My Ideals

It occurred to me that this blog didn’t have a clear statement of my ideals and political stances. This page now exists to address that.

If you disagree with anything you read here to the point that you feel the urge to tear these ideas down, I cordially invite you to walk away.

I am not asking anyone to prove anything, argue their case, or justify themselves in my comments section. Do you understand? I am not demanding that anyone participate in “the Culture War,” though if they think of it that way I do encourage them to consider why their first reaction to the pain and struggle of other people is to say, “How dare you cause problems for ME?” And if they feel frustrated, unsettled, or afraid at the very idea that I might have stances on things, I have to wonder whether they’d enjoy my writing. It’s full of characters having stances on things. Political ones, even!

Terrible stuff.

Though, if you can stomach it for a few pages, you may note most of those characters would rather not be involved in politics either. They just don’t see how they have a choice if they want the worlds they live in to become better places. You might find you relate to them more than you think.

I’m not laying out my moral positions because I believe I’m perfect. Partly, I know a lot of folx have been burned by creators–everything from youtubers and actors to artists, musicians, and other writers–who kept their ideology under wraps to milk money from people they privately see as lesser or outright subhuman. Creators who encourage trust, demand affection, and then double down on the harm they’ve caused when it comes to light.

I want my audience to know what they’re getting into with me.

Otherwise, I just want all this out there because I know that as an open purveyor of erotica and other NSFW creations, I’m at a double risk of attracting a toxic fanbase. I am, of course, extremely sex-positive, but later in this piece I make the point that fiction does influence reality. The fiction of the culture I live in, that is, American culture, is that any sex outside of certain ridiculously-stringent social norms is inherently immoral. Thus, people who already see themselves as immoral will more readily find their way to open participation in NSFW communities, and so things that are actually abhorrent become more normalized.

We’ll come back to that later in this piece. And elsewhere too, I’m sure.

I’m a major mess. I frequently wake up in the mornings astonished that I’m still kicking around. I don’t believe I’m the best person to deal with any problem outside of the mechanics of writing itself. I’d love to believe that I would still hold the ideals I do even if none of the issues I worry about had ever affected me, but I can’t prove that’s true. I know what it’s like to be written off and abandoned. I can’t stand leaving others in the same place, true. But is that really about doing better for them, or trying to heal my own wounds by proxy? I don’t trust my own answer to that right now.

All other things being equal… no. This construct I call myself, this Caerllyn McCurdy, is no altruist paragon. I do not want any of the problems on this planet to be my problems. I don’t want the responsibility of helping anyone. I don’t want to be a savior, or intend to try.

Some days, I can barely save myself.

I can’t overstate that. I don’t believe the things I believe because I’m hopped up on righteous fury and it feels good to be angry at The Enemy–if you’ve assumed that of me, you should consider whether that speaks to the origins of your moral stances rather than mine. Perhaps I’m still projecting. There was a time when I used to be the same way–back when I was an edgy teenage republican out of rebellion against the centrism of my parents, and even a little in college as a wishy-washy moderate trying to wriggle out of her share in the collective responsibility.

These days I spend most of my time bathing in the secondhand trauma of my own and other marginalized communities and feeling ashamed that I can’t do more to help. I don’t feel like a hero. I feel like a failure. If you can read that and still believe that this is about my need to believe I’m superior to you, to place myself on a social-justice pedestal… well, what’s left for me to say?

I believe in freedom of religion, and the freedom to be free from religion. I’ve been at war with my own body since the day I was born. I understand all too well what it’s like to feel trapped in a reality one can do nothing to change. I’m a pagan and occultist–a practicing witch, in point of fact!–for that precise reason. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s a source of deep comfort to believe in a realm of manifest spirit beyond this tawdry flesh. To believe my existence does not have to begin and end with the nauseating prison of a body in whose shape I had no say.

