it has spread to North America is pretty clearly in the dominant column.

I also have to reluctantly admit that, for instance, Halloween costumes portraying other cultures (usually very badly) aren’t as good an idea as they seemed like when I was a kid with a thing for what I thought were Gypsy clothes. And then there was dressing in a kimono, which I loved, for a junior high school presentation of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado. Yes, that operetta was a satire on a whole culture that the British Empire knew little about and had little respect for. The fact that other G&S operettas satirized British culture just as sharply doesn’t make it okay, but I can’t help feeling that the world would not be a better place without Gilbert and Sullivan.

Let’s skip over the whole issue of appropriation of cultural costumes and traditions  such as Native American feather head-dresses and mis-understood spiritual rituals, although those are certainly high on the list of the worst kinds of appropriation. Ours is in general a writing-related discussion group, so I’ll move along. But it just occurred to me that one of the best examples I know of disputed appropriation is the work of writer Tony Hillerman, whose mystery series was centered on Navajo and Hopi characters, traditions, and territory. I’ve seen criticism from another Native American writer who didn’t write that sort of thing, and reluctantly admitted that the books were well-done and appreciated by some members of those tribes for the way they recognized the humanity and intelligence (and education)  of the characters, and were also good for tourism. But the other writer still thought, and said that many others felt, that a white man shouldn’t have been writing those books.

This is where the disapproval of appropriation comes up against the benefit of representation.  Nobody denies that seeing people like one’s self portrayed positively in books is a good thing, and should be much more widespread. But I don’t think that many people would deny that publishers as whole have been less receptive to books about minorities because they doubt that they will sell. The question of whether they have to be written by members of those minorities is a thorny one, as is the question of whether members of those minorities should always include a political/sociological theme in their work.

As an editor of anthologies, I always hope to be able to use a good diversity of stories, including cultural diversity. I never get as many as I’d like, and I’ve seen a few reviews criticizing that. But I also don’t choose stories just on that basis. Well, okay, maybe if it’s a toss-up between two of equal quality and equal fit into the balance of the book as a whole, although I can’t remember any cases like that. I had my hopes way up for my new anthology coming out in December, because a writer of color I greatly admire emailed me that she was planning to submit a story even though she writes mostly novels, but my hopes were dashed when she couldn’t manage it after all due to complications with her current novel. Yes, I felt guilty to be hoping for a relatively big name to add to the diversity I wanted, and I can certainly sympathize with the travails of novel-writing.  So out of seventeen stories, only four have more-or-less central characters who are clearly POC, and that fact doesn’t always emerge very soon in the story, or is particularly emphasized. I pondered asking two writers to frontload that information, but decided against it. And one story, set in a very specific historical period and setting, with reference to actual occurrences, may turn out to be one of the few my publisher has ever objected to.

Sometimse, in fact often, I have no clue as to whether an author considers herself a member of a minority culture. I remember one New York reading that included a writer I’d never met, whose story gave no indication at all of the ethnicity of her characters, and it didn’t matter, but when I did meet her I wished that she’d written about characters that looked like her (and not just because she was quite attractive.) I didn’t have the chutzpah to say that to her.

I think the current wave of rage about appropriation comes from legitimate anger about historical oppression as it extends into the present. And, as with so much these days, the rage is amplified by the growth of the social media grapevine, which tends to favor vinegar over wine. But there are plenty of people from all ethnicities who aren’t particularly offended by examples of appropriation that light the fuses of many others. And there are, or may be—how would we know?—plenty of readers who want to see themselves represented in the fiction they enjoy, and don’t get bent out of shape if it’s written by someone of a different background, as long as the characters are shown in all their fully relatable and appealing humanity. I wish I could say that there are plenty of people in the mainline culture who enjoy reading about characters who represent ethnicities different from their own, but I can at least hope that the number is increasing.

