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As you probably know, the 50 Shades of Grey movie came out recently.

Delightful: the explosion of men impotently railing "This isn't sexy! Why would anyone think this was sexy! It's awful! It's terrible! Stop finding it sexy!"

I will fucking increase the fucking thing
(drawn by floccinaucinihilipilificationa; thanks, [personal profile] kate_nepveu!)

Incidentally, have you noticed? Sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among men, or majority men. Star Wars, for example. Then there is an enormous collective effort to figure out what's appealing about it: explosions, special effects, the Hero's Journey, etc. And sometimes things that are just not that well written become hugely popular among women. Then there is an enormous collective effort to explain what's wrong with women for liking it.

Irritating as all fuck: all the earnest BDSMers finger-wagging about how dangerous it is that this story has fallen into the hands of women who Know Not The Truth About BDSM.

Y'all. It is a fantasy. Fan. Ta. Sy. I've got a copy of The Topping Book and Dossie Easton cheerfully writes about helping a guy figure out how to play out his fantasy of literally skinning his lover. You've read Doc and Fluff - you know, groundbreaking BDSM classic? About healthy safe and sane relationships, is it? Fuck's sake, stop freaking out because women are doing some homosocial bonding over fantasizing about a hot toppy billionaire.

(The famous tampon scene? The "ewww, why would anyone want to read that?" scene? Yes. In a world where girls don't want to let guys go down on them because they think they're "gross", let us wonder what on earth women might find appealing about a book with a scene in which a man is so comfortable with and completely not grossed out at all by a woman's normal bodily functions that it doesn't kill the mood for him to take out her tampon. It may remain forever a mystery.)
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Someone recently linked to Now You Have Dunnett, which is a great blog because I love Dorothy Dunnett and her language and her lightning-fast characterization but wow, do I not have the kind of intimate knowledge of Renaissance-era Scotland that you kind of need in order to keep track of what the fuck is going on. So when I read her first I want someone to help me remember who the Protector is and who are all these women named Mary and why the queen of Scotland is French and when someone says "Pinkie" the correct response is not "Pie" but "a shitload of people just died there" - or possibly "a shitload of people are about to die there", because I don't remember, and that's exactly the problem - and so on. And then I want someone to talk with about how great that shit was we just read, and the blogger is doing that as well, so that's fun too.

So it's got me rereading Game of Kings, perhaps a little more fruitfully this time because 1) I've read it before, and it's actually more fun when you know what's really going on, and 2) the blog and its helpful reminders. You know what's weird, though? I want fic I want about this book. This is quite unusual for me, normally I get into fic by finding writers I like, canon sort of optional, rather than by wanting fic for a particular canon. And I haven't been reading much fic lately - and I've basically been reading no sexy fic at all. And yet, I'm reading Game of Kings, and there are two fics that I kind of want to read now, and they're both sex scenes.

1) Agnes Herries' wedding night with John Maxwell
Eeeeh, starting off creepy unfortunately, because the poor girl was 14 when she got married. But the thing is, these are historical characters. Not, like, characters in Historical Ages where everyone knows girls got married as zygotes, and what everyone knows is usually wrong: actual people in history whose dates were recorded. So that's my excuse, and presumably Dunnett's. But I don't insist on sticking to the canon or the history; the age isn't the key, anyone could age her up if they liked, only to the point that she's still Dunnett's ugly, vital Agnes, with a strong personality of her own and a head full of romantic daydreams; not having quite reached the bitterness that she was on her way to developing.

What I'd like to see is fun, loud, dreamy, ugly Agnes, well intelligent enough to know that her land is what the men want, not her self - canonically, she has "a face like a pound of candles on a hot day" - going to her wedding night with a man who has, more or less, sent her extravagant poetry and brought her a perfect rose and praised all those characteristics of a heroine of romance that she knows, somewhere deep in her squirrely little heart, that she hasn't got. But that she wants to marry him for anyway.

And John, who Sybilla says, and if you can't believe Sybilla who can you believe, is "clever enough - and kind enough - to preserve the fantasy, or at least let her down pretty lightly." But who's not interested in playing up the fantasy as Francis might be: when Francis is writing his love letters for him, John warns him to "curb your mad, antic mind, I beg you. I've no heart to spend myself sustaining what you are creating for me."

So, what do they say to each other, what do they do with each other that night? A girl marrying a man dressed like a dream and a man in a poorly-fitting dream costume marrying a girl whom he believes will be "an excellent wife" if he treats her right - in addition to all her money? And there is evidence that they get it right. After the marriage, when Francis is captured, John visibly takes no hand in the matter, but it's pretty clear that he sends Agnes to help him escape; not something he would do unless he trusted her. And Agnes is "jubilant" to have accomplished her task; she seems happy and competent, well settled into her new life. Transformed, as Dunnett says, by "the dignities of happiness."

