Take Clothes Off As Directed
|Title:||Take Clothes Off As Directed|
|Date(s):||posted November 14, 2006|
|External Links:||Take Clothes Off As Directed (Oh, the humanity!)|
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Identified by the author as "an unauthorized homage," or without input or permission from the original author, "Take Clothes Off As Directed" was based on another AU story by Xanthe (Coming Home, a prequel to General & Dr Sheppard) that postulated an alternate universe in which sexuality was classified according to BDSM power dynamics, rather than gender. In Xanthe's stories, her alternate universe was a society where couples could achieve mystical soulbonds in their relationships. In contrast, Helen used the top/sub power dynamic as the basis for an allegory on gender roles and sexism in modern society.
For a long time Xanthe herself did not mention Helen's story publicly, though she has referred to Coming Home as "the story the SGA Big Name Fans all got their knickers in a twist about" and stated that events surrounding it resulted in "a kind of bonkers and yet deeply nasty hysteria that made me reassess my involvement in fandom".  However, in 2011 she commented,
Take Clothes Off As Directed isn’t a homage – it was intended to be a slapdown to me in that fandom. If you read some of the comments you’ll get a clear idea of what’s going on. It’s a particularly nasty take on a BDSM universe – deliberately so. That sector of SGA fandom had a big problem with me and BDSM fics generally.
She has authorized other stories in her universe, including The Spaces Inside by lavvyan, an earthside AU where Rodney is a prostitute, and the series High School Confidential by Elayna, an AU where John and Rodney meet in high school. Xanthe herself has expanded her Coming Home universe in 2008 with a sequel to General & Doctor Sheppard that features a crossover between SGA and NCIS with a focus on Gibbs/DiNozzo. The title is Hiding in Plain Sight. For more information about Xanthe's BDSM Universe see her website, Xanthe.org.
Fandom Reactions: To the Story Itself
2006 Comments at "The Cutting Board"
In mid-November 2006, this story was a major topic of discussion at The Cutting Board, a Stargate Atlantis fanfiction discussion journal. milleflore posted her opinion regarding the story and the resulting discussion generated 153 responses.
Some topics of discussion were:
- authorial intent
- was it okay to discuss another fan's work without their permission?
- was Helen's work an allegory/parody/metaphor?
- should Helen have written the story in the first place, should she have mentioned the story she was responding to at all?
- was Helen's story a commentary on feminism
- comparison of the style of the two stories
- was the character Elizabeth cruel/the enemy?
- did Helen's story reflect badly on Xanthe's story?
- was either story an accurate representation of BDSM?
- was "John a woman" in Helen's story?
- much more
Other Fan Reaction
... a fairly brilliant reaction fic to the Out There AU (and yet compulsively readable) The General and Dr. Sheppard 'verse fic Coming Home by [livejournal.com profile] xanthelj, a BDSM AU for Atlantis. helenish took the premises of that 'verse and swapped them to create a situation that echoes gender inequality and homophobia in the military in really brilliant ways. There was, apparently, some wankery associated with the posting of this fic, but I hope there was no bad blood between the authors, because I find this kind of dialog brilliantly thinky. Take Clothes Off As Directed. Warnings: BDSM everywhere. I suspect you could read Helen's without going through Xanthe's multipart prequel understanding that in a society with sexual inequality, willing or otherwise, cultural inequality must perforce follow (intentional or otherwise.) 
In order for this to make sense, you need to be familiar with two other stories: General and Dr. Sheppard and Coming Home by xanthelj. They're an epic series, extremely kinky and porny, set in this alternate world where everyone is divided along dominant/submissive lines. Personally, I think the stories are hot, but it's one of those things where you kind of have to ignore characterization and lots of other stuff for the sake of the porn. These stories were the subject of much discussion in the fandom, and helenish wrote this story as a response, with a much more serious consideration of John's characterization and the implications of the world that xanthelj created. Highly recommended. 
Take Clothes Off as Directed takes place in a similar BDSM-verse as The Spaces Inside and Coming Home, where BDSM relationships are the norm.
John, who is a sub but also the military commander of Atlantis, has to go to Rodney to receive punishment for messing up his job. Okay, I've just made this story sound like a cheesy porno, but trust me, it's not. The author introduces us to a world where things are not quite what we are used to yet surprisingly familiar. There is significant parallele between the roles and treatment of subs in this story and of women in our own world. The flashbacks to John's youth and academy years are especially captivating and gives us an interesting perspective of his psyche.A refreshing read. Highly recommended. 