There’s no pleasing every one. And there’s no denying the social oppression that still goes on. The situation is what it is, and we just have to live with it. I’ve written about characters from a different ethnicity, but just in short stories, which don’t get much attention, and mostly in historical settings. I think very few people would get in a tizzy about my portrayal of female South Asian pirates during the build-up to WWII, or a fantasy piece about a Chinese girl with a masculine side set in some distant era, published well before the current upheavals. I did get deserved disapproval from a good friend with Asian forebears when I included, in an anthology of historical stories of women in warfare, a story set  during the Boxer Rebellion in China that featured a royal concubine who was, as my friend said, far too exoticized. Mea culpa. I was so desperate to get something that wasn’t set in the western hemisphere that I overlooked things I shouldn’t have. It happens. But we’re still friends.

I do have a story, though, that I don’t think will ever be published, and probably shouldn’t be. The characters (heterosexual) are both veterans of the Iraq war, and members of the Abenaki/Penobscot tribes of New England. The setting in NH is one I’m intimately acquainted with, and I’ve done plenty of research, but I’m not Native American (beyond the usual sort of fuzzy family legend) and I don’t know anyone personally that I could run it by. That’s just the way it goes. Moving along.

That’s all we can do. Move along. Write what you want to, let those who’ll enjoy it, enjoy it, and duck if the slings and arrows of the outraged come your way. This storm, too, will subside, and if we’re lucky, the next one won’t be any worse. But don't bet on it.        


Sunday, April 15, 2018

No Rest, No Mercy

by Jean Roberta

Please excuse this very late post. On Friday the 13th, I was struggling with the second incarnation of a bad cold that has been circulating through the university where I teach. I caught the first version in March (before Eroticon), never completely recovered, and it seems that made me vulnerable to the second round.

Its probably not a coincidence that winter has dragged on and on here, bringing snow and more snow.

April 12 and 13 were the last days of my three classes, so I forced myself to go, even though I would rather have stayed in bed.

Appropriation has appeared in my life in various forms, and the concept is roughly as complicated as the concept of “obscenity.” In the 1980s, a major Canadian feminist press divided in two over the issue of “cultural appropriation” or “appropriation of voice.” Three white women writers (but if their DNA hadn’t been analyzed, how could anyone be sure how “white” they were?) had written stories in the “voices” of “people of colour,” these stories had been accepted for publication, but then the collectively-run press reneged on their contracts. The Writers Union of Canada defended the three writers. There were headlines, lawsuits, and a lockout. It was ugly.

As a young writer who had recently had a collection of lesbian stories published by a very small, one-woman press, I was terrified. I’ve always been interested in cultures that aren’t strictly my own, and several of my stories could be found guilty of “appropriation.” I could only hope I was too far below the radar of the feminist writing community in general that I wouldn’t be ostracized for life.

At the same time, “anti-porn feminism” was on the rise, but I was also interested in writing about sex. Like all writers, I hoped to find an audience of readers who would enjoy my words, but I could never lose my fear of being “called out” very publicly, and excluded from every community I could possibly hope to belong to.

My fear has subsided somewhat as the zeitgeist has shifted, but I can never forget how easy it would be for one self-righteous person to score points by confronting me in person or in print. As every woman knows, a reputation can be lost overnight.

In the last thirty years, I’ve seen a lot of another kind of appropriation: plagiarized student essays. There are various ways I can check out the originality of the essays my students hand in, and the easiest method is to run lines through Google.

On Friday, an international student (i.e. English is not his first language) handed in a last-minute essay on a contemporary novel that showed an impressive knowledge of ancient Greek literature. I smelled a rat. I had already marked his earlier essay, which was less competently written. To be the safe side, I decided to check them both out.

I should have been much more suspicious of this student all semester. The essay on the novel turned out to have been written by a professional critic. No surprise there.

The other essay, which was definitely written by a student, had been copied from a student-help site. The mistakes I had commented on weren’t even those of my student, and my advice wouldn’t have helped him.

