Monday, 18 July 2011

My first book review

Jade Black – Politically Incorrect 2 – Subjugated

OMG what the hell is this book?

Last night we watched an episode of the West Wing (the bf and I are re-watching the series).

Among other things, they were dealing with a story that came out of Saudi Arabia where 17 girls perished in a fire at their school.  Why?  The rescue workers were forbidden by the religious police to rescue the girls because they weren’t DRESSED properly.

I thought this was horrific and knew it was almost certainly true, but I had to google it today just to be sure, and sure enough:  On March 15, 2002, 15 girls were killed in a fire at their school when the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” (religious police) prevented firemen from rescuing them because “it [was] sinful to approach them”.  ~ The Telegraph (UK)

They were actually beaten when they tried to exit without their headscarves and black robes and then forced back INTO the burning school.  The religious police carry sticks and clubs, you see, and routinely patrol the neighbourhood to enforce religious laws; “violators” are frequently beaten and jailed.

So this perfectly hideous monstrosity of an erotic romance novel really did almost make me sick.  Jade Black writes erotica, but some of her stories are almost sweet, even if they do cross a few lines as far as female subjugation is concerned (for my taste).  But this – this is shameful.

I barely skimmed – and I only skimmed out of shock and disbelief.  As far as I can tell it starts out as a marriage in name only between an American woman and a Saudi man.  They’re trying to overcome those pesky immigration laws.  The ‘name only marriage’ is about all this book has in common with romantic erotica.

Saudi man makes her wear the niqab and describes how he is so ‘satisfied’ with the ‘heady’ satisfaction of keeping his wife in the niqab, although he muses that since her ‘eyes … eyebrows … upper portions of her adorable cheeks’ were visible, damn it, maybe he should actually make her wear a burqa.  But oh, no, he rethinks that, he’s not a crazy-possessive jerk, he can let her eyes and cheekbones show. 

Then it turns out she’s one of few women she sees when they travel to Saudi Arabia wearing the niqab.  She of course concludes that it’s because she’s ugly – you’d think she hadn’t spent the last many years of her life living in America as a beautiful woman, but whatevs.

She lives in fear of being “sold to a harem” and knows she has to please him.  Honestly.  Didn’t this chick research ANYTHING?  Did she set up ANY plan to not get killed when she travels to a foreign country (one with a deplorable history of human rights especially against women) with a practical stranger?  Y’know, some larger, more foolproof version of the ‘staged phone call from a friend 20 minutes into the blind date’?

There’s great dialogue:  “I’ll be sad when we divorce” (after they have sex and she’s all in love with him).  And it’s “our room, not your room” he bellows, when they get to his place in Saudi Arabia and she’s still pouting about the niqab.  Like she’s supposed to know that.  This is a ‘name only’ marriage, remember, jackass?
But wait, she probably forgot to clarify what that meant before she MOVED TO SAUDI ARABIA WITH A TOTAL STRANGER (I can’t be bothered to go back and check).

There are deep insights from other female characters:  “On the surface, it looks as if everything is run by men, but the true power lies with the female elders of the family.”  Really?  This deluded chick goes on to say:  “No Saudi male would ever in a thousand years offend his mother or grandmother.”   At this point I almost stopped even skimming.  So he’ll never tell her she looks fat in that niqab, but he’ll totally step back if the religious police want to beat her half to death or shove her back into a burning building.

At the end of this travesty of a book (thank God it’s short!) she realizes that he lied to her and actually “kidnapped” her – I didn’t even bother going back to figure out how the heck she didn’t prepare for this eventuality – and her solution is to ‘trick him into revealing his jealousy’ by not wearing the niqab in front of some other guy.  Can you say “HUH?”  And then HE DOES (reveal he’s jealous, that is) and she’s so happy that they have more violent sex against the wall to celebrate.  Then they confess their love.  I think she doesn’t wear the niqab after the whole ‘jealous’ revelation (don’t ask me how she manages to not get beaten to death by doing so – this is not clarified).

Then they stay there, stay married, make some babies (maybe only one, I think I read every 12th word at this point) and she learns Arabic.  It was pretty easy, apparently.

As far as I’m concerned it’s the height of responsibility to sexualize a character by using the trait of possessiveness.  Ms. Black appears to be making the connection between “jealous freak” and “lots of testosterone” and we’re all supposed to be just weak-kneed at the thought of this big tough man.  Unfortunately she neglected to tell us to turn off our BRAINS at the beginning of the book.

And I think it’s even worse to write a book where some dumb, big-breasted chick moves to Saudi Arabia without doing any research, without making any plans, without making sure she can get out – and then it WORKS OUT FOR HER.

The author has a note at the end explaining some inane point about what her name is and what it should have been but that she didn’t want to insert ‘gratuitous explanations” which are “more jarring than gratuitous sex”. 

Thanks for your … consideration?  I agree that some ‘gratuitous’ explanations of other facts would have been really jarring (y’know, beheading and public beatings do NOT get me in the mood either) but honestly.

Then she invites us to “raise a glass” to “ten years of women refusing to allow publishers to draw a line in the literary sand on their sexuality and sensuality”.

Too bad women in Saudi Arabia can’t even raise a glass to “being allowed to drive”. 

It’s the height of social irresponsibility to write a book glorifying a country that praises jealous husbands and kills girls rather than risk “vice” on the part of men who are not required to exert any self-control whatsoever.

This was not sexy.  This was NOT empowering.

I do not raise a glass, Ms. Black.  And while I hardly blame you for the culture I do hold you responsible for romanticizing a place that is a nightmare for far too many people.

This chick (I am NOT calling her the heroine) was too dumb for words and I am assuming that people are too smart to fall for this book.  I’m praying that, anyway.

I know this book is part of a series called “Politically Incorrect” – but I sense that Ms. Black uses the phrase because it’s part of pop culture, not because she thinks she’s being romantically subversive.

Submissiveness is only sexy between partners who are freely, consensually, trustingly CHOOSING to submit (usually TO EACH OTHER).

It helps if the girl hasn’t somehow managed to arrange her own kidnapping (really!  She consented, but she was kidnapped, somehow) with no backup plan. 

Also helps if, when the dude says ‘here, wear this veil’, she tells him to go to hell.  Instead, she leaps to the conclusion that despite the fact that she was a desirable, attractive woman in America, he clearly wants to conceal her “Elephant Face” (yes, that is a quote).

And it REALLY helps if the ‘heroine’ is not a flighty, dramatic twit with the confidence and brain capacity of a can of spray cheese.

Really, I’d have preferred if he’d had sex with the spray cheese.

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