Vaginal Fantasy Book Club discussion

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2012 Archives > Jun 2012: Cannot finish. Will not finish. [spoilers]

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message 1: by Lepton (new)

Lepton | 20 comments Take this as prejudgment or narrow mindedness if you like, but child prostitution in the guise of an Apocryphal Christian sect, and a 10 year old child who is somehow predisposed to like pain.

F*** you, book.

I don't care what can possibly come after this in the book. I am not wasting my time on the prurient and voyeuristic "pleasure" of beating a little girl.

Am I supposed to be entertained by this? It turned my stomach.

No thanks.


message 2: by Gotobedmouse (last edited May 31, 2012 10:23PM) (new)

Gotobedmouse | 73 comments I thought the same thing at first. I said if a 10 year old is going to have sex then I am out. Trust me, she does not. She is still 17, correct me if I am wrong, when she does finally "do the deed". Still a little creepy but I pushed through it. I am about 200 pages into it at this point and it has been better.


message 3: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Yes, it is a little weird that they start learning about their service at 13, but they don't start anything until they are around 16. Also, keep in mind that this is an alternate history, and it takes place in a time when women were married as soon as they had their first period. That isn't the culture in the City of Elua, but in the rest of the world. In that period, a 10 year old is much closer to maturity than they are today. Plus, it is a culture into which she was born, and knew nothing else. That may not be "right" by our standards, but we also look pretty negatively at prostitution, which to them is worship. At 10 years old, in the culture in the book, Phedre was actually something in the way of an alter girl.

But I can totally understand if the whole situation grosses you out, not every world is for everyone.


message 4: by Lisa (new)

Lisa | 68 comments .. I cannot say you will enjoy the alt. book for this month that much either.. Daughter of the Blood is pretty brutal as well, especially in the treatment of the female protagonist, who is also a child. :(

To put the whole 10 yr old child abuse/sex slave thing into perspective.. it was not that long ago that we readily accepted child brides aged 12/13 as the norm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Age_of_c...

Not saying that it's right. Just saying that's what happened.


message 5: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 938 comments Lisa wrote: ".. I cannot say you will enjoy the alt. book for this month that much either.. Daughter of the Blood is pretty brutal as well, especially in the treatment of the female protagonist, who is also a c..."

in history the youngest bride was 5 months old


message 6: by Kristen (new)

Kristen (aubi) | 13 comments I do not believe that reading a fantasy book means you are accepting of everything in the book. I mean it is after all fiction. Not everything in a story is going to be sweetness and light.

Course that being said, if you can't read it you can't. There is nothing wrong with skipping on to something you will enjoy more. My husband tried to get me to read Cormac McCarthy books. Then he had me watch no country for old men.... I don't think I'll be reading any of those books..... Not for me!

I'm only about 10% into this one and while I dont completely understand it, i have not found it overly objectionable. Only time will tell....


message 7: by Christine (new)

Christine (flummchen) | 19 comments I have read about 200 pages so for and I have to admit objectively that it is very well written. The language the author is using fits the world perfectly.
But I still don't like this book.
First I don't like the bdsm factor, that puts me off, secondly the politics bore me and it seems it goes on and on about it in this book, thirdly where is the romance and the suspence? Will there be some? If there is, how can that be good, if she is into pain?
I wouldn't mind now, if I only had about 100 pages to go, but this book is about 1000 pages long.
So, serious question? Does it get better?


message 8: by Kamil (new)

Kamil | 938 comments little girls learning to serve as temple prostitutes.... the thing i found disturbing in a dance whith the dragons


message 9: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Christine wrote: "Does it get better? "

Honestly, if you don't like the bdsm and think the politics is boring, then probably not. The romance is very, very subtly interwoven in the story, and doesn't come out until the end. There is certainly a suspense factor that jump starts in the middle of the book and continues to the end, but there is no real overt romance.


message 10: by Kathryn (new)

Kathryn Weis | 60 comments Kamil wrote: "Lisa wrote: ".. I cannot say you will enjoy the alt. book for this month that much either.. Daughter of the Blood is pretty brutal as well, especially in the treatment of the female protagonist, wh..."

