Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why Can't No Mean No Panel at Yaoicon

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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.

Despite my own stance, I did not want to bash anyone's tastes or writing styles. I also wanted it clear that I was in no way talking about fan writing forums where the point is pushing the boundaries to explore their writing and sexuality. My question was more about how yaoi is perceived to the rest of pop culture and to venues that I'd like to be able to market my fiction. I was petrified at offending anyone, yet I really wanted to explore this topic.

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.


  1. On the contrary, you actually swayed me over to your side quite well. Your panel was the most educational one yet. I came for my love of yaoi, but I was looking for a panel to help provide me with some idea with what to write about in my Queer Popular Culture segment of my LGBT English class. If I may ask, would it be okay to write about some of the points you've brought up during your panel? I've actually written things down, but there were some very interesting point I've missed. Nevertheless, would you allove me to use some of your quotes and sources?

  2. Thank you so much! Of course, you can use whatever you need. Feel free to ask me questions as well. My email is in the contact info link on this page. I'm so glad the panel was good for you.

  3. Thank you for explaining all of this. But am I still misunderstanding the issue? I just think it's sad that non-con is instantly blacklisted by some. Yes, there's a lot of bad fics out there, but who's to say that a profound and beautiful story can't have a main character doing something as reprehensible as rape? That's like saying, "Good novels don't have murder in them because murder is a terrible thing".

    Why can't non-con be seen as a creative challenge rather than an instant sin? A talented author might need to explore that and shouldn't be condemned for doing so. There are all different kinds of legitimate writers and some of us feel we aren't accomplishing anything unless we go where the pain is. Not for the sake of cruelty, but just out of emotional honesty. We feel on a level that is full of pain and catharsis, and everything else is just fluff to us. We don't tell romance or sci-fi writers that they have nothing to offer. We don't blacklist murder mysteries. I just hate being hated because I need to explore a side of human nature that isn't as understood as people think.

    1. This topic remains a hot one. I'm discussing it again in the new blog. I'm also planning on having another panel on it at Yaoicon with a wider range of authors and opinions.

  4. I'm glad you found the blog post informative. I would invite you to propose a counter panel at the next convention. You would have support from attendees, I'm sure. Unfortunately, the vast majority of noncon I've read (and I've been reading this genre for decades) is pain and degradation for its own sake that inexplicably blossoms into love. I see very few murder mysteries that successfully cast the murderer as the hero unless it was self-defense. I can't imagine that happening when the reason was he just felt like he needed to kill someone. I don't see how that can work with a protagonists forcing himself on someone he claims to love. I find that especially problematic a proposal when it's a female author. So, I would gladly attend such a panel, but you would have to do a lot of convincing for me, at least.

  5. I wanted to go to the convention, but I'd just bought a house and couldn't swing it. It would be interesting to observe such a panel.

    Quote: I see very few murder mysteries that successfully cast the murderer as the hero unless it was self-defense. I can't imagine that happening when the reason was he just felt like he needed to kill someone.<<

    Thank you for answering.
    No, I wouldn't support a murderer just because he wanted to murder. But a skillful author, valuing intrigue over preaching, could premise that unique circumstances might make murder acceptable just as one might ask, "Under what circumstance would a real straight guy willingly and seriously kiss another?" It's the author's nature to explore these kinds of strange questions. But I do see your point, non-con authors typically aren't striving for anything greater. If they are, they're not non-con, they're sincere story crafters.

    So the real argument is: is there a compelling story here or is it simply "pain and degradation"? The non-con label is confusing, making me think it encompases any story that deals with the nc issue, when in reality, those against it are refering to the kinds of stories mentioned above, and would give an intelligent story a chance?

    I guess I'm up in arms because I'm really worried about being accepted and still writing what's in my heart. Your insight helps.

  6. I know that Yaoicon has in it's rules that everyone is to be accepting of each other's views even if they don't agree with them. I found them a fairly accepting lot. That said, if you share you writing anywhere there will be both positive and negative reactions. Sometimes, it's for your particular content. Sometimes, it because they are seeing things in your work that aren't there. I've had both happen fairly often. That shouldn't discouraging from writing what you really want to write. Good luck!