Monday, June 17, 2013

The TorchBearers' Book Club: Bumped, chapters 9 - 10

Welcome back to the TorchBearer’s book club!
Not much to update you on this week, so let’s dive right back into Bumped, shall we?

Last time, we saw a confrontation that would have been saved for a climax of another YA, moral event horizons and two heroines in desperate need of therapy.
Trigger warning: Reproductive coercion, drugs.

Melody is back home, venting about Zen to her best friend Shoko. Shoko, who is “due to drop”, derails the conversation when she accidentally blows up the sound of her HeadStart belly band (you’re not exempt from lessons, even as a foetus. And I though kindergarten entrance exams were excessive.)

“Oy, I can’t wait until Burrito and I part ways.” Burrito is the nickname for her pregg. This is Shoko’s first go as a pro. She bumped as an amateur last time around, which meant she picked her partner—her boyfriend, Raimundo—a RePro Rep didn’t do it for her. It also meant that she didn’t get paid up front like I did, but had to wait and see what offers came in after her delivery was made. Unlike the Cheerclones and other amateurs who hit the masSEX party circuit hoping to be bumped, Shoko’s first pregging wasn’t planned, but it wasn’t unexpected either because that’s what happens when boyfriends and girlfriends do what they do as often as Shoko and Raimundo did.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 48). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

We already know that in this word, “baby” is a sort of dirty word. Not in every context, but it’s a feature when a girl isn’t planning to keep her pregg, and especially if she’s planning to get paid for it. It’s a word that has a lot of connotations to it, most notably one that suggests an emotional bond between mother and a foetus. Which… you know… isn’t helpful if you’re giving it up.

There’s a lot that can be said about this, but we’ll get to it in more detail when we talk about Malia. There’s solid reasoning in favour of this practice - unfortunately, it’s also immediately undermined by the rest of the shit peddled by this society.

But hey, Shoko (and Raimundo) introduce an interesting and oft-ignored aspect of procreation: Sex for pleasure.

Shoko is a rare breed - an amateur who didn’t set out to bump, but who managed to earn a good lot of money after she delivered. She became pro when the couple who got her first baby liked it so much, they wanted a biosibling. (”(Shoko and Raimundo) were broken up at this point, which made it waaaay awkward but business is business and pleasure is pleasure” p. 49) And, most notably, she has sex for the fun of it!

As we’ve already covered in depth, sex tends to be glossed over in YA. Whether it’s framed as evil or as a ZOMG MAGICAL LOVE experience, there’s little focus on the physical aspects of it. Nobody mentions morning-after soreness, that it takes time to get to the orgasms, and you will most certainly not read about someone farting right in the middle of the whole fucking-on-a-bed-of-roses experience.

You also won’t often read about a heroine being able to separate the physical aspects of sex from her feelings for her partner. Maybe it’s because of this idea that sex with your one true love will always be great, people feel ashamed to admit when it was underwhelming (out of respect for the other’s feelings, or out of fear that their love isn’t so true after all, who knows.) Maybe it’s because women who have sex for pleasure are always evil sluts, grrrr! Maybe it’s because sex is confusing, and having two entirely different experiences with your head and with your clitoris just adds more confusion to the mix.

There’s no easy answer for it. But Shoko’s way - accepting that sex can be good and love can be fleeting, is not something we see often, and I feel that we’re missing out because of this.

But that’s Shoko. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, and she never worries whether what she says will affect her image. We met when I was the youngest player to make the Little Tigers elite travel soccer team, the only girl in sixth grade good enough to compete with eighth graders. The older girls got pissy when I not only kept up, but kicked circles around them. They wanted to haze me hard and threatened to cut off my ponytail to serve as a warning to other upstart sixth graders, but Shoko wouldn’t let them. She’s the one who stood up for me.

“If she’s kicking our asses,” she pointed out, “imagine what she’ll do to the other team.”

Since that moment on the soccer field, I’ve looked up to her like the big sister I never had.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (pp. 49-50). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Aaaaah. If only we got more female friendships like that!

Shoko asks Melody why Zen isn’t her everythingbut. Everything but sex partner, for those of you not versed in McCafferty future-speak. And while we’re on the subject: Bumped = Impregnated, Humped = Fucked. The difference in bumping and humping is very subtle, and as one often leads to the other, humping isn’t the term for messing around. Everythingbut is.

Anyway, we see Melody’s jealousy flare up again, and Shoko cleverly deduces that her friend isn’t being a prude about sex - just paranoid because her parents made her a perfect little breeding cow.


This, of course, leads to why Melody is still going around with her hymen intact (or intact as it can be, what with all that soccer.) The Jaydens apparently can’t find a boy suitable enough for their 100% European (cougharyancough) tastes, but the Mrs is trying to persuade her husband to hire a professional. Think a gigolo, although breeding pony would be a more apt term. The professionals also double as advertising models for a drug called Tocin, which… um… I’ll just let the text explain:

These RePros have all become famous for popping up on the MiNet more naked than not, seductively cooing: “Can’t bump with me? Fake it with a dose of Tocin.” Tocin makes you feel like your best and most reproaesthetical self, and see everyone around you in the same artificially flattering way. Originally touted as “the Peacemaker” for its potential to end conflict in the Middle East, it’s now the most popular medication prescribed by doctors for Surrogettes and Sperms. Taken as directed, it helps “exaggerate feelings of arousal and attachment” and “ease the awkwardness and anxiety” of bumping with a total stranger.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 52). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

In case you’re wondering if you read wrong, this society is perfectly okay with giving military-issue drugs to teenagers in order to ensure that they have sex.

