Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Haunted Vagina by Carlton Mellick III

One of my Facebook friends posted about this book and at first I thought that there was no way this book could possibly be real.  I trotted off to Goodreads and Amazon and sure enough, The Haunted Vagina is a real book.  Having read so many books in this genre, I'm always looking for anything quirky that brings something new and so I simply couldn't resist the lure of The Haunted Vagina.  

I don't even know where to begin with this review.  I suppose I should start by saying that I read the majority of the book with my legs tightly crossed saying, "no, no, no". I don't know about you, but the very idea of a vagina being spread wide enough to encompass a full grown man just made me never want to spread my legs ever again.  Pause and read that sentence again. A grown ass man crawled inside a vagina.  

It all begins when Steve and his girlfriend Stacy are all cuddled up and he hears a strange sound. At first he believes they left the television on and then he wonders if something is living in the walls. Finally, Stacey admits that her vagina is haunted.  That's enough for Steve to decide that he's really not interested in sex with her anymore.  Stacey, not being down with abstinence, forces Steve into doing the 69.  As Stacey reaches orgasm, a skeleton begins to crawl out of her vagina. Stacey is freaked out for awhile but it's enough to make her decide that if Steve really cares about her, he'll crawl inside her vagina and figure out what the hell is going on in there. 

For the most part, Steve is the reluctant participant in The Haunted Vagina.  He is physically put into a position to have oral sex with Stacy after explicitly saying he's not interested.  
"Same goes with oral sex. We both like to receive it, but neither of us want to give it. Normally we can compromise on oral. If I give it to her, she will give it to me. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to go near her vagina anymore. Not with my penis, not with my tongue. 
“It’s not like you have to stick your tongue inside of me,” she says. “You can just lick my glowworm.”
"Glowworm is her pet name for a clitoris. 
“It’s on the outside,” she says.
 “But still . . .” I say.
“I’ll keep my legs closed,” she says. “You won’t even hear it.” 
I don’t reply. She turns away from me and takes off her work clothes, as if I agreed. Folding her glasses and putting them back in their case. Her movements are cold and mechanical. She must be pissed. Giving me the silent treatment like the time I washed her white fuzzy coat wrong, or the time she found pictures of my old girlfriends and I wouldn’t let her throw them out. On those occasions, she ignored me and locked herself in the bedroom. On this occasion, however, she wants to get intimate. She won’t look me in the eyes as she unbuttons my shirt and pulls off my pants. She picks me up and turns me upside-down, then plops us on the bed."
The above is written as just another bizarre incident particularly given the fact that a skeleton climbs it's way out of Stacey's vagina when she begins to orgasm but make no mistake, this scene is describing a sexual assault. Steve actually says that he's been "consumed" by Stacey since the day they met. The fact that Steve enjoys the fellatio he receives doesn't negate the fact that he said no to a sexual encounter. Steve enters her vagina twice through coercion to prove his love for her.  Once he's transformed inside the vagina to some sort of creature, it only takes a month for Stacey to have sex with someone else in an attempt to drown him in another man's semen.  Yes, it's as gross as it sounds. 

Once inside the world which for whatever reason exists in Stacey's vagina, Steve meets Fig, who is just as controlling as Stacey.  When Steve declines an offer to play with Fig, she locks him up which forces his body to change into a male version of hers.  Steve then becomes violent with Fig, when she initiates sex, mimicking all of the sex acts Stacy made him do, leading to Fig's confusion. In the end, Steve knocks up Fig and they remain trapped in the uterus of Stacey's unborn child, with no hope of release until Stacey's child reaches maturity. This does not bother Steve because he falls in love with Fig and experiences an extreme passion for her.  

I'll admit that The Haunted Vagina is certainly unique in this genre, though the execution could certainly use some work. The entire premise of this novel seems to be that women are powerful and can and do exert power using their vaginas.  When this happens, the relationship is necessarily unhealthy.   Men are held captive and are powerless to resist because they are so enthralled. This very much makes Steve read as a self insert trying to deal with a bad relationship he had participated in. 

It's telling that both Stacey and Fig trapped Steve and that both women (or entity in the case of Fig) used a vagina to do so. It's not an accident that both Fig and Stacey are taller and stronger than Steve. It's not an accident that neither of them listen to his needs and or wants.  For Fig, Steve is little more than a possession.The lesson in this is that a man must be on his guard during PIV sex because he'll end up with far more than he bargained for. The Haunted Vagina essentially sets up women (and in fact all those who have vaginas) as predators by nature of our genitalia and our supposedly heavy handed neediness. The vagina seen in this light becomes an addictive drug, doling out highs even as it punishes those who dare to venture inside, until a man looses all sense of self and is compliant. 