These discoveries didn’t help me to feel healthier. Still feeling achy, I printed out the evidence of plagiarism, attached it to the essays, and sent this material to the Associate Dean to deal with, which is the standard protocol. Since the essay on the novel was worth 20%of the grade for the course, I suspect this student has no chance of passing. Even still, I will probably have to grade his exam.

Maybe the reason this type of appropriation makes me so livid is because it’s not ambiguous. Cultural borrowing in various forms has occurred throughout history, so I’m willing to show as much forgiveness to other writers as I hope to get from them. Cheating on an assignment is a different thing, and I don’t buy the excuses from some students that 1) they had no idea they were doing anything wrong, and 2) my claim that they “cheated” is really just a misunderstanding of their way of doing “research.” (I’m reminded of the traditional claim that sexual assault and harassment are really just misunderstandings.)

Some days, I would like to be the Red Queen from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and stride about yelling "Off with their heads!" For better or worse, I don’t have the energy for that today.

Maybe next week.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

C'est pas tes oignons

by Giselle Renarde


When I was in kindergarten, the whole class had to line up single file by the door at the end of the day. Mlle Medina wouldn't release us into the care of our parents or picker-uppers until we'd neatly arranged ourselves in no particular order.

One day, I saw Grant bud in front of Nathan. I was not happy. You can't just cut in line like that. Nathan was there first! How dare you?

Even at the age of six, I was not one to let injustice go unnoticed. I went over to Grant and I was like, "I saw what you did! How dare you? Nathan should be in front of you!"

Mlle Medina came over to see what all the loudness was about. I explained the situation to her. She explained that it had nothing to do with me. C'est pas tes oignons, Giselle. I should take my place in line. Mind my own business.

My teacher wasn't mean about it. Not at all. I could tell that she was amused by my crusade to right the wrongs of the kindergarten line. This was the same teacher who told my mom not to worry too much about my... behaviour. Life would soften out the edges.

It hasn't.

I'm in trouble again.

With family, this time.

I just finished watching a very touching documentary called Much Too Young, about caregivers of parents with early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia. The thing that sets this film apart from others on the topic is that these caregivers are young men and women in their twenties, some in their teens. I could never have done what they're doing. Not at that age, not at this age, probably not at any age. I'm not a nurturer. I care, but I'm not caring.

But some of the sentiments they expressed resonated with me, especially early in the film before the various participants had met each other. They didn't know who to talk to about what they were experiencing. There were support groups for caregivers, sure, but not for people under 30. All the caregivers were the age of their parents. They felt very isolated.

I've been feeling that way too, when it comes to stuff with my grandmother. If you've been reading my posts over the years, you know that I've participated in her care. She does not have dementia. That's a big distinction. But she is legally blind, she's experiencing hearing loss, and her mobility isn't the best. Recently, she was hospitalized for 6 weeks with multiple infections that resulted in a whole lot of delirium.

She checked herself out of hospital prematurely. Realistically, she requires round the clock care. She can afford it, but she's too cheap to pay the money. A lot of people who grew up in the Depression era are like this. She wants to stay in her house. It's not safe for her to be living there anymore, but my grandmother is one hard-headed motherfucker. I'm allowed to trash-talk her because I AM her. We have exactly the same personality. We share the same faults. Anything negative I say about her, I would be more than willing to say about my self.

So how did I end up in hot water with my family?

Well, here's the thing about old people... they can be assholes. I have this on good authority. Every story I tell my girlfriend about the latest asshole thing my grandmother (whom I love very much) has done, she's like, "That's old people. That's what happens."

I sure as hell hope that by the time I'm in my late 80s, those suicide booths from Futurama will be a real thing, because God Almighty I don't ever want to turn into that. Does it really happen to everyone?

"Focus narrows," my girlfriend says. "Life becomes very narrow."