So it went well somehow. But how did it go?

2) Will Scott and Francis Crawford's third, non-canon visit to the Ostrich
Well, and this is the most obvious, the one everyone wants. Richard ships it! Everyone ships it! The second time Francis takes Will to the Ostrich, he allows Will to think that he's taking him to a room upstairs to fuck him. Will's reaction: "When Will Scott got to his feet, his heartbeats were behaving oddly, but he was not slow in following the Master…" Of course, when Will enters the room he discovers that Francis has actually brought him upstairs to meet the John Maxwell above mentioned, and has allowed Will to think otherwise, probably as part of a general policy of always keeping him off balance, and also for his own private amusement.

So obviously, if Francis and Will ever went back to the Ostrich, during the offscreen time before the gang got disbanded, Will would be a little smarter this time, looking for the connection to be made, the guy to be met or captured, the contraband or message to be passed or intercepted or overheard. Francis would take him to an empty room and Will would be wisely expecting the message under the water pitcher, or the contact hiding outside on the windowsill, or something. He wouldn't believe the cover story was the only story until Francis pushed him down on the bed.


Better yet, what if there was sex and some kind of ridiculous triple-dealing spy business. You know there would be. Man, somebody write this.

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I find it fascinating how much time and energy people have put into discussing, on [ profile] freece's blog and at f_fa and elsewhere, whether Laurent is the one who takes it up the butt or not. (Question answered now, obviously.) I think there's a reason for it.

It starts with Laurent's literary pedigree: his father is Lord Peter Wimsey; his brother is Vampire Hunter D; his mother is Francis Crawford of Lymond. You see the issue, here: he had to be an assbaby. Female characters get beat with the Mary Sue stick but there ain't no Sue like a boy named Sue. The only female character I can think of in English literature who shares the family traits of infuriating rightness and superhuman versatility and so on to the same over-the-top degree is Mary Poppins. And she had no children. Bert is a nearly offstage character; the central characters who stand in the same inferior yet fascinated relationship to her as their various lovers and admirers do to Wimsey and Lymond and so on are the Banks children. Which says something about that type of relationship.

So Laurent as a character has no female parent, nor is he himself female, but I put it to you that in Captive Prince he is doing the closest thing possible to playing a female version of that type of character. It isn't quite a female role. If Laurent were a girl the story would be quite different, and I'd love to read that goddamn story. I'm waiting to read that story. I'd love to know what it would be like, because I can't imagine it. Well, I've been trained not to since birth, obviously. Every part of my culture down to the most casual teaches me that a strong and romantically successful woman is not the one who beats everybody - that paper bag princess goes alone into the sunset - she's the one who achieves her natural place two paces to to the rear of her just slightly more awesome man.

(And this takes me back to [personal profile] hradzka and others complaining that women are using gay men to tell their stories, and how that makes me want to laugh until I fall off the sofa. Why yes, we've been trained since birth that all the stories worth telling are about men, and now we tell our stories using men, and you complain? Give it up. Like this commenter complaining to [ profile] yuki_onna that people are appropriating! British-Celtic! culture! As if it somehow just happened that in America I grew up never hearing any Olmec or Aztec myths but I sure did learn Scottish and Welsh and Irish and English fairy tales and fantasy stories? As if it were accidental that all the fantasy I grew up reading was set in Vaguely Europe, that I was taught to dream of dragons? Ha! No. Europe imposed its culture on everybody: now it's ours too. If you shove something down people's throats, it's too late to demand it back when they chew and swallow.)

In the meantime, Laurent sounds like a transitional object (another thing I learned about from Are You My Mother?:) it's not you, but it's not not-you, either. Like Toni Morrison's famous characterization of Bill Clinton as the first black president. Clinton wasn't black. But, in retrospect, he was a step on the way to Obama.

So the question of whether Laurent tops or bottoms is at least a little bit the question of to what degree he is a female character, and furthermore, the question of how female a female version of his role gets to be. Because Laurent is definitely cool. He's a badass; he's openly the most capable person in four countries. And the question is: to be a cool, capable badass, do you have to top? Do you have to take the male role in bed? Does it lessen the character if he likes to get fucked? Bitchy Jones addressed this in her complaint about how het female doms, if they are ever even acknowledged, are always supposed to be all about pegging their male subs. That's an activity in which the woman's pleasure is mostly symbolic. There's nothing wrong with it; but why is it the sine qua non of female sexual dominance? It would be as if male doms were overwhelmingly known to most favor keeping their pants on and going down on their female subs, eschewing any activity that actually involved their penis. To understate the obvious: that's not the way male sexuality is constructed. So it was a very interesting question whether Laurent in his hermaphroditic role would perpetuate his dominance by being the fucker rather than the fuckee, or whether he would somehow try to reconcile a very male type of dominance with a female type of sexuality.


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