Don’t let the philosophy fool you. I’m a stupid girl who wants stupid things from life. Food, kisses, children. Ideally, I’d just like to be happy. If I woke up one morning to find the body of my flesh matched the body in my mind’s eye, I would find it very difficult to complain about anything ever again. I don’t need mansions, authority, or even supernatural power to be content. I just need a form that fits me. Given the upper scale of the powers that rule this Earth, these nation-states whose leaders may reshape mountains, forests, and cultures on little more than a whim, that shouldn’t be half so hard a thing as it is.

So yes, if I could justify it I would love to tune out the world and live in bubbly airheaded bliss all my days. But I’m also a stupid girl who wants to be a good person. I’m not claiming that I am. I’ve made many mistakes, and sometimes done deliberate evil. I’ve hurt people. But having done evil in the past isn’t a reason to keep doing it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m a leftist. I do, in fact, cherish the vibrancy and color created when people of every ethnicity and culture can live together in harmony. I believe in public healthcare and public education and a bunch of other things. I actually don’t want to take anyone’s guns away. Again, I’m stupid. I probably should disdain guns since they exist in the first place as tools of the militarized nation-state.

But on the other hand, shooty-tube goes bang! I just want the people with enough money to buy a private armory to grow up, gain basic empathy, and spend a good amount on making sure others aren’t starving before investing in more shooty-tubes.

Again, if anyone disagrees with that, they’re free to leave. I would like for them to stop looking at the suffering of others as a nuisance to excuse themselves from witnessing, but I can’t force people to change and I don’t intend to try. I can only nudge slowly with my words and deeds, and hope that eventually the momentum takes.

When I look at this world, this Earth of ours, I see one that is rife with injustice and inequality–injustice and inequality which could be eased so much in just a few years if more of the people with power would just care. I support movements like Black Lives Matter because I recognize the horrific legacy of white imperialist slavery, genocide, and later segregation which I as a white woman must confront. I am not the sins of my ancestors. Their guilt is not mine. But if I care about justice, then those sins are mine to redress in whatever ways I can manage with the power I have. Before there can be atonement, someone must take responsibility.

We don’t get to just scamper off on pilgrimage, declare ourselves redeemed due to lessons learned where no one could see them–if they were even actually learned–and then whine about it when we’re told that didn’t actually help anyone. To be neutral in a world of age-old injustice is not neutrality. To have power and refuse to aid others with it is not grey, but a petty evil.

I don’t have a lot of power right now. I’m a trans woman largely cut off from friends and family. Still, I have a little power–a little to change the thoughts of everyone who reads my words, a little to amplify the voices and labor of my friends. And if you take a few million people with just a little power, their million shreds of little can be rewoven into a lot. If you take all the people who have just a little power, they can make the world anew. Oh, that’s right, reader, I’m not just a leftist, I’m a socialist. Fear me, for I want you to own the products of your own labor!

I won’t try to explain all my reasons for that here. If working under capitalism hasn’t convinced you that capitalism sucks, there’s not much I can say. You know all those times you’ve badly needed something, but despite working constantly you can’t afford it, and all you can do is follow the carrot on a stick by your employer–a promotion, a raise, a bonus, something that might happen but you can’t control? You know all those bosses you’ve had who exploited the rules to extract more labor from you, leaving you to feel helpless and exhausted? Remember how they never faced any consequences?

Gee, sure would be nice if there was an economic system under which the workers owned their work, meaning they owned the power created by that work, and any leader who doesn’t deserve to lead has to–oh, such horrid brutality! What a bloodthirsty witch hunt!–step down from leading!

I believe in tolerance. I also believe in consequences. Everyone should be free to develop their own identity. “I want the right to hurt people” is technically an identity, but one which violates the principle I just stated. I’ll tolerate terrible taste in food, clothes, movies, architecture, music, cars, pets, plants, I’ll tolerate ridiculous behavior, I’ll even tolerate pranks from my friends although I really don’t appreciate those because they make me feel less in control of my environment, and that can negatively impact my mental health.