This is what I see in my grandmother now. It's not that she's necessarily a different person than she was before, it just seems like you're dealing with the worst possible version of her. Someone who takes everyone else's time and care for granted, someone who feels entitled to all this and more, someone who expects everyone to give give give even when they're already drained and never feels the need to say thank you.

Without getting into too much detail, it came to my attention that my grandmother had lied about a medical professional in order to manipulate a situation and achieve her own ends. My grandmother's actions led to serious repercussions for that medical professional.

I love my grandma, but no. Just no. You can't fuck with people's livelihoods like that. This is someone's job, someone's career, someone's pay cheque. Someone's life. I don't care how old you are and how much your focus has narrowed, you don't pull this shit.

My grandmother's already reeling from feeling that she's lost control of her life. She calls us "mean" and tells us we won't let her do what she wants to do, even though everything we do is what she wants. At times our entire lives are wrapped up in doing what she wants. So I went over her head with this one. I phoned the supervisor of the medical professional to tell them my grandmother had lied and here's what her motives were.

The supervisor was frankly quite relieved, because their whole organization was baffled about the accusation. It didn't make sense to anyone--didn't make sense because it wasn't true. I was told that an investigation was already underway, and I spoke to them less than 24 hours after the whole thing started.

Maybe I'll always be the same kid I was in kindergarten, but if I see someone doing wrong by another human (even if the wrongdoer is a relative and the wrong-done-by is a relative stranger), I need to speak up. You can love someone and not support their actions.

When I talked to that supervisor, I figured they'd tell me "Oh yes, your aunts have all called me to give me this information." I was very surprised that, even though the whole family knew about my grandmother's wrongdoing, nobody was willing to say it out loud, except to each other. I told my mom I'd made that phone call. She supported my decision but warned me not to tell my aunts.

Last week I let my guard down. I told one of my aunts I made the call. To my face, she was smiley and supportive, but my sister tells me that, behind my back, my aunts are all saying I should mind my own business.

These days, because anxiety has been an issue, I'm trying to reflect on potential repercussions before I get worked up. When my sister told me my aunts are mad at me, the first thing I did was laugh. Then I said, "What are they going to do? Punch me? Disown me?"

Most probable scenario is they'll keep talking about me behind my back and never say a word to my face.

You know what? I can handle that.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

"My First Little Golden Book of Pornography" An Appropriated Story

Chapter One
 "Having Fun With Horny Dick and Jane"


