Book Review: The Marketplace by Stoya
The best of House of Scorpio/Stoya Inc's Sex Lit book club.
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Laura Antoniou’s The Marketplace—a core of power runs through it.
Originally published in 1993, this 319 page porn novel launched a series of BDSM fantasy books set in a world where literal human trafficking is exuberantly consented to by submissive people of all gender presentations, colors, and sizes, who then dedicate their lives to service. The cover of the Circlet Press (Luster Editions) version of the text shows a bowed head obfuscated by long hair, over which a key is being passed from one hand to another.
Laura Antoniou has been thinking deeply about, and practicing, diverse representation in her work since the early 90s.
A few years ago, when I had just begun adding “director” and “producer” to the list of roles I undertook in the creation of pornography, a man sent me a message on the internet. He’d made The Marketplace into a script and wanted me to take a look at it in the hopes of getting the work made into a film.
I started, as one does, with the first book.
The Marketplace follows a quartet of trainees through Alexandra and Grendel’s Long Island, NY facility, under the supervision of mysterious Chris. Claudia is too perfect a french maid, and Robert is too flawed as one. Brian is superficially attracted to the leather scene, but may not contain the capacity for true service. Sharon, stunningly beautiful and stunningly stubborn, has aspirations of being a pleasure object. Alexandra—half of the trainer pair—is a handsome woman with a sensual touch, while Grendel presents himself more gruffly.
The question of what’s in Chris’s pants is quickly overwhelmed by the mystery of his role in the house.
The Marketplace is a self-aware book. Early on, Grendel sighs to Sharon “You really got all your information about us from these fantasy books, didn’t you? My God, I don’t know if they do ten times more harm than good.” Already, in chapter one, Ms. Antoniou is letting us know that this book, like those she refers to, is a fantasy. The Marketplace is a work of fiction. The world of the Marketplace is imaginary.
There is no such organization.
In chapter thirteen, Claudia is assigned “a paperback book, with erotic looking cover art.” As he hands it to her, Chris says “You may find this work of particular interest. Mistress Alexandra recommends that you read a little every day.” You see, Claudia isn’t as sexual as her Mistress would like. Works of fiction have their merits. Imaginary lands where sexuality is prioritized to the utmost can stir our own desires.
Fantasies can contain fun, be useful, and serve a purpose.
During my first read-through of The Marketplace, I thought “Wow, this is some great porn.” Then I saw the commentary on the uses and limitations of text-based fantasy porn, and realized I might be reading a literary hybrid. By the end, I knew I had to read the rest of the series. The Marketplace is porn. The Marketplace is literary fiction. The Marketplace is some other genre that exists in between.
Brian’s sexual orientation is not towards men, or women, so much as it is towards power. About two thirds of the way through the book, Brian reaches submission. Chris says to him “This may be the best advice you will ever get from me. Remember this feeling every waking moment. think of it before you open your mouth to speak, think of it when you’re doing some unpleasant chore, and think of it when you’re being punished. Because this is real, Brian. Your body and mind, attuned to one thing, to being the loyal and loving pet of a master or mistress whose feet you yearn to sleep at.” Later, when Brian doubts his ability to finish the program and enter the Marketplace, he thinks of himself as “Brian Cohen, the man who gave up his life to live a fantasy.”
Read a little every day.