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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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in which i randomly attack a well-loved trope
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
This is, surprisingly, non-HP related. No, *really*. This is A Moment of Random Fanfic Bitching.



Okay.

I totally am behind the rentboy-kink thing. I do. Seriously. I'm not a huge fan of it (my only attempt at it went to the most depressing places *ever*) but I do get it. It's kink. It's hot (so I've heard. Not my thing, but I've read some I enjoyed that didn't verge on character assassination).

But God.

This is just--kind of a rule I wish I could set up. For fic that is not supposed to be kink. Because kink-fic is a different animal.

Unless your character canonically has no other possible skills up to and including the ability to use a spatula at McDonalds, maybe most of them *might* choose to not sell their asses (or other sexually-charged body parts) for money. I know, crazy thoughts.

But really--suddenly Random Character X is fired/wife dies/sister dies/mother dies/Dark Lord dies/Lionel dies/world ends/au-where-everyone-is-a-prostitute*/head-injury-so-terrible-they-lose-their-minds and boom, they are offering up asses like it's Christmas and someone gave them a hit of ecstacy to surpass all hits of ecstacy. It's *bizarre*.

*shusu has permanent exception to this rule because she's doing things with her rentboy au that I've never seen done before and also because, to me, she set up a universe where I could see John Sheppard doing this and still be John Sheppard. Also, no humiliation moments that seem so rife in other fic. Also, Jesus, hot.

But other than that--okay, admittedly, I don't get the attraction. Since it's not my kink, I can't go to that mental place very well or easily--frankly, shusu tricked me. I'm fairly certain this is one of the things I Just Don't Get because to me, I cannot imagine anyone taking it up willingly. Totally a me-thing. And it's a me-thing that is totally scraping my nerves raw when I see it, because it always seems to be paired with a fairly high level of humiliation like this is some sort of punishment for the character in question for whatever the author doesn't like about them in canon. Not always, and probably not even most of the time, but it does feel like it sometimes.

Right. Done here.



This has been A Moment of Random Fanfic Bitchery. Please return to your porn writing, plz.


I'm fairly certain this is one of the things I Just Don't Get because to me, I cannot imagine anyone taking it up willingly.

It's not just a you thing. I know someone who works in the "sex industry" and no matter how many times I've asked her why she does it (she says she started it because of the money and now she loves it), I can't get into that mindset. I just can't. *shrug*

The closest I've come is some acquaintances who are exotic dancers. Their answers tended to be very varied in reasons--money, easy, interesting, etc. I do get that I think--but then again, taking off one's clothes for money feels like a universe away from sex for money.

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Well, no, they don't IRL. Not lots of them. Many people, but not so large a percentage of the population that it's something most people would consider right off as a normal source of income most of the time.

And IRL--well, real people? Are a lot more flexible than fictional in doing what's in character.

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In an otherwise fairly nice FF7 fic, the author decides that the best job Cloud could get after getting his head together and saving the world would be as a go-go dancer in the Gold Saucer. Same principle, I think: lord, what makes you think that was his only option?

I agree with you in general, especially about shushu's rentboy universe which is a great exploration of a man who becomes a sex worker because he is driven by his own demons. There is, however one universe where I also buy a main character becoming a sex worker. That is the Supernatural universe. There is enough canon evidence of John leaving two young children alone to fend for themselves that I do buy the idea that Dean could easily have turned to prostitution to take of himself and Sam during one of John's extended hunts. But again here we are talking about a pre-series time when Dean would not have had the ability to legally flip hamburgers at McDonald's and would have been under the strict family stricture that you never tell the outside world how you are living. I can actually read these stories as in character and horrifically sad, as well as portraying a life that other children chose for similar desperate reasons, but I do not find these stories hot, more of a character study that explains Dean more fully.

ITA about Dean, which brings up a point:

Prostitution is quite believable if the character is under 18 and/or living illegally. Getting any kind of "real" job requires papers, and you don't get paid immediately and in cash. (though when Dean gets old enough I agree with the fanon that he works construction when he can.)

The other character I can easily see turning to prostitution is a teenager Lex Luthor, who would do it just because nothing would make Lionel madder. Again, as with shusu's Rentboy 'verse, the believability comes from the character's demons.

Hmmm...Sorry, I'm just popping through here, but as I understand it, paying a prostitute for her services is more like paying to have power over that person for a certain period of time. Maybe it's a power fantasy?