Jane sits on the bed.  
The bed is big. Big, big bed.
See Jane sit.  Sit, Jane sit.
Here is Dick.   
Hello, Dick, says Jane.
Hello, Jane, says Dick.  How are you?
I am very horny, says Jane.  How are you, Dick?
I am very horny too, says Dick. 
Jane is horny.  Dick is horny. Dick and Jane are horny.  
Are you horny?  What will horny Dick and Jane do?
Let us play balls, says Dick.
Yes, says Jane. Let us play balls.
Dick has two balls.  Look at Dick's two balls.  Dick's funny balls are big.  Dick's two balls are pink.
Would you like to play with my big, pink balls? Says Dick.
Yes, says Jane.  I like to play balls with you.  Would you like to play pussy with me?
Pussy says Meow Meow.  Jane's pussy says ahhhh ohhhh
Would you like to play with my big, pink balls now? Says Dick.
Look, says Jane.  Look, look.  Here is Pussy. 
Hello, pussy, says Dick. Dick likes to pet Pussy.  
Jane likes Dick to kiss pussy.  Funny little Pussy.  
Pussy is wet.  Wet, wet, wet Pussy.
Jane plays balls.  Dick pets pussy.  
Look at Dick's funny face.  Look at Jane's funny face.
Jane kisses balls.  Dick kisses Pussy.  
Would you like to kiss Pussy too?  
Would you like to kiss Dick's balls with Jane?
Dick is on the bed. Look up, Jane.  Look up and see Dick.
See Dick go up.  Dick goes up, up, up.
See, baby.  See, see.  Dick is up.
Oh, Dick, says Jane.  You are up.
Yes, says Dick.
See Pussy, says Jane.  Look, look, look. Pussy is wet.
Pussy loves Dick.  Dick loves Pussy.
Dick kisses Pussy.  Oh, see. 
See Jane's happy face. See Dick kiss Pussy.        
Hear Jane go Meow Meow!.   
Oh, Dick! Oh, Dick, moans Jane.  
 Moan, Jane.  Moan, moan.
Come, Pussy, come, says Dick.
Meow Meow Meow, moans Jane.
Now, now, now? Says Dick.
Wait, wait, wait, moans Jane.
Pussy loves Dick.
Dick loves pussy.
See Jane lay.  Lay, Jane, lay.  
Lay, lay, lay.
Dicks lays too.  Dick lays on Jane.
See Dick's funny face.  See Jane's funny face.
In, Dick, In.
Come, Jane, come.
In, Dick, in.
Yes, Jane, yes.
In, Dick, in.  In, in, in.
Dick goes push.  Push, push, push.
Oh, Jane, oh, says Dick.  Oh, oh, oh. 
Yes, Dick, yes.  Yes, yes, yes.
Squeak goes the bed.  Squeak, squeak, squeak.
Unh,unh,unh, says Dick. Grr, grr, grr.
Shake goes the bed. Shake, shake, shake.
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
Push!  Push!  Push!
Dick!  Dick! Dick!
Shake, shake, shake.
Pussy! Pussy! Pussy!
Squeak, squeak, squeak.
Ooo!  Ooo!  Ooo!
Go, Dick, go.  Go, go, go.
Dick says “Here I come, Jane!”
Jane says “Wait for me, Dick.”
Come, Jane. Come, come, come.
Come with me, Dick, says Jane
Oh god, Jane, oh god, says Dick.
Wait Dick, wait.
I must come, says Dick.
Wait Dick, says Jane.
Oh god, says Dick, ohgodohgodohgod 
No, Dick, no.  No, no, no.
Oh, Jane, OH!!
Wait, Dick, wait.
Oh - Jane - HUNH! Oh holy fuck . . . ah.
No, Dick.  Shit . . .
ahhhhh, says Dick.
Sorry, Jane. Sorry.
See Jane's frowny face.  See Dick's funny face.
Selfish bastard, says Jane.









 




Tuesday, April 10, 2018

(Mis)appropriation


I Googled ‘appropriation’, like you do when one of these Grip topics has you stumped. I was glad I did because I learned it’s one of those words – I can’t recall the proper grammatical name – where the opposite means the same thing. Or it can do. Words like flammable/inflammable are interchangeable. Appropriation/misappropriation can be. I know, I know, there’s a subtle difference in that misappropriating something is always dishonest, but it’s close enough.

And there’s a lot of it about. Misappropriation, I mean.

I used to work in the public sector where rigid regulations are in place intended to prevent the inappropriate (another variation of the theme) use of public finds. It was the cardinal sin, the eleventh commandment. Thou shalt not be caught with thy fingers in the cookie jar. As a senior manager towards the end of my public service career, it fell to me to enforce these expectations, and it never failed to amaze me how loosely the rules might be interpreted.

“No, of course I wouldn’t forge someone else’s name on a company cheque! Perish the thought!” But the same person would see no problem in ‘borrowing’ items of equipment on a more or less permanent basis.

“Of course I wouldn’t steal money from the till. But there’s no harm, surely, in being a bit creative with my travel expenses. Everyone does that…”

“No, I wasn’t really ill that day when I phoned in sick. But I’d no annual leave left so I had to do something. It was a family wedding, I couldn’t miss it.”