Fandom Reactions: Regarding the Practice of Remixing
Fandom reactions varied widely, and some fights broke out. One hotly contested issue was the question of fans seeking permission before remixing another author's fic. Fans of Xanthe's story also felt that Helen's story (as well as its fans) unfairly disparaged the original, and people debated whether Helen's story represented a critique of Xanthe's BDSM society. According to Doro:
The controversy isn't so much based on the text or what could or should be done with it by other authors; it's more about social dynamics and the impact on the community. Writing something that basically says "You did it wrong. Here, let me show you how it should be done and I'm using your own toys to do it" humiliates the original author in a very profound way. Furthermore, it is a slap in the face of the people who like the thing that is apparently wrong to like.
Still others felt that the issue inherent in the controversy was less about receiving permission or critiquing another author's story and more about the impossibility (and undesirability) of controlling reader response:
While I can sympathize with the "oh, crap" feeling that one might experience on seeing one's work riffed on, parodied, pastiched, or otherwise homaged, there's also the fact that a writer can't expect, once she's posted something, to control how her readers choose to respond to it. And, too, if one does choose to riff, parody, pastiche, or homage, then that person in turn can't control how her own efforts are received. I tend to think that it all will come out in the wash, one way or another, and that the free and vigorous exchange of opinions, whether in the form of fiction or otherwise, are a Good Thing."
SGA fandom had also recently had some contentious discussions about riffing on another author's work in the SGA Flashfic community; see The Mission Report Challenge.  Some people referenced that incident as a precursor to the discussion around Coming Home and Take Clothes Off As Directed, as well as drawing a parallel to unauthorized fannish remixing of the show's canon.
In addition to making comparisons with Xanthe's original story, people discussed Helen's fic on its own merits. The story was talked about as an allegory for the treatment of women in the U.S. military.
Much later, Helen commented (perhaps somewhat facetiously),
Okay, here is my guilty admission about this story - I mostly wrote it because I read Xanthe's story and was all, okay, but WHAT IF JOHN WERE THE SUB THAT WOULD BE HOT. And so many people thought I was trying to teach everyone a very special lesson about equal rights BUT OMG YOU GUYS HE WANTS A COLLAR BUT DOESN'T HAVE ONE AWWWWW HE READS MAGAZINE ARTICLES ABOUT HOW TO BE A GOOD SUB!!!!
Meta Discussions/Further Reading
- fiercelydreamed discusses "Take Clothes Off As Directed" as a "queer love story." (19 November 2006)
- Millefiori's post at thecuttingboard compares the tone and style of Xanthe's and Helen's fics. (15 November 2006)
- Resonant's Comments on LJ events you're already bored with discuss fan debates over Helen's story. (18 November 2006)
"Take Clothes Off As Directed" in turn inspired other fanfics, to the point where this BDSM universe has been transformed into a multifandom shared universe or AU genre. It is sometimes called directedverse or BDSM AU.
- works tagged "Directedverse" on the AO3
- Misdirected - Helens78 and Telesilla (Bill Fichtner/Sean Bean RPS). December 2006.
- Eminence Front - Helens78 and Kyuuketsukirui (Jude Law/Ewan McGregor RPS). December 2006 - February 2007.
- directedverse - aris_writing (House, M.D. and PotC). April 2007 - September 2008.
- you need someone (but it won't be me) and sequels - etothepii (Sherlock (BBC)). November 2010.
- Xanthe, Site Updates, February 9th, 2008, (Accessed 12 October, 2008)
- comment by Xanthe posted 11 November 2011 in the forums at xanthe.org (Accessed 3 January 2015.)
- https://minxy.dreamwidth.org/78270.html December recs for your Tuesday. minxy, December 19, 2006
- from Merelyn at Massive SGA Recs Set, July 25, 2007
- Epic Recs, August 2008
- Doro, quoted from email with permission.
- Comments on LJ events you're already bored with Excerpt from comment by dmarley in public livejournal post (last accessed Oct. 2008). See other comments on the post for opinion on the controversy.
- The Mission Report Challenge, public livejournal post at SGA Flashfic, (last accessed Oct. 2008).
- helenish. May 29th, 2010 comment thread
- John's Dilemma in Helen's "Take Clothes Off As Directed", livejournal post. archived, archive link