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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

On Despair Stories


Stories have shapes. This should be a surprise to no one in the literary field. Typically they look like wave patterns; rise, then fall, rise then fall, etc. building up to the glorious climax. The truth is that this pattern doesn't just apply to typical stories you could read in a bookstore, but porn as well if it has anything more than a token plot.

Of particular interest to me is something I call a "despair" story. The point of those stories is that the bad guy wins and everything ends up terrible. These are different from tragedies in that the victim(s) often are not at fault at all. None of my games are really despair stories, but they're essential to a lot of adult content out there. It's important to know why we enjoy them.

An AI recently gave a basic overview of these patterns in an article. For the sake of convenience I'll post it here.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/07/the-six-main-arcs-in-storytelling-identified-by-a-computer/490733/

These are the story types:

1. Rags to Riches (rise)
2. Riches to Rags (fall)
3. Man in a Hole (fall then rise)
4. Icarus (rise then fall)
5. Cinderella (rise then fall then rise)
           6. Oedipus (fall then rise then fall)


The ones of particular interest to despair stories are 2, 4, and 6. These are stories that end on a down note. They also end on a kind of twisted up note. Whatever perverse plans the villain has have succeeded. Be that mind break, brainwashing or what have you.

Let's break these down a little bit more. We'll start with the Riches to Rags story. This is the quintessential "invaded kingdom" story. The story goes like this: There's a kingdom with attractive lady knights and/or princesses and it's invaded. The invaders win and the story starts. These stories are always ramps simultaneously both upwards and downwards. The female characters are slowly degraded and lowered in status over the course of the story. That progression effectively IS the story. It only ends when the heroine has hit rock bottom. It's also going upwards in terms of sexual content. While they typically start with sex or rape of the main character they then move onto public humiliation, violating the character's friends and often monster sex. They generally end with some sort of public gangbang.

That's not the only story that uses it. In the Erotic Mind Control writing community there's a pretty typical story. There's a girl that's unpleasant to be around, she's brainwashed and the sex is steadily ramped up along with the mind control until she's essentially a meat puppet.

The common theme here is the humiliation and despair in defeat. Someone is flawed or fails in some way and is punished for it. Perhaps the person is blameless, in which case the focus is on evil simply having its way with the innocent. The joy here has several layers, not all of which everyone will experience. First is sympathy with the character; like we watch horror films to feel fake horror as we self insert into the roles of the protagonist, many watch despair flicks to feel this fake despair. Second people can sympathize with the villain; for them this is a rags to riches story. The lower the princess goes the higher the villain is buoyed up. This split-narrative is really important to despair stories. Unpleasant joy mixed with despair create a unique sensation in the viewer some will like. The point of a genuine evil villain winning is to tinge any sympathetic joy with disgust or horror. It makes the sympathetic sensation of "victory" bittersweet.

The second type of story is Icarus. Generally speaking the theme of these stories is hubris and punishment. This is the Taiminin Asagi type of story. You've got very powerful heroines. Maybe they're sentai or magical girls or ninjas, but they start off the story from a strong position wiping out weaker foes. They embrace their power and confront the villain. The turning point is generally hubris. The heroines underestimate the villain or the villain has an unforeseen trick the heroines might have avoided if they were less contemptuous of their opponent.

For instance in Kangoku Senkan the characters Lieri and Naomi are stuck on a ship with a crew actively trying to turn them into sex slaves. They successfully fight off the entire ship and the villain, but the villain turns out to have been hiding knockout gas canisters beneath his shirt. From there it's like story one; a long slow ramp of humiliation and escalating sex scenes while at the same time the villain's status keeps going up. For them the story is usually the Man in a Hole story. Commander Bowgun, for instance, the villain-protagonist of Kangoku Senkan starts out having just gotten out of the prison Naomi and Lieri put him in. They have weapons and authority on their side; for him it's an uphill battle against powerful opponents.

Again we see how the story is split. Another layer of all this is Schadenfreude; these stories often go out of their way to ensure than the female victims are rather unpleasant people to start with. All the more reason to see them punished. Not only for the hubris but also for their character flaws. While this should bring the reader closer to the villain the villain is often despicable enough that they're not even slightly sympathetic even when they should be in the narrative. The joy of seeing those who have done wrong punished is tainted by the villains perversion and nature. Yet a common theme here is also that the victims flaws are not worth even the slightest fraction of the punishment they receive. The punishment is always, by nature, unfair and disproportionate.