This is all quite low-level stuff. A sense of perspective always comes in useful. But once or twice (well, maybe a bit more often than that) I encountered really staggering examples. Such as the employee who did forge a colleague’s signature on a cheque to himself. He needed the money to fund a trip abroad and insisted he intended to pay it back so that was all right and why were we making such a fuss? I might have made less fuss – and taken a bit longer over unearthing what was going on – if he’d had the wit to spell the colleague’s name correctly on the forged cheques.

On another occasion I was stunned to learn of a colleague in a different organisation who, having recently been promoted to a plum job, was suddenly in jail for stealing twenty thousand quid from her new employer. That was career-destroying stuff, and I’d have understood it better if she’d got away with telephone number-type amounts. But twenty thousand pounds was a lot less than a year’s salary. The mind boggles.

Or what about the project leader who got it into his head that other colleagues were criticising his team unfairly, so he used his budget to purchase covert surveillance equipment and used it to spy on other members of staff. He even bugged the ladies loo!

So, what gets into people who pull stunts like this? Could it just be greed, plain and simple? Not everyone in a position of trust will live up to it. People make mistakes in a moment of panic, madness or piss-poor judgement. 

Possibly all of the above at different times, though I think it’s more complicated. Even though the chances of getting away with misappropriation of public funds are fairly slim, in every case I’ve been involved in investigating, the person concerned didn’t expect to be caught. Or they thought they could put the money back before it was missed so it was just a loan, really. Or they tried to argue that what they’d done was no big deal, others did much worse.

I’ve been out of that world for some years now and I can’t say I miss it. At least these days when my characters do bizarre and senseless things I can make up a reasonable motive for their apparent madness. Ah, the power of being an author…


Monday, April 9, 2018

You’re Bound to Piss Somebody Off #Appropriation #PoliticalCorrectness #Humanity

Warning image

By Lisabet Sarai

Our Grip title for the next two weeks is “Appropriation”.

If you’re an author, appropriation isn’t something you do. It’s something other people accuse you of doing. And frankly, most of the time those accusations ring hollow, at least to me.

I’m sorry, but I don’t intend to apologize for writing stories that feature black characters, even though I’m white. Nor do I feel any sort of reticence in imagining and capturing the experiences of men, either gay or straight, despite the fact that I don’t have a penis. Or creating a character who’s a Catholic nun, when I was brought up Jewish.

Sure, it’s quite possible that I will not get everything “right” (although I’d argue that human beings are so diverse and multifaceted that the concept of accuracy might not make a lot of sense). If someone objects to the way I’ve portrayed a gay man, an Asian woman, a Native American, a Catholic, a transgender woman, or whatever, because I’ve made some factual errors, I welcome the correction. However, I categorically reject the suggestion that I’m not qualified to write about groups to which I don’t belong, or that my doing so somehow inflicts damage on the members of that group.

Remember Black Lace, the groundbreaking erotica imprint that would not accept submissions from male writers? Of course they were free to make their own rules, and I suppose that in some sense “erotica for women by women” was their marketing gimmick. Still, I found it annoying, and I know many male colleagues who felt the same way. I would be willing to bet there are quite a few male authors out there who could convince an editor they were female.

Part of the magic of writing is spinning truth out of the imagination. Experience may be important, but our stories transcend experience.

The concept of appropriation is closely tied, for me, to the notion of political correctness. Please believe me when I say that I try to respect every human being on the planet. Compassion, civility, human rights for all —these are among my most cherished values. Paradoxically, political correctness often erodes these values. Wars about the appropriate terminology for a marginalized group don’t help build trust and cooperation, they tear it down.

I’m an author. I’d never claim that words are not important. However, actions still speak much louder, for me at least.

Immediately after the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., I wrote a story (Divided We Fall) about a possible dystopia I saw arising from the outcomes. The two young protagonists, one black, one Vietnamese, live in adjoining ghettos in Los Angeles. They’ve been taught to hate and distrust one another, because the powers that be understand that a divided resistance will never be effective.

