Shame on you, NPR

11 Apr

Just over a year ago, I mentioned (in passing) the flap over a couple of white women writing a BDSM/romance fanfic about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings.

For those of you who need to ask why the flap, allow me to sum up:

Thomas Jefferson was a white, wealthy slave owner.¹ Sally Hemmings was one of his slaves, also his wife’s half-sister, also his mistress for oh, about forty years–and also, it wasn’t until after his death that his heirs freed Sally Hemmings and her children; her children, who, in case you lost track, were Jefferson’s children too.

So, why am I bringing this up again?

Because, apparently, someone else decided that it was a good idea to write a novel that, again, presents continued sexual abuse of a child of color (Sally Hemmings was 14 when Jefferson first raped her), as a ‘relationship of equals.’

And someone at NPR decided to publish a pretty gushing review of it.²

What is it needed for people to understand that, even if Sally Hemmings had not been a child, and even if Thomas Jefferson had not been about three decades older than her, their relationship was not a romance?

But, some say, what is he luuuuuurrrved her?

But, some say, what if she luuuuuurved him back?

When one of the parties involved cannot either consent to, or refuse, the ‘relationship,’ then it’s not a romance, and it’s never an affair between equals.

This is the most basic definition of abuse, particularly sexual abuse: when one person has power over the other, it is never romantic.³

And as much as readers are perfectly able to identify fiction from reality, it is pretty perverse–and tone deaf in the extreme–to praise, let alone to write, a romance about a historical figure who was abused for decades, and whose reputation was impugned by historians for over a hundred years.

~ * ~

¹ He was also one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and the principal writer of the Declaration of Independence, which, famously, states: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. All WHITE men, that is, and no women whatsoever.

² So apparently is now dead, so I cannot offer you guys a link–but I’m sure those interested can search for the review; it’s by one Jean Zimmerman who–shock! surprise!–is also advertising her own novel.**

³ And for those who like to trot out that BDSM relationships are, therefore also abuse and only abuse, please shut up: the first rule of BDSM is that both parties consent.

** Bonus points: guess whose names are going to my “never buying your books, assholes” list?


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