The final story is Oedipus. We all know Oedipus, of course, but it's a tragedy. A despair story isn't usually a tragedy because the events that happen are usually outside the victim's control. Tragedies are, at their core, watching someone fall due to their own flaws. The Oedipus despair story is different. In them characters fall because outside forces (the villain) make them happen. They need not be passive victims but it is futile. They are doomed from the start.

Perhaps the best example of this I can recall is a mind control story called Radio Flyer. Now while the story is much too lighthearted to be thought of as a despair story it would take almost no effort to tweak it into a story that would be.

In it, the main character develops a mind control device and brainwashes various girls. A councillor discovers this and helps the girls resist and break free temporarily. The villain is almost defeated. Then he overcomes their resistance and gradually breaks the councillor's mind using the same method she protected the girls with. The girls in the story follow the pattern. Low as they're enslaved, high as they're freed, and then low again as they're re-enslaved, more tightly than ever. And again it's the opposite arc for the villain protagonist. Low before the device, then high after he gets his harem. Low again as it goes free and he's on the run, but it once he defeats his nemesis he's back on top again with everything he could ever want.


Understanding the patterns of stories is essential to writing them and I'm particularly fond of the despair genre myself. They have a pleasing duality to them that's both a greasy kind of wonderful and terrible. They're unusual stories in that the villain and the heroine often get equal screentime. They're erotic but also tickle the part of us that feels the drop starting when a rollercoaster tips over the hill. We want the dread and misery. We want the joy of evil triumphing over good.

Why? Because we've all suffered unfairly at the hands of forces outside our control. Be that slow lines at the DMV or the victim of a hurricane many of us know the feeling of unfair pain that we did nothing to cause. We've also seen villains win before. Real life doesn't mandate good always wins like a Saturday Morning Cartoon series. Moreover sometimes all of us are a little evil and we like it. Essentially this is just a way of freeing the id and doing whatever you please without regard for the consequences, something every single human being has dreamed about at various points. So you combine them. The joy of evil's triumph and the despair of the innocent violated. The point isn't to cause you to feel real pain but sympathetic pain and joy. Nor is it something so crude as to "show dem wimmenz what fer" or anything like that. Though misogyny is a big part of this genre it's a part of it because degradation is part of the downward spiral. And indeed, nothing keeps this story from having a female villain and male victim, or a villain and victim of the same gender.

Things like this are a part of how the human mind works. To learn how to deal with fear we set up fake fear simulators and call them "horror stories". To learn how to deal with despair and our own dark impulses we seek out stories like these. Some love them because they imagine themselves the villain; others love them because they imagine themselves the victim. There's nothing wrong with either side for so long as it remains fantasy no one is harmed. Indeed, those who go in and read these stories may emerge refreshed and better able to deal with life's unfairness and cruelty. We're not evil creatures but we're not wholly good, either. From time to time even the best of us loves to see a little evil.





9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. That said, the "Cinderella" is the basic one as to RL, as long as one has will/hope (..).

    Something like no good without bad can exist, still, from bad it is possible to find a better option.
    (Get to the top of mountain, where a neat location await, then it is destroyed, you must flee forward (as you know that beside you it is nothing but a wasteland), still, there a wasteland on that side to, will you go further in ?
    If you do not, it is game over, if you do, hm.

    And so on, every time we have a difficulty/something we're not confortable with, it is for any human to choose then live with it.
    Which bring us to modern knoweldge.
    Ive had for year as small gizmo, dog styled who can "learn" to react to music (style, rythm) and have lights + mechanical movements as to manifest himself (once again, going from techno to classic, toward several others styles, rhytm (he do not have any idea as to what is played while riding (roller, not a lot of other type of physical activity where going from normal to high to normal is that necessary (..). And so we go.

    A start then, it is up to on to choice, memory use and better decision next time etc.
    Then, seen earlier on kickstarter, an alarm assistant (waking up + IA) who can go with an house domotique setup.