The story includes some harsh language, including racial slurs. When I asked my fellow authors to help share my blurb and excerpt, some of them objected because of the language. I found this deeply frustrating. The language was the whole point, after all. It’s a deliberate attempt on my part to show how they have dehumanized one another. If I were to remove the references to “nigger” and “gook”, the story would lose some of its impact.

Finally, I just have to shrug. You’ve got to have a thick skin and a philosophical attitude, because you’re always going to piss someone off.

Meanwhile, here’s a politically incorrect excerpt from Divided We Fall. If you want more—well, all sales benefit Planned Parenthood.


Freeze, bitch.”

I’m expecting the challenge, but still, my stomach does a queasy flip. I remain motionless, as instructed, keeping both hands visible. A tall, lean figure steps out from behind some pollution-rusted shrubbery in front of a ruined apartment building. He carries his Kalashnikov like it’s another limb, one which he points directly at me. Funny how there’s never enough food, but no problem getting guns.

What you doin’ here? This ain’t your territory. You get your gook ass back ‘cross the street before I kick it back!”

Though the guard talks tough, I can see he’s young, maybe younger than I am. He fixes me with a belligerent glare and brandishes his weapon like he’d just as soon shoot me as not, but there’s a softness to his mouth that lets me imagine him smiling. Using his left hand to draw an ugly blade from his belt, he strides in my direction.

He wears threadbare jeans and a faded camouflage shirt, open to the waist. The inky skin on his bare chest gleams with sweat, despite the brisk wind. The paler flesh of a scar slashes across his chest, just above his left nipple. That must have been a dire wound, close to fatal. He might be young, but he’s no stranger to battle. None of us is, these days.

You hear me, bitch?” he growls and jabs at me with his knife.

Instinct taking over, I shrink backward, then recover. He mustn’t think I’m afraid. Straightening my spine, I raise my flag a bit higher.

I claim the right of truce.” I make my voice low, even, and respectful. But not subservient. “I’m looking for my three-year old brother. He wandered out of our territory earlier today. Someone said he might be in Niggertown.”

You better hope he’s not.” The guard gives me an evil grin. “Me and my boys just love a bit of barbecue.”

I ignore his jibe. He’s just trying to pull my chain. I hope. “Can I have a look around? Please?”

Any gooks enterin’ Niggertown got to pay the toll.” His leer widens, his white teeth a shocking contrast to his soot-dark complexion.

Of course.” I’d expected something like this. I jerk my thumb toward my backpack. “May I...? I’ve got veggies, from my mother’s garden. Cucumbers, green beans and kale. Chilies, too.” 
 
Money wasn’t much use in the barrios. Fresh vegetables, though—they were hard to come by, and I’d heard the soil in Niggertown was even more contaminated than ours.

He steps closer, until he’s looming over me. The point of his knife grazes my throat. Unflinching, I meet his eyes, brown as the muddy water of the Mekong in Mother’s old photos. His blade travels down my chest, pausing between my breasts. “I want something hot,” he murmurs. “But it ain’t chilies.”

You think you’ll rape me?” Amazed at my own daring, I grasp his wrist and drag it to one side, until the blade’s a safe distance from my flesh. He doesn’t resist. Dropping his hand, I give the little kick I’ve practiced so many times and flip the switchblade into my hand, already open. “I’ll kill you first, boy.”

Don’t you call me that, bitch!” I’m ready for him to hit me—I expect the toll to include some blood—but he holds back. “Anyway, I wouldn’t rape your skinny yellow ass. Nah, I’m gonna wait till you beg for it!”

I burst into laughter. I just can’t help it. “Right. That’ll happen the same day the pigs lay off the barrios and the Tower collapses.”

He tries to look fierce, but he can’t quite pull it off. “Just you wait,” he warns. “You gonna be on your knees. Beggin’ for me to put my big thing between your legs. An’ me, I’m just gonna leave you there!”