It was the norm in many societies (and even in some places still today) to plan an arranged marriage before the child is born in order to strengthen political ties.


message 11: by Courtney (new)

Courtney | 26 comments Christine wrote: "Does it get better?"

I don't like ANY spoilers/info in plot lines for books/movies/games so I'm going to add spoiler tags for anyone who is like me in that regard. It doesn't betray any plot points but it gives an idea of how (I felt) the actual suspense begin.

(view spoiler)

That being said there continued to be lulls in the book for me where intrigue won out over suspense. I felt the first half of the book was much slower than the second half, however it all served as a background for understanding the rest of the book. Phedre's disposition and her relationships with certain characters are very important to the later parts of the book.

The Romance in this book IS very subtle. I hope its a bit more bold in the rest of the trilogy but I found Phedre's personal relationships outside of that romance to be the most compelling/(view spoiler) part of the story


message 12: by Renee (new)

Renee | 17 comments I love the Kushiel's series. However, the sex scenes in a lot of the books are bdsm-based, just given the premise of the story. If you are uncomfortable with that in the first book, certainly don't read it. And definitely don't read further in the series, as it gets MUCH worse as she travels out to the rest of the world.

While I agree that violence against women is NEVER acceptable, I am somehow not put off by it in this particular series. I suppose that I accept that these are fictional events happening to a made-up character in a fantasy world. I don't think the book encourages actual violence against women, especially young women. In fact, they even say in the book that sex without consent is the worst crime you can commit agains the teachings of Elua. So, we have to assume that if these fictional characters are choosing to engage in it, then they are just into the rougher side of love and attraction.

If you are uncomfortable with it, stop reading. But I will say that the plot twists and politics make it a good book even without the kinky scenes.


message 13: by Jess (new)

Jess (marmiteontoast) I found the bdsm in this series to be very hackneyed and soft. I think she wrote them so flowery so they'd appeal to a wider audience. She never really gets into the psychology of bdsm and kink so it's very obvious she was making all of it up and writing it as she'd imagined it to be. The politics in the series started out very cool and complicated, but I found they petered out. I still enjoy the first book for a quick read -- it's fast and fun, and a guilty pleasure.


message 14: by Andy (new)

Andy Dainty (kosmopolite) Yeah, the ten year old stuff is a little squicky. But it's not so much.


message 15: by PointyEars42 (last edited Jun 03, 2012 03:28PM) (new)

PointyEars42 | 476 comments Louise wrote: "I think she wrote them so flowery so they'd appeal to a wider audience..."

Hmmm, I was thinking that she wanted to write erotica but then realised a bit of Fantasy would double her readership! Well, either that or she'd chickened out on the psychology of it and created the angel-courtesan mythology for the sole reason of explaining Phedre's extreme masochistic bent.

As a fantasy reader, I'm used to having complex history and new geography for every book (and maps and lineages fitted as standard too, thanks), so am not fazed by the extra effort they represent and as a result am not as impressed as some others seem to be. That leaves me with time to fixate on the 3 extra adjectives crammed into every paragraph and on having a narrator peer over my shoulder once a page rather than just letting me draw a few of my own conclusions and yes, if need be, kick myself a few chapters down the road for having missed something. The hindsight narration is making me lose interest in the protagonist, which I'm sure was the opposite of what was intended. I'm driven to instead want to know more about Anafiel or Alcuin. (Must confess to a complete Kaylee Frye moment there: " Look they've got boy whores! Isn't that thoughtful? I wonder if they service girlfolk at all... " Yes, that's how uninterested in Phedre's tale I am.)

I'm going to try the alt book rather than force myself to finish Kushiel's Contrived Dart. For the last few months I've preferred the alt pick and finishing it lets me suck up the strength to tackle the primary.

