As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, it would be fascinating to witness the birth of a particular fetish, and I was fortunate enough to find one that has born recently.
Tales of the Veils, a site devoted to veiling fetish, announced its seventh anniversary last month.
In our first ever update in September 2006 I commented that TOTV ‘has done no less than establish a whole new genre of erotic fiction’ and it is true, for before we were here the genre did not exist. As I myself wrote back then (in the 2nd September 2006 update – a sort of first birthday round up):
‘veiling has long interested me, as too has erotic fiction, which after a time naturally led to me looking for some erotic veiling fiction on the web. Surprisingly however, there was none. A few genie and harem stories, yes, and the occasional TG tale or corset story with veiling elements, but heavy-duty veiling, alas, it was but a desert. Which of course led me to thinking that someone should set up a veiling fiction website and so upon coming to that realisation, I did what anyone would do, sat down and waited for someone else to start one.
So I waited, and I waited and after several years it became apparent that it just wasn’t going to happen. If I wanted veiling fiction then well, I would just have to write it myself.’
The rest is, as they say, history, but I feel it is well worth looking over that history and the changes, advances and unexpected directions that our genre has taken since its inception seven years ago.
Veiling fetish should be distinguished from the centuries-old Orientalist tradition of erotic art and illustration, which generally depicted women in loose, draped clothing and/or in partial or total nudity. If those images included veils, they were translucent little things that were all about the tease. The emphasis in TOTV is on obscuring the wearer’s body and identity as much as possible, beneath burqas and niqabs, and thus it brushes up against the objectification fetish (e.g. House of Gord).
Contrary to author Dave Potter’s expectation, TOTV’s small-but-growing genre evolved to having little connection to the Orientalist tradition: few harems or lustful Turks. Another surprise is the large number of consensual, non-forced veiling stories.
I don’t think it is coincidence that TOTV appeared in the post-9/11 era, when the Western world focused its attention on the Muslim world. The burqa and similar garments became the synecdoche for militant Islam and its treatment of women, a smoking-gun indictment of an entire religion but also signifying a different sexual economy. The garment itself can be divorced from its religious context and assigned a sexual meeting.
Another interesting aspect is that the TOTV stories directly draw on non-erotic texts that are both for and against veiling. One story is directly based on, and shares a title with, the book and film Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody. The book and film, released in 1991 during another period of American military involvement in the Arab world, was said to “exploits the stereotype of the demonic Iranian [man]…it is an utter artistic failure, and its reliance on cultural stereotype is a major cause”. A followup documentary retold the story again, as a much more complex and ambivalent custody battle between two people instead of a Gothic clash between a patriarchal Muslim father and a saintly American mother. Again, a political story told through the familiar virtue-in-distress frame.
Others are inspired by the pro-veiling, religious discussions among Muslim women.
The linking of silence through gagging with veiling, (‘voice modesty’), was a factor right from the very first tale due largely to reading the real-life veiling account ‘My Voice is Awrah’ on the Islamic Proper Hijaab site.
The linked article above is by a woman describing how, out of religious piety, she only speaks to men who aren’t family members when absolutely necessary. The article describes how she lives in practical terms, instead of the religious reasons behind it: “…I would like to talk about how I live with the ‘rules’ imposed by viewing my own voice as awrah.” (Definition of awrah) It sounds reminiscent of living in a 24/7 relationship: living according to a particular set of rules that regulate even mundane activities. Compare this to slave Alia’s interview about the intersection of her M/s relationship and her Muslim life.
Of course, the real world ideas are taken far further in these stories, with stories featuring extensive bondage underneath the burqas, nearly or totally blinding eye-coverings, and even arm amputation and surgical muting.
So, there we have a new fetish and erotica genre that draws on real world discussions about religion, gender and women’s bodies, but branches off to follow its own concerns.