Steve talks about his fear of Stacey's vagina turning her on. He in fact he has a litany of complaints about his sexual relationship with Stacey. 
"It’s just like Stacy to get turned on by the idea of having sex with some strange guy while I’m trapped inside of her. I’m sure that idea would have turned her on. I always hated her sick fetishes. Like how she sometimes liked to choke me or choke herself while fucking. She had some kind of neck fetish. I especially hated when she would lie on top of me and fuck my throat. She liked the feeling of my Adam’s apple against her clit, and liked to choke me with her thighs. She also made me hum while she was grinding my neck so that my voice box would work like a vibrator."
Stacy is a sexual predator from whom Steve cannot escape.  It's not Stacey's sexual desires that are sick per say but the lack of consent in the relationship.  Woman as toxic is the overarching theme and this manifests through sex and genitalia.
"As my rage builds, Fig watches me, masturbating at me. A vein in my forehead twitches as she wipes her greasy fingers across my lips and nostrils, just like Stacy used to do. Stacy always liked to see my reaction to the taste of her, to the smell of her, even though she knew it pissed me off."
Because Stacey is largely disembodied in The Haunted Vagina, her vagina comes to represent her person.  That in and of itself is toxic and misogynist.  If that were not enough, Stacey's vagina is clearly meant to be seen as something foul. The dirty vagina that entraps men could not be more anti-woman.

Okay, so we've covered the misogyny, I suppose we should look at race. Stacy was born in Thailand but adopted and raised by an African-American family.  The Haunted Vagina never really deals with any kind of cultural dysphoria and simply mentions her origins in passing. Her parents, believing in education paid for Stacy to obtain several degrees and she remained a full-time student until the age of 30.  Steve believes that the creatures in Stacy's vagina are also Asian and are passed down from mother to daughter, the result of a group of people dealing with privations.  If they crawled inside a woman's body then they would have to worry about food, clothing or shelter because the woman's body would provide. It's essentially a parasite passed along in the DNA because the function of a woman is to nurture. 

The only other character in the series is a homeless Black man named Donut, who routinely begs for change and he is indeed a problem.
"Donut happened to be the worst of them. He was a stocky black guy with a bright orange sweater who strolled around Pioneer Square. He wouldn’t ask me for change outright. First, he would ask me if I had a problem with black people. I would say no. He would then ask me for money. Then I would give it to him, as if that was proof that I truly did not have a problem with black people. He would follow me for a block and ask for a little more. I would give him whatever I had, even a dollar or two. Then he’d ask for a little more. If I ever refused him, he would call me a racist. 
He’d say, “Oh, I see now, you’re a skinhead. Well, sieg heil, skinhead!” He’d continue yelling at me until I was two blocks away. “Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!”"
Donut is the only black male character and of course he is belligerent and uses racism like a card to pull when he doesn't get gifted money.  Given the horrible stereotypes about the homeless and people of colour expecting money for nothing from society, Donut is absolutely cringe worthy. When Donut does appear again, Steve has a moment of generosity and gifts Donut with his two hundred dollar jacket because of inclement weather. Donut of course isn't grateful and wants more, thus keeping alive the toxic myth that Black people are never happy no matter how much you supposedly give them. Steve's little act of paternalism however does earn him the love of Stacey.

I know that I haven't mentioned LGBT people yet and that you're probably hoping just this once the author engaged in erasure but you're out of luck.  Stacy is a bisexual who gave up on women after one rejected her when she heard voices coming from her vagina.  From this moment on, Stacey only slept with men and in fact engaged in sex work by getting people to pay to hear her talking vagina.  No other woman is mentioned in connection to Stacey sexually again.

The Haunted Vagina is so short that it's more novella that a book.  For it's short 100 pages, The Haunted Vagina manages to pack in a shit ton of problematic nonsense.  Mellick tried so hard to be humorous but it mostly fell flat.  Had I at least laughed at The Haunted Vagina, I perhaps wouldn't feel so burned by it and so desperate for a refund.  As it is, I feel as though my brain needs to be scrubbed and it's going to be awhile before I can uncross my legs without thinking of skeletons crawling out of vaginas and grown as men crawling in. The Haunted Vagina is misogynistic from start to finish and is peppered with racism for extra spice.  What is meant to be hilarious amounts to nothing but the misogynistic racist ramblings of a privileged dude.