a prison, a body

iii. helen. no such thing as a sexual relationship

by gargulec

Tags: #cw:sexual_assault #D/s #drones #pov:bottom #sub:female #transgender_characters #bondage #exhibitionism #sadomasochism
See spoiler tags : #robots #scifi

Watching through the cafe’s window, Helen saw her best friend vanish into the Galatea Corporation building, as if swallowed by a concrete giant. The sad smile she had forced onto her face faded away, leaving behind a face of bitter frustration. Or more than that: of defeat.

For a while, she kept on staring at the brutality edifice, a part of her desperately hoping that Rowan would come bolting out, at the last hurdle restored to her senses. But for all of her awkward need to please people around her, Helen knew Rowan to be doggedly stubborn. Once she had fixated herself on the idea of selling herself to become a piece of corporate fodder, every attempt to talk her off it felt futile. She could get her to agree with every argument about the stupidity of it, and yet none of it would ever take.

The rancid feeling of loss spreading through her, she turned away from the window and threw her head back, eyes pressed shut.

“Fuck,” she hissed through clenched teeth. “Fuck.”

It would be so much easier to swallow if she could just pass Rowan for a moron, or someone rendered to a bare state of impoverished desperation. But her friend was neither of those things. She had always known her for an intelligent person, even if she was smart in this abstract, bookish sort of a way that at times felt completely detached from the way people lived. She wasn’t that badly off, either. Sure, she was saddled with student debt, they all were. But she was making enough money to get by, and maybe even save a little bit on the side. As everyone in their circles, she had her share of issues, but that meant very little. This was no economy for serotonin, anyway.

And yet, with focus and dedication, Rowan came to be obsessed with the idea of her own enslavement. As much as she tried, Helen could not conceive of a good reason why. It made no sense.

Her phone buzzed. Reluctantly, she brought it up and opened her eyes. The smiling guillotine icon alerted her it was Hank.

How did it go?

She went through with it
, she thumbed into the messenger window, before adding a :/ for emphasis.

Transitioning ppl do dumb shit, he offered helpfully. It's basically puberty.

She’s not even on hormones, ffs
, she typed in and chucked the phone back onto the table before he had a chance to respond. She had no desire to get into yet another argument about whether Rowan’s actions were because of her gender identity. Trans or not, what she decided to do with herself was just harmful, like mistaking a porn flick for reality.

“Maybe if I had listened to her…,” she groaned again, but the thought immediately felt hollow. They were both adults, and she respected Rowan enough to assume she had her shit figured out to at least some reasonable base level. Even with that blowup she had with her mom. Maybe especially because of that blowup. When she heard that Rowan was cutting ties with her parents, she could only cheer. It felt like she was finally doing away with the things in her life that were hurting her. And so, when a month ago she had announced, completely out of the blue, that she intended to sell herself, body and soul, to the Galatea sex farms, Helen assumed it to be some kind of a joke. She had a laugh at it, before realizing that her friend was being serious.

The few conversations they had about it since then all felt barren. She could never get Rowan to admit what it was all about; the woman offered her a bunch of responses and none of them held water. None of them could explain the gesture. It felt like she was deceiving herself into believing it was a good idea. The entire time, Helen suspected that Rowan must had been aware of just how self-destructive the idea was, but every time she brought that up, she would hear back another variant of the obnoxious don’t be like that dismissal and Rowan would make a face like a puppy being battered by her owner, and what was she supposed to say to that?

Her phone buzzed. More people writing to console her, probably. She had no desire to deal with it right now. Maybe another coffee could help her clear her mind and focus. She glanced at the bar, and remembered what kind of a place she was in. No matter the loft-like decor and hipster air, she was sitting in a haven for corporate drones. Prices here started at five for an espresso and only went up.

It was the wealth of Galatea dripping down. She looked through the crowd swarming the locale, drinking, talking, eating, and wondered just how many of them were in one way or another on that corporation’s payroll. The few in the characteristic, fetish-like livery, for sure. But the rest? How could she tell which suit here was going to be complicit in the exploitation of her friend, and which one was just passing by to share a cup of tea with their Galatea colleague?

But it wasn’t just the clientele that betrayed who this place really belonged to. It was even in the littlest things, like in the distinctive Galatea catalogues scattered about, as if they were the most normal thing to be found laying at the counter next to the latest Wire magazine.