Holy Mother of Dubious Consent!

Wait, scratch that - is there really any consent to be had in this situation? When both partners are under the legal age of voting, or even drinking, consent is already muddled. The societal pressure is bad enough, but throwing drugs into the mix? That’s just… sick.

And seriously skeevy.

Melody, oddly enough, isn’t completely outraged at the prospect, but she is a little ambivalent. In a lot of ways, she’s like Jessica Darling - quick to judge, stubborn to the point of ridiculousness, and just a wee bit skeeved out by sex. This isn’t Bumped’s only resemblance to Sloppy Firsts and the rest, but I’ll get to that next week.

Onto Harmony, she’s having lunch with Zen, and their conversation finds its way to sex for pleasure as well, although from a slightly different angle.

“So why get married now?” he asks. “I mean, from everything I’ve read on the quikiwiki, it seems that girls in the Church are usually married around thirteen. . . .”

Unlike the salesgirl, who was using this information to mock me, Zen seems genuinely curious. I decide to take a leap of faith.

“I was engaged for the first time at thirteen.”

Zen nods, not a trace of condescension or scorn on his face.

“And what happened to the first fiancé?”

What happened was 1 Corinithians.

The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other.

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 55). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Or else blue balls. Or menstrual cramps, I guess.

Unknowingly, Harmony has the same problem as Melody - she’s weary of having sex with someone she doesn’t love, and cannot separate sexual pleasure from love. Which, if you don’t have drugs, or you’re not a Shoko, is an unpleasant hurdle to go around. Harmony isn’t okay about sharing a bed with a boy she’s not attracted to romantically, and she’s not okay with her concerns being handwaved away with some lines from Genesis:

“In Genesis, God says, ‘With pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’”

Mary and Lucy murmured amens to that. I wanted to explain to Zen how my housesisters’ reactions underscored the secret fears I’d been having since I began my Blooming. The Church promises that there’s no greater way for young women to please God than to take the sacraments. But the closer I got to my own marriage and maternity, the more I felt like I was only as praiseworthy as my healthy womb.

Why was I the only one who seemed to see it this way?

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (pp. 56-57). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Because you’re a girl, Harmony, and girls are conditioned to think that their needs are inconsequential and need to be put aside. It’s not a problem only you face - in fact, your sister’s been manoeuvred in a position where she can’t even have a crush on a cute boy because she’s afraid that, when the time comes, she won’t be able to have sex without having to be off her head on military-type E.

And the sad part is, this isn’t all that different from our world. It just takes the Good Girl culture and cranks it up to eleven.

To put off further questioning, Harmony asks Zen if all Sperms and Surrogettes get along like he and Melody do. This shocks Zen of course - he never assumed anyone would think he was good enough to be a pro:

“Insufficient verticality,” Zen explains, holding his hand about six inches over his head. “No one pays to bump with a guy who’s five foot seven and a half.” He drops his hand and points it straight at me. “Now I know what you’re thinking: Why don’t you dose some pharma-grade HGH?”

“That’s not what I was thinking at all,” I interrupt. “And what’s HGH?”

“Human Growth Hormone. Anyway, lots of shorties have pumped themselves up with HGH to make themselves more sellable to RePro Reps. But you know what’s happening? Users report that the increase in height is inversely proportional to a decrease in IQ! Ha! So these needle-happy juiceheads pass the test for verticality, but fail the minimum standards for intelligence!”

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (p. 59). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Tocin isn’t the only drug being pumped around - now even ‘roids are not out of the question. Doing what you’ve got to do to win! Or reproduce, I guess!

And it makes sense. Everyone is fucked by this culture obsessed with perfect babies (and nobody seems to wonder what would happen when those perfect babies grow into messy teenagers. Fetishism of children, another lovely feature of this society.) And hey, both Zen and Melody point out the sinister side of the drugs administered en masse - Tocin was meant for military use. HGH harms one feature to boost another. It’s a lose-lose.

Also, here’s a nice bit where modern thinking meets Churchie speak:

Unless someone develops HGH that pumps up brains and bodies, I’m only good enough for everythingbut. Doomed to be a Worm, never a Sperm.”

“‘I am a worm, not a man,’” I recite by memory. “‘Scorned by man, despised by the people.’”

McCafferty, Megan (2011-04-26). Bumped (pp. 59-60). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Zen gives Harmony a Lost-and-Found McGuffin, a card which helps him locate her if she is ever lost. His parents apparently gave him a bunch of those after the earthquakes and… hold on a sec! What earthquakes? Did the Virus also effect the Tectonic plates? Is the Earth in danger of eating itself up? Why has no-one mentioned this before now!!!!!
*Note: image via Goodreads.

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