An archetype who appears often in my fiction is that of the sex worker. I usually write sex work from an empowered position: where the worker enjoys their profession or at least has chosen it, not as a last option of desperation.

This makes a lot of my writing difficult to place. The addition of a sex worker, even without scenes of sex, closes all the family-friendly markets. Because of this, I get excited any time I see pieces about sex workers in magazines I want to get published in. Even if the piece is more traditional in tone, it makes me excited because it at least paves the way for more intricate explorations of sex work. Someday.

This week I found this little nugget by Eric Del Carlo: Sexbot’s Lament, published in Unfit Magazine earlier this year. The concept behind this story is slightly terrifying and yet it feels too possible. While it only scratches the surface of sex work (especially forced sex work), it lays out an interesting concept within a short space. This makes it an excellent piece for starting conversations.

Spoilers Ahead

Once you’ve read the story, I’d love your thoughts on a few aspects about it.

  1. Do you think the story uses violence against women as entertainment? For so long, violence against women was used to titillate readers. This story tells the story through the POV of a woman, but it takes away her agency by turning her into a sexbot. While this makes the story terrifying, is it done for entertainment and shock value or to further discussion?
  2. Is how we read a piece as important as how a piece is written? Because I can go either way on the above question, I wonder how much the reader’s approach to a story comes into play. I can read the piece solely for entertainment value. It can shock me and I can move on. Or I can think about how it applies to our wider world.

This month I’m taking part in the pseudopod flash fiction contest. So many of the stories include violence against women. There are people who simply don’t want to read it. Period. On the other hand, I wonder when it is okay to write it. After all, this is a very real issue in our world and writing reflects our lives. So I stumbled across this piece while I’ve been mulling over this question.

I don’t think there are any easy answers, but I am curious to further the conversation.

Overall, I’d love to hear what you think about this piece and what you think about the representation of sex work in speculative fiction.

One thought on “On the Topic of Sex: Sexbot’s Lament by Eric Del Carlo

  1. I read this as a thought-provoking piece, since the absence of titilation suggests the minimal sexual content is not the intent of the piece. This is social comment, and a scifi author’s warning of thing to come, if we’re not careful. I say this, as I’ve addressed the same areas in my own writing.
    The dehumanising of people, especially women, has been going on for centuries; it’s a way for the men (and women) who see profit in sexual desire as a way of making a very lucrative living. In fact, of course, it’s the users and the pimps/madames who are dehumanised. Their victims are tortured by their condition usually. In this story, that aspect is temporarily subdued by technology. But, fortunately, good people find the victim and release her from her prison.

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