Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Free The People. Fight The Power. Fuck The Police.

Darren Wilson will not be indicted.

I think we all knew that it was coming but it still feels like a slap in the face. For me, it's painful on so many different levels that it's honestly a little difficult to process.

It's so much more complicated that not getting justice for Big Mike. It's about realizing that there's little we can do short of setting the world on fire, to undo the systems that oppress black bodies every day. It's realizing that it isn't just Ferguson or Florida. It's the whole world. Anti-blackness is global and white fear will always be more valuable than black life.

The psychological effect of carrying that in your heart every day; of having to fight to see humanity where the world sees a threat? It takes a toll on your spirit. It eats at you. It lessens the person you're trying to be. And when you finally retaliate they tell you that you deserve your pain and the mental battle to hold fast to your dignity starts anew.

I don't know if I can keep doing this. I fear for my friends, for my brothers. I fear for the brilliant women who allow me to witness their lives online; giving of themselves in a show of solidarity for the men and women who look like us. And I don't want to live in fear. I don't want to read another story of a little black child barely out of infancy, lost to us forever because their skin made them loom larger and more terrifying than they were.

But I don't know what to do. I don't have any more tears to shed for this latest injustice. They've sucked me dry.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

If Loving This Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right: Reviewing @FeministaJones' "Push The Button"

If you have a free weekend and $5 to spare, then go get Feminista Jones' kinky debut novel, Push The Button. I promise it's a decision you won't regret.

At a little over 100 pages, Jones' erotic novel is an example of BDSM done right, with lots of steamy scenes and a tight narrative to keep you engaged. Without giving too much of the plot away, Push The Button is about a woman named Nicole who is in a committed submissive relationship with her boyfriend and later fiancĂ©, David. Circumstance pits them both against an abusive former flame of hers in a situations that ramps up to a spectacular ending that will leave you literally begging for more. Push The Button  expertly strings you along like a lustful lover only to giggle with mirth as they leave you to climax on your own.

It's difficult to talk about erotica these days without mentioning the 50 Shades trilogy but according to Jones she doesn't mind. The story structure makes it very clear that Jones set out to counteract the way in which 50 Shades carelessly conflated BDSM with abusive tactics. Nicole's current flame David is meticulously contrasted with her past flame Marcus, and Jones goes to great lengths to dilligently demonstrate the line between consensual and forced submission. There is even an amazing passage in the final chapter (that I won't detail here to avoid spoilers) that deals with the different ways in which consent can be violated and the consequences that it can have.

I won't pretend that I didn't struggle with the at times. I consider myself a sex-positive feminist, and while I intellectually understand that BDSM is not abuse, I am unfamiliar with the intimacies of BDSM in practice, and there were definitely scenes in the book that left me a little uneasy because the lines of consent seemed blurred to me. But Jones, an established voice and advocate for sex positivity  clearly prepared for this effect. For every scene where I questioned whether Nicole was being taken advantage of, there was another that reminded me that her relationship was something that she entered into willingly with eyes wide open. In fact, in the story, Nicole is the one who teaches David how she prefers to be dominated, and slowly introduces him into "The Life." Jones makes sure to remind us that being sexually submissive is Nicole's choice and not something that we should pity her for. While it is easy to reactively connect some of the situations in the novel to emotional  or physical abuse, it's important for us to remember (and for Jones to remind us) that consent is key, and that voluntarily relinquishing control is entirely different from having it forced from you; a situation that Jones also deals with in detail.

Full disclosure, I was given a copy of this book for free for the purposes of writing this review, but I absolutely stand by everything I've said here. I'm not usually a fan of erotic novels, but Push The Button made me not only reconsider my stance, but also demonstrated that "erotic novel" doesn't have to be synonymous with "crappy story with some sex scenes thrown in." Jones is a great writer, and she manages to construct scenes that make you sweat and clutch your pearls while seamlessly tying them into a larger story with ever increasing stakes.

But the main thing I love about Push The Button is that it's a story about something that isn't necessarily mainstream that centers on a black woman. As with pretty much everything else in our culture, white people tend to be the face of kink, and it was refreshing to see the topic dealt with through black characters. In a way, it made my own curiosity about kink seem less strange or stigmatized, because the book allowed me to imagine people who look like me participating and enjoying themselves.

In her short debut, she makes us care about the well-being of her characters so much that the final chapter feels like a punch to the gut. Push The Button is a well crafted piece of fiction that I'm so glad I was exposed to, and you're missing out if you don't get yourself a copy.

Push The Button is available for sale from Amazon and Gumroad as an ebook download.