For those of you wondering what the fuck a novelette is, the term seems to refer to a work that is longer than a short story yet shorter than a novella. Generally, the length meeting this definition seems to be more than 7,500 words, but not exceeding 17,500 words.
With our vocabulary lesson out of the way, we can get down to the real issues: Shit that bothered me while reading this story.
In many ways, Confiscating Charlie could be regarded as a fairy tale. Poor girl raised by her cruel, uncaring sister, is saved by a rich boy who awakens her sexual passion while providing her with comfortable living arrangements. Another way of viewing this scenario is that an older man with a Master’s degree under his belt seduced a young, inexperienced girl into becoming his mistress.
The sex that Charlie and Alex have in this book is sexy, so as far as erotica goes, it’s not that I don’t think this story fits the bill. In fact, in general, I have personally always been slightly enchanted by the idea of an older, more experienced man seducing a younger girl (although not, like, not even legally adult young, which this book and most erotica tastefully avoid by making the girl old enough to avoid statutory rape). What really bothered me in Confiscating Charlie was the concept of ownership.
When Alex takes Charlie’s virginity, which both of them are really into, he gets possessive. Although he’s willing to put on a condom for Charlie’s first time, he also informs her that she needs to go on birth control soon, for some supposedly romantic reason, but really just pointing out that he’s an asshole who thinks he can dictate what a woman does with her body before he’s dating her or has even had sex with her. A star-eyed Charlie tells him that she’s already on birth control, and he tosses the condom away, adding litterbug to his list of offenses (not to mention potentially putting Charlie at risk for STDs).
Then, after getting her all hot and bothered, Alex makes Charlie say that she “belongs” to him, out loud, before he will penetrate her. This requirement is being made to a virgin who has never even been kissed before, and who does not seem to get affection from her family or anyone else, and whom Alex has known for less than a month.
Of course she does it. I mean, the novelette is realistic, in that 19-year-old girls tend to be idiots, particularly when they think they’re in love. (I was no exception.) Yet something the novelette does not touch on is the fact that Alex’s demand is not okay. A person does not belong to another person, whether we’re talking about slaves or romantic partners. A person belongs to him- or herself. It’s not romantic to let someone else treat you like livestock, just some possession that they own and to whom they can do whatever they wish. A woman is not a cow, and it is not okay to say otherwise.
Now, this novelette is erotica. It is aimed at adults. People are entitled to be turned on by whatever works. I just worry sometimes that we don’t think through what is turning us on and realize the problems and issues. If you realize something is problematic, but take guilty pleasure in it on an idea level upon which you wouldn’t act, that is one thing. But do we realize these things are problematic? Do we realize that saying “I belong to you” is acting like cattle? Or are we buying into media-produced ideas of romanticism that are potentially damaging?
I am not turned on by being treated like property; I want to be treated like a human. Am I just being harsh on this idea because it doesn’t turn me on, personally?
I don’t know. Feel free to comment on this idea below!