For the record though, I rather like that the kids are given an honest sexual education without being asked to engage in the acts themselves. If Phedre had grown up in a house full of horny older siblings and their not-well-enough-hidden porn she might have ended up with similar knowledge: extensive, but theoretical only. They say that most of your personality has already set by age 6 or 7, so I can see why a culture that has raised sex to a regimented art form over a span of centuries would believe that they can spot what "type" a person is even at that age.


message 16: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 10 comments Quoting from PointyEars42: (Must confess to a complete Kaylee Frye moment there: " Look they've got boy whores! Isn't that thoughtful? I wonder if they service girlfolk at all... " Yes, that's how uninterested in Phedre's tale I am.)

This question is answered in the book. ;)

Quoting from Lepton: "I don't care what can possibly come after this in the book. I am not wasting my time on the prurient and voyeuristic "pleasure" of beating a little girl. "

The servants of namaah are not 10 year olds - I can't remember the exact age they are allowed to enter into Namaah's service (prostitute themselves) but I think it was 16 or 17. This is really the sort of book that you have to buy into the world building, though... If you can't accept the premise that in this religion/country people consider having sex, specifically with strangers for money, to be a holy calling of sorts then you won't be able to enjoy the book at all.


message 17: by Andy (new)

Andy Dainty (kosmopolite) I think it was more when Phédere first showed pleasure at being hurt - she was 10 years old. When she stabbed herself with the pin and was punished for escaping the House.

I have to say, that did both me too - particularly considering the sexualised language that was used. I got past it because I figured it was important to describe her innate nature. Nonetheless, I would have been more comfortable if it had been addressed in a different way.


message 18: by Jes (last edited Jun 03, 2012 10:51PM) (new)

Jes (tiaama) | 110 comments PointyEars42 wrote: "Louise wrote: "I think she wrote them so flowery so they'd appeal to a wider audience..."

Hmmm, I was thinking that she wanted to write erotica but then realised a bit of Fantasy would double her ..."

I am not the only one! Yeah! I have been trying for a week to be interested in this book and have only gotten to chapter 7. I almost lemmed the book after the heavy handed voice became evident in Chapter 1. It was like one of my middle-income-white-male history proffessors was trying to talk like a girl.
So far only pushing through for the bookclub.
The Black Jewels Triology (Anne Bishop) was WAY more interesting (even though thus far WAY WAY more graphic).


message 19: by Andy (new)

Andy Dainty (kosmopolite) See, I'm really enjoying the world building. I think it's a really convincing alternative history, and I'm sure I'll pick up the sequels. Different strokes, I guess.

I like that it's "kinda-sorta" Europe with a "kinda-sorta" Christianity. Real angels allow for such fantasy scope in the future... Maybe my love of Supernatural has something to do with it.


message 20: by Lepton (last edited Jun 06, 2012 05:47PM) (new)

Lepton | 20 comments I'd also like to add that, after reading the particular scene that I referenced in my first post, I had some very troubling dreams including a dream that included forced sodomy.

This was an additional reason why I put the book down.

Thanks for the mind rape (not to minimize rape in any way), I guess.


message 21: by Felicia, Grand Duchess (new)

Felicia (feliciaday) | 740 comments Mod
Lepton wrote: "I'd also like to add that, after reading the particular scene that I referenced in my first post, I had some very troubling dreams including a dream that included forced sodomy.

This was an additi..."


I'm sorry the book had that affect on you! It's definitely a book that has the themes of violence and sex (which we talked about in the hangout but I should probably put a note in there).

I'll put a warning on both books because they were chosen together for a reason. That reason might make you uncomfortable though, and I don't want that!


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

I couldn't finish this book mostly because the writing style made my head hurt and because nothing really happened. The build up is way too long in my opinion and the way it was written, didn't make me curious enough to keep reading. That being said, I never got to the sexy times in the book. I put it aside long before that because I just got bored.

Not my cup of tea I am guessing.


message 23: by Tegan (new)

Tegan (joggiwagga) | 276 comments Kamil wrote: "little girls learning to serve as temple prostitutes.... the thing i found disturbing in a dance whith the dragons"

That used to be pretty common... it was how some temples (including some Christianity based ones) largely amassed wealth.


message 24: by Tegan (new)

Tegan (joggiwagga) | 276 comments If you liked the writing style but not the BDSM I'd recommend checking out the Nammah's/Morin series - has joyful sex (though not without some poor decisions) and joy of love and life in it. Occurs later on after the Kushiel books.

