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Without further ado, here are the links to the articles I referenced in the panel for those who were there. I'll explain them to the readers who weren't below the links in the blog:
My apologies for the delay. This was my first convention in a number of years. It's taken me a while to get settled and catch up on my life. I'm slower than I once was.
For those who weren't at Yaoicon last weekend, I shall now tell the saga of the panel, Why Can't No Mean No?
I hadn't planned on running a panel. This was my very first ever Yaoicon. I was hoping to meet some favorite authors (and to my absolute delight, I did, but that's for the next blog) and hopefully, do some networking for Ensnared and my other titles. Conventions that have as many years in operation as Yaoicon does have groups that know each other well. The last thing I wanted to do on a first visit is to alienate people I want to make friends with by flouncing in with a controversial take on a very sensitive topic. But I literally asked for it.
The three instigating events began with me having insomnia which I often have of late. I was trolling through the various yaoi forums and ended up in a spirited discussion (or actually, a fight) with a webcomic critic whom I thought said some terribly unfair things about a comic I like a great deal. The critic said that Starfighter Webcomic was nothing but a story about a psychopath who is constantly raping his co-pilot. The critic cited a page where the pair kiss for the first time and called that rape. I am not a fan of non-consensual couplings in fiction, and I consider myself very sensitive to an imbalance of power between characters and the least bit of coercion involved in the seduction. I not only didn't see this in Starfighter, I found it to be a very sophisticated depiction of power exchange. There are reams of subtext beneath each page of story. The relationship is unfolding with an incredible subtlety. I changed no minds in that argument, but it bothered me. The critic maintained that all the yaoi she ran into was somehow about rape.
That same week, or at least it seemed that was the case, a fellow publisher posted a link on her Facebook from the website TV Tropes which covers all things pop culture related. She was excited that the columnist knew what yaoi was. I was impressed with that, but not so happy that the writer said that all yaoi published in the US had rape as a theme. Now, all their readers thought the same thing.
On the heels of that nocturnal battle, I was searching for a new cover artist for my books. I needed to have the covers more closely match the artwork we were using in a live action version of one of the books. I had a new title coming out, and decided to have one artist do them all. The artist I wanted had a stipulation that I had to meet before she agreed to take the job. I had to give her synopses of the work to show that I had no non-consensual relationships in the books. She had very compelling reasons that I very much respected. Fortunately, I do no write that short of pairing at all. We made the deal. But that exchange made me curious about how yaoi was seen amongst my gay friends who run pop culture web sites. I had long wondered about why my yaoi titles got a very cool reception in some gay media and with gay booksellers. My friends told me that yaoi had a reputation for portraying one half of the couple as predatory. That was not an image they wanted promoted, especially coming from primarily straight writers.
All of this happened just as there was a call for panel ideas. I wrote the panel admin to ask if there had ever been such a panel on this topic. I was thinking that there had been or they'd think it was a good idea for a more experienced attendee to run. The next thing I knew, it was suggested that I submit that idea and run it myself. On the one had, I thought this would be great. I could meet people I really wanted to meet and have a thoughtful discussion on a topic that could be important to marketing my book. On the other had, I was freaking out at how badly it could go – if anyone showed up at all.
I was in a unique position to run such a panel. I could certainly appreciate the seductive allure of a beautiful, sensual man submitting to the desires of a very powerful man. I am actually a lifestyle Dominatrix and I have an extensive catalog of fiction based on Dominance and submission. Ensnared is about a complex D/s relationship that includes the submissive accepting ownership from the Dominant. What I do not condone is writing a character that is forced into accepting that submission in any way. Like my leading man, Lord Darius Galatea, it is more pleasing to find a way of seducing the beautiful being into surrendering in every way to his desires.
To my relief and utter delight, the audience was very open to what I had to say, and highly articulate about their points of view. I may not have agreed with many of the positions stated during that time, but I came away with a much better grasp of why writers and readers are drawn to non-consensual pairings. I think they understood my views as well though I don't think I swayed many to my side. I also figured out how to better handle my marketing during the course of that hour. It seems that I should take a page from the fan forums and label my work as D/s but consensual in my press releases for reviews and advertising. Best of all, I felt very welcome in this community. They were very kind to this newbie. I can't wait to get to know them better.