Problems facing the modern bookworm, or I can buy whatever the fuck I want, right?

I thought if I was going to write about money in the next few weeks, I would be writing about the need for a fuck off fund. I also thought that my writing in the next few days would be delightfully filthy and reflective of my current adventures. So this post surprised me. Does it belong on a sex blog? Well, it talks about having to hide your kinks and the importance of queer representation in fiction, so I can just about convince myself that it does. Really, though, this is post about how I am a frustrated, queer bookworm.

While I’m writing this, I’m sitting in my happy place. This – today – isn’t a physical location. I’m wearing clothes that make me feel good, I’m waiting to meet a friend, and I’ve just bought new books. Because while I tweeted yesterday that I’m a slut for games of denial and Nutella-and-banana waffles, I’m also a slut for a good bookshop.

A friend told me a few years ago that I spend a lot of money on myself. I was angry then about the statement, and while she may have had a point I’m still angry now. I’ve had a Saturday job since I was sixteen, and while I didn’t work during term time while I was at uni I worked at least one job every year in the long summer break. And I work hard. I know I speak from a place of privilege, because my parents were able to support me financially, so I was able to live on my student loan and spend the money I worked so damn hard for on things and people I wanted.

Is it wrong to spend money that you have earned?

I spend money on sex toys, I spend money to run a sex blog (on site hosting, etc.), I spend money going to events like Eroticon and I spend money going on kinky adventures. I love Paperchase stationary, I support my favourite content creators on Patreon, I treat myself to food out – especially Starbucks – when I’m having a bad mental health day and can’t cook. I buy ridiculous gifts for my friends. I spend money getting from the middle of nowhere to spend time with those friends.

And I buy books.

I had hundreds of books in my room as a child and a teenager. More than anyone else in my family. And after reading the last three Harry Potter books in four days, and falling in love with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s writing, I read all the time. Books became my friend. Books are still my friend. If you catch me without a book in my bag, you’ve probably caught me on a day when I know for sure I’m too busy to sit down and read – even for five minutes on a train or while I’m eating lunch.

Since moving to a city, I’ve bought so many books. And in those purchases, I can see how I’ve grown up. I’ve bought classics, sometimes to read and sometimes to impress a crush. I’ve bought books that sound interesting and never read, and I’ve bought books that I’ve stayed up all night to finish. I’ve bought history books, non-fiction books, and books about sexuality and kink. However, as a modern, kinky bookworm, I face a few challenges.

There is not enough Queer YA literature

I’ve definitely written before about how I wouldn’t be the Quinn I am today if I hadn’t read Harry Potter fanfiction, which gave me the vocabulary and terminology to figure out that I might not be straight. Maybe I just never found teenage fiction featuring LGBTQAI+ characters; they probably did exist. They definitely do now, as well. Most Waterstones I’ve been in this year have had a featured collection of ‘our favourite LGBT picks!’ – am I just being difficult that I don’t think it’s enough?

Queer YA literature makes me happy. For the most part I’ve grown out of the books I loved as a teenager, but nothing soothes my soul like books for young adults featuring queer characters. They’re the best. I get to read about characters who I relate to, both as me now and as the Quinn I was during my years at high school. They make me feel hopefully, but I still don’t think there are enough. A handful of books with gay, trans, bisexual, non-binary characters, compared with the hundreds, the thousands, the hundreds of thousands of books featuring “default” straight characters? Books where LGBTQAI+ teenagers can see themselves featured in positive stories are important, and currently the options available are still enforcing the utter bullshit of heteronormativity.

You cannot put kink theory books on a list people will see

This is an issue this year, when I’m taking part in a few reading challenges with friends and also making a list of books I’ve read for the first time in 2018. The latter has ten books on it, but I am only comfortable revealing seven of the titles in my everyday life. While I loved both The New Topping Book and The New Bottoming Book by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy, telling my family and some of my friends that I’ve read them isn’t always appropriate – or even safe for me.

Double fucking standards

People moan about “millennials” constantly being on their phones. Guess what – they also complain when you have your nose in a book! While I’ve been told off multiple times for spending too much time on my phone or texting while walking along, apparently reading – which gives me knowledge and pleasure and makes me think – is equally bad for me. I don’t respond well to people who tell me I spend too long on my phone being equally annoyed when I swap it for a book. Especially if people are being homophobic, racist, misogynistic or are slut-shaming – is it really so surprising that I want to visit the world among the pages of a novel instead of the one I live in?

Additionally, a book cannot fit in your pocket as well as a phone can. So while your coworkers can sneak a few minutes on their phones during work to send some texts or a Snapchat message, you can’t scan the next few paragraphs of the book that you wish you’d had to read at seventeen when you were trying to figure out your sexuality. Being a bookworm is hard.

Books are expensive

They’re absolutely worth it, but they do cost money. Does it matter if I buy books if I can afford them? It would be good to support independent bookshops, maybe, and I do my best to do that. Supporting queer authors and writers of colour is also important. So does it matter if I spend money on things when I have that money – when I’ve worked hard for that money? Especially books, which give me a portal to a different kind of happy place.

The world isn’t perfect. I’m sure you will find it easy enough to think of the difference the £30 I spent on books today could make to someone less fortunate. I certainly can, and I feel guilty.

I never expected that being a bookworm in my twenties in 2018 would feel like a guilty pleasure.

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