    To early to be added in, still along with a kinetic doorbell (no power needed) it is quite a good day as to new found options to go with) (still, a picture would be neat as to doorbell, as they are quite some who do not need to get in :x).

    To be seen, take (good) care dear CypressZeta.

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  3. I gave this a lot of thought, I really did, because I want to understand perspectives different from mine. And just to be clear, I think people should be able to fantasize about whatever they want. I’m not saying that porn causes rape or wanting to ban story types or anything silly. Having said that… *ahem*

    "Nor is it something so crude as to "show dem wimmenz what fer" or anything like that. Though misogyny is a big part of this genre it's a part of it because degradation is part of the downward spiral. And indeed, nothing keeps this story from having a female villain and male victim, or a villain and victim of the same gender."

    I don’t buy this. If this was true, the genre would not look the way it does. Sure, you can name stories that have male victims or same-gender degradation, but those are tiny exceptions to the rule. If this was true, you’d see more players who try games of all types. But you don’t, most players like male domination stories and avoid the opposite like the plague. If sympathy for the victim was a major part of the appeal, you’d see more women playing these games. You don’t – the classic female rape fantasy is decidedly not a despair story.

    What bothers me about these stories isn’t the lack of empathy – that seems required for a story about indulging one’s evil side – but the lack of the understanding necessary for empathy. The primary example of this is how many “unpleasant” women in these really aren’t that unpleasant – their only crime is not giving the main character what he wants, for which they’re treated as bitches. I have never read a story of this type that displays any real awareness of how a woman would feel about the core premise of the story. I feel like the hatred for women oozes not just from the villain, but from the story itself.

    Which is completely fine, as a fantasy. I just wish you’d write “I respect women but enjoy misogynistic fantasies” instead of trying to justify it like this.

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  4. I abhor despair stories; occasionally I suffer through rape porn because the actual pornographic content is quality enough to be worth it, but it's something I tolerate, not enjoy and when the emphasis on despair and humiliation and shame and misery becomes too much I just have to stop because I can't stand it. And frankly I think the attempts to justify them here are somewhat paltry and weaksauce. People enjoy despair stories because they're inherently sadistic and enjoy watching others suffer, PARTICULARLY innocents (surely you've heard the saying "the more innocent and pure something is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt it"?). Comparing despair to horror is baseless; you want to be frightened by a horror story because of the thrill and the adrenaline that comes with terror, but NOBODY wants to actually share in the despair the victims in a despair story feel, they just want to relish it.

    Hell, your own Overwhored wasn't by any measure a despair story; despite the Overmind being "the lord of darkness" as it were, everywhere he went he generally made things better, not worse, and pretty much every woman he rapes is left happier for it. That's actually ENJOYABLE to play, because I'm not left feeling hateful and nauseous at myself for doing it (admittedly I haven't actually finished the game yet because I kept having to restart every time the latest version wasn't compatible with my old saves, and I don't like using the "skip ahead" function, so there could still be a dark, horrible, sadistic twist waiting at the end that I'm not aware of yet). Honestly, I resent the implication that "everyone is a little bit evil", especially with the implied condonation of this; "it's OK to be evil because it's natural". That's crap.

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    1. There IS a twist at the end of Overwhored, but it actually makes things better. Spoilers: The characters have on some level overcome the mind control but chose to stay with the Overmind for various reasons. It also justifies some of the Overmind's previous actions as due to another malevolent entity.

      I thought that meant Cypress was trying to redeem the mind control fetish. Like, let people have their domination fantasy without reveling in being shitty to women. I am completely down with that kind of control fantasy, but this game creeps me right the fuck out.

      I"m more negative than the original anon: this kind of thing actually bothers me. You don't "release" negative feelings with this kind of thing, that's discredited psychology. Instead you practice patterns of thought, making them stronger each time you repeat them.

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  5. Hi man! working on any new game at the moment?like many,i LOVED overwhored and am waiting for any new news from you :)

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  6. wow, i totally support the idea for 2&6, there's ton of idea like that in lady2maid blog

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  7. Since no post since this one (here / public ), happy new year with hope all will be alright (albeit it is not that easy given context).

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  8. “People don't like long lines at the DMV, therefore the reason they enjoy stories about women having their humanity taken away is commiseration with those who suffer.”

    Well that is not an argument I expected to read today.

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