I will say if you do not like BDSM content I would not recommend the later two books focusing on Phedre - the romance increases (avoiding spoilers as much as possible she does find love, nearly loses it, and finally claims it again) but so does some of the brutal aspects. There is a second Kushiel (starting with Kushiel's Scion) that focuses on someone associated with Phedre (once again, trying to avoid spoilers) and I'd say while it has BDSM I think I remember them being less brutal and more intimate overall.


message 25: by Lepton (new)

Lepton | 20 comments Felicia wrote: "I'm sorry the book had that affect on you! It's definitely a book that has the themes of violence and sex (which we talked about in the hangout but I should probably put a note in there).

I'll put a warning on both books because they were chosen together for a reason. That reason might make you uncomfortable though, and I don't want that!"


Thanks, Felicia. I appreciate your actions and you certainly bear no responsibility for my experience. The author made these choices.

I'm pretty sensitive to violence against women in any entertainment context.

I'll refrain from my usual moralizing and merely say this book was not for me.


message 26: by Molly (new)

Molly (mollyrichmer) I hope some of you guys are sticking it out with this book! The beginning of is kind of a slog with all world-building/info-dumping, but the second half is all action and adventure. Definitely worth it.

I actually really liked the combination of sex and religion. It was nice to come across a world in which sex is celebrated rather than stigmatized. The BDSM did jar me a little at first, but I got used to it as the book went on. That said, you can easily skip over the sexy parts if it makes you uncomfortable.

Anyway, hope some of you will see it through. Can't wait to discuss!


message 27: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie I wonder if any of you who are having a hard time stomaching this book have watched Lifetime? I, for one , can't watch that channel because it turns my stomach. Every time I visit my grandma and she's watching it, a woman is being beaten, raped or otherwise severely mistreated - and those are usually based on true events or at least based in our reality. I can't handle those shows, but I didn't have a problem at all with the Kushiel series. At these with these books I have the cushion of fiction and a separate world rather than the harsh reality of what sometimes happens to women in ours.
Maybe that says something about me, but I'm just putting it out there.


message 28: by Seawood (new)

Seawood Consent is the big thing in Kushiel's for me. Every assignation (so far - I'm at 35%), Phedre is asked if she is willing; she has a safeword and a bodyguard; and there's mention of finding some way of being released from the debt/service if it becomes an issue. She's always been taught that she can say no and she has power over her own body. Yes, her training started early and I can see why that is uncomfortable - it is entirely unacceptable in our world as "grooming". Even so, she doesn't go into "active service" until she's 15 or so, which is within the normal range for sexual experience in Western society - and actually, probably a bit late for the time period the book is based in. I'd FAR rather trained and willing prostitution than forced marriage (has anyone noticed the lack of mention of birth/disease control, btw?).

Alcuin's story is far more interesting in that he is unhappy but still doing it for love/payment of a debt - that, to me, is much more uncomfortable because he is, in effect, coercing himself rather than talking to Delauney and explaining his situation. I can't imagine for a moment that release wouldn't have been an option.


message 29: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Caroline wrote: "Alcuin's story is far more interesting in that he is unhappy but still doing it for love/payment of a debt - that, to me, is much more uncomfortable because he is, in effect, coercing himself rather than talking to Delauney and explaining his situation. I can't imagine for a moment that release wouldn't have been an option"

I would have loved to have read Alcuin's story. Phedre considers his choices actually blasphemous, I wonder how that would have played out in their religion/culture. Also, I wonder what he had to do to be released from Namaah's service. So many interesting things we missed out on!


message 30: by Christopher (new)

Christopher | 14 comments Caroline wrote: " (has anyone noticed the lack of mention of birth/disease control, btw?)."

