For once the dirty picture can come at the top of the post because really, now many times in your life can a visual pun like this?
Now, the substance.
Here’s a generalization about human psychology which my own experience confirms: if you spend years and years of your life struggling up path after path in life hoping that it will lead you out of circumstances that make your life a burden to you and into those in which it might be something of a joy, and you find each of those paths blocked over and over again, you are going to get, well, angry at the world. You are going to feel the temptation to bite back; Lex talionis is wired in. I suppose that if you’re a saint you might not have such a desire, but as it happens I am no saint and no amount of moralistic fist-shaking at me by other people can make me into one. What I do try to be rather than a saint is a reasonably civilized human being, and that means resisting the temptation to actually go around breaking things. And that act of resistance means (as do so many other such acts) having a powerful but thwarted desire.
And here again is where fantasy rides in. What cannot be elicited from the refractory and stingy world outside our skulls will be filled in by the far more generous and pliable one within.
As a baseline fantasy one might want to think of breaking something precious as a form of angry lashing-back at the world. The dominant ideology of our times tells us that human life is the most precious thing of all. Indeed, it tells us that each human life is equally precious. The reality of the matter is rather different. In the gritty cores of our cities children suffer and die every day and the society as a whole only shrugs and moves on. Their skin is the wrong hue and they live in the wrong place and so few people care. But let an upper-middle-class white girl (at least if she’s pretty!) get into serious trouble and just watch the frenzy of concern that results. (This is a phenomenon not lost on the more cynical and worldly characters in The Tales of Gnosis College.) In real-world practice if not in public rhetoric, not all are equally precious.
The more precious the being that breaks the more eloquent will sound the implied fuck you to the world. I suppose one could just imagine breaking the sexy and the brainy (my tastes, note, differ a little from those of society as a whole) as a form of imagined global retaliation. But notwithstanding Edgar Allan Poe’s famous dictum that “the death…of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world” this approach strikes me as unsubtle. More subtle and therefore still more eloquent would be to have those who are most precious turn on the world, the ones who it would most favor, turn on it and reject it; dump their costly educations and their presumably glittering futures and opt out of it in the most dramatic way their means allow. Throwing in the character’s consent, indeed, enthusiastic embrace, gives the whole thing a snap that merely being the auctorial equivalent of a serial killer cannot. Throw an orgasm in as they make their way out and you have the makings of powerful fantasy material.
And there’s a meta level here as well (isn’t there always!). In writing stories that are as offensive in the way that they are — by showing characters who do not act as they “should,” by cracking through taboos about what constitutes “appropriate” and “healthy” behavior, I am doing my own bit to poke the society I inhabit in the eye. And that does make me feel better.