I'm sure it is, which is why I make an exception for kink--kink fic can and *should* do these things. But dropping it into a fic that is what becomes a problem to me, because like parody fic, it has its own rules on how to proceed. A fic not under these tends to fall under the "I Feel This Character Is Upppity And Needs To Be Taken Down a Bit" or "He Is So OMG Pretty So Of Course He'd Choose This As a Totally Normal Thing To Do!" *shrug*

I don't care for rentboy kink because it's so, so rarely done in a way that does not require me to put on eyeliner and listen to Fallout Boy - you know? I'm totally with you on the "rentboy-must-be-bad-and-therefore-punished" distaste. Ew. That said, I don't mind fics where someone decides to be a hooker. I mean, it's not my career of choice, but I've always thought, if, y'know, Robert Redford came along and offered me a million bucks for one night - hell yeah. (Mr. Pi and I pretty much agree on this one, lol.) And honestly, I can imagine worse jobs than... having sex for money, assuming it's safe sex and there's not a pimp beating me up. I guess the courtesan lifestyle, as opposed to the rentboy lifestyle? Eh, I dunno. But I get what you're saying.

I don't mind it either--when it's done with character's that have a snowball's chance in hell of ever being in that position. Or again, kink-exception. If it showed up in Firefly fic, sure. But there's a lot of time where an author's dislike for a character, or the entire slash-mindset where of course the pretty character would be a prostitute no matter their canon charcteristics, that really does get on my nerves.

Before I'd finished my first diet Coke, let alone my third, when the synapses are acceptably lubricated, and for that I shall bitterly resent you until...I've finished my third. Say, 15 minutes or so from now?

The product of my thinking is this:

1. [snif] I like Rent!Boy!

2. Wait. Have I ever read a realistic treatment of Rent!Boy? (Blair Sandburg drug-addicted on the streets of Cascade does not count.)

3. Given how much "Pretty Woman," "Irma LaDouce" and Inara Serra have to answer for, what are the odds I have any idea what a "realistic treatment" would entail?

4. BUT I LIKE RENT!BOY!

5. Have I ever seen a story where a John or Rodney or Jim or Blair or Methos that I saw in canon (wait--I could actually buy Methos doing literally anything, he's had 5000 years to practice; so scratch him) was convincingly a rent boy?

6. shutupShutUpSHUTUP.

In conclusion: I need more caffeine to climb out of this festering pit of resentment. Also, I still like rent!boy, I just don't believe in him quite as much as I do Dr. Sheppard or Constable McKay.

Has anyone ever crossed over Jack Harkness with Methos? I would have no trouble whatsoever buying that.

I've got some pretty fluid (and some really strict) lines drawn about what I will and won't accept in fic--prostitution is one of those that has an incredibly fluid line, because most characters (especially, in my mind, most adult characters who had a career or at least a job before the decision to become a sex worker) would not think "Hmm. Being a prostitute sounds like something I could do to make rent."
However. I can easily see it in AUs (subcategory:college, subcategory:highschool, subcategory:runaway, category:angst) where the character is desperate, about to be turned out on the street, kicked out of house/school, homeless, addicted, whatever. There are circumstances where I can see "Okay, given these circumstances, it is not completely unrealistic to me that Character X would make this decision (or have this choice forced upon him/her)." For instance, arsenicjade did an absolutely excellent job at this in bandslash when she wrote Wednesday Night Boys. But a lot of authors seem to sidestep the motivations for doing this, and go right into Character X in this situation: "I'm in a bad place. I could sell my body to people who will use it for sexual gratification. Oh look, now I'm a hooker." And then they skip the part of the story that's fulfilling to me as a story, and not just as an exploration of other people's kinks.

I can easily see it in AUs (subcategory:college, subcategory:highschool, subcategory:runaway, category:angst) where the character is desperate, about to be turned out on the street, kicked out of house/school, homeless, addicted, whatever.

Those do tend to work better, and I have either read/skimmed/or heard mention a rentboy SPN story in that category, which does work for me. I'm not running out to read it immediately (again, I'm just not terribly intersted in the genre), but at least if I try it, I can come into without twitching myself into some kind of seizure.

The rent-boy thing is a variation of the power kink, and a close cousin of both slave fic and the cinderella story. It's fantasy powerlessness, where the RB doesn't have to make choices or decisions, except for the one where they chose to sell themselves, which is of course a bad, bad choice and they end up pawns for anyone who wants to abuse them. Enter the Significant Other, who sweeps in and STILL keeps all of the power, rescuing them from the one choice --which was a bad, bad choice--that they actually made.

I love RB fic, and one of the things about shusu's story is that she doesn't take the power away from the sex workers. They aren't forced into it, the world doesn't conspire against them to have put them in that position. Each one made the decision to be there from a position of power in their lives, and because it fit with something they wanted. It's not a bad, bad choice, and the sex workers still have some power. It twists the regular dynamic, which is what makes it so awesome.