I'm not sure where it was mentioned, it might be in one of the later books. There's some hand-wavey stuff about getting pregnant that the children of Elua don't get pregnant unless they pray for it, if I'm recalling correctly (though as with much in the world, and religion in general, that might just be an elaorate metaphor which people believe in). Dunno about diseases, though. That seems to be pretty much skipped over.


message 31: by AnnaBanana (new)

AnnaBanana Pascone (snapdragnful) | 89 comments Christopher wrote: "I'm not sure where it was mentioned, it might be in one of the later books. There's some hand-wavey stuff about getting pregnant that the children of Elua don't get pregnant unless they pray for it, if I'm recalling correctly (though as with much in the world, and religion in general, that might just be an elaorate metaphor which people believe in). Dunno about diseases, though. That seems to be pretty much skipped over"

I don't know about diseases either, and I don't think that birth control is mentioned until Kushiel's Avatar. They have to pray and light a candle to Eisheth they have to do in order to "open the gates of their womb." Once it is done you're stuck with what you get, you can't turn it off.


message 32: by Jes (new)

Jes (tiaama) | 110 comments The world building does not bother me. The politics and religion is interesting and does not bother me.
But I just cannot care about the characters and what happens to them. I have been trying to read this book for 2 weeks. Between the characters and the 'voice' that the author has chosen to write in I can't do it!
AS OF TODAY BOOK LEMMED!


message 33: by Lepton (new)

Lepton | 20 comments Caroline wrote: "I'd FAR rather trained and willing prostitution than forced marriage"

Argh!! I had a discussion with my ex who is quite the feminist in her own right about this kind of abhorrent dichotomy not but a hour ago.

Are there really no other options for a female writer or for feminism to explore other than forced marriage/sex and a "consensual" sex trade? What are we aiming for when consent to be abused is the best that can be expected for a woman in this discussion?


message 34: by Christopher (new)

Christopher | 14 comments I think the feminist critique of the novel along those lines misses on a few key points. The first is that the "sex trade" makes absolutely no differentiation between male and female servants of Naamah. We get a better picture of the role of women in that position because our narrator is a woman. Similarly, Phedre being born into the night court makes her options limited -- this indicative of a caste system more than sexual repression, which may certainly be subject to other critiques.

Other women in the world are depicted in very different ways. The kingdom of Alba is ruled by men, but the descent is matrilinial, and women weild a significant amount of power. Terre D'Ange allows women to inherit the throne, though the laudable feminism in this may be complicated by how the politics of marriage are described for Ysandre, and it isn't made especially clear what would have happened if she had a younger brother. The Tsingano have fairly draconian chastity laws for their society, but only women are allowed to wield the power of the dromonde. Even the women of Skaldia, who are second class citizens next to the thanes of a steading, are shown to not be powerless, and Phedre carefully observes the ways in which the women of Gunter's steading exert influence within their society.

I think there needs to be room, especially in fantasy, for societies which do not meet the ideals we might wish for in gender equality. I think that Carey does a wonderful job of exploring gender issues of this kind in her world building, without asking a cynical reading audience to suspend too much disbelief concerning "medieval" roles of women (medieval being the classic point of historical reference for fantasy, though as is noted in another thread, Phedre's world cherry-picks from everything from early dark ages all the way into the renaissance for it's real-world cultural touch-stones)


message 35: by Vicky (new)

Vicky (librovert) | 493 comments Mod
I haven't gotten to anything too intense yet, I'm at the beginning of chapter 8, but I haven't been bothered yet. I will admit, I have a very high tolerance for unsavory acts in fiction. But even still I haven't found anything unsavory. (Not to discount anyone's discomfort with things that happen in the book, everyone has to draw their own lines of what they are okay or not okay with, and I respect that).

After I thought about it a bit, I think one of the reasons I wasn't offended by the idea was that it reminds me a lot of the pre-WWII Geisha culture and the Oiran and Tayuu, earlier forms of Geisha that were much more sexual in the nature of their entertainment.

Historically young girls were sold into servitude of a geisha house, they would start off as servants and work their way up to be a geisha. The house would pay for their training, board, kimonos, etc. Once the girl was of age she would be debuted as an apprentice and, historically, the end of her apprenticeship was celebrated by her loss of virginity which brought in a great sum of money to help pay down the geisha's debt. A geisha was bound to her house until such a time when she paid off her debts completely.

