Nice work on censoring out the nipples. If Smith paid someone more than twenty bucks to do this cover they got screwed, cause I doubt it took more than half an hour's work. Image source: the Interwebs.
Human Commodity by Candace Smith is a book I bought recently on Amazon. I was hooked, frankly, by the storyline. It was absolutely compelling: in the near future the world is wracked by second economic collapse even worse than the one in 2007. (A very credible storyline, as Washington has failed to control the derivatives market that brought the economy down in 2007.) All the stock markets are locked in the doldrums, up arrows are not appearing by any firm's names and there's nothing anyone can do about it.
That is, until an evil young economist figures out that legalizing prostitution could easily lead to commoditizing women, and that women sold as slaves could be the hot new market that will bring the economy back into the pink, so to speak. Meanwhile, a feminist group is working hard to stop this new commodities market, even risking their daughters to stop it.
Damn, that's good plotting. I have seen SO MANY stories where the background is a simple, unimaginative set-up for the sex -- Arab has girl captive in his tent, mysterious rich man enslaves poor girl, etc. etc. -- and HERE is an interesting scenario indeed. And with maledom/femsub bondage as well ... oh, I spent the $6.45 (kinda high for a 143 page story) figuring what the hell, it would be an interesting read, one way or another.
I was of course, hoping for an incredibly enthralling read, with the sort of sexual bondage scenes that engrave themselves in your mind with their sheer hotness and brilliance, combined with a plot that pulls you irresistably from one scene to the next, and characters who live in your mind well after you've read them.
I didn't get that. No surprise, there is not a hell of a lot of that around. The sexual bondage scenes just were not all that hot to me, and although Smith definitely followed through with the plot and the storyline, there were places where she expects us not to notice some fairly obvious flaws. One of the most egregious: the women are enslaved in the time-honored capitalist method, via contract. Adult women can contract themselves out as slaves, and parents can contract their girls out when they turn 18. (Which adds a very DIFFERENT feel to a girl's 18th birthday, with the economy in the pits, which to her credit, Smith plays up very nicely in the book's opening scene.)
But here's the place where the plotting gets weak: there's a HUGE commodity market in women, enough to get the global economy restarted, and one of the ways in which it's made acceptable is that there is a fiction that the women are working as personal assistants, maids, housecleaners, etc., for the wealthy. But unlike personal assistants, maids, housekeepers, etc., their friends and family never hear from them or see them again. They utterly vanish. That's mostly because, of course, as soon as the human commodity firm gets the contract and the woman in house, off go her clothes, on go the collars and shackles and she's hustled off to their commodity training center for some hardcore sexual bondage slave training.
But the story completely glosses over this point. I imagine that there would be MASSIVE media curiousity about commoditized women in the first place, if they vanished from human ken after being commoditized, the media scrutiny would be overwhelmingly intense. Not a word about it, which was enough to break my suspension of disbelief, and I've got a MASSIVE suspension of disbelief.
Another bit that broke my disbelief suspension and also fucked up my transmission pretty bad: so you've commoditized women as sex slaves, how is that boosting the economy? Basically most young people get commoditized as it is in one way or another when they enter the job market, they just aren't purchased wholesale, they just rent out their labor. So how is wealthy people buying women going to create new money? It's not.
But it was the sexual bondage that was the most disappointing. Granted, women were forced to strip naked, get collared and cuffed, suck cock, get whipped, be caged, all that good stuff, but there wasn't much of an erotic connection between the women and their captors/trainers. The torment was sexualized, but not eroticized. The torments were like 1984-style breaking of human beings using sexual tortures rather than purely physical and psychological torture. The women were not submissives, and not portrayed as such.
And nowhere in the novel does anyone form a close emotional relationship. The commodity traders are all heartless bastards. The trainers as well. The feminists who oppose them are portrayed as crazed (really, their children call them the OTRs, for Off Their Rockers) and shrill. The women who are sold into slavery are just standard victims, suckers who get played into signing themselves into slavery (even though they do not understand the way the slavery works). There is one group of characters who are portrayed relatively sympathetically, but there's still no character in the entire book I could regard as a sympathetic heroine.
The bondage and dominance behavior therefore just was not sexy to me. The BOOK was not sexy to me. And that was its major failure. The sex slaves were women who had literally been tormented and terrified into accepting their slavery, there was no sense that they enjoyed it – they were sucking cock on demand out of simple fear. It just was. not. sexy.
And the thing is, I REALLY REALLY REALLY wanted to like this book. And the book was strong on plotting, for an erotic story. But even in Human Commodity, the plot kept breaking my disbelief suspension. The biggest, most powerful feminist organization opposing the slavers consisted of half a dozen dead broke, crazed women? REALLY? What happened to feminism? No politicians got bought to make the sex slavery legally feasible? REALLY? Since when does America work that way?
Human Commodity might have been a feminist warning of the future under controlling corporate overlords, sort of a corporate Handmaid's Tale with lots of sexy bondage and dominance thrown in. That could have been fun. Or it could have been a bit of crapulent wallowing in anti-feminism and misogyny with the bad guys doing one awful bit of sexy corporate malfeasance after another throughout the story, then briefly getting their comeuppance in the end, with the good guys (and gals) enjoying happy maledom/femsub sex forever after. That could have been fun. But having read Human Commodity, I'm still not sure exactly what the author was trying to do. After all the plot points had been played out, we're left with so much human misery as a consequence that it hardly matters that the bad guys suffer too.
I am glad I bought and read Human Commodity because if I had not, there would have been some intolerable itching of my curiosity to know if it was what I thought it might have been. I know now that it's not, so there's that. I just wish I hadn't had to spend $6.95 to find out.
Ms. Smith, a word to the wise. It's very easy to create cover art on Second Life if you play there long enough to know how things work. You know what I did to create this bit of cover art? I posed the photo, downloaded it (very easy on Second Life) opened it with a graphic arts program and cropped it to fit my blog. No art skills required.