The rent-boy thing is a variation of the power kink, and a close cousin of both slave fic and the cinderella story. It's fantasy powerlessness, where the RB doesn't have to make choices or decisions, except for the one where they chose to sell themselves, which is of course a bad, bad choice and they end up pawns for anyone who wants to abuse them. Enter the Significant Other, who sweeps in and STILL keeps all of the power, rescuing them from the one choice --which was a bad, bad choice--that they actually made.

That's pretty much the reason I dislike most fic in this category. I've rarely seen it done in a way that wasn't supposed to be humiliating to the rentboy character: personal humiliation, where their entire worth seems to be wrapped up in how well they spread their legs, except for The Significant Other Who Sees Their True Nature But Not Until They've Banged Them a Few Times. Beyond that, it's (almost) invariably done not to the character himself, but on the basis of the physical attractiveness of the character in question. To me, it's--I don't know. I guess another form of character-bashing.

YMMV.

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suddenly Random Character X is fired/wife dies/sister dies/mother dies/Dark Lord dies/Lionel dies/world ends/au-where-everyone-is-a-prostitute*/head-injury-so-terrible-they-lose-their-minds and boom, they are offering up asses like it's Christmas

Just wanted to add that the above line made me really, really happy.

(Here by way of metafandom of the future.)

I'm having trouble figuring out how you (or anyone else) is supposed to distinguish between kinkfic and not-kinkfic and thus, when it's "okay" to make a character a hooker. Oh, no, this fic has serious moments in it, is over 2000 words, doesn't turn me on, must strike hooker plot?

Also, while there may be people who get into prostitution because they sat down one day and thought about their skill set and what kind of careers were open to them, I don't think that's the typical path. It seems like an odd standard to hold fictional characters to.

*shrug* My definition of kink-fic tends to go toward the PWP mode--it's for the sex, for the hot factor, like parody is for the humor factor. Like some kinds of alien sex pollen, or the sudden random pon-farr, or the random exaggeration of certain character traits for the humor. It's not supposed to make anyone think, "Ah, yes, I can see Character X in this situation", though I suppose it can do that depending on the person reading it. It's "Ooh, hot, character X is a rentboy."

It's a fluid line.

And um, this *is* a personal choice type of thing. I know how I define it comfortably enough to say I don't like it outside certain parameters and I can usually tell within a few seconds of reading it if it's in those.

Also, while there may be people who get into prostitution because they sat down one day and thought about their skill set and what kind of careers were open to them, I don't think that's the typical path. It seems like an odd standard to hold fictional characters to.

Really? I hold characters to a fairly common standard; can I see the characters doing this?

I agree with you to some extent about the rentboy trope, although I admit it's one of my kinks, so I've been known to pounce on new examples with cries of delight. You're right about other avenues being a more likely way to make a living for most characters, which is why I tend to believe it most when they're young, have financial obligations to meet (paying for sick sister's treatment, paying blackmail money to evil foe, etc.). Or when they're doing it to rebel against a controlling family. Another factor is the economic health of where they live - if it's an area where there isn't a lot of opportunities anyway, taking to the streets seems like a valid lifestyle choice.

Clark during the summer he ran away to Metropolis.
Harper from Andromeda (that one was apparently canon in the creators' minds)
Ryan on The O.C. if he hadn't called Sandy

But like I said, it's one of my kinks *g*

Harper from Andromeda (that one was apparently canon in the creators' minds)

*glee* Linked here from metafandom and was contemplating mentioning that. But you did it first. Yay, you! :D

this comment is a lot shorter than I want it to be

*glee* *grateful, grateful glee*

I am tempted to publicly state my dirty, dark secret about Rentboy AU. But I'm not done with it yet (yes, I finally got over one of the major roadblocks and am kicking it around again), so I won't open my big fat Authorial Intent mouth until the readers have had their way with it.

(Shush, enname. LOL.)

However I will say that I do research for Rentboy AU. I look into places that disgust me, into lives I would never wish on anyone. And it goes along with my Fandom Manifesto (scattered all over my LJ like so much leaf litter). I think the last time I said it clearly was in my angst essay (and probably glancingly in my 'honesty is the best porn' statement.)

My personal problem with this metaphorical pain is that for some people it is not a metaphor.

FWIW + YMMV.

Re: this comment is a lot shorter than I want it to be

In the last five minutes I had before heading off to work this morning, I skimmed the Memories section of your LJ and found nothing that slapped me in the face screaming "RENT!BOY AU!"

May I be a spineless sissy and ask for the link? please? [pitiful eyes)

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It's been in every one of my fandoms, including my two het fandoms, and it still is something I have to think about every time. I can't say I've never read a believable one or one I liked--but there aren't that many that worked for me in a way that convinced me the character not only had zero other options, but that it was in character for him to do it.

YMMV on that one.

Me too, I can't stand that kind of story, especially the humiliation factor and the lack of even a glancing resemblence to reality.