She reached for one, holding by the edge with two fingers, as if the mere touch of it was somehow disgusting. She dropped it on the table, right next to the empty cup, and leaned over. Normally, she wouldn’t be caught dead looking at something like that, but in this place, among those people, she didn’t really care.

The catalogue’s cover was too tasteful for its contents by far. It was simple, metallic red, embellished only by the Galatea’s and the word SOUL blazoned across it in a silver bold-face. She recognized the type. Obviously, it was Futura.

“Why?” she asked. “What did you see in that?”

Carefully grabbing the cover with just tips of her fingers, she pulled it open. The first page was just text, a statement from the CEO about a better future, sustainability and diversity. Typical corporate speak she couldn’t even read through without groaning. She turned the page to see a two-page spread. Photos from one of the corporate buildings, a stylish tableau of green brutalism for the middle class to water its mouth over. More text she skimmed through - a pop history explanation of the emergence of the Italian modernism. She frowned. That wasn’t exactly what she expected. She turned several pages at once, and finally found the sort of imagery Galatea became famous for.

Printed on the glossy paper was a picture of a man’s body secured to a kind of a metal bench, thick leather straps digging deep into the perfectly smooth skin. His head, further immobilized in a strap harness, was pulled back with a cable tugging at the large metal ring jammed between his teeth, forcing the mouth open. A thick knot of saliva dripped to the invisible floor from the splayed tongue. Helen shuddered, forcing herself not to close the catalogue instantly. But it wasn’t just the body. Worse still were the man’s eyes: glazed over as if blissed out, perfectly vacant. It made her think of the worst of porn, or maybe to the erotic horror flicks from the early 2000s that her ex loved so much.

As she watched the image, slowly but surely the thought budded in her mind that it was, right there, precisely what Rowan had wanted. It was enough to close her eyes for her to imagine her friend in the man’s position, face open for all comers, mind all but absent.

“Why?” she repeated. She looked to the opposite page: it was covered in text, and an ascetic column of white type against a black background. Morbidly curious, she started to read.

The chief difficulty in the sexual relation, it pronounced, is reciprocityThe sexual desire is ultimately selfish: its aim is its own fulfillment. Yet, it requires the other for such fulfillment. The issue of desire is thus made an ethical problem.

Helen looked up from the page, disgust replaced by confusion. Given what the other page contained, she expected this to be a lurid description of the pleasure of sticking your dick into a helpless body. Something to facilitate having a wank. Not.... whatever that was. Not something that read like it was cribbed from a manifesto.

Two solutions to the problem are thinkable. First: to reshape desire, so that it is aimed towards the Other, not the Self. Galatea Corporation respects and recognizes the necessity of this progressive programme, but also its insufficiency. To liberate the sexual from the selfish is to abandon desire, and thus submit to the very morality this ethical programme seeks to challenge. Thus this solution must be enacted, but it also must remain incomplete.

Quickly, Helen flipped back to the opening pages. Who the hell wrote that? They did not cite any authors. There wasn’t even a copy-right claim on that. She returned back to the text, biting her lip in puzzlement.

Second: to liberate sexuality from the burden of reciprocity and and exalt of the self-directed desire. If the necessity for the other of the desire is removed from its fulfillment, the ethical challenge is disarmed. Thus the objective of the Galatea Corporation: to render bodies for the fulfilment of the desire that are themselves liberated from the reciprocity of the relationship. A society that eats meat needs not to fret at the consumption of the flesh. The aim is not to break the self of the body, but to free the body from its prison, which is known as soul.

There was no more text on the next page. Instead, it displayed a two-page spread photograph of a white pane - maybe metal, maybe glossy plastic - and a single, red opening in the middle, with the faintest outline of an opened mouth visible pressed behind it.

She closed the catalogue, and stared at the glossy cover. Then, when she felt like no one was watching she quickly slid it inside her bag, and zipped it shut.

“It’s because it all sounded pretentious, no?” she quietly asked the empty space where Rowan sat. “You always liked stuff no one could get.”

Then, she picked up her phone, swiped away all the messages she received without reading, and opened the browser.

Galatea catalogues, she typed into the Google search bar, direct download.

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