Obviously it's not entirely the same and not that those practices were ethical, but there are some parallels there.


message 36: by Renee (new)

Renee | 17 comments Lepton wrote: "Caroline wrote: "I'd FAR rather trained and willing prostitution than forced marriage"

Argh!! I had a discussion with my ex who is quite the feminist in her own right about this kind of abhorrent ..."


I think it is worth pointing out that Phedre enjoys her profession and sexual appetites. If the goal if feminism is to grant women equal rights in their expression of sex and gender, then why would it not be acceptable for Phedre to be into the rougher side of sex? As has been pointed out by several posts, she has control of the situation, full rights to say no, and control over her body and income. The choices she makes are not dictated by any male influence, and sometimes she chooses assignations even against the wishes of her household and her bodyguard. Later in the books, she even is given the option to quit her profession, but chooses to continue service to Namah out of religious devotion and dedication to the country and people she loves.

I'd like to think feminism has not become so narrow minded that it forces women into only one type of "acceptable" expression of sexuality.


message 37: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 89 comments As a feminist, I wholeheartedly support the freedom for women (and men) to choose prostitution as a career if they want. The kicker, though, is that it has to be an actual choice - they need to have other options open to them (not just 'marry someone and let them support you'). Otherwise, it's not really a choice. I would also like to see a cultural shift in our real-world perception of sex work - it shouldn't be a dirty secret or shameful. I'd prefer we had the D'Angeline approach, of sex work as a spiritual calling, or at least a compassionate career choice, like becoming a nurse or pediatrician.

Phedre had many opportunities to say 'no'. And I really didn't get the feeling that she ever took an assignation she didn't want because she felt like she had to. Minor Alcuin spoiler:(view spoiler)


message 38: by Coral (new)

Coral (coralm) | 58 comments Renee wrote: "I'd like to think feminism has not become so narrow minded that it forces women into only one type of "acceptable" expression of sexuality. "

I agree. Phedre is very much in control of her own destiny and I think that's a very pro-feminist message. I like that she expresses her enjoyment of sex and her kinkier side and that she's not just a prostitute because she has to be, but because she wants to be.


message 39: by Brittney (new)

Brittney | 49 comments Lepton wrote: "Caroline wrote: "I'd FAR rather trained and willing prostitution than forced marriage"

Argh!! I had a discussion with my ex who is quite the feminist in her own right about this kind of abhorrent ..."


There is a lot to be explored besides forced sex/marriage or consensual sex trade. We have read a lot of books by female writers in this group and I'm sure most would consider themselves feminists and this is the first book that has focused on the sex trade. I also don't happen to think there is anything wrong with a book that focuses on the sex trade. Especially this book in which the sex trade is in no way shape or form comparable to what we know today. Phedre is in no way abused. She chose to go into the service of Naamah and she finds real joy in her work. After she repays her debt to Delaunay she chooses to stay in the service of Naamah. She chooses her patrons. She has a safe word that makes everything stop. If a patron were to ignore the safe word they would face not only legal ramification but religious ones as well. What her patrons do to her during her assignations is not abuse. It is just kinky sex which she very much enjoys.


message 40: by Samantha (new)

Samantha | 76 comments I think it was quite interesting to see that this flavour of her sexuality started materializing about the time that most sexualities start showing themselves. By the time you are 10-13 you start understanding if you like girls or boys or both and I felt that this interest in pain was something like that.

Her parental figure and teachers did say that yes they acknowledged that part of her personality and hoped she would enjoy / use it to her advantage, but they would not indulge her in it until she was old enough to solicit patrons. She had to find ways to torture herself ... which isn't any different from young people today.

Her mother had already given her up to the temple, knowing that she would be kept safe until she was old enough. Frankly it sounds better than a life on the streets where she could be raped at will.

The being sold into slavery was much more disturbing to me. Then she was raped as she had no way of giving consent, even though she made the best of it.


message 41: by Saoirse (new)

Saoirse May I jump in here and point out that the whole book was written with an underlying narrative that hinted at retrospective memoir? It was made clear at certain points that she was aware of events yet to come before they were revealed to the reader. So any sexualization at a younger age was her spin on it as an adult.


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