I do not tolerate bigots. If being asked not to hate others for who they are makes someone feel oppressed based on who they are, then I have to conclude that who they are is a hateful, destructive person. I do not want them near me. What do I want from them? I want them to go away. I want them to grow up, recognize how awful they are, and seek redemption–recognizing that no one owes it to them and thus they may never find it. The point of doing the right thing is to do the right thing, not to be rewarded for doing the right thing.

Funny how the people most adamant that “the world doesn’t owe you shit” are the ones most adamant that it owes them an infinite supply of second chances, isn’t it? It’s not really a contradiction, of course. They believe that the world owes us nothing precisely because they believe it owes them everything.

Last but not least: I believe that fiction does, in fact, influence reality. Politicians make policy decisions all the time based on the demands of constituents who are motivated by nothing save propaganda-induced panic. Misconceptions spread by artistic decisions in movies are treated as true. Hell, I write erotica, so how about this: if reading my work makes you horny, guess what? My fiction just affected your reality.

If someone’s first response to this is, “Well, have the ability to separate fiction from reality”, I guarantee that they don’t. What they have is a very selective memory, and a level of denial sufficient to keep their rational mind from admitting the occasions on which they have applied the ideas and emotions they drew from the fiction they engage with to their daily lives.

And I’m not claiming to be immune to that! Late in 2020, I read the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft. I was, of course, well aware going in that Mr. Lovecraft was one of the most staggeringly paranoid, racist people who ever existed. I was well aware that the constant, bilious fear and loathing he directed towards BIPOC people in his writing was nothing but the unfounded vitriol of a white man trying to hide the irrationality of his own discomfort and hatred from himself.

For several weeks afterward, I nonetheless had to stamp down a part of my brain that now insisted on thinking racial slurs at random intervals. You’ll note that rather than deciding this was some essential part of my personality, I recognized it was quite disgusting and fought it until it ceased to exist. It hurt to acknowledge that any part of me could be that hateful, no matter how tiny, but I don’t need to pretend I’m immune to picking up bad impulses to know that I’m still my own person.

There’s no such thing as total control. Even if you were the last person on the planet, the sheer lack of anyone else would still control your mood. You would feel that emptiness. That’s scary to admit at first. It’s scary to accept that we can’t be perfectly immune to outside influences, which means any outside influence can become an inside one. Yet once we accept it on a binary level, we can learn how to combat it in the shades of grey.

Our experiences shape us. This principle is the foundation of who we are. So it follows that the instant we choose to experience a story, we let that story shape us. We can resist to some extent, choose which of those changes to keep and which to purge, but to deny that they ever happen is preposterous.

Based on all this, I believe that I as a creator–writer, artist, and otherwise–have the responsibility of being careful about what ideas I put forward and how I tell them. Fiction does influence reality. For that reason I have zero tolerance for the erotic and/or pornographic depiction of rape and pedophilia in fiction. It should go without saying that I condemn real-life rapists and pedophiles in the harshest terms. It sure would be nice if more of them faced any actual consequences.

Some writers may choose to confront these things as part of stories about trauma, abuse, and other evils. Sometimes, fighting our trauma through fiction is the only closure we’ll get. I understand that. Those stories need to be evaluated case-by-case. Having good intentions with one’s writing doesn’t stop it from being hurtful. What distinguishes the most compassionate storytellers from their peers isn’t greater inborn empathy, but greater openness to recognizing when they’ve gone wrong.

People, even this person who calls herself a stupid girl wanting stupid things, are complex. We’re made of so many intersecting pieces and asymmetric angles, all trying to navigate a world that doesn’t fit any of us perfectly. We’ll make mistakes. I don’t ask or hope for perfection from anybody. I just believe that we have a shared obligation to do more good than harm. To try our best at first. To do better after we fail instead of shifting the blame of our misdeeds to the very people we’ve hurt by them.

And if I can be a little better each day, weak and fallible